February 2023 Yellowbill

31 Jan February 2023 Yellowbill


Editor’s Note

The Yellowbill is published monthly except in June, July and August. It is edited by Robert Snow (rsnow@fresnoaudubon.org) except for the Member Photos section, which is edited by Clayton Dahlen (mc_dahlen@yahoo.com). Archived issues are available at https://fresnoaudubon.org/the-yellowbill/.

President’s Message

Greetings, FAS members and friends. I hope you have all stayed healthy and safe during the first month of 2023, especially as we experienced the severe storms throughout the state.

It is hard to believe that we are already over a month into 2023. January was a productive month for FAS. We held three successful field trips, a great general meeting, and a very well attended Introduction to Birding Class out at the River Center. We also completed and submitted our 2022 Annual Report to National Audubon and we held our annual board elections (see story below). We want to thank everyone who participated in our January events, and we very much look forward to the rest of the year, as we have a lot in store!

We have numerous events scheduled for February 2023, which are listed below:

  • Wednesday, February 1⏤River West Madera, 8:00 AM – 12:30 PM
  • Wednesday, February 15⏤Lions Park, 7:45 AM – 1:00 PM
  • Saturday, February 18⏤Introduction to Birding class at the River Center, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
  • Saturday, February 25⏤Parkfield/Cholame Valley, 6:45 AM – 3:00 PM

We have started to plan a potluck at the Sumner Peck Ranch for April 15, so save that date! More details will follow.

Anyone interested in these and other upcoming events can check out the FAS event calendar for more information and links to registration: https://fresnoaudubon.org/event-calendar/.

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.

Thank you again to all of those who attended the January 10 general meeting. Julie Brown, Raptor Migration and Programs Director at Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA), gave an excellent presentation about the organization’s current programs and HawkCount.org. If you missed Julie’s talk and would like to view the presentation you can find it and other general meeting presentations on our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/FresnoAudubon.

The next FAS general meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 14. Longtime FAS member and former FAS president Larry Parmeter will be talking to us about how birds taught humanity to fly. For links to registration, please check FAS social media, email announcements, or the FAS event calendar at https://fresnoaudubon.org/event-calendar/.

I’d like to remind all of you that FAS is on Facebook, Instagram 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 some photos I recently took of a non-breeding Rock Sandpiper in Del Norte County. Note the round body, gray head, gray backside with a slight purplish sheen (this is only visible at close range), the gray spotting on the breast and belly, and the longish beak with the slight droop and yellowish base. Rock Sandpipers breed in coastal areas in western Alaska, far eastern Russia and the Kamchatka Peninsula.  This species overwinters from southern Alaska to northern California, and is usually seen along rocky shorelines associating with Surfbirds, Black Turnstones, and Black Oystercatchers. During the breeding season, Rock Sandpipers have a black breast patch, a paler face with a dark patch on either cheek, a rufous cap, and rufous tones in the backside. There is an eastern counterpart to the Rock Sandpiper, which is called the Purple Sandpiper. Enjoy!

Please take care of yourselves!

Rachel Clark

Fresno Audubon Society President

Rock Sandpiper by Rachel Clark
Rock Sandpiper by Rachel Clark

Annual FAS Board Elections

Fresno Audubon Society’s Board of Directors holds elections annually during the December meeting for new board members and members who have reached the end of their 2-year terms. This year George Folsom (Treasurer), Nancy Griesser (Membership), Judy Johnson (member at large), and Radley Reep (Vice President) were up for re-election. George Folsom was reelected as treasurer, Nancy Griesser was reelected as Membership chair, Judy Johnson was elected Vice President, and Radley Reep was elected member at large. Barbara Bailey, who has served on the board since 2015, did not wish to continue on the board and was not re-elected. She will continue to provide board support in legal areas where she has experience. We thank her for her 8 years of board service.

Effective 1 January 2023 the board consists of:

  • Rachel Clark, President
  • Judy Johnson, Vice President
  • George Folsom, Treasurer
  • Robert Snow, Secretary & IT
  • Karen Baker, Programs
  • Nancy Gilmore, Outreach
  • Nancy Griesser, Membership
  • Maureen Walsh, Field Trips
  • Radley Reep, at-large member
  • Lowell Young, at-large member
  • Rich Gilman, at-large member
  • Brandon Flores, at-large member

You can read biographies of our board members at https://fresnoaudubon.org/officers/


Fresno Audubons (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!

From the Archives

Editor’s Note

We recently cleared out Fresno Audubon’s storage unit and recovered many back issues of The Yellowbill. Robert Snow is in the process of scanning and posting these older issues in the archive section of The Yellowbill on fresnoaudubon.org. We here begin reprinting interesting articles from these past issues in this new section of The Yellowbill.

President’s Message, The Yellowbill, April 2004

by Kevin Enns-Rempel

For most of us in Fresno Audubon, our newsletter has always been called “The Yellowbill” and our mascot has always been the Yellow-billed Magpie drawn by Keith Hansen that appears on our newsletter’s masthead.  Most of us, however, haven’t been with the organization since it began in 1965, and so don’t know how our newsletter title and mascot have changed over the years.  In this month’s column, I’ll review the history of our newsletter title and logo.

The first two issues of our newsletter didn’t even have a title, but merely three question marks at the top of page one.  That was hardly a proper title for a self-respecting Audubon chapter, so beginning in March 1966 the title became “Fresno Audubon Society Newsletter.”  The board clearly did not intend to keep this generic title, and repeatedly solicited chapter members for title suggestions.  Apparently, chapter members weren’t very creative in this department, because the title remained “Fresno Audubon Society Newsletter” for two and a half years.

In its October 1966 issue, the newsletter got its first logo:  simple line drawings of a shorebird and a tree.  The designs were created by Sylvia Selleck, then a “journalism major at Fresno State College and a member of FAS.”

In October 1968 the newsletter appeared for the first time under the title “Yellowbill,” which it has remained ever since.  But while the title has been consistent for many years, the way we depicted (and even defined) “Yellowbill” has gone through a few changes.  The first four issues of “The Yellowbill” displayed a variety of rough logos.  By February 1969 it had settled on a line drawing of a magpie on a fence post together with the tree that had been used previously.  Though the newsletters don’t tell us so, it appears that Sylvia Selleck again was the artist responsible for this logo.  It is very similar in style to the earlier shorebird, and she also happened to be the newsletter editor at that time.

One year later (February 1970) the masthead logo evolved again into an abstract drawing of a magpie.  Again, no artist was ever given credit for this design.  It was replaced in April 1971 with a more realistic drawing by yet another anonymous artist.  This logo became the most enduring one to date, and remained in use until early 1978.

When another change finally did occur, it was particularly dramatic.  While the title remained “The Yellowbill,” the new mascot beginning with the March 1978 issue was the Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  According to the editorial in that issue by chapter vice president Rob Hansen, “The California Department of Fish and Game lists this bird as an endangered species in our state.  For this reason, several Fresno Audubon people decided that we should place this embattled bird on our newsletter to help make our members aware of the (hopefully temporary) disappearance of this fascinating bird from the riverlands of the San Joaquin Valley.” No artist is given credit for the cuckoo drawing on the newsletter masthead, though I suspect it may have been done by Keith Hansen.

The cuckoo remained the chapter mascot for four years, when the board decided to return to the Yellow-billed Magpie.  Nothing in the newsletter or board minutes indicate why the board made this decision.  The logo that first appeared in the September 1982 issue of “The Yellowbill” was drawn by Keith Hansen, and is the same logo that still appears on our newsletter masthead almost twenty-two years latter – longer than all other chapter logos combined.

Editors note: in 2010 FAS updated its logo to the one below which is still in use today.

February General Meeting

How the Birds Taught Humanity to Fly

Larry Parmeter

Tuesday, 14 February 2023

W.F. Quinby's Flying Machine Patent c. 1869

Speaker Bio

Larry is a retired high school English teacher who currently teaches for the Osher Adult Continuing  Education Program at Fresno State. He has been a member of Fresno Audubon for over 30 years, and was its president during the 1990s. He currently leads field trips for both Audubon and the San Joaquin River Parkway, and is also involved in the Parkway’s environmental education program for elementary school students. He has also had a longtime interest in the space program and aviation, which led him to tonight’s presentation.

