February 2021 Yellowbill

30 Jan February 2021 Yellowbill


President’s Message

Greetings, FAS members and friends. I hope that you are all staying healthy and safe out there during these continuing difficult times.

On Tuesday, February 9, FAS will hold its monthly general meeting over Zoom. Our speaker for the evening will be Quang Ngo, who will be talking to us about wildlife photography.  Quang is a local wildlife photographer whose work is absolutely superb. He will be sharing some tips on photographing birds and other wildlife, and editing photographs. You definitely do not want to miss this presentation, especially if you’re into wildlife photography! Please join us on Tuesday, February 9 at 7:00 pm.

Thank you again to everyone who attended the January 12 general meeting. Ken Sobon’s presentation on the Northern Saw-whet Owl was amazing! For those of you who missed the meeting, you can view Ken’s presentation, along with other recent presentations, on our YouTube channel. Here is the link to Ken’s presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJqy78SFQa0. The posted version has been edited to include his videos, which did not present well due to bandwidth problems during his talk.

Stay tuned for updates on the field trip situation. We are hoping to resume virtual field trips as soon as it is safe to do so!

If you are not already, please follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. This is a great way to engage with us and stay in the loop!

To end this message, I’d like to talk a little about a fundraiser that is currently taking place to benefit both Fresno Audubon and National Audubon. I have crafted 5×7 greeting cards using some of my bird photography. The front of each card will feature a photograph of a bird (some of the birds are local and some not so local). The back of each card has information about the bird. All cards are blank inside. The cards are being sold for $3.75 each or 5 for $16.  The species featured are Long-billed Curlew, Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, Surfbird, Black Turnstone, Black Oystercatcher, Wilson’s Plover, Brown Noddy, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Burrowing Owl, Phainopepla, Canyon Wren, Western Bluebird, Wilson’s Warbler, Green-tailed Towhee, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, and Lawrence’s Goldfinch.  There are many more species to choose from, and I will gladly take requests.  Feel free to check out my bird gallery on Instagram  at tanager_girl. ALL proceeds will go to Fresno Audubon and National Audubon to help fund bird conservation projects on both a local and national level!  Check out pictures of some of the cards below! If anyone is interested in ordering or wants to see more of the cards, please reach out to me at tanagergirl@gmail.com.

Please take care of yourselves!

Rachel Clark
President, Fresno Audubon Society

Green-tailed Towhee and Lawerence’s Goldfinch greeting cards by Rachel Clark

Western Bluebird and Burrowing Owl greeting cards by Rachel Clark



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 Zoom subscription, insurance for field trips and citizen science, communications and other costs of doing business. Please see our first annual report for more information how we spend dues money.  We expect to issue our second annual report this Spring.

Fresno Audubon society membership levels:

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

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

February General Meeting
Wildlife Photography Photo Editing
Quang Ngo

Tuesday, 9 February 2021, 7-8 pm
Via Zoom

Quang will introduce the tools and techniques he uses to edit his wildlife photographs. This presentation will cover Photoscape X Pro, Luminar 4, NIK Collection, Topaz Denoise AI, Topaz Sharpen AI.

Quang Ngo is a nature and wildlife photography enthusiast who enjoys creating videos and images of wildlife and likes sharing his passion through his work.  He’s been a wildlife photographer for about 2 years and is fascinated with wildlife photography and will continue to strive to improve his craft of bird photography.

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

General Meeting Speaker Schedule

Thanks to the efforts of president Rachel Clark and new board member Lowell Young, we now have speakers scheduled for the remainder of the year. Since Lowell took the position of Program Chair he has reached out to many potential speakers, many of whom he met as president of Yosemite Area Audubon. This schedule is subject to change due to cancelations.

Month Presenter Subject
March Beth Pratt Yosemite Wildlife
April Dan Airola The Yellow-billed Magpie
May Reyn Akiona San Joaquin River Restoration
June Gary Woods His Best Pictures
July Christopher Smith Photography
August Wendy Willis Habitat Restoration in Ecuador
September Richard Cimino Belize Birds
October Blake Barbaree Shorebirds
November Homer Hansen Sparrow ID
December Rachel Zwillinger Wetland Protection and Restoration

Field Trips

All field trips, including our virtual field trips are on hold as long as our area is in lockdown. The board has decided to not restart gatherings as long as Fresno County continues to be a hotspot of COVID-19 infections.

