February 2020 Yellowbill

28 Jan February 2020 Yellowbill


President’s Message

Rachel Clark, FAS President

Greetings, FAS members! My name is Rachel Clark and, as many of you know, I am the newly-elected president of Fresno Audubon. Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I was born and raised in Fowler (a small town approximately 11 miles south of Fresno, for those of you less familiar with the area), and I currently live in Fresno with my husband Alex. I began birding at the tender age of nine after a gorgeous male Western Tanager landed in a mulberry tree in my parents’ backyard. Once the birding bug bit me, it became an absolute obsession which ultimately led me down a career path I had previously not aspired to (prior to becoming a birder, I thought I would spend my adult life working in an office. Boy, was I wrong!). I have a Bachelor’s degree in animal ecology from Iowa State University, and I have been working in the realm of natural resources for close to a decade, with experience both in the Midwest and here in California. Today, I work as a wildlife biologist for three different environmental consulting firms (yes, three different firms, you read that right!). Birding is still my absolute passion, and my goal is to one day soon work as a professional guide here in Central California, focusing on different areas in the San Joaquin Valley, Sierra Nevada, and Central Coast.
I have been involved with Fresno Audubon since 2015, attending field trips and participating in Christmas bird counts (CBCs), and more recently leading field trips, acting as a board member, and taking the reins as the new compiler for the Lost Lake CBC. I was elected president of Fresno Audubon in late December, and although I did experience some initial nervousness, I am very much looking forward to fulfilling this role for the next two years. I am eager to meet and interact with more and more FAS members over the upcoming months and years, be it on field trips or at general meetings. Some of you may even run into me while birding locally in the Fresno area. As often I can, I like to bird Lost Lake, Millerton Lake, Road 208, Woodward Park, Jensen River Ranch, and the River Center.
If anyone has any questions for me, I can be reached at tanagergirl@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!


Membership with Fresno Audubon Society is available for students, for individuals or for families. We also offer a lifetime membership. Your dues will help us pay for our meeting room rental, insurance for field trips and citizen science, communications and other costs of doing business.

Fresno Audubon society membership levels:

$15 Student
$25 Individual
$35 Family
$1000 Golden Eagle (Life)

Our membership year runs from 1 September to 31 August the following year. To join Fresno Audubon Society or to renew your membership, please visit our website here.

Field Trips

Our website has a calendar that allows you to see all the details of upcoming trips as each become finalized. Included in the details is a link to a map showing the meeting point for the trip. The calendar is subscribable, which allows you to integrate it into your electronic calendar. Updates to events will appear as they are made. We encourage you to subscribe. Follow the links within each writeup for more information on destinations and meeting point locations, and to register for the field trip.

New for the 2019-2020 birding season, we have added an event registration page for each outing. This is to provide trip leaders with the expected number of participants. When you register you also sign our liability waiver, which saves both time and paper. We encourage you to register for any event you plan to attend. Tickets for our events are NOT required.

For those who prefer a simple list of trips, you can view or download the one by clicking here.

February Field Trips

Wednesday 5 February 2020 – San Louis NWR with George Folsom

Join a tour of one of the great remnants of the historically bountiful wintering grounds for migratory waterfowl on the Pacific Flyway located in the Bear Creek, Salt Slough, and San Joaquin River floodplain.  It hosts a myriad of tree-lined channels, wetlands and native grasslands.  There is a good chance of seeing Tundra Swans, several species of geese, numerous species of ducks, raptors, shorebirds, sparrows and many other wetland and grassland species.  Along the way we will keep an eye out for the native Tule Elk that once numbered in the millions in the Central Valley.  We will stop at the visitors center and view the wildlife and history exhibits before starting the auto-loop drive.  This is an all day trip so plan accordingly.  We will meet at Target near Herndon and highway 99 at 7:45 am for an 8:00 am departure.

Checklist: binoculars, scope, field guide, snacks, lunch, water, sunscreen, hat, radios

Register for this walk here


Northern Pintail by Dan Cobb, Merced NWR, 19 November 2019

Meeting Location:

Wednesday 19 February 2020 – Elkhorn Slough/Stephens Ranch with Robert Snow

Pectoral Sandpiper by Gary Woods

Pectoral Sandpiper by Gary Woods

Join us for an exciting field trip to the Stephens Ranch in Moss Landing. This unique property was originally purchased by David Packard to stop the development of the northern side of Elkhorn Slough. His son-in-law Robert Stephens continues to run the ranch as a haven for birdlife. Expect to see numerous species of upland birds as well as shorebirds in the multi-thousands.

