November 2017 Yellowbill

01 Nov November 2017 Yellowbill


President’s Message

November activities begin with a field trip to Ball Ranch on 8 November with George Folsom. This property is not normally accessible to the public, so it’s great that George can get us onto the site. This is a good place to see Lewis’s Woodpeckers, which have been seen in very large numbers this year (64 at the Experimental Range and 40 at Finegold Preserve in October).

Our November speaker is Jeff Davis of Colibri Ecological Consulting who will be talking about the state-wide Tricolored Blackbird surveys in which he and many FAS members have been participating. I’m hoping to hear some good news about the numbers of birds increasing. These surveys are just one of the citizen science projects Fresno Audubon members are participating in this season. We’ll let you know by e-blast when these types of opportunities come up, or you can check our calendar. The next one is organized by Audubon CA, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology and is a Tricolored Blackbird survey blitz on November 17-20. We will send out more details as they become available.

Our Saturday field trip this month is to Cosumnes River Preserve in Galt with Frank Gibson. This preserve is 2.5 hours north so Frank and perhaps others will be staying the night in the Galt area to get an early start. Those wanting to carpool from Fresno will meet up in front of the McDonalds at 6:45, putting them at the preserve at 9:30.

On the last Wednesday of the month, Judy Johnson will lead a trip to Merced National Wildlife Refuge. This trip is always great since Merced NWR is one of the best local refuges in terms of accessibility and numbers/variety of waterfowl and raptors.

Last month Jane Manning, George Folsom and I met up with other chapter leaders from the Central Valley and Sierra council of Audubon chapters. It’s always interesting to see how other chapters operate and get ideas on ways to improve our organization. It seems we all face similar challenges with fund raising and communication with members. The trend is towards all electronic communication, but not every chapter has stopped sending mailings. Those that still mail are thinking of stopping due to the effort and expense.

We should be launching our online store this month. We’ll be selling shirts and caps with our logo as well as Tricolored Blackbird and Yellow-billed Magpie pins. We will offer pick up at monthly meetings, or we will ship the items to your address for a small fee.

Happy Thanksgiving, and don’t forget to OptOutside on Black Friday. Get outside instead of participating in the craziness of Black Friday. OptOutside is a program started last year by REI to get outside on Black Friday. Sierra Foothill Conservancy and REI are teaming up to offer hikes on McKenzie Preserve. For more details, see the SFC event here.


November Meeting
Tricolored Blackbird Status Update
with Jeff Davis
14 November 2017
UC Center

Tricolored Blackbird by Micki Beston

The Tricolored Blackbird is nearly endemic to California and forms the largest breeding colonies of any songbird in North America. Most Tricolored Blackbirds breed in the Central Valley, where many nest in wetlands, blackberries, and nettles. In recent years, some of the largest colonies have occurred in grain fields in the San Joaquin Valley, often near dairies or feedlots. At the end of the 19th century, the Tricolored Blackbird was described as the most abundant bird species in the state. Numbers have been declining since then, however. During a triennial statewide survey in 2011, only about 258,000 birds were found in California. And in 2014, that number slumped to just 145,000 birds, a 44 percent decline. Loss of habitat, destruction of breeding colonies, and predation have been identified as the leading causes of this decline.

In August 2015, the Center for Biological Diversity submitted a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to formally list the Tricolored Blackbird as a threatened or endangered species. The Commission published findings of its decision to advance the species to candidacy in December 2015, triggering a status review by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to inform the Commission’s decision on whether to list the species.

CDFW will submit its status review for consideration at the Commission’s February 2018 meeting.  The Tricolored Blackbird will remain a candidate species until the Commission makes a final determination as to whether listing the species as threatened or endangered is warranted.  The Commission will make its decision no sooner than April 2018.

Jeff Davis will provide an update on the status of the Tricolored Blackbird based on the results of the 2017 triennial statewide survey as well as other survey efforts in which he participated in 2016 and 2017.  Jeff is Principal Scientist at Colibri Ecological Consulting in Fresno, has been compiling bird records for Fresno Audubon since 2003, and has been participating in statewide surveys for the Tricolored Blackbird since the early 1990s.

We hope to see you on November 14 at 7:00 at UC Center, 550 E Shaw Ave, Fresno, CA 93710


Field Trips

Fresno Audubon offers field trips on Wednesdays (twice per month) and Saturdays (once per month) from September through June. Our website has a great calendar that allows you to see all the details of an upcoming trip as they become finalized. Included in the details is a map showing the meeting point for the trip. The calendar is subscribable, which allows you to integrate it into whatever electronic calendar you use. Updates to events will appear as they are made. We encourage you to subscribe.

November Field Trips

Wednesday 8 November 2017 – Ball Ranch with George Folsom

Lewis’s Woodpecker by Gary Woods

Ball Ranch is on the San Joaquin River Parkway between Friant Rd and the San Joaquin River.  Habitats include grasslands, oak woodlands, ponds, wetlands and riparian.  Please meet at the River Center, 11605 Old Friant Road, Fresno CA 93730 at 7:45 AM and we will carpool to Ball Ranch.  We will drive part of the property and may walk about a mile but you may bird around the parking areas if you prefer. There are no restrooms on this property.  We plan to finish by noon.

Lewis’s Woodpeckers have been observed on this property along with other woodpecker species. Hawks, eagles, ducks, herons, egrets, sparrow, wrens, thrushes, gulls, grebes and many more may be seen on this outing.

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

Trip leader: George Folsom

Map to meeting location:

Saturday 11 November 2017 – Cosumnes River Preserve with Frank Gibson

thrush-varied6293 Gary Woods
Varied Thrush by Gary Woods

Join the trip leader, Frank Gibson,  at 7:00 at the Cosumnes River Preserve Visitor Center,13501 Franklin Blvd, Galt, CA 95632. It is about 2.5 hours to the preserve so Frank is spending the night before the trip in the Galt area. Frank will be at the preserve  from 6:45 to 7:15, then will drive up to Desmond Road to view, hopefully, swans and cranes for about an hour.  Then he’ll head back to the visitor’s center and walk the 1 mile Wetlands Loop.

Here is a map of the Preserve:

Those wanting to carpool from Fresno the morning of the trip should meet at the McDonald’s in the El Paseo shopping center at 6:45 am. Fastest route:  Up CA-99 to CA-4, west across Stockton, then north on I-5 to the Twin Cities Road exit.  Head east on Twin Cities to Franklin Boulevard, then south (right) to the visitor center’s parking lot on the left. You will arrive at the preserve at around 9:30 and Frank will meet you at the visitor center. Here is the map of the McDonalds meeting point:

Targets are swans, cranes, snipe, larks, magpie and Varied Thrush.  Depending on the makeup of the group, there will be one to three miles of easy walking.  This is an all-day jaunt, and in fact, if anyone’s interested we could visit the fields on Staten Island to watch the cranes come in at dusk.  Dress for the weather, bring lunch and water.  Binoculars and cameras of course!  Rain will not cancel!  (The waterfowl don’t care!).

Frank Gibson
559-593-2217 (cell)

Wednesday 29 November 2017 ⏤ Merced National Wildlife Refuge with Judy Johnson

Jane Manning Merced NWR
Jane Manning by Micki Beston

Come join Fresno Audubon in exploring the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, Wednesday, November 29th. Merced NWR is one of the best local places for viewing migrating water fowl, including large numbers of Snow, Ross’s, and Greater White-fronted Geese, Sandhill Cranes, White-faced Ibis and many duck species. Often-seen raptors include Red-tail Hawks, Northern Harriers, Peregrine Falcons, Kestrels and the occasional Bald Eagle. We will take a short hike along the Meadowlark Trail, which could result in sightings of various sparrows and warblers.

Meet in front of the Target at El Paseo Shopping Center (Herndon and 99) at 7:45 am for an 8:00am departure. We will be coming back mid-afternoon, so bring a lunch and plenty of water.  Radios are advisable along the auto tour route. Bathrooms (pit toilets) are available near the entrance.

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

Trip leader: Judy Johnson

Map to meeting location:



by  Jeff Davis
Photos by Gary Woods
Including reports for the period of
September 16 to October 15, 2017

Two Cackling Geese at Woodward Park October 1 (ph. TW) established a first record for that location and furnished a rare

Cackling Geese

in-town record for this species. Providing the second record for Madera County, a Surf Scoter was discovered at Madera WTP

Surf Scoter

October 9 (ph. GW); two were photographed there later that day (ph. JS) and observed there October 10 (ph. RS, GF) and October 11 (JL). Two Horned Grebes at Parlier WTP October 9 (CR) and one there October 11 (ph. CR, DJ) represented our

Horned Grebe

first records this fall. An impressive total of about 1,575 Turkey Vultures passed over northeast Fresno during two hours of observation September 30 (ph. CR).

Turkey Vulture

Rare shorebirds in our area included just two species: Sanderling – three were at the Fresno WTP (ph. RS, et al.) and


Pectoral Sandpiper – one was at the Fresno WTP September 16 (ph. AS), four were there September 18 (ph. RS, GF), one was

Pectoral Sandpiper

there September 22 (RS), three were there September 26 (GW), four there September 27 (RL), two there September 29 (TW), and one was along the Madera Canal September 19 (RS, GF).

A total of 64 Lewis’s Woodpeckers at the San Joaquin Experimental Range October 15 (GW) represented one of our highest

Lewis’s Woodpecker

totals ever. Four Pinyon Jays at Devils Postpile National Monument (DA) provided the second record for Madera County. A Clay-colored Sparrow at Riverbotton Park September 22 (ph. JN) furnished the fourth record for Fresno County.

Clay-colored Sparrow

A Lark Bunting along DeWolf Ave at the Dry Creek Reservoir grasslands September 20 (ph. RS) provided our first record in

Lark Bunting by Rick Saxton

several years. Grasshopper Sparrow is less than annual in our area, so one along DeWolf Ave at the Dry Creek Reservoir grasslands

Grasshopper Sparrow

October 9 (ph. RS) and October 10 (ph. RS, GF) and possibly a different bird there October 15 (ph. RS) were good finds.

Cited Observers: David Assmann, George Folsom, Lynn Hemink, Daniel Jeffcoach, Robert Lewis, John Luther, Jeremy Neipp, Chris Rempel, