December 2022 Yellowbill

29 Nov December 2022 Yellowbill


Editor’s Note

The Yellowbill is published monthly except in June, July and August. It is edited by Robert Snow ( except for the Member Photos section, which is edited by Clayton Dahlen (

President’s Message

Greetings, FAS members and friends. I hope this message finds you well. The holiday season is upon us, and with that, colder weather. I hope that you are all able to enjoy some quality winter birding here in the San Joaquin Valley or wherever you may be!

November was a busy month with several successful events! We held Introduction to Birding classes at the River Center and the Intermountain Nursery. We held a potluck at Sumner Peck Ranch, and excursions to the Kings River Raptor Trail, Millerton Lake, and Lake Yosemite in Merced. Many thanks to all who participated!

We have some exciting events scheduled for the month of December as well, which are listed below.

  • Wednesday, December 7⏤Evening Owl Walk at Jensen River Ranch, 4:00 – 5:30 PM
  • Wednesday, December 14⏤Merced National Wildlife Refuge, 11:45 AM – 5:30 PM
  • Saturday, December 17⏤Lost Lake Christmas Bird Count–see below for more information
  • Sunday, December 18⏤Introduction to Birding class at the River Center, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Anyone interested in these and other upcoming events can check out the FAS event calendar for more information and links to registration:

We would like to remind everyone of the current requirements for attending FAS in-person field trips and classes. We are no longer requiring that participants be fully vaccinated. Masks are now optional for all FAS outdoor events. We still require that participants must not be exhibiting any symptoms of Covid-19. Registration is still REQUIRED for all in-person field trips, and participants must register individually. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation.

As previously mentioned, the 2022 Lost Lake Christmas Bird Count will be held on Saturday, December 17. We are currently seeking strong birders to lead sections that still need coverage. If you are newer to birding and would like to participate, we can pair you with a more experienced birder. The count lasts all day, but participants can devote as much or as little time as they’d like. The Lost Lake Christmas Bird Count covers Lost Lake, as well as surrounding sections of Fresno and Madera Counties. If you are interested in participating or have any questions, please reach out to me at For more on the long history of the Christmas Bird Count, check out this link:

We would like to thank those who attended the November 8 general meeting. Birder extraordinaire Homer Hansen talked to us about fall raptors of Fresno County. If you missed Homer’s talk and would like to view it, you can find it and other general meeting presentations on our YouTube channel at

The next FAS general meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, December 13. Robert Groos will be talking to us about Wild Turkeys. Here is the link to registration:

I’d like to remind all of you that FAS is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Please give FAS a follow if you haven’t already! This is a great way to engage with us and stay in the loop!

To end this message, I’d like to share a photo I took recently of a Sooty Fox Sparrow. Note the bi-colored beak, as well as the heavy, warm reddish-brown spotting on the throat, breast and belly. The Fox Sparrow comes in four different subspecies groups, and Sooty is one of three forms found regularly in California (the other two are Thick-billed, which are common breeders in the Sierra Nevada, and Slate-colored, which breed in the interior west and overwinter throughout a large section of California, as well as sections of Oregon, Arizona, and Baja California). Sooty Fox Sparrows are found along the Pacific Coast, breeding from southern Alaska to northern Washington, and overwintering from British Columbia to northern Baja California. Enjoy!

Please take care of yourselves!

Rachel Clark

Fresno Audubon Society President

Sooty Fox Sparrow by Rachel Clark


Fresno Audubon Society Continues Its Annual Membership Drive

Fresno Audubons (FAS) is continuing our 2022-2023 membership drive. FAS annual membership year runs from September 1st through August 31.

Thank you to all of you who generously support Fresno Audubon by paying annual membership dues. Your support makes it possible for FAS to host outstanding speakers on our Zoom General Meetings, maintain our website, conduct guided field trips, teach introductory birding classes, maintain the bird feeding station at the River Center, conduct multiple bird surveys, and advocate for regional and local bird-related issues. To learn more about our work, download our 2020 Annual Report.