Places to bird during social distancing within a half hour drive of Fresno

We would also like to offer the following suggestions for birding on your own. Birding alone or with a household member is permitted as a means of exercise as long as a six-foot separation from others is maintained (see for example Fresno City Emergency Order 2020-13). Many public parks and other areas are now closed, but these areas below remain open. Be sure to follow any parking restrictions when birding these areas.

Fresno County

Jensen River Ranch https://goo.gl/maps/qorJF8uGUHrNxgFj8

Riverbottom Park https://goo.gl/maps/sUsBGxJ8v31YFha48

River West https://goo.gl/maps/bNmBDPMiqrtKofJq9

Big Dry Creek Reservoir grasslands https://goo.gl/maps/dYJzn47CPGwaLrt58

Enterprise Canal, Clovis https://goo.gl/maps/5oXTKD6r4eqi27Yv7

Cotton Wood Park, Clovis https://goo.gl/maps/1Sqs4aXkyBbw2sod7

Madera County

Wildwood Native Park and trail to Sycamore Island https:goo.gl/maps/y3VmVhchMA6kH2t18

Rd 208 https://goo.gl/maps/QdYTJvGNLW1pQkKx8

Rd 209 https://goo.gl/maps/ZG5kxTXgNKuUX9Gh6

Hildreth (210) Rd loop https://goo.gl/maps/JJk5jtyV8FNTBKMp8

eBird Essentials, a free course from the Bird Academy

Get up to speed on how the largest biological citizen-science program in the world can help you with your birding. The eBird community gathers more than 100 million bird sightings each year from people like you. Providing a powerful tool for motivated bird enthusiasts everywhere, eBird helps you find more birds and keep track of your sightings. Collectively, these sightings are now empowering a global scientific community and helping answer pressing conservation questions. Full of video tutorials, this course will get you ready to confidently store and share your sightings with eBird. Read more…


Fresno-Madera Birds
by Jeff Davis
Including reports for the period of
December 16, 2020 to January 15, 2021

A striking male Blue-winged x Cinnamon Teal at the River Center December 26 (GF, ph. LH) through the period provided the first record of this hybrid for our area.

Blue-winged Teal x Cinnamon Teal hybrid by Lynn Hemink

The first Pacific Loon in Madera County in six years, discovered at Bass Lake November 2, lingered at least through the end of the period (ph. GW, ph. NJ).

Pacific Loon by Gary Woods

An adult male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Woodward Park December 23 (ph. CC) and a juvenile male at Lost Lake Park January 3 (ph. SH, ph. TD) provided rare winter records. This species has been observed in our area every winter since 2014/2015 but was unknown here until 2007.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker by Gary Woods

Three Cassin’s Kingbirds at Sycamore Island December 29 (ph. GW, m.ob.) and presumably the same three about 2 miles upstream at River West January 9 (ph. KC, EE) represented a new high count for our area.

Cassin’s Kingbird by Gary Woods

The adult female Vermillion Flycatcher along the Madera Canal continued through the period (ph. m.ob.). Evidently the same individual wintered here in 2017/2018 as a juvenile, again in 2019/2020 as an adult, and again in 2020/2021.  Makes you wonder where it wintered in 2018/2019.

Adult female Vermillion Flycatcher by Gary Woods

A Gray-headed Junco at Woodward Park December 25 and January 13 (ph. CC) furnished the first record of this form of Dark-eyed Junco for our area.  Gray-headed Junco consists of two subspecies, one with a bicolored bill (black above and pink below) and another with an all-pink bill. This was the latter. It breeds in the central and southern Rocky Mountains and Great Basin ranges, including in eastern California, and winters east to Nebraska and Texas and south to Sinaloa and Durango, Mexico. It’s a rare but regular winter visitor in southwestern California but exceedingly rare and irregular in northern California.

Dark-eyed Junco (Gray-headed) by Robin Waayers

Cited Observers: Cory Chen, Kaia Colestock, Tom Dayton, Elias Elias, George Folsom, Stephanie Hines, Nina Jones, Lynn Hemink, Gary Woods. m.ob. = many observers, 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

The hordes came running and the snow-white raptor became the latest celebrity bird of Manhattan. Read more…

Last spring, robins living on an Illinois tree farm sat on some unusual eggs.

