May 2021 Yellowbill

29 Apr May 2021 Yellowbill


President’s Message

Greetings, FAS members and friends. I hope that you are all staying healthy and safe out there.

On Tuesday, May 11, FAS will hold its monthly general meeting over Zoom. Our speaker for the evening will be Benny Jacobs-Schwartz, a naturalist and international birding guide who will be talking to us about hummingbirds ⏤ their biology, their range, and the best ways to attract them to your yard! You definitely do not want to miss this presentation! Please join us on Tuesday, May 11 at 7:00 PM. You can register for the meeting here.

Thank you again to everyone who attended the April 13 general meeting. Dan Airola’s presentation on Tricolored Blackbirds in the Sierra Foothills was extremely informative! For those of you who missed the meeting, you can view Dan’s presentation, along with other recent presentations, on our YouTube channel. Here is the link to Dan’s presentation. 

FAS will be holding its first in-person field trip since March 2020 on Saturday, May 8, 2021, which happens to be World Migratory Bird Day and Global Big Day! The field trip will be held at Lost Lake Park (near Friant) from 7:00 am through 9:00 am. The group will be meeting at the Audubon Nature Trailhead at the south end of the park. COVID-19 safety guidelines will be in place. Registration is required and participants will be asked to sign a liability waiver upon registering. The variety of birds is sure to be great, especially with many neotropical migrants moving through, so please join us! The link for registration is here.

If you’re not able to join in on this field trip, but you’d still like to participate in Global Big Day, you can easily do so by simply going out birding, anywhere you’d like, even for just five or 10 minutes, and record an eBird list on Saturday, May 8. It’s a great way to get yourself outside and participate in citizen science! Please join in and help scientists to better understand global bird populations!

Fresno Audubon is still accepting pledges to aid in protecting nesting Tricolored Blackbirds (TRBL) here in California. This species has undergone a drastic decline in numbers due to habitat loss and conversion. With a large percentage of its historic nesting habitat gone, TRBL have taken to establishing nest colonies in dairy silage, which unfortunately puts them at odds with farmers needing to harvest their crops. Audubon California has been working with various local chapters, the federal government and the dairy industry to protect these colonies by reimbursing farmers for up to 75% of their losses for delaying harvest when TRBL colonies are present. Unfortunately, the federal government has reduced the amount available for silage buyout, thus putting TRBL colonies at risk. Audubon CA is looking to secure additional sources of funding, which is why we are appealing to you, FAS members and friends! FAS is asking you to make a pledge to help save TRBL colonies here in California-including one here in Fresno County. FAS will provide matching funds up to a dollar amount of $5000. These pledges will only be called in if the funding is needed. You can make a pledge here.

If you are not already, please follow us (@fresnoaudubon) on Facebook, Twitter 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 share two photos. The first is a Cattle Egret in breeding plumage. Check out the wispy muted orange plumes, the bright reddish orange beak, and the vibrant red eyes. The second picture is a juvenile Neotropic Cormorant. Notice the brownish head, neck, breast, and backside (which tell us it’s a first-year bird), the yellow on the chin, the lack of yellow between the eye and the beak (which is just one feature that tells us this is not a Double-crested Cormorant), and the whitish border surrounding the yellow chin patch (this border is much brighter in adults and is yet another feature telling us this is not a Double-crested Cormorant).

Please take care of yourselves!

Rachel Clark
President, Fresno Audubon Society

Cattle Egret bye Rachel Clark

Neotropic Cormorant by Rachel Clark

David Yarnold Steps Down as
President of National Audubon Society

The National Audubon Society has announced that its board of directors and David Yarnold have mutually agreed that David will step down as CEO, effective May 14. The board has named Dr. Elizabeth Gray, president and chief conservation officer, as interim CEO while a search is conducted for a successor. Yarnold will remain available to the board and Dr. Gray through June 2021 to ensure a smooth transition.

“David has accomplished a great deal for Audubon in the almost 11 years since he joined us,” said Maggie Walker, board chair. “He articulated a vision for all of Audubon, recentering our work on bird conservation while greatly improving fundraising capabilities and building our membership from 350,000 to well over two million. He gave Audubon a strong voice full of creativity and passion.”

Walker continued, “Over the course of the last few months, the board and David have discussed succession planning and reached the mutual conclusion that now is the time for Audubon to find new leadership to create its next strategic plan and to address many of the culture issues that have come to light. As we have met with and listened to a significant number of our staff in recent months, we have heard their messages that there is much we can do to improve our organizational culture. We have a highly committed staff and a grassroots network that is second to none and the Board believes it’s critical that this organization has the right plan and leadership to fulfill its mission and live up to its values for the long-term.”

Dr. Gray joined Audubon last month as the first woman to hold the title of president in the organization’s 115-year history. She brings exceptional credentials as a scientist, fundraiser and strategic leader to the role of interim CEO. She has spent more than three decades as a dedicated ornithologist and conservationist, spending considerable time in the field nationally and abroad. She previously held the role of global managing director for climate at The Nature Conservancy.

“I am honored to take on the role of interim CEO” said Dr. Gray. “I am deeply committed to Audubon’s mission. I look forward to building on Audubon’s track record of success and to building the next generation of Audubon where we seek to cultivate new audiences and where differences are respected, valued and essential to mission success.”

Dr. Gray will work closely with Audubon’s executive team, including Jamaal Nelson, who was recently appointed chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer. Mr. Nelson is a widely recognized leader in issues of diversity and inclusion and has helped some of the most important and visible organizations in the country in support of social justice.

“From my first day in 2010, I asked Audubon’s members and staff to teach me about birds and it’s been an amazing learning journey,” Yarnold said. “Audubon’s nonpartisan base and its geographic breadth – from Latin America to the Boreal Forest – brings with it unique opportunities among conservation NGOs. And that includes helping to lead America’s conservation organizations to change their priorities and fully reflect a commitment to the hard work of equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging.”

The board has appointed a CEO search committee that, with the assistance of an external search firm, will consider both internal and external candidates.

Created by Nancy Gilmore


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 2020 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 September 1 to August 31 the following year. To join Fresno Audubon Society or to renew your membership, please visit our website here.

May General Meeting
Sea to Summit: The Marvelous Hummingbird
by Benny Isaac Jacobs-Schwartz

Tuesday, 11 May 2021, 7-8 pm
Via Zoom

From Alaska to the high Andes of South America, join us as we explore the magic of hummingbirds! With 360 species recognized globally, we’ll discuss their remarkable biology, expansive range, ecological significance, and the best way to attract them to your yard using native plants or feeders!

Benny Isaac Jacobs-Schwartz owns and operates a bird guiding business and lifestyle brand called BIRDS by BIJS (pronounced Bee-jus). Working professionally as a naturalist guide, expedition trip leader, and international bird guide, Benny works in a variety of locations. Most recently his work brought him to such exotic places as coastal Alaska, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Ecuadorian cloud forest.
Benny or BIJS, has returned to his roots where he works leading birding adventures, and Program Directing a youth outdoor education non-profit called Biocitizen Los Angeles. He is also a passionate photographer, specializing in birds. Benny uses his impressive collection of content to leverage his active social media presence. Benny hopes his love of the natural world will inspire others to conserve the open spaces around them and look up more often from their phones!
To receive the Zoom link for the meeting, please register here.

General Meeting Speaker Schedule

Following is the schedule for future speakers in 2021. This schedule is subject to change due to cancelations.


Field Trips

Saturday 8 May 2021, 7:00-9:00 am ⏤ In-person Field Trip to Lost Lake Recreation Area with Robert Snow

May 8th is World Migratory Bird Day as well as the Global Big Day. To celebrate, Fresno Audubon will hold our first in-person field trip in over a year at Lost Lake Recreation Area. The state and county orders allow outdoor “Recreational social and community classes,” and we believe a field trip fits this category. We are currently in the orange tier where the maximum allowed group size is 50. Everyone must do their own risk assessment before participating, but we believe risks to be very low if we follow state and CDC guidelines. All attendees must sign our liability waiver (which has recently been updated to include SARS CoV-2 as a risk) and registration is required. You can register here. By registering you will be agreeing to our liability waiver and will not need to sign again onsite.