FAS members also have exclusive access to the FAS Birding Resource Guide, an online compilation of Central Valley birding resources, and new members receive a FAS sticker that displays the Fresno Audubon logo and website.

Fresno Audubon Society membership levels are:

$15 Student

$25 Individual

$35 Family

$1000 Golden Eagle (Life)

Those with PayPal accounts can join or renew their memberships on the FAS website HERE or download a membership form HERE and mail it along with your check to:

Fresno Audubon Society

PO Box 3315

Fresno, CA 93650

Thank you for your continuing support of Fresno Audubon Society!

December General Meeting

Robert Groos

Wild Turkeys, Up Close and Personal
Tuesday, 13 December 2022

Wild Turkeys by Robert Groos
Robert Groos

Speaker Bio

Robert received a PhD in French from the University of Wisconsin, became a university professor, but eventually left academia to pursue a career in computer technology consulting. He began photographing birds in preparation for a safari in Botswana. What better way to learn how to use a camera than photographing birds, he reasoned. Birds eventually became his favorite photographic subject. “I’ve never met a bird I didn’t want to photograph,” he admits. His photograph of a Cedar Waxwing was selected to appear in a special Audubon Photography Awards gallery of “our favorite female bird shots 2021.” Choosing to be a bird photographer necessitated becoming an avid birder, and that pursuit led to storytelling about his experiences observing birds. You can read FAS member Robert Groos’ stories on his website:

Program Description

Wild Turkeys roam the foothills of Coarsegold. In early spring, an annual pageant unfolds: traveling leks of hopeful males seeking to mate with willing females. It is a wondrous exposition of biological desire, and much more. Robert has had the good fortune to observe and capture it all with photos and video. In this presentation, you will witness the phenomena of Wild Turkey leks, courtship displays, male to male combat, copulation, predation upon nests, and more. Don’t be a turkey and miss out on this opportunity to experience the thrill of seeing these magnificent birds at their wild best.

To receive the Zoom link for the meeting, please register here.

General Meeting Speaker Schedule

Following is the schedule for future speakers. This schedule is subject to change due to cancelations. Check the FAS events calendar for the latest information:

Lost Lake Christmas Bird Count

Saturday, December 17, 2022

On Saturday, December 17, 2022, Fresno Audubon will be hosting the annual Lost Lake Christmas Bird Count, which covers sections of both Fresno and Madera Counties. Participants will be assigned to particular sections, and will count each of the birds they see and hear. Generally, the count lasts from dawn until dusk, but we understand that some people who wish to participate might not be able to devote that much time to the count, and that is perfectly alright! Participants can devote as much or as little time as they desire, so do not be deterred if you cannot count birds all day! Even if you are not a birding expert, you can still partake in the count if you are willing to pair up with an expert birder, so do not let that deter you, either!

Sponsored by the National Audubon Society, the Christmas Bird Count, held annually from December 14-January 5, is a time during which citizen scientists from all over the Americas turn out to count birds in designated areas, collecting valuable data on the long-term health and status of bird populations. For more information about the history of the Christmas Bird Count and how the data is used, follow this link:

If you are interested in participating, or have any questions, please reach out to Lost Lake CBC compiler/Fresno Audubon president Rachel Clark at

FAS Fall Pot Luck Report

Saturday, November 5, 2022

by Maureen Walsh

FAS PotLuck 1, Larry Cusick
FAS PotLuck 2, Larry Cusick

What a lovely day we had for the potluck! Old and new friends, good conversation, delicious food, perfect weather and outstanding birding. We couldn’t have asked for nicer venue than the beautiful Sumner-Peck Ranch. There were about 22 participants and from the feedback I got, everyone enjoyed it as much as I did. And, we didn’t even have to hike to birds, they came to us. We didn’t keep an official count, but here is a list of some of the species who joined us:

  1. Spotted towhees
  2. American Robins (Lots!)
  3. Western Bluebirds
  4. Bushtits
  5. Ruby-crowned Kinglets
  6. Hermit Thrush
  7. Brown Creeper
  8. Lewis’s Woodpecker
  9. Acorn Woodpecker
  10. Great Blue Heron
  11. Great Egret
  12. Red-winged Blackbirds
  13. Red-tailed Hawks
  14. Phainopepla
  15. Pied-billed Grebe