Alongside the customary brilliant blue ovoids they had laid were some unusually shaped objects. Although they had the same color, some were long and thin, stretched into pills. Others were decidedly pointy — so angular, in fact, that they bore little resemblance to eggs at all. If robins played Dungeons and Dragons, they might have thought, “Why do I have an eight-sided die in my nest?” Read more…

Zebra Finches Become a “Flock of Songwriters” in a Room Full of Electric Guitars

When you think of bird songs you probably imagine sweet-sounding tweets, cheeps, and chirps. Our feathered friends can create beautiful sounds when they sing, but what if they got their claws on some instruments? Inspired by this idea, French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot created a space that allows birds to interact with 14 amplified guitars. His sound project, titled From Here to Ear, sees 70 zebra finches create unique sounds as they flutter, perch, and hop on the strings. Read more…

How Cemetery Birdwatchers Try to Avoid Ruffling Feathers

Avian enthusiasts in Ontario and elsewhere tread carefully to respect somber spaces and the wildlife that thrives there. Read more…

Learning To Love Bird Photography, Thanks To A ‘Competitive Collaboration’

Photographer and explorer, Gemina Garland-Lewis has always been drawn to nature and wildlife. Garland-Lewis takes us through her journey of growing to love bird photography alongside her partner on their land, nicknamed “La Isla,” in Baja California Sur, Mexico.

As I sit with my back against a charred, fallen palm tree, I can’t help but hear my mother’s words in my head: “I hope you don’t like birds now just because of a guy.” My eyes alert as I scan for various woodpeckers and sparrows, camera in hand, and I wonder if there may be some truth in what she said. Read more…

The Bird That Builds Nests Right By Its Worst Enemy

To watch a bald eagle raid a nesting colony of great blue herons is a gut-churning experience. “The herons have a progression of alarms,” explains Ross Vennesland, a researcher with Environment and Climate Change Canada. “They start with a chortle, and quickly move to really hideous screaming as the eagle swoops in and lands on the nest.” The adult herons are usually forced to flee, while the eagle cracks open an egg or flies away with a chick. “It’s a pretty horrible scene to witness,” he says. Read more…

Birds that play with others have the biggest brains – and the same may go for humans

Have you ever seen magpies play-fighting with one another, or rolling around in high spirits? Or an apostlebird running at full speed with a stick in its beak, chased by a troop of other apostlebirds? Well, such play behaviour may be associated with a larger brain and a longer life. Read more…

Crows Are Self-Aware and ‘Know What They Know,’ Just Like Humans

In what now feels like an annual update, crows are even more surprisingly smart than we thought. But do they have true consciousness? Research shows that crows and other corvids “know what they know and can ponder the content of their own minds,” according to STAT. This is considered a cornerstone of self-awareness and shared by just a handful of animal species besides humans. Read more…

Video reveals why woodpeckers don’t get stuck to trees

Hammer a nail into a tree, and it will get stuck. So why doesn’t the same thing happen to the sharp beaks of woodpeckers? Scientists say they finally have the answer. Read more…

Birds might be conscious and self-aware like humans, groundbreaking study finds

If you, like me, believed pigeons and other avian beings are stupid, you’re wrong.

In a groundbreaking discovery presented in two papers, researchers found that birds are not only smart, but could be conscious and possess self-awareness. Read more…

Photographer Captures Birds Eating Out of Her Hand in Slow-Motion

Photographer Jocelyn Anderson captures beautiful images of birds in their natural habitats but also has a wonderfully calming ongoing YouTube series where she depicts different bird species eating out of the palm of her hand in slow motion. Read more…

This African Gray Parrot Is the First Animal To Ever Ask an Existential Question

Have you ever heard of Alex the African gray parrot? This revolutionary bird was the colleague and test subject of Dr. Irene Pepperberg for 30 years during her research into animal psychology—particularly that of birds. Before she began her studies with Alex, birds weren’t considered to be intelligent animals (on account of their walnut-sized brains). In fact, the term “bird brain” was often used as an insult for stupidity. However, Dr. Pepperberg’s studies completely changed the field as she demonstrated the capabilities of the African gray parrot through various exercises in cognition. Read more…

Disease is decimating California’s wild ducks and shorebirds

Even through my face mask, I could smell botulism and decay as the mallard baked under the midday sun. The duck floated on its back near a patch of tules. It was writhing with maggots.