This is an out of town trip starting at 8:00 am, so you can either stay the night before nearby (Watsonville is the most economical) or leave Fresno at 5:30 am to arrive by 8:00. After birding we will eat lunch and then return home, so expect the day to end around 4:00 pm.

Meeting place for carpooling from Fresno is the Target Parking lot at 6655 N Riverside Dr, Fresno, CA 93722. We will meet at 5:15 am for a 5:30 departure.

Register for this walk here

Checklist: binoculars, bird guide, water, sun protection and lunch.

Leader: Robert Snow, (650)483-2347, rsnow@fresnoaudubon.org.

Directions to the Stephens Ranch: You can navigate to the Elkhorn Native Plant Nursery (now closed) in Moss Landing, then turn east on Struve road. Proceed towards the former nursery, and you will see the ranch house on your right. The coordinates are Struve Rd, Moss Landing, CA 95039, 36.831258, -121.758357.

Saturday 29 February 2020 – Ball Ranch with George Folsom

Ball Ranch, on the San Joaquin River Parkway, offers various habitats including grasslands, wetlands, ponds, riparian areas and oak groves. Cormorants, ducks, mergansers, grebes, raptors, sparrows, finches, quail, gnatcatchers, woodpeckers and many others can be found there. Occasionally we have found Lewis’s Woodpeckers.

There are no restrooms on this property. We will walk a mile or more on dirt roads, but most of the area can be driven for those who prefer driving. Please meet at Target in the River Park Shopping Center near Highway 41 and East El Paso Ave at 6:45 am. We plan to be finished by noon. The gate to the property must be locked while we are on the property so plan to stay until noon

Checklist:  binoculars, scope, field guide, snacks, lunch, water, sunscreen, hat, radios

Register for the walk here.

Green Heron by Clayton Dahlen
























National Park Service Field Trip to Cesar Chavez National Monument

Sat. Feb 22, 8:30-11:30 – Cesar Chavez Nat. Monument, Keene CA

NB: This is not a Fresno Audubon trip but is listed as a public service.

Again this year, the National Park Service invites birders for a morning  of winter birding on 117 scenic acres around La Paz in the mountains 25 miles east of Bakersfield on Hwy 58.  At 8:30, NPS staff will briefly orient us to the site.  Expect to see at least 30 species.  For lunch, plan to join birders at the historic Keene Café.  Dress warmly in layers, bring water, a hat, and binoculars.  Directions: Take Hwy 58 east from Bakersfield; take the Keene exit (#139); turn left and cross under the freeway; take the first right and pass the Keene Café; the Monument’s entrance is ½ mile on the left.  Bakersfield carpool meetup at 7:30 am at Costco at Hwy 99 and Rosedale Hwy.

Introduction to Birding Classes

Introduction to Birding at the River Center

Fresno Audubon Society is offering Introduction to Birding classes at the River Center and at the San Joaquin River Gorge. We thank the River Parkway Trust and the BLM for giving us access to their properties for the classes.

Class participants will learn how to use binoculars, why birding is a fun and valuable hobby, and about the resources available to help identify birds. After the initial class work, participants will accompany Fresno Audubon experts on a bird walk around the property.

Participants should bring binoculars, snacks, water, and sun protection. Fresno Audubon will have binoculars to loan for anyone who doesn’t have their own pair. Children are welcome.

The classes are ongoing, and the following upcoming dates have been set. For registration and more details, click on the dates below.

Coke Hallowell Center for River Studies

9 February 2020

7 March 2020

BLM San Joaquin Gorge

19 April 2020



Fresno-Madera Birds
by Jeff Davis
Including reports for the period of
 December 16, 2019 to January 15, 2020

The juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Lost Lake Park continued at least through January 4 (SD).

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker by Tim Lenz, Macaulay Library ML30950521

Nearly as rare in our area, a Red-naped Sapsucker was along Calvin Crest Rd in Madera County also on January 4 (NJ).

Red-naped Sapsucker by Gary Woods

A female Prairie Merlin along the Madera Canal near Road 400 December 26 (GF, RS) was a good find.  This subspecies was unknown in Madera County until 2010, and fewer than one per winter have been documented since then.

Prairie Merlin by George Folsom

The adult female Vermilion Flycatcher also along the Madera Canal near Road 400 was present at least through January 12 (ph. GW).

Vermillion Flycatcher (female) by Jacob Smith

An adult Black-throated Sparrow was the star attraction during a Fresno Audubon field trip to the Madera side of Millerton Lake January 8 (ph. RC et al.).  We average less than one record every five winters.

Black-throated Sparrow by Gary Woods

A female Black-throated Gray Warbler at Lost Lake Park December 19 (ph. JN and JM) and January 4 (SD) provided a rare winter record.