Program Description

Since the dawn of recorded history, humans have wanted to fly like the birds. Although many studied the secret of avian flight during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, it was not until the Industrial Revolution that the technological tools for humanity to fly became available. By the mid and late 1800s, spurred on by the science of bird flight, dozens of people (the Wright Brothers were not the first) were attempting to master human flight. This culminated in the early 20th century with pioneering aviators on both sides of the Atlantic, and the Pacific as well, joining the birds in the air.

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: https://fresnoaudubon.org/events.

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 a.m. – 12 p.m., usually on the third Saturday of each month through May 2023. 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.

February 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 1 February 2023 ⏤ Field Trip to River West Madera with John McDaniel

We will meet at 8:00 a.m. just outside the Valley Golf Center (which is south and down the hill from Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera County). For those who participated in Rachel Clark’s outing last fall from Wildwood Native Park, a lot of the terrain will look familiar. However, as the park is not open during the work week, we will be assembling west of the park. Weather and trail conditions permitting, the plan is to take Palm Avenue down from the golf course, following the river downstream, first on the service road to Sycamore Island, then along the Riverfront Trail, ultimately emerging at a grouping of several ponds and a large lagoon just north of the river channel. The Riverfront Trail follows a berm next to the river and is somewhat narrow and uneven. For anyone not comfortable with it, the Sycamore Island road can be followed instead. Total distance is about 3.5 miles.

Bring suitable clothing (layers) and walking shoes (note the trail may be sloppy in some areas), snacks, water, head covering, sunscreen, and binoculars. The ponds and lagoon will be quite amenable to spotting scopes, although they are more than a mile and a half from the assembly area.

Directions: Take Highway 41 north from Fresno, to the first exit north of the San Joaquin River (Exit 138A). Turn right at the intersection and follow Cobb Ranch Road back toward Fresno until you get to the first intersection. Turn right and proceed under the Highway 41 bridges to the parking area just outside the golf course where we will assemble.

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

Registration is required for this event. Any questions, please contact trip leader John McDaniel, (559) 779-7186, mandomac@comcast.net

Register Here.

Wednesday 15 February 2023 ⏤ Lions Park with Larry Parmeter

On Wednesday, February 15, Fresno Audubon will travel to Lions Park in Kerman for its Wednesday Walk. This is a small park in what used to be a rural area outside Kerman but is now surrounded by residential homes. Nevertheless, it is still a major bird attractor, with many different sparrows, woodpeckers, robins, nuthatches, and other species. A pond on the premises has ducks, wading birds, and grebes. It’s a little-known and overlooked but wonderful birding place.

We will meet the Walmart at Blackstone and Ashlan at 7:45 and go from there. If time permits, we will go to nearby Kerman Rotary Park, which is also a good birding site. People are responsible for arranging their carpooling beforehand. Bring a lunch.

Checklist: binoculars, spotting scopes, cameras, jackets, lunch/snacks, water, and hat.

Registration for this trip is here.

Trip leader: Larry Parmeter, ‭559-288-3456‬, lanpar362@gmail.com.

Saturday 25 February 2023 ⏤ Parkfield/Cholame Valley with Kevin Enns-Rempel

Join Kevin Enns-Rempel on February 25 for a birding trip to Cholame Valley and Parkfield. We will meet in the Walmart parking lot at Ashlan & Blackstone at 6:45 AM, and depart there by 7 AM. It’s about a 90-minute drive to our destination, so we’ll try to do as much carpooling as possible.

Checklist: binoculars, spotting scopes, cameras, radios, jackets, lunch/snacks, water, and hat.

Please reach out to trip leader Kevin Enns-Rempel (559-313-4546 or kevin.enns.rempel@gmail.com) with any questions.

Register here!

Field Trip Schedule

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

January Field Trip Reports

No reports were submitted this month

Fresno-Madera Birds

by Jeff Davis
Including reports for the period of
December 16, 2022 to January 15, 2023

A White-winged Scoter at Bass Lake December 29 (ph. JP) through the end of the period (ph. m.ob.) provided the first record for Madera County.