I reached over the side of the airboat to pluck it out of the muddy water with a pair of four-foot grippers, trying not to gag. I dropped it into a garbage bag at my feet filled with a half-dozen ducks and shorebirds. Maggots, mud and viscera splashed my chest waders. Read more…

Mass die-off of birds in south-western US ’caused by starvation’

The mass die-off of thousands of songbirds in south-western US was caused by long-term starvation, made worse by unseasonably cold weather probably linked to the climate crisis, scientists have said. Read more…

Do birds chirping make people happy?

Feeling stressed? You might want to head outdoors, according to a Cal Poly study.

The study found that hearing birdsong while hiking outdoors improved people’s overall well being, more than if they hiked without hearing birds chirping, according to a news release from the San Luis Obispo university.

The study was led by biology graduate student Danielle Ferraro from Boulder, Colorado, the release said. Read more…

Nature Notes: Pied-billed grebes are remarkable creatures

In small ponds, lakes and marshy areas, pied-billed grebes are a relatively common sight. A rather solitary species, pied-billed grebes are not usually seen in large flocks and are often observed alone or in small groups. These birds are fairly shy and frequently dive down in the water without a trace, eventually popping up in a completely different spot. 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 will also showcase your photos on our social media.

Janet Adams

Dark-eyed Junco by Janet Adams. Kings River, Kingsburg Golf Course. 17 January 2021.

Phainopepla by Janet Adams. Woodward Park, Fresno, CA. 12 January 2021.

Phainopepla by Janet Adams. Woodward Park, Fresno, CA. 12 January 2021.

Say’s Phoebe by Janet Adams. Kings River, near Kingsburg Golf Course. 17 January 2021.

John Craft

Northern Pintail by John Craft. Merced NWR. 6 January 2021.

Larry Cusick

Nuttal’s Woodpecker by Larry Cusick. San Joaquin River, CA. 21 December 2020

Black-necked Stilts by Larry Cusick. San Luis NWR, CA. 3 January 2021.

White-faced Ibis by Larry Cusick. San Luis NWR, CA. 3 January 2021.

Great Blue Heron by Larry Cusick. Dry Creek Park, Clovis, CA. 12 January 2021.

Red-shouldered Hawk by Larry Cusick. Dry Creek Park, Clovis, CA. 12 January 2021.

Lincoln’s Sparrow by Larry Cusick. San Joaquin River, CA. 14 January 2021.

Savannah Sparrow by Larry Cusick. San Joaquin River, CA. 14 January 2021.

George Folsom

Lewis’s Woodpecker by George Folsom

Vesper Sparrow by George Folsom

Yellow-billed Magpie by George Folsom

Dark morph Ferruginous Hawk by George Folsom

Rachel Freeman

Bald Eagle by Rachel Freeman. Yosemite National Park. 12 January 2021.

Nelson Ernst

Black-headed Grosbeak by Nelson Ernst. Shaver Lake, CA. 19 April 2020.

Golden-crowned Kinglet by Nelson Ernst. Shaver Lake, CA. 23 May 2020.

Blue Grosbeak by Nelson Ernst. DeWolf Hotspot. 1 June 2020.

Clark’s Grebe by Nelson Ernst. Nice, CA. 5 July 2020.

Great Blue Heron by Nelson Ernst. China Creek Park. 14 November 2020.

Western Gull by Nelson Ernst. Fort Bragg, CA. 15 February 2020.

Anna’s Hummingbird by Nelson Ernst. Cottonwood Park, Clovis, CA. 11 March 2020.

Lewis’s Woodpecker by Nelson Ernst. Wellbarn Road, Clovis, CA. 11 April 2020.

Gayle Scott

Female Anna’s Hummingbird by Gayle Scott. Fresno, CA. Summer 2020

Female Vermillion Flycatcher by Gayle Scott. Merced NWR. December 2020.

Female Anna’s Hummingbird by Gayle Scott. Fresno, CA. Summer 2020.

Judy Smith

Anna’s Hummingbird by Judy Smith


Black Oystercatcher and Black Turnstones by Sylvia. Morro Bay, CA. 16 January 2021.

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