Introduction to Birding Classes at the River Center

The Parkway Trust and Fresno Audubon Society have joined forces to offer a birding class that combines instruction, exploration, and fun! Beginning birders will see and learn about local and migratory birds that might be visiting the River Center. New birders will discover easy ways to identify migrating and year-round, local birds. The class will include a walk looking for birds in the various habitats found at the River Center. We will meet at the new picnic shelter on the north side of the center. After learning about using binoculars and various aids in bird identification like guide books and phone apps, we will bird around the property. Bring binoculars, lunch, water and sun protection. Fresno Audubon will have binoculars to loan if you do not have your own. Children are welcome! Rain cancels this event.
Class is held from 9 AM -12 PM on the third Saturday of each month from October through May, except December’s class will be on Sunday 18 December to avoid conflict with the Lost Lake CBC. To register for a class, go to our calendar and click on the class you are interested in taking. You will be directed to a registration page for that event.

December Field Trips

FIELD TRIP GUIDELINES DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC ⏤ Fresno Audubon Society is offering field trips during the now-endemic COVID-19, subject to the following rules. With the continuing risks of exposure and potential illness, everyone must determine their own level of risk aversion. The CDC has recommended that masks should be optional when outdoors. It has been shown that a well-fitting N95 mask protects the wearer for several hours from an infectious dose of virus, so anyone concerned about exposure can choose to wear a mask near others if they feel at risk. Following are our current guidelines for our field trips.

  1. Participants must pre-register individually using the FAS event registration system.
  2. Participants must self-screen their own temperature before the outing and must not attend if they are feverish.
  3. Participants must consent to Fresno Audubon Society’s Liability Waiver by pre-registering.
  4. Social distancing is encouraged.
  5. Masks are not required, but participants are encouraged to wear a mask whenever they feel the need.
  6. Some field trips meet up at a central point before traveling to the field trip location. Participants may form their own car pools at these meetup points.
  7. Participants must contact their trip leader should they test positive for COVID-19 within three days following the outing so that we can notify others who attended the trip.

Wednesday 7 December 2022 ⏤ Evening Owl Walk at Jensen River Ranch with Larry Cusick – Registration Full

Join FAS for an evening Owl Walk on the Jensen Trail. We plan to start close to sunset to be on the Jensen Trail at dusk when the Great Horned owls and Barn owls come out to hunt. The outing should take about 1 1/2 hours. We will meet at 4:00 p.m. the Art of Life Healing Garden next to the north east parking lot in Woodward Park.

The $5.00 City entrance fee applies if you park in Woodward Park. Alternative parking may be available in the Fort Washington Shopping Center.

Checklist: Binoculars, bird guide, water.

Registration is required for this event. Any questions, please contact trip leader Larry Cusick at (559) 313-1777, Register Here.

Wednesday 14 December 2022 ⏤ Merced National Wildlife Refuge with Judy Johnson

With winter migrants filling local refuges and putting on a tremendous show, it is a wonderful time to bird Central Valley wetlands. Join Fresno Audubon on Wednesday, December 14 for a tour of the Merced National Wildlife Refuge. We will meet at the MacDonald’s parking lot in the Marketplace at El Paseo (6741 N Riverside Dr, Fresno, CA 93722, see map below) at 11:45 for a noon start.

Secondary meet up is at the first parking lot of the refuge, near the bathrooms and the first observation deck, at 1:00pm (see map). After driving the auto tour, we will gather at the second observation deck at sundown for the spectacular crane fly-in, which should end around 5:30pm.

Target birds include Lesser Sandhill Cranes, Black and Say’s Phoebes, White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows, American Pipits, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintails, Gadwalls, Green-winged and Cinnamon Teals, Greater White-fronted Geese, Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese, American White Pelicans, Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, American Coots, Black-necked Stilts, White-faced Ibis, Long-billed Dowitchers, Dunlin, Wilson’s Snipe, Least Sandpipers, Long-billed Curlews, Red-tailed Hawks, and Northern Harriers. Also possible are Cackling Geese, Red-shouldered Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, Bald Eagles, Kestrels, and Great-horned Owls. Both a Burrowing Owl and female Vermillion Flycatcher have recently been seen at the refuge as well.

