May 2023 Yellowbill

30 Apr May 2023 Yellowbill


Editor’s Note

The Yellowbill is published monthly except in June, July and August. It is edited by Robert Snow ( except for the Member Photos section, which is edited by Clayton Dahlen ( Archived issues are available at

President’s Message

Greetings, FAS members and friends. I hope this message finds you well and that you are enjoying the beautiful spring weather and the spectacular wildflower blooms.

Spring migration is in full swing and so many of the beautiful, colorful (and some of the not so colorful!) migrants that we know and love are back for the nesting season! To make the most of this wonderful season, Fresno Audubon has many exciting events that you can take part in!

Here is what we have scheduled for May 2023:

  • Wednesday, May 10 ⏤ Birding at Lost Lake Park is CANCELED due to high water
  • Saturday, May 13 ⏤ Birding at Roeding Park, 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM
  • Saturday, May 20 ⏤ Introduction to Birding class at Sumner Peck Ranch, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
  • Wednesday, May 24 ⏤ Elkhorn Slough, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM (this trip is sold out, but there is a waitlist)

We also have some exciting trips scheduled for June, which are listed below:

  • Saturday, June 10 ⏤ Shaver Lake/Swanson Meadow, time TBA
  • Wednesday, June 14 ⏤ Goat Meadow/Fish Camp, time TBA

After the June field trips, we will go on a hiatus for the summer and resume meetings and field trips in September.

Anyone interested in these and other upcoming events can check out the FAS event calendar for more information and links to registration:

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.

Spring Raptorthon took place on Saturday, April 8. The CenCal TanagerHawks birded from 6:30 AM until approximately 6:00 PM. It was a long, but very exciting and productive day. Between the six locations visited, we tallied 89 species, 10 of which were raptors! Some of the highlights of the day included a singing Bewick’s Wren (which was the first bird of the day), three Hooded Orioles, two Greater White-fronted Geese, at least a dozen Phainopepla, first-of-the-year Black-headed Grosbeak and Ash-throated Flycatchers, calling Lawrence’s Goldfinches, nesting American Kestrels and Cooper’s Hawks, dark and light morph Swainson’s Hawks, Bald and Golden Eagles, Osprey, and an active Red-tailed Hawk nest with an adult delivering food to young. Here is a link to the eBird trip list for the entire day:

It is not too late to donate on behalf of the CenCal TanagerHawks. In fact, you can do so until the end of May! Here is the link to the donation page on the HMANA website:

75% of the funds donated on behalf f the CenCal TanagerHawks will go to HMANA to support their raptor conservation projects in North and Central America, and the other 25% will go to Fresno Audubon! Many thanks to those who have already donated!

Here is a link to more information about Spring Raptorthon on HMANA’s website:

Thank you again to all of those who attended the April 11 general meeting. Dr. Daniel Karp talked to us about harmonizing bird conservation with food production farming. It was a wonderful and fascinating presentation!

If you missed Dr. Karp’s talk and would like to view the presentation, you can find it and other general meeting presentations on our YouTube channel at

The next FAS general meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 9. Tom Hahn, professor of biology at UC Davis, will be talking to us about the natural history of western finches. The link to register is

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 singing male Horned Lark near the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Note the yellow face, thin beak, dark mask, dark horn-like feathers in the crown, heavy breast band, pale belly, light brown backside, and the longish dark tail with the white edges. Females of this species are duller versions of the males, lacking the obvious mask and horn-like feathers in the crown. Horned Larks occur in North America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa. This ground-nesting species is found in open habitats with sparse or no vegetation. Enjoy!

Have a great summer!

Rachel Clark

FAS President

Horned Lark by Rachel Clark
Horned Lark by Rachel Clark

May General Meeting

Tom Hahn

Natural History of Western Finches

Tuesday, 9 May 2023

Red Crossbill by Tom Hahn

Speaker Bio

Tom Hahn is a professor of biology at the University of California, Davis.  He has been studying western Cardueline finches since the late 1980s, when he began working on reproductive schedules of red crossbills for his doctoral research.  Since then, he and his students have spent many hours in the field studying the reproductive schedules, migratory habits, vocal behavior, habitat associations and other aspects of the natural history of red crossbills, white-winged crossbills, evening grosbeaks, pine siskins, house finches, Cassin’s finches, purple finches, American goldfinches, lesser goldfinches, pine grosbeaks, common redpolls and gray-crowned rosy-finches.

Program Description

Finches are, in many respects, the archetype of what people think of when they hear the word “bird.”  Yet concealed in that “typical bird” form lies amazing variation.  Among our numerous western finches – goldfinches, siskins, crossbills, grosbeaks, and so forth – we have: birds that are about as likely to breed in January when the snow lies deep on the ground as they are in July, birds that perfectly match the calls of their mates, birds that pack their songs with precise imitations of the sounds of other species, birds that seldom breed in the same place two years running, birds that we can only tell apart reliably by their flight calls, birds that can breed “in the streaked plumage of youth,” birds who can nest far from their food sources because they possess hefty food-transport pouches, and birds whose mandible tips don’t even line up.  This presentation will be a tour of the striking natural history, behavior, morphology, and physiology of our western finches, and highlight ways that field ornithologists and bird watchers can add to our growing knowledge about these fascinating birds.