We will operate the event according to state and county guidelines: Masks must be worn in public except when outdoors and participants must maintain at least 6 feet of social distance from others not in their household. You must have a face covering with you at all times and must put it on if you are within 6 feet of others who are not in your household.

We don’t recommend sharing scopes and won’t be sponsoring a group meal at the end of the trip.

This will be a 2-hour trip to comply with county requirements. We will meet at the Audubon Nature Trailhead at the south end of the park. Please join us for a wonderful morning of group birding!


Fresno-Madera Birds
by Jeff Davis
Including reports for the period of
March 16, 2021 to April 15, 2021

Adding to a burgeoning list of records of this warm-climate-adapted species for our area, Madera County’s first Neotropic Cormorant was on the San Joaquin River at Sycamore Island/River West April 6 (ph. GF, ph. GW), April 7 (JS), and April 9 (CH, JL).

Neotropic Cormorant by Gary Woods

Similarly, a female Vermilion Flycatcher at River West Open Space March 21 (ph. RC) added to a rapidly growing list of records of this warm-climate-adapted species for our area.

Female Vermillion Flycatcher by Cecelia Sheeter

A Grasshopper Sparrow along Rd 406 near Hwy 41 April 9 (ph. NJ) provided the first spring record for Madera County since 2004.

Grasshopper Sparrow by Gary Woods


Cited Observers: Rachel Clark, George Folsom, Chris Hiatt, Nina Jones, John Luther, John Sterling, Gary Woods. ph. = photographed by, WTP = wastewater treatment plant.

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

The Dazzling Rufous Hummingbird, Threatened By Climate Change

Rufous Hummingbird by Cecelia Sheeter

The Rufous hummingbird has a reputation as one of the continent’s most tenacious birds of its size. Weighing less than a nickel and topping out at three inches long, its migratory journey is one of the world’s longest. Each spring, just as flowers start to bloom, it will travel nearly 4,000 miles—from Mexico to Alaska. Read more…

Tiny hummingbird stops construction on the Trans Mountain pipeline in B.C. for 4 months

Anna’s Hummingbird by Larry Cusick

Work on the Trans Mountain’s pipeline construction has now been stopped for four months after the discovery of hummingbird nests during tree cutting. Members of the Community Nest Finding Network (CNFN) alerted federal wildlife officers in early April over concerns workers on the Trans Mountain pipeline in Burnaby were not complying with the Migratory Birds Convention Act. Read more…

This Condor Can Fly 100 Miles Without Flapping its Wings

The world’s heaviest soaring bird flaps its wings for only 1% of the time during flight, according to new research. Watch video…

How Pandemic, Hurricane Season Threatened Whooping Cranes

In this June 21, 2018 file photo, an adult whooping crane, a critically endangered species, lets out a defensive call, at the Audubon Nature Institute’s Species Survival Center in New Orleans. Perennially endangered and for decades absent from these marshy wetlands, Louisiana’s whooping cranes can add another milestone to their long journey back from the brink of extinction: They survived 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, Fiel)

Perennially endangered and for decades absent from these marshy wetlands, Louisiana’s whooping cranes can add another milestone to their long journey back from the brink of extinction: They survived 2020. Read more…

21 incredible pictures from the Bird Photographer of the Year 2021

Now in its 6th year, the Bird Photographer of the Year competition saw over 22,000 entries from 73 different countries all competing for the grand prize. Read more…

The Mystery of the Falkland Islands’ Striated Caracara

In early 1833, during the voyage of the HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin found himself in a corner of the world he didn’t particularly care for, an archipelago near the southern tip of South America called the Falkland Islands, whose windswept moorlands he described as “desolate and wretched.” The local birdlife didn’t help matters. An unusual species of falcon seemed to derive pleasure from tormenting him and the ship’s crew. “A large black glazed hat was carried nearly a mile, as was a pair of the heavy balls used in catching cattle,” Darwin wrote of the avian thieves, “and a small Kater’s compass in a red morocco leather case, which was never recovered.” Crew members complained about the birds’ “boldness and rapacity,” and a lookout was posted to prevent them from picking apart the ship’s rigging. Whalers who had visited the Falklands previously had likewise cursed the creatures as “flying devils” and “flying monkeys,” although science would ultimately settle on the name striated caracara, or, informally, Johnny rook. Read more…

Wisdom the Albatross, 70, the World’s Oldest Known Wild Bird, Is Still Hatching New Chicks

Wisdom, the Laysan albatross, has outlived several mating partners and even the biologist who first tagged her in 1956. Read more…

How Do Birds Replace Their Feathers?

Bullock’s Oriole by Gary Woods

For migratory birds, there are three energetically demanding events they must undertake each year: breeding, migration, and molt. While not as sexy (and thus, not as well studied) as breeding or migration, molt is a critical process. Read more…

After more than 2 decades of searching, scientists finger cause of mass eagle deaths

Bald Eagle by Sandra MacMillan-Cato

More than 25 years ago, biologists in Arkansas began to report dozens of bald eagles paralyzed, convulsing, or dead. Their brains were pocked with lesions never seen before in eagles. The disease was soon found in other birds across the southeastern United States. Eventually, researchers linked the deaths to a new species of cyanobacteria growing on an invasive aquatic weed that is spreading across the country. The problem persists, with the disease detected regularly in a few birds, yet the culprit’s chemical weapon has remained unknown. Read more…


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…

Places to bird within a half hour drive of Fresno

We would also like to offer the following suggestions for birding on your own.

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

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.

Tom Barnhill

Lesser Scaup by Tom Barnhill. Lost Lake Park, 6 April 2021.

Male Wood Duck by Tom Barnhill. Roeding Park, 23 March 2021.

Female Wood Duck by Tom Barnhill. Roeding Park, 23 March 2021.

Rick Castrapel

Male American Goldfinch by Rick Castrapel. NW Fresno.

Dan Cobb

Loggerhead Shrike with snake by Dan Cobb. San Luis NWR, 14 April 2021.

Green-winged Teal by Dan Cobb. San Luis NWR, 14 April 2021.

Western Kingbird by Dan Cobb. San Luis NWR, 14 April 2021.

White-faced Ibis by Dan Cobb. Merced NWR, 10 April 2021.

Yellow-rumped Warbler by Dan Cobb. San Luis NWR, 14 April 2021.

Yellow-rumped Warbler by Dan Cobb. San Luis NWR, 14 April 2021.

Yellow-headed Blackbird by Dan Cobb. San Luis NWR, 14 April 2021.

Luis Carlos Valerio Gomez

Olive-sided Flycatcher by Luis Carlos Valerio Gomez. Selvanegra, Nicaragua.

Nina Jones

Western Kingbird by Nina Jones. White Rock Road, 20 April 2021.

Horned Lark by Nina Jones. White Rock Road, 20 April 2021.

Horned Lark by Nina Jones. White Rock Road, 20 April 2021.

Western Kingbird by Nina Jones. White Rock Road, 20 April 2021.

Western Kingbird by Nina Jones. White Rock Road, 20 April 2021.

Western Meadowlark by Nina Jones. White Rock Road, 20 April 2021.

White-crowned Sparrow by Nina Jones. White Rock Road, 20 April 2021.

Savannah Sparrow by Nina Jones. White Rock Road, 20 April 2021.

Savannah Sparrow by Nina Jones. White Rock Road, 20 April 2021.

Vesper Sparrow by Nina Jones. White Rock Road, 20 April 2021.

House Wren by Nina Jones. White Rock Road, 20 April 2021.

House Wren by Nina Jones. White Rock Road, 20 April 2021.

Great-tailed Grackle by Nina Jones. White Rock Road, 20 April 2021.

Frank Raney

Great Blue Heron by Frank Raney. Woodward Park, 20 April 2021.

Acorn Woodpecker by Frank Raney. Woodward Park, 23 April 2021.

Northern Mockingbird by Frank Raney. Woodward Park, 23 April 2021.

Lowell Young

Suet feeder art created by Yellow-rumped Warbler, by Lowell Young. Fresno, April 2021.

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