Participants should bring day packs, hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, plenty of water, snacks, lunch (if desired), and binoculars, and should dress in layers. We probably will not be doing much hiking, but comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Please bring radios (walky-talkies) if you have them. Registration is required for this event. Register Here.

If you have any questions, please reach out to the trip leader.


Judy Johnson

(559) 977-2787‬




Field Trip Schedule

This schedule is subject to change due to cancelations. Check the FAS events calendar for the latest information:

November field trip reports

Raptor Trail

November 12, 2022

Maureen Walsh & Wes Beal

Seventeen participants joined Wes Beal and Maureen Walsh for birding along the Kings River on the Raptor Trail. It was a lovely, chilly but sunny morning with fall colors in the foliage all around us. We saw lots of birds—Oak Titmouse, Bushtits, Ruby-crowned Kinglets—right away. But the air was unusually quiet. The only raptor we saw for quite a while was a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk flitting from tree to tree. Eventually, though, as it warmed up, the Red-tailed Hawks began to appear, and then also the Red-shouldered Hawk. Toward the end of the trail, the Osprey was sighted. As we headed back on the trail, many of us were lamenting not seeing any eagles. Unusual for that trail. At lunch we discussed the great morning of birding and did our bird count, but still felt a little disappointment about the eagles. Suddenly, something was spotted at the top of the ridge and it was an adult bald eagle! He soared above for us with the sunlight glistening off his head and tail. Magnificent. Our day was complete. The Raptor Trail never disappoints. We saw 37 species that day.

As a group, we tallied 37 species. Many thanks to those who joined! The species list is below.

  1. Mallard 1
  2. Common Merganser 2
  3. Pied-billed Grebe 5
  4. White-throated Swift 2
  5. Anna’s Hummingbird 3
  6. American Coot 1
  7. Spotted Sandpiper 2
  8. Double-crested Cormorant 3
  9. Great Blue Heron 1
  10. Great Egret 1
  11. Osprey 1
  12. Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
  13. Bald Eagle 1
  14. Red-shouldered Hawk 1
  15. Red-tailed Hawk 4
  16. Belted Kingfisher 1
  17. Red-breasted Sapsucker 4
  18. Acorn Woodpecker 12
  19. Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) 3
  20. Black Phoebe 1
  21. Steller’s Jay 2
  22. California Scrub-Jay 5
  23. Common Raven 5
  24. Oak Titmouse 3
  25. Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4
  26. White-breasted Nuthatch 3
  27. Brown Creeper 1
  28. Rock Wren 6
  29. Western Bluebird 3
  30. Phainopepla 1
  31. House Finch 1
  32. Lesser Goldfinch 1
  33. Dark-eyed Junco 1
  34. White-crowned Sparrow (Gambel’s) 1
  35. Golden-crowned Sparrow 1
  36. Spotted Towhee 2
  37. Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) 6

Opt Outside

Friday 25 November 2022

Rachel Clark

On Friday, November 25, the day after Thanksgiving, approximately 15 birders joined Fresno Audubon as we opted outside instead of taking part in the biggest shopping day of the year. Together, we ventured to the Madera County side of Millerton Lake State Recreation Area and spent the morning exploring Rocky Point and Mono Campgrounds. Here, our highlights included a fly-by Great Horned Owl, Golden-crowned Sparrows, a Canyon Wren, several Rock Wrens, a shy Red-breasted Sapsucker, a handful of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and two Rufous-crowned Sparrows. After sitting down for lunch, several members of the group departed. Those that remained decided to leave Millerton and head out to Road 208 between Highway 41 and Road 211. At this location, the group saw three Prairie Falcons, at least four Golden Eagles, and a dark-morph Ferruginous Hawk. Other highlights at this location included a Lark Sparrow, a White-breasted Nuthatch, and a flyover Lewis’s Woodpecker. A total of 47 species were tallied for the day. The list is below. Many, many thanks to those who came along and opted outside with us!

