May 2020 Yellowbill

28 Apr May 2020 Yellowbill


President’s Message

Greetings, FAS members and friends. I hope that all of you are staying healthy and safe. As some of you may already be aware, all FAS chapter events are canceled through June 30. This is, of course, very disappointing. However, it is very important that we continue to protect the health of the community.

We are still working on putting together virtual tour materials for your enjoyment. If you’re not able to get out and enjoy the outside world at the moment, let us here at FAS bring the sights and sounds of local natural areas right to you in a perfectly safe way! Stay tuned to our social media accounts (Facebook and Instagram) for updates.

In the way of citizen science, there are some fun, accessible-to-all upcoming opportunities. Chief among them is Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Global Big Day on Saturday, May 9. This is a 24 hour event, lasting from midnight to midnight. However, you certainly need not devote a whole 24 hours! Even if you can only spare five or 10 minutes, even if you can only count the birds in your backyard, and even if you’re not an expert birder, you can participate. All you need to do is count all the birds you detect by sight and sound, and submit these sightings on eBird via the website or the mobile app. There are some local birding areas that remain accessible during the pandemic, such as Jensen River Ranch and Riverbottom Park. For those of you that enjoy car birding in the remote countryside, Road 208, Road 209, Road 210, and Road 406 in Madera County are great places to visit. National Wildlife Refuges remain open and are great birding areas any time. Wherever you bird, we here at FAS encourage you to be safe, follow all local directives and to practice social distancing measures.

Here is yet another fun way to involve yourself in scientific studies: be on the lookout for Bushtit nests! Dr. Tricia Van Laar and Dr. Joel Slade from Fresno State are currently conducting a study to determine how urbanization affects the microbiome and ectoparasite prevalence in Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) nests. If any of you have a Bushtit nest on your property and would not mind a graduate student coming to monitor it, or if any of you know of any Bushtit nests in easily accessible public locations in Fresno or Madera Counties, please reach out to either Dr. Van Laar at or Dr. Slade at I should mention that no Bushtits will be harmed by this research; nests will be monitored and then sampled only once the offspring have fledged.

To conclude this message on an upbeat note, I’d like to share with you a few pictures of some local birds. In order, they are an Ash-throated Flycatcher, a Cooper’s Hawk, and a Violet-green Swallow.

Please take care of yourselves!

Rachel Clark
FAS President

Ash-throated Flycatcher by Rachel Clark

Cooper’s Hawk by Rachel Clark

Violet-green Swallow by Rachel Clark

Annual Report Now Available

Fresno Audubon Society (FAS) has prepared its first annual report to membership. You can read or download the report here. The report details FAS activities and the board of directors as well as income and expenses for 2019. If you have any comments or suggestions for the annual report, please send them to


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. Please see our annual report for more information how we spend dues money.

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.

Global Big Day
9 May 2020

The 2020 Global Big Day is happening 9 May even during the pandemic. We encourage you to participate in any way you can, including birding your backyard. Be sure to follow all local restrictions while birding during the pandemic. All you need to do is explained in the following information from Cornell Laboratory:

“Global Big Day is an annual celebration of the birds around you, and this year is no different. While not everyone may be able to leave home to bird this year, Global Big Day is still an opportunity to check in with the birds in and around where you live. Join us on 9 May and be a part of a global birding community by sharing what birds you see with eBird.

“Participating is easy. Wherever you are, you can be a part of the global community of birders on 9 May. Please remember to always put safety first and follow all local safety guidelines and closures. You can enjoy birds from inside your home and still be part of Global Big Day.

“If you can spare at least 5 or 10 minutes, report your observations to eBird online or with our free eBird Mobile app. If you have more time, submit checklists of birds throughout the day at different times. Can you find more birds in the morning, or the evening? You never know what you might spot. Your observations help us better understand global bird populations through products like these animated abundance maps brought to you by eBird Science.

“This year, Global Big Day will focus on the number of checklists we can collect as a global team. Last year, 35,209 eBirders from 174 countries collected an astounding 92,284 checklists in a single day. Will you join us on Global Big Day to make 2020 the year that we surpass 100,000 checklists of birds in one day? Help us set a new checklist record!

“Learn more and prepare with our Global Big Day resources.

Field Trips

All field trips for this season are canceled due to the corona virus pandemic. We hope to start offering field trips in September if we can do it safely and follow all local directives.

While our organized trips are canceled, we would 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 others areas are now closed, but these areas remain open. Be sure to follow any parking restrictions when birding these areas.

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

Fresno County

Jensen River Ranch

Riverbottom Park

River West

Big Dry Creek Reservoir grasslands

Enterprise Canal, Clovis

Cotton Wood Park, Clovis

Madera County

Wildwood Native Park and trail to Sycamore Island

Rd 208

Rd 209

Hildreth (210) Rd loop


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

Pacific Golden-Plover is reported less than annually in our area, so one at the Madera Wastewater Treatment Plant March 20 (CR, BM) was notable.

Pacific Golden-Plover by Gary Woods

Speaking of notable, we just learned of a Sabine’s Gull at Wanda Lake, 34 miles east of Shaver Lake, on August 4, 2012 (ph. MB).  At 11,450 feet elevation, this report establishes a high-elevation record for Fresno County, evidently all of California, and perhaps all of North America.

Madera County’s second Vermilion Flycatcher, an adult female along the Madera Canal near Road 400, discovered October 31, was present at least through March 20 (ph. GW).

Vermillion Flycatcher (female) by Jason Smith

A Canyon Wren at a ranch surrounded by almond orchards about five miles south of Madera, present at least for the past two years (ph. CS), represents our only record for the floor of the San Joaquin Valley.

Canyon Wren by Rachel Clark

Cited Observers: Mike Brossart, Brittney McGuire, Casey Ryan, Cecelia Sheeter, 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

Ever Wonder ‘What It’s Like To Be A Bird’? David Allen Sibley Has Some Answers

“A bird’s experience is far richer, complex, and ‘thoughtful’ than I’d imagined.”

This sentence on the first page of David Allen Sibley’s What It’s Like to Be a Bird is a stunner. A renowned author-illustrator of bird field guides, Sibley is a top bird expert. When he did research for this new volume, though, he became convinced of something he had not previously anticipated: Birds routinely make complex decisions and experience emotions. Read more…

Birds that depend on unique ecosystems in Rocky Mountain National Park don’t have long to adapt.

“One brown-capped rosy finch,” Scott Rashid called to me through the branches of a juniper as I fumbled with my winter gloves and pressed record on my phone to dictate the number. It was my job as a bird count novice to document each sighting.

Rashid is a self-educated bird researcher who organizes the yearly Christmas Bird Count in Estes Park. The local count, which covers ground in the country’s highest national park, Rocky Mountain, has been a yearly volunteer-run endeavor for over 70 years. Read more…

Bald eagles photographed nesting in saguaro cactus for first time in Arizona, officials say

The Arizona Game and Fish Department shared what it said were the first known photos of bald eagles nesting within the arms of a saguaro cactus taken in the state. Read more…

Rhinos pay a painful price for oxpecker protection

Rhinos are massive, gorgeous, creatures with very few natural predators. Despite this, these beauties are critically endangered and are tough to find outside of wildlife parks and reserves. This is mostly due to an increase in poaching. But according to a recent study, protection could come from an unlikely source: The small but mighty oxpecker. Read more…

To Silence Wind Turbines and Airplanes, Engineers Are Studying Owl Wings

Every owl fancier has a story of the first time they heard an owl — or, rather, didn’t hear one. It’s unforgettable to see an enormous bird, whose wingspan can reach more than six feet, slipping through the air without even a whisper.

Justin Jaworski’s first close encounter came at a flying exhibition at the Raptor Foundation near Cambridge, England. “They trained the owls to fly very close to the audience,” he says. “My first experience was of ducking to avoid a collision. I heard only a very slight swoosh after it passed.” Read more…

Why Birds of a Feather Mob Together

When you see adorable little birds snacking on seeds at your bird feeder or flitting about like they’re sewing a dress for Cinderella, don’t be fooled. Those birds will gang up and turn on you in a tiny, fluttering heartbeat.

When birds detect a predator, they will start “mobbing” it. It’s when small birds join together to fend off a larger bird. Small and large are relative terms here. Crows will band together to mob a hawk, and starlings will come together to mob a crow. Read more…

Blue Macaws Are The Gardeners Of The Forest

A few months ago, I shared a study about parrots’ wasteful eating habits, which found that approximately half of the foods they handled ended up on the floor (more here). Wasting food doesn’t make much sense, especially in the wild, which raises the question: are there any practical effects of slobby eating?

A new study may provide some clues. A team of researchers studying the two all-blue macaw species has found that these parrots help spread the seeds of 18 plant species in Brazil and Bolivia (ref). They came to this conclusion by direct observations and camera traps that recorded more than 1,700 fruit and nut dispersal events by hyacinth and Lear’s macaws. Both species were found to be effective seed dispersers, despite suspicions that these parrots fully consume all seeds in the fruits or nuts they picked. This finding challenges previously held ideas that the dispersal of large seeds in South America was carried out by now-extinct Pleistocene megafauna. Read more…

Do swallows return to the same nest?

Most songbirds use a nest for just a single clutch or season, then build a new one – if they survive to breed again. But one study showed that most swallows returned to the same colony, with 44 per cent of pairs reoccupying the same nest. “This is remarkable given the length of a swallow’s return migration from its wintering grounds in South Africa,” says Rob Robinson, associate director of research at the BTO. Robinson has studied this iconic species’ unusually strong nest-faithfulness, a phenomenon called philopatry. Read more…

14 stunning photos of birds making incredible journeys across the Earth

Every year, millions of birds make incredible journeys across the planet, spanning continents and flying for months on end. We’re used to birds migrating over winter to head towards warmer climes, but we don’t often stop to think about how remarkable this really is.

How does the arctic tern travel from its arctic breeding grounds to its summer home in the Antarctic? And how does the swift stay in the air for ten months at a time? Read more…

Born to Fly – The Bird That Spends Up to 10 Months Without Landing

Scientists have long suspected that some species of birds can eat drink, mate and even sleep while flying, but even they were stunned when data showed that one such species could go up to 10 months without landing.

As its name suggests, the commons swift (Apus apus) is a common bird that lives all across Europe and much of Asia, but their flight time is anything but common. This medium-sized bird currently holds the record for the most time spent in the air per year, with data showing that some specimens can spend up to 10 months out of 12 without landing even once. They drink and eat in the air, feasting on any insects that they can capture in flight, they can mate in the air as well, and, like the much larger frigate birds, they can also sleep in the air by gliding on warm air currents known as “thermals”. Read more…

Toxic Pit Bird Watcher Deemed ‘Essential’ During Pandemic

These days, the skies above Southwest Montana are teeming with birds headed north. Which means on a windy Tuesday in April, bird protection specialist Mark Mariano has been on duty since sunrise at the Berkeley Pit, Butte’s abandoned open pit copper mine turned toxic lake. 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 will also showcase your photos on our social media.

Yoshida Keiko

Bald Eagle by Yoshida Keiko. Hensley Lake, 4 April 2020.

Marilyn Nall

Bald Eagle by Marilyn Nall. Atascadero Lake, CA, 12 December 2019.

Sue Thorson

Orange-crowned Warbler by Sue Thorson. Fresno, CA, October 2014.

House Finch by Sue Thorson. Fresno, CA, September 2018.

Larry Parmeter

Ash-throated Flycatcher by Larry Parmeter. Elwood Rd, Wonder Valley, CA. 23 April 2020.

Bullock’s Oriole by Larry Parmeter. Elwood Rd, Wonder Valley, CA. 23 April 2020.

Lark Sparrow by Larry Parmeter. San Luis NWR, CA. 18 April 2020.


Eared Grebe by Larry Parmeter. San Luis NWR, CA. 18 April 2020.

Helen Giglioti

Hyacinth Macaws by Helen Gigliotti. Pantanal, Brazil. 2005.

Plush-crested Jay by Helen Gigliotti. Pantanal, Brazil. 2005.

Cocoi Heron by Helen Gigliotti. Pantanal, Brazil. 2005.

Jabiru by Helen Gigliott. Pantanal, Brazil. 2005.

Maguari Stork by Helen Gigliotti. Pantanal, Brazil. 2005.

Black-collared Hawk by Helen Gigliotti. Pantanal, Brazil. 2005.

Donna Flores

Mourning Dove by Donna Flores. Fresno, CA. 22 April 2020.

Lisa Libby

White-headed Woodpecker by Lisa Libby. Kings Canyon National Park. January 2020.

Cecelia Sheeter

Wood Duck by Cecelia Sheeter. Madera County, CA.

Great-horned Owlets by Cecelia Sheeter. Madera County, CA.

Wood Ducks by Cecelia Sheeter. Madera County, CA.

Western Kingbirds by Cecelia Sheeter. Madera County, CA.

Cedar Waxwings by Cecelia Sheeter. Madera County, CA.

Laura Link

Western Grebe by Laura Link. Millerton Lake, CA. February 2020.

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