March 2020 Yellowbill

26 Feb March 2020 Yellowbill


President’s Message

Tree Swallow by Rachel Clark

Greetings, FAS members! Spring is on the horizon, and I could not be more excited. Everywhere I look, there are more and more signs: Tree Swallows chattering and scouting potential nest cavities, Great Horned Owls sitting on nests, Red-tailed Hawks defending territory and engaging in courtship behaviors, Spotted Towhees serenading prospective mates with their raspy song, Canyon Wrens belting out their unmistakable descending ballad, Ruby-crowned Kinglets giving a more whole-hearted version of their lively, loud, and somewhat jumbled song, butterflies emerging from their winter slumber, frogs croaking, turtles basking, and so much more! I could go on much longer, but I will refrain!

California Tortoiseshell Butterfly by Rachel Clark

With the coming of spring, there are many FAS events to look forward to. Our general meeting is being held on March 10, with Biopsychologist Dr. Susan Schneider as the presenter. Anyone looking to learn more about bird intelligence and instinct should definitely attend! We will be hosting field trips to such locations as Eastman Lake, Mendota Wildlife Area, and the Kern River Preserve, all of which are excellent birding areas! On March 7, we will be hosting an introduction to birding class at the River Center, which is an excellent way for new and budding birders to become more familiar with local birding areas. For more information about these and other upcoming events, please check out the FAS event calendar.

In addition to the events discussed above, there are numerous volunteer opportunities with FAS. The San Joaquin River Parkway Native Plant Restoration Area Bird Surveys, which are an ongoing collaborative effort between FAS and the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust to assess the level of avian activity and diversity in restoration areas, are a great way to get involved in local citizen science efforts. Of course, we are always looking for extra hands when it comes to leading field trips and birding classes. For more information on these ventures and other volunteer opportunities, please check out this link: or feel free to reach out to me at or 515-357-0122.

I look forward to interacting with my fellow FAS members in the near future!


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.

March General Meeting

No Birdbrains Here: The Latest on Bird Learning,
Instinct and Intelligence
Susan Schneider, PhD
Tuesday, 10 March 2020
UC Center for Continuing Education

Please join us for an evening discussion of bird intelligence by Biopsychologist Susan Schneider, PhD. Susan has over 25 years of research and teaching experience in the science of consequences and nature-nurture relations.  She’s also an avid birder, field trip leader, and environmental activist. Her talk is titled No Birdbrains Here: The Latest on Bird Learning, Instinct, and Intelligence. Birds can learn from consequences, as we and many other species can:  Baby chicks learn to peck accurately, wild mockingbirds can learn to recognize individual people, and pigeons were able to learn to categorize art and music.  Even instinctive behaviors like imprinting can be more flexible than scientists used to think, and songbird song appears particularly malleable.  This talk will explore bird learning and intelligence, from everyday foraging, to learning through observing, to tool use.  Such adaptability may be critical as wild birds attempt to adjust to the many threats they face.  Scientists also take advantage of this powerful learning ability to help save endangered species.

Please register for the event here.

Map to the UC Center:

There will be a pre-meeting dinner with Dr. Schneider at BJ’s Brewhouse at 5:00 pm on Tuesday, 10 March. Please register for the event 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.

March Field Trips

Wednesday 4 March 2020 – Eastman Lake with Lynda Schafhauser

Linda Schafhauser will lead this trip through the Madera grasslands and foothills along Rd 26 to Eastman Lake. Expect to see eagles, hawks, shorebirds and owls, and possibly migrating Rufous Hummingbirds if the right trees are in bloom. After lunch at Eastman Lake we will have a chance to walk the numerous trails in the area.

We will bird along the 13 mile driving route to Eastman Lake. The return to Madera route may include sections of unpaved road. Return to Madera AmTrak Station approximately 2pm. The car caravan will pull off the road, in safe places, to bird on route and in the park. There may be short trail walks. Spring migration can bring a variety of ducks and shorebirds such as the long billed Dowitcher, Greater Yellowlegs, American Widgeon, Buffleheads and Northern Shovelers. There have been recent sightings of Common Mergansers sharing the creek flowing out of Eastman, with Cinnamon Teal. Two Swainson’s Hawks and a Loggerhead Shrike often greet drivers as they near the park, while Bald and Golden Eagles make appearances soaring over the adjacent hills.  Sightings, but more often calls in a rocky campground area include wild turkeys and California Quail. The resident campground Roadrunner can sometimes be seen standing camouflaged among the rocks.  Scanning the lake may provide views of gulls and cormorants.  More common Western Meadowlarks, California Scrub Jays, Red-Tailed Hawks, Ravens and Crows line the grasslands and trees.  Lunch will be in a picnic area within a walking view of the lake. After lunch, for those interested, the return route to Madera Amtrak Station may include (condition permitting) birding along a short section of unpaved road along a grassland and orchard.
We will meet at the Amtrak station in Madera (18770 Rd 26, Madera, CA 93638) at 8:15 for an 8:30 departure.  For a map of the meeting location click here
Meeting Place : Madera AmTrak Station, Road 26, Madera
Free extended parking available for those wishing to carpool
Eastman Lake : Entrance fee $5, credit card kiosk available
                          Free entrance for holders of the National Parks and 
                          Federal Recreation Lands Pass
Checklist: binoculars, scope, field guide, snacks, lunch water, sunscreen, hat, water resistant shoes.
Trip leader:  Linda Schafhauser  (559) 474-0651