Species for the day:

  1. Canada Goose
  2. California Quail
  3. Pied-billed Grebe
  4. Western Grebe
  5. Anna’s Hummingbird
  6. American Coot
  7. California Gull
  8. Turkey Vulture
  9. Golden Eagle
  10. Cooper’s Hawk
  11. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  12. Ferruginous Hawk
  13. Red-tailed Hawk
  14. Mourning Dove
  15. Great Horned Owl
  16. Northern Flicker
  17. Acorn Woodpecker
  18. Lewis’s Woodpecker
  19. Red-breasted Sapsucker
  20. Prairie Falcon
  21. American Kestrel
  22. Black Phoebe
  23. Say’s Phoebe
  24. Loggerhead Shrike
  25. California Scrub-Jay
  26. Common Raven
  27. Oak Titmouse
  28. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  29. White-breasted Nuthatch
  30. Rock Wren
  31. Canyon Wren
  32. Bewick’s Wren
  33. European Starling
  34. Western Bluebird
  35. Mountain Bluebird
  36. American Pipit
  37. House Finch
  38. Lark Sparrow
  39. Dark-eyed Junco
  40. White-crowned Sparrow
  41. Golden-crowned Sparrow
  42. Savannah Sparrow
  43. Rufous-crowned Sparrow
  44. Spotted Towhee
  45. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  46. Western Meadowlark
  47. Brewer’s Blackbird

Fresno-Madera Birds

by Jeff Davis
Including reports for the period of
October 16 to November 15, 2022

Establishing the first record of 2022, a Vermilion Flycatcher, a first-year male, visited a private residence along North Indianola Ave in southeast Fresno October 22 – November 14 (ph. ED). Since 2015, we’ve averaged about one occurrence per year.

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A Cassin’s Vireo at Lost Lake Park November 6 (JM) provided our first ever November record.

Cassin's Vireo by Larry Cusick. Kearney Park, 16 October 2021

Cited Observers: Ellen Davies and John McLaughlin. ph. = photographed by

If you make an interesting observation, we’d love to hear about it. We are especially interested in birds listed as casual or rare on the Fresno Audubon checklist and those found out of season, out of normal habitat, or in unusually large numbers. Please submit reports to eBird, the Fresno County Birders e-mail list, or Jeff Davis (

Member Photographs

Please send your photos in jpeg format with a width of 1024 pixels and a resolution of 72 pixels/inch to with how you want the photo credit to read. Birds may be from anywhere. Limited space may restrict publication to a later issue. We will also showcase your photos on our social media.

Jim Curnyn

Acron Woodpecker, Jim Curnyn
American Robins, Jim Curnyn
California Scrub Jay, Jim Curnyn
Hermit Thrush Flying, Jim Curnyn
Northern Mocking, Jim Curnyn
Nuttall's Woodpecker, Jim Curnyn
Phainopepla female, Jim Curnyn
Phainopepla male, Jim Curnyn
White-breasted Nuthatch, Jim Curnyn

Larry Cusick

White-throated Sparrow, Larry Cusick

Clayton Dahlen

Bufflehead, Clayton Dahlen
Cedar Waxwing, Clayton Dahlen
Osprey, Clayton Dahlen

George Folsom

Ferruginous Hawk, George Folsom
Wilson's Snipe, George-Folsom

Stephanie Doria

Rock Wren, Stephanie Doria

Aaron Ng

Yellow-billed Magpie, Aaron Ng

Rick Sexty

Western Bluebird, Rick Sexty
House Wren, Rick Sexty
House Sparrow, Rick Sexty
Western Bluebird, Rick Sexty
Red-tailed Hawk, Rick Sexty
Brown Pelican, Rick Sexty
Great Blue Heron, Rick Sexty

Birds in the News

Links to Recent Articles on Birds

Birds getting smaller, ‘wingier’ as planet warms, research finds

In just three decades, American robins have gotten 1.2% smaller — a dramatic change over such a short period of time. Credit: Nurit Katz/UCLA

A UCLA-led study published today reveals that migratory birds across North America are getting smaller, a change the researchers attribute to the rapidly warming climate. The research, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, found that over the past three decades, the of 105 in the analysis declined by an average of 0.6%—but by as much as 3.0% in some species. Tree swallows, for example got 2.8% smaller, American robins got 1.2% smaller and downy woodpeckers got 2.2% smaller.