Male Black-throated Gray Warbler by Gary Woods

Cited Observers: Jeff Birek, Rachel Clark, Scott Duncan, George Folsom, Nina Jones, Jireh Mukawa, Jeremy Neipp, Rich Saxton, Gary Woods. 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 Jeff Davis (559-246-3272, jndavis@ucsc.edu), the Fresno County Birders e-mail list, or eBird.


Birds in the News
Links to Recent Articles on Birds

‘Dancing dragon’ feathered dinosaur fossil discovered in China

About 120 million years ago, a “dancing dragon” lived in China’s Jehol Province. The discovery of a fossil belonging to the small feathered dinosaur is new to science and helps bridge the gap between dinosaurs and birds.

Researchers named the dinosaur Wulong bohaiensis, which translates to “a dancing dragon.”

The dinosaur was about the size of a raven but double its length with a long, bony tail. Its entire body was covered with feathers, complete with two plumes at the tail’s end.

Despite its small size, it had a fierce, narrow face and a mouth full of sharp teeth. Like a bird, it had small, light bones and wing-like forelimbs. And there were also a number of feathers on its legs. Read more…

Tips on attracting birds to your garden

Giving birds a helping hand by providing supplementary food is a great way to help nature and you don’t need a huge space. Whether you want to put up a window feeder or open a bird café, here are our top tips on feeding the birds. Read more…

Secret to hummingbirds bright plumage uncovered by scientists

The secret of why hummingbirds are so brightly coloured has been discovered by scientists, in a breakthrough that could lead to more vivid materials.

Although many birds have bright plumage, virtually none are as iridescent and shimmering as hummingbirds and until now researchers did not know why.

But a new study shows that while their feathers have the same basic makeup as other birds’, the special shape of their pigment-containing structures enables them to reflect a rainbow of light. Read more…

How One Photographer Captures the Glory of Birds in Flight

Dark, sinuous lines float in a blue sky. It seems straight out of sci-fi or fantasy—a fantastical spacecraft transitioning into its cloaking shield, or a mythical beast in flight. In reality, it is cranes at Gallocanta Lake in Spain, dozens of them, traveling between where they feed in the fields and where they sleep in the water. It is many frames, compressed to a single moment. Catalan photographer Xavi Bou is fascinated with birds and the challenge of making their flight patterns visible. He has combined his passions for nature, art, and technology to create these images which he calls “ornitography,” from the Greek ornitho– (“bird”) and graphe (“drawing”). Read more…

New Legislation Answers Urgent Need to Protect Birds

Representatives Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) and 18 bipartisan original co-sponsors have introduced draft legislation to restore and clarify longstanding protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), one of the most important laws protecting our nation’s birds. The bill—H.R. 5552, or the Migratory Bird Protection Act of 2020—clarifies that the foreseeable killing of migratory birds during commercial activities (known as “incidental take”) is governed by the MBTA. This needed clarification comes at a time when America’s bird populations are in escalating crisis. Read more…

Photography Cheat Sheet: How to Photograph Flying Birds

Flying birds may be one of the most popular but challenging subjects to photograph, especially for beginners. But today’s photography cheat sheet tells us it’s actually not as difficult as it sounds. All you need are the right camera settings to achieve the results you want. So, if you’ve been frustrated but ready to give it another go, make sure you bring these helpful tips with you! Read more…

Member Photographs

Fresno Audubon members have been submitting some really terrific photographs to this column. If you would like to add yours to the mix, please send your photo in jpeg format to rsnow@fresnoaudubon.org with a brief description, where the photo was taken and how you want the photo credit to read. Birds may be from anywhere. Limited space may restrict publication to a later issue. We now have an Instagram site (@fresnoaudubon), and we will showcase photos there as well with your permission.

Dan Cobb

All photographs from Lost Lake Park, December 2019

Bald Eagle and Common Raven by Dan Cobb

Belted Kingfisher by Dan Cobb

Dark-eyed Junco by Dan Cobb

Gadwall by Dan Cobb

Black-crowned Night Heron by Dan Cobb

Cecelia Sheeter

Northern Harrier by Cecelia Sheeter. Merced NWR

Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk by Cecelia Sheeter. Madera County

Ferruginous Hawk by Cecelia Sheeter, Madera County

Sora and American Coot by Cecelia Sheeter, Merced NWR

Leucistic Black Phoebe by Cecelia Sheeter, Merced NWR

Mary Cantrell

Black-crowned Night Heron by Mary Cantrell,  January 2020, Lost Lake Park

Larry Parmeter

Juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk by Larry Parmeter, Tehachapi, December 2019

Merlin by Larry Parmeter, Los Banos, December 2019

Leucistic Blackbird sp. by Larry Parmeter, December 2019


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