White-winged Scoter by Gary Woods

A Red-naped Sapsucker at the north end of Bass Lake January 13 (ph. GF) may have been the one that wintered there in 2021/2022.

Red-naped Sapsucker by Gary Woods

Historically scarce and unpredictable, Cassin’s Kingbird has wintered at Sycamore Island since 2020, with two there December 19 (ph. GW, ph. m.ob.).

Cassin's Kingbird by Gary Woods

A Cassin’s/Plumbeous Vireo observed at a residence near Pico Ave and Del Mar Ave December 31 (RC) was especially gray, appearing to lack even a hint of yellow, suggesting Plumbeous Vireo, a species that has yet to be fully documented in our area.

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

Barn Swallow is less than annual in winter, so two at Sycamore Island December 19 (ph. GW, m.ob.) and two others at the Fresno Wastewater Treatment Plant January 11 (ph. GW) were notable.

Barn Swallow by Clayton Dahlen

Four “Red” Fox Sparrows at Sycamore Island December 19 (ph. GW, m.ob.) were more than have ever been reported from a single location in our area.

Red Fox Sparrow by George Folsom

The two White-throated Sparrows at Lost Lake Park discovered December 4 continued at least through January 6 (LC), with a remarkable five observed there January 1 (SONA, RG).

White-throated Sparrow, Larry Cusick

A Wilson’s Warbler at Lost Lake Park December 26 (ph. CC) provided a rare winter record.

Wilson's Warbler by Larry Cusick

Cited Observers: Sze On Ng Aaron (SONA), Corey Chen, Rachel Clark, Larry Constantino, Rick Grijalva, Justin Purnell, and 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 eBird, the Fresno County Birders e-mail list, or Jeff Davis (jndavis@ucsc.edu).

Member Photographs

We have made a few changes in the photos submission process. Please note the items in red.
If you would like to share your bird photos with other Fresno Audubon Society members, submit up to 5 of your best to Clayton Dahlen at mc_dahlen@yahoo.com. By submitting you give us permission to use your photo on our website, in our emails and on our social media platforms.
Please submit your pictures with a width of 1024 pixels and a resolution of 72 dpi. The height of the picture is not important. Thank you for your understanding.

Barbara Carlson

Snowy-Owl, Barbara Carlson

Larry Cusick

Bushtit, Larry Cusick

Jim Curnyn

Killdeer, Jim Curnyn
Turkey Vulture eating prey, Jim Curnyn
Female Vermillion Flycatcher, Jim Curnyn
Female Vermillion Flycatcher, Jim Curnyn
White-crowned Sparrow, Jim Curnyn
Double-crested Cormorant, Jim Curnyn
Eared Grebe, Jim Curnyn
Anna's Hummingbird, Jim Curnyn
Osprey w/ Trout, Jim Curnyn
Phainopepla, Jim Curnyn
Bushtit with yellow pollen, Jim Curnyn
Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Jim Curnyn
Western Bluebird, Jim Curnyn
Yellow-rumped Warbler, Jim Curnyn

Christina Dort

Bathing Red-tailed Hawk, Christina Dort

Clayton Dahlen

Red-throated Loon, juvenile, Clayton Dahlen
Common Yellowthroat, Clayton Dahlen

George Folsom

Swamp Sparrow, George Folsom
Peregrine Falcon, George Folsom

Glenn Maurine

Hermit Thrush, Glenn Maupin

Richard Sexty

Greater Roadrunner, Richard Sexty
Red-tailed Hawk ⏤ Intermediate Juvenile, Richard Sexty
Red-shouldered Hawk, Richard Sexty
Bats, Richard Sexty
Bat colony, Richard Sexty

Birds in the News

Links to Recent Articles on Birds

Meet The Sparrow With Four Sexes

White throats like to sleep around, but they're much better at singing than the tan stripes. Image credit: Steve Byland / Shutterstock.com

If you think navigating the human dating pool is hard, it’s time to get familiar with the sex lives of white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis). For these birds, any one individual can only mate with one-quarter of the species. Why? Because they decided to evolve two extra sexes on top of the two they already had. The curious quirk of genetics was uncovered by Elaina Tuttle and Rusty Gonser, biologists in the white-throated sparrow’s native Canada. Together, they uncovered a genetic mutation in the species that caused it to flip a large section of the bird’s chromosome, resulting in four genotypes that could only successfully procreate with other specific genotypes.