Birds Have Self-control, Just Like Humans

Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius), Notranjska forest, Slovenia. Sergio Pitamitz / VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Birds have self-control, just like humans, according to new research. A study found jays can resist a tempting snack – when they know waiting will bring an even better one. They were presented with mealworms or bread with cheese – their first and second favorite foods. All passed the challenge by ignoring the immediately available treat – until a Perspex screen was raised to allow access to the preferred choice.

Read more…

New Audubon Study Reveals Discrepancies in Conservation Planning Methods

Red-breasted Nuthatch. Photo: Patrick McDonald/Audubon Photography Awards

Researchers at the National Audubon Society published a study that evaluated different approaches to climate-informed bird conservation in the United States. Using data from Audubon’s Survival by Degrees report, researchers compared two widely used conservation planning methods and determined that they identify different priority areas, with only 40 percent consensus on average across species groups. Published in Ecography, the study offers important insights on how to strategically conserve more natural habitats that will help birds adapt to a changing climate now and in the future.

Read more…

Birds evolve different body temperatures in different climates: study

A yellow finch. eNCA/Estelle Bronkhorst

During the northern hemisphere summer of 2022, yet another round of extreme heat waves roasted Eurasia, North America and northern Africa – a stark reminder that these conditions are becoming the new normal. Intriguingly, when we conducted a study to measure how much heat 53 bird species in southern Africa could stand, we found that species vary greatly in the way they handle heat.

Read more…

Faithful mates, hot tempers form primal life for gannets

Northern gannets fly near Bonaventure Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence off the coast of Quebec, Canada's Gaspe Peninsula, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. Bonaventure Island offers remarkable insights into northern gannets, thanks to an enormous and easily accessible colony of these majestic seabirds. Credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Northern gannets share two maxims familiar to humans: “home sweet home” and “don’t tread on me.” They pack together on a Bonaventure Island plateau like New York commuters jamming a subway, only they’re louder. They are devoted parents and could teach humans a thing or two about loyalty in marriage.

Read more…

Scientists Suggest a New Layer to Crows’ Cognitive Complexity

Previous research has demonstrated that crows can make tools and recognize faces. Getty Images

Alameda has been invaded by turkeys. They’re jerks. And also beloved

Wild turkeys perch on an SUV on Santa Clara Avenue in Alameda, Calif., on Nov. 8, 2022. Turkeys have been roaming the Bay Area city for more than a decade. Peter Hartlaub / The Chronicle

Eric Case was bicycling through Alameda on a recent afternoon when he saw a cluster of wild turkeys, walking at their usual subglacial speed across one of the city’s busiest intersections. They were holding up an Alameda Police Department officer in a marked car. And they did not care, or seem to notice. “Eventually the cop car starts honking, laying on the horn repeatedly,” Case said, pointing as he re-enacted the scene near the same intersection on a recent Tuesday. “And the turkey’s like, ‘Nope, I’m doing my thing.’ Alameda turkeys obey their own laws.”

Read more…

World’s heaviest flying bird uses plants to self-medicate, scientists say

Great bustards eat corn poppies for their medicinal properties.

Taking drugs if you’re feeling under the weather is old news for humans, but new research shows that the world’s heaviest bird capable of flight could be the latest animal to use plants as a form of medication. Researchers from Madrid in Spain studied data on 619 droppings belonging to great bustards and discovered that the two species of plants that were eaten more than other foods in their diet had “antiparasitic effects.” “Here we show that great bustards prefer to eat plants with chemical compounds with antiparasitic effects,” Luis M. Bautista-Sopelana, a scientist at Madrid’s National Museum of Natural Sciences and lead author, said in a news release Wednesday.

Read more…

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