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

New Venue!
Introduction to Birding Classes at the Sumner Peck Ranch

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 Sumner Peck Ranch. 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 Sumner Peck Ranch. We will meet at the new picnic shelter on the north side of the center. After entering the grounds, proceed straight ahead towards the river. There is a parking area and a picnic area at the river. 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.

May 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.

Saturday 13 May 2023 ⏤ Roeding Park with Maureen Walsh

Join trip leader Maureen Walsh for birding at Roeding Park.  We will start at Lake Washington where we will see Wood ducks among other waterfowl in the lake and see the Cattle egret, Black-crowned night herons, and Double-crested cormorants in the rookery on the island. There are hundreds of birds nesting in the rookery.  Then we will walk other areas of the park to see a variety of woodpeckers, raptors, warblers, etc.  

We will meet at the parking lot in front of the zoo, across from Lake Washington.  There is a $5.00 entry fee to the park and a new automated parking system.  

Checklist: binoculars, scope, field guide, snacks, lunch, water, sunscreen, hat, dress in layers

If you wish to bring lunch, there are plenty of picnic tables available for eating and calculating our bird count.  

Participants should bring snacks, lunch (if desired), water, hat, sunscreen, and binoculars, and should dress in layers. Registration is required for this event. If you have any questions, please reach out to trip leader Maureen Walsh at or (559) 706-4980.

Register Here

Wednesday 24 May 2023 ⏤ Elkhorn Slough by Boat (sold out)

Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit and Willet by Peter Nagayama

This event is currently full.

When: Wednesday, May 24, 2023
Time: 10:00 am – 12 noon on the Boat
12 noon – 1 pm Birding on the Shore
1:00 pm Lunch

Cost: $40 per person (NON-REFUNDABLE)

Join FAS and Monterey Bay Eco Tours on a one-of-a-kind, electric powered catamaran ride for birding and a naturalist led wildlife tour along one of California’s largest tidal waterways, the Elkhorn Slough. Along with the many species of birds that inhabit the slough, we hope to see otters (and pups!) as well as Harbors seals, and other marine mammals. Friends, family, and all ages are welcome, but seating is limited, so please register early.

This is an out of town trip starting at 10:00 am, so you can either stay the night before nearby (Watsonville is the most economical) or leave Fresno  to arrive before 10:00. After the catamaran ride we will bird the  Moss Landing North Jetty and State Beach eBird Hotspot and then go to an optional lunch at Phil’s Fish Market before returning home.

Where: 10932 Clam Way
Moss Landing, CA 95039

Cost: $40 per person (NON-REFUNDABLE)

(If the event is canceled due to 18 person minimum not being met a refund will be issued)

Contact: Maureen Walsh
(559) 706-4980

Checklist: binoculars, bird guide, water, layered clothing and sun protection.

Field Trip Schedule

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

April Field Trip Reports

12 April 2023⏤Sumner Peck Ranch by Susan Heidebrecht

On Wednesday, April 12,  14 birders took part in Fresno Audubon’s birding field trip at Sumner Peck Ranch and Ledger Island. The weather was cool and breezy, the skies were clear. As a group we tallied 50 species. Highlights of the outing included Savannah Sparrows that lingered long enough for us to get a good look at their yellow lores, a Merlin in flight,  a flock of California Quail, 3 Wood Ducks perched in a mature, multi-trunked Sycamore, numerous Cliff Swallows under the bridge and along the rivers cliff bank, where they were gathering earth for their mud nests, Rough-Winged Swallows and Tree Swallows flew amongst them, a pair of common Mergansers riding the swift flowing river, and a pair of Swainson’s Hawks that came in close, circling in the air above us. Thank You to all those who participated! The species list is below.

26 April 2023⏤Ruth McKenzie Table Mountain Preserve by Wes Beal

On April 26 eighteen birders ventured out on a warm Wednesday to the Ruth McKenzie Preserve for a morning of birding.  We covered a mile or so along a creek before retracing our steps.  Birders were stretched out along the trail, so not everyone saw everything, but following is the total that were spotted and identified.
1 Mourning Dove
1 Anna’s Hummingbird
4 Turkey Vultures
2 Golden Eagles
1 Cooper’s Hawk
2 Red-Tailed Hawks
6 Acorn Woodpeckers
1 Northern Flicker
3 Black Phoebes
5 Ash-throated Flycatchers
7 Western Kingbirds
1 Warbling Vireo
4 California Scrub Jays
4 Common Ravens
4 Tree Swallows
2 Bushtits
2 White-breasted Nuthatches
1 House Wren
2 European Starlings
10 Western Bluebirds
3 Lark Sparrows
2 White-crowned Sparrows
2 Western Meadowlarks
1 Hooded Oriole
2 Western Tanagers
1 Black-headed Grosbeak

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 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.