Bird Migration Explorer

The Bird Migration Explorer is your guide to the heroic annual journeys made by over 450 bird species, and the challenges they face along the way. Learn more about a species, the migratory birds at a specific location, or a conservation challenge birds face.

Read more…

Migrating birds: Disturbances in magnetic field suspected when birds go astray

Effect of geomagnetic disturbance on vagrancy varies based on levels of solar activity.

It seems logical enough that bad weather can sometimes cause birds to become disoriented during their annual fall migrations—causing them to wind up in territory they’re unaccustomed to. But why, even when weather is not a major factor, do birds travel far away from their usual routes? A new paper by UCLA ecologists explores one reason: disturbances to Earth’s magnetic field can lead birds astray—a phenomenon scientists call “vagrancy”—even in perfect weather, and especially during fall . The research is published in Scientific Reports.

Read more…

Birdsong isn’t just competition for mates or territory. Zebra finches sing to bond

Zebra Finches. Shutterstock

When you hear beautiful birdsong, such as the warbling of the Australasian magpie, you might believe it’s a sign of intense competition for territory or showing off to attract a mate. After all, that’s the way birdsong is often thought of – a way for male birds to compete with each other. A prettier version of nature red in tooth and claw, as Tennyson put it. There’s some truth to it – in many species, even the most beautiful song by a male in another’s territory will invite attack. But birdsong isn’t one dimensional. In some species, birdsong is much less about competition and much more about social cooperation. Our study of highly social zebra finches found the song of the males boosts social cohesion in local populations. It even helps these tiny birds to coordinate their nest building, mating and reproduction when there’s about to be abundant food for their young.

Read more…

Featherweights And Heavyweights: Curious Extremes In Avian Evolution

Anna's Hummingbird

There’s a bird that weighs no more than an average paper clip and is one of the fiercest fliers on the planet. There once was a bird that weighed around half a ton, the same as an average cow, and laid an egg as large as 150 chicken eggs. The elephant bird is long gone but the bee hummingbird remains fighting fit. The only dinosaurs to survive the last mass extinction sixty-six million years ago, birds have evolved since then to fit into every available ecological niche, and today are the most widely distributed form of life on the planet other than microscopic organisms.

Read more…

Crows Have a Human-Like Grammar Skill, Scientists Find

American Crow. Susan Walker / Getty Images

Weather radar, machine learning used to study how bird roosting habits are changing with climate

Prior to migration, aerial insectivores, like swallows and martins, gather in communal roosts that may contain thousands to hundreds of thousands of birds. Credit: Kyle Horton

Birds including swallows and martins—known as aerial insectivores—control insect populations and insect-borne disease and provide hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of pest control for agriculture. But these feathered friends to humanity are declining at an alarming rate, with species in North America declining more than 30% from 1970 to 2017. Two recent Colorado State University studies out of the Warner College of Natural Resources used to track the movements of aerial insectivores and explore how their patterns have changed over the past 20 years. They examined changes in the birds’ roosting habits to try to determine why the species are declining.

Read more…

How to photograph birds: 10 tips, from encouraging wildlife, to waiting for light

‘Photograph a common species in gorgeous light and you could have an award-winning picture on your hands’ (Photo: Mark Carwardine)

First things first: you need some birds. Any space, whether it is a rambling estate or a busy family garden, can be wildlife-friendly. The trick is to entice birds to visit locations with clear views, natural surroundings, good lighting and perfect backgrounds.You also need to tailor the food to suit the birds you wish to photograph: apples and pears will attract blackbirds, song thrushes and redwings, while blue tits, great tits and great spotted woodpeckers prefer  peanuts. A wide choice of food will attract a greater diversity of birds. Try to set up two or three feeders initially, as well as a bird table, and always keep the feeders topped up.

Read more…

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