Please register for the event here.

Map to meeting location:

Saturday 14 March 2020 – Audubon Kern River Preserve with Robert Snow

Join us for a trip to the beautiful and important Audubon Kern River Preserve and Lake Isabella. We will begin birding at 7:00 am on Saturday, so it is best to leave Friday and spend the night in Kernville. Accommodations in Kernville can be found online (e.g. here). To learn more about the preserve click here. A map of the trails on the preserve is found here. A list of winter birds can be found here.

Please register for the event here.

We will meet at the preserve headquarters at 7:00 am on Saturday 14 March. A map to the headquarters is here:

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

Trip Leader: Robert Snow, (650)483-2347,


Wednesday 25 March 2020 – Mendota State Wildlife Area with Judy Johnson

Join leader Judy Johnson for a trip to Mendota Wildlife Area. Last year’s trip yielded several Swainson’s hawks along with numerous waterfowl species, sparrows and early season Bullock’s orioles. Even though many of the waterfowl will have moved north for breeding, expect to see lots of interesting species that make the refuge their home year round.

We will meet in the Walmart parking lot at Ashlan and Blackstone at 7:45 for a 8:00am departure. We should get to the Mendota Wildlife Area headquarters at around 8:45-9:00am.

Trip Leader: Judy Johnson (559)977-2787

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

Please register for the event here.

Map to meeting location:


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

7 March 2020

BLM San Joaquin Gorge

19 April 2020



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

The juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Lost Lake Park continued at least through February 6 (ph. RS).

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

Our third Red-naped Sapsucker of this fall-winter season was at Bass Lake January 30 through at least February 7 (ph. LP, ph. GW, ph. GF).

Red-naped Sapsucker by Gary Woods

The adult female Vermilion Flycatcher also along the Madera Canal near Road 400 was present at least through January 25 (GW).

Female Vermillion Flycatcher by Gary Woods

Six Scaly-breasted Munia along Gould Canal just east of Dakota Ave January 18 (ph. RS) furnished the second record of this exotic species for Fresno County.

Madera County’s third Harris’s Sparrow and first since 2011 was photographed at Hensley Lake February 9 (ph. MC).

A Black-throated Gray Warbler at Annadale Ponds east of Sanger January 26 (DJ) provided our second record this winter.

Black-throated Gray Warbler by Gary Woods

Cited Observers: Mary Cantrell, George Folsom, Daniel Jeffcoach, Larry Parmeter, 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,, the Fresno County Birders e-mail list, or eBird.


Birds in the News
Links to Recent Articles on Birds

Rat poison also fatal to birds

As a 14-year volunteer with the BCSPCA/Wild ARC, I have retrieved many animals killed by rat poison. One of the saddest incidents was a large, beautiful barred owl found dead on my own property, beside a partially eaten rat. A necropsy on both determined the cause of death was due to rat poison. Read more…

A Beginner’s Guide for Photographing Birds in Flight

Bird photography, specifically photographing birds in flight require a lot of patience and practice. It is not only necessary to have the right camera gear and the knowledge to use them effectively but also to understand what settings work best under which circumstances and how to create beautiful bird photography compositions. In this article, I share with you the important principles of photographing birds in flight. In addition, I expand on each principle. Read more…

Researchers study how birds retweet news

Every social network has its fake news. And in animal communication networks, even birds discern the trustworthiness of their neighbors, a study from the University of Montana suggests. The study, recently published in the top science journal Nature, is the culmination of decades’ worth of research from UM alumni Nora Carlson and Chris Templeton and UM Professor Erick Greene in the College of Humanities and Sciences. It sheds a new light on bird social networks. Read more…

Audubon: New Sage-Grouse Review Plan is “Nothing More Than Window-Dressing”

Denver (February 19, 2020) – “The environmental review process announced today by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is nothing more than window dressing for a process that they should be taking seriously,” said Nada Culver, vice president for public lands and senior policy counsel with the National Audubon Society. “This attempt by the administration to get around their loss in court last year is yet another egregious example of their concerted effort to undermine needed protections for sage-grouse, not a genuine commitment to remedy the significant flaws in their last attempt, despite a court giving them clear direction. They have repeatedly ignored science, and disregarded public input and common sense in their mission to upend a historic and popular multi-state, bi-partisan plan that was achieved more than four years ago.” Read more…

Prehistoric migration could hint at how birds will handle climate change

Avian migration may date back way further than previously predicted. Scientists used to think that birds wouldn’t wing across a perpetually frostbitten Earth, so they set the timeline of the biannual treks at around 20,000 years ago, after the last ice age. But a new model-based study contradicts that idea and suggests that certain species may have in fact travelled widely amid global glacial conditions. While the findings don’t spell out exactly when birds began their seasonal flights, they could deepen our understanding of the large-scale migration cycles. Read more…

The Birds That Guard Brunch

On a toasty October morning in Scottsdale, Arizona, guests eating oatmeal and eggs on the covered patio at The Phoenician hotel’s restaurant were taken aback to see a man strolling around with a hawk on his leather-clad arm. A few took out their phones to snap a photo.

Shannon McQuerrey, a master falconer for more than 20 years, and his Harris’s Hawk Calvin weren’t there to grab brunch—they were there to guard it. Specifically, their job is make sure customers remain undisturbed by noisy grackles that like to pick at plates of food. 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 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.

Mike Allred

Great Egret by Mike Allred

Juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk by Mike Allred

Red-shouldered Hawk by Mike Allred

Prairie Falcon by Mike Allred

Bald Eagle by Mike Allred

Swainson’s Hawks by Mike Allred

California Towhee by Mike Allred

Phainopepla by Mike Allred

Lewis’s Woodpecker by Mike Allred

Larry Cusick

American Kestrel by Larry Cusick. 9 February 202, River Center

Anna’s Hummingbird by Larry Cusick. 9 February 2020, River Center

American Goldfinch by Larry Cusick. 31 January 2020, Lost Lake Park

Great Blue Heron by Larry Cusick. 31 January 2020, Lost Lake Park

Marsh Wren by Larry Cusick. 25 January 2020, San Luis NWR.

Clayton Dahlen

Belted Kingfisher by Clayton Dahlen

Female Anna’s Hummingbird by Clayton Dahlen

Red-winged Blackbirds and Male Tricolored Blackbird by Clayton Dahlen

Red-winged Blackbirds and Male Tricolored Blackbird by Clayton Dahlen

Red-winged Blackbirds and Male Tricolored Blackbird by Clayton Dahlen

Bald Eagle by Clayton Dahlen

Helen Gigliotti

All photos from Gabon

Rosy Bee Eaters by Helen Gigliotti

Double-collard Sunbird by Helen Gigliotti

African Thrush by Helen Gigliotti

Woodland Kingfisher by Helen Gigliotti

Copper Sunbird by Helen Gigliotti

Black-headed Bee-eater by Helen Gigliotti

Blue-breasted Bee-eater by Helen Gigliotti

African Thrush by Helen Gigliotti

Giant Kingfisher by Helen Gigliotti

African Pied Hornbill by Helen Gigliotti

Village Weaver by Helen Gigliotti

Nina Jones

Burrowing Owl by Nina Jones. Road 406 Madera County

White-breasted Nuthatch by Nina Jones. Madera County

Pintails by Nina Jones. Merced NWR

Wilson’s Snipe by Nina Jones. Merced NWR

Wilson’s Snipe by Nina Jones. Merced NWR

Ferruginous Hawk by Nina Jones. White Rock Road, Le Grand

Nathan Parmeter

Chipping Sparrow (molted) by Nathan Parmeter. Parkfield, CA 27 December 2019

Male Eastern Bluebirds by Nathan Parmeter. Wheaton Regional Park, MD, 19 January 2020

Ferruginous Hawk by Nathan Parmeter. Cholame Valley, CA, 27 December 2019

Male Red-headed Woodpecker by Nathan Parmeter.Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, VA, 26 January 2020

Yellow-throated Warbler by Nathan Parmeter. East Potomac Park, Washington, DC, 2 February 2020

Cecelia Sheeter

European Starling murmuration by Cecelia Sheeter. Madera County

California Condor by Cecelia Sheeter. Pinnacles NP

Common Ravens by Cecelia Sheeter. Pinnacles NP

American Coots by Cecelia Sheeter. Merced NWR

Merlin by Cecelia Sheeter. Merced NWR

Sue Thorson

White-crowned Sparrow by Sue Thorson. April 2017, Fresno

Northern Mockingbird by Sue Thorson. Fall 2018, Fresno.

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