Pat Cassel

Rufous Hummingbird male, Pat Cassen

Jim Cornyn

Black-headed Grosbeak, Jim Curnyn

Clayton Dahlen

Common Mergansers, Vector Art, Clayton Dahlen

George Folsom

Nuttall’s Woodpecker, George Folsom

Carmen Mendoza

Black-necked Stilt, Carmen Mendoza
Black-necked Stilt, Carmen Mendoza
Black-necked Stilt, Carmen Mendoza
Blue Snow Goose among Snow and Ross's Geese, Carmen Mendoza

Rick Sexty

Brown Pelican, Mission Bay, San Francisco, Rick Sexty
Mandarin Duck, Loire Valley, France, Rick Sexty
Pukeko, Rotorua, NZ, Rick Sexty

Birds in the News

Links to Recent Articles on Birds

Bird-Brained? Climate Change May Affect Intelligence In Birds

Siberian Jay by Kersti Lindstrom/

My colleagues and I compared brain sizes of 1,176 bird species, representing approximately 10 per cent of all bird species worldwide. We found species that spend more resources on their young have larger brains as adults.


Study: Black-backed Woodpecker can breed in burned or unburned forests

Black-backed Woodpecker. Provided by Jim Rivers/OSU College of Forestry

A species of woodpecker once thought to limit itself to recently burned areas can breed successfully in the unburned parts of fire-prone landscapes too, according to a study by Oregon State University scientists. The research sheds new light on the Black-backed Woodpecker and holds key implications for improved conservation and forest management efforts.

Read more…

Bird migration forecasts get a boost from AI

Snow Gees by Ragini Chaturvedi

With chatbots like ChatGPT making a splash, machine learning is playing an increasingly prominent role in our lives. For many of us, it’s been a mixed bag. We rejoice when our Spotify For You playlist finds us a new jam, but groan as we scroll through a slew of targeted ads on our Instagram feeds.

Machine learning is also changing many fields that may seem surprising. One example is my discipline, ornithology, the study of birds. It isn’t just solving some of the biggest challenges associated with studying bird migration; more broadly, machine learning is expanding the ways in which people engage with birds. As spring migration picks up, here’s a look at how machine learning is influencing ways to research birds and, ultimately, to protect them.

Read more…

California condor deaths rise sharply as major new threat emerges

In this 2017 photo, California condor No. 67 takes flight in the Ventana Wilderness east of Big Sur. Avian flu is the latest threat to the recovering condor population. Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press 2017

Eighteen California condors in Arizona are suspected to have died from a highly contagious strain of the bird flu, sparking concern among California caretakers of the endangered birds that are still returning from the brink of extinction.

Read more…

The surprising science behind long-distance bird migration

The blackpoll warbler can fly for thousands of miles without taking a break. Credit: Sherri and Brock Fenton (Western University, London, Ontario).

A team of scientists led by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has recently made a surprising discovery, with the help of a wind tunnel and a flock of birds. Songbirds, many of which make twice-yearly, non-stop flights of more than 1,000 miles to get from breeding range to wintering range, fuel themselves by burning lots of fat and a surprising amount of the protein making up lean body mass, including muscle, early in the flight.

Read more…

10 best National Parks for bird watching in the US

From owls to flamingos and from raptors to warblers, these National Parks stun with their birding opportunities (Image credit: Yaorusheng)

Birds Stop During Migration to Avoid Disease or Infection

(Credit: F-Focus by Mati Kose/Shutterstock)

When flying thousands of miles, birds often make pitstops to recharge on food and energy.

New research shows that the birds making these twice-yearly journeys may be doing more than filling their bellies and resting their wings: Their immune systems may need a boost to keep the birds from succumbing to disease or infection.

“These birds basically run 100 marathons — they are super athletes,” says Cas Eikenaar, an ecologist at the Institute of Avian Research in northern Germany. “They make stopovers sometimes to recover, and not just to refuel.”

Read more…

Early-nesting ducks at increased risk due to changes in climate, land use

Blue-winged Teal is one of nine duck species this study examined. Photo by Delta Waterfowl

Each year approximately 10 million waterfowl fly north to their breeding grounds in the Prairie Pothole region of North America, but the landscape that greets them has changed. Weather patterns and agricultural practices have significantly transformed the pothole-dotted native grasslands that waterfowl have used for thousands of years.

These changes have resulted in some waterfowl proliferating while others decline. According to a new study by a Penn State-led research team, nesting date is an important factor in determining winners and losers in the Prairie Potholes.

Read more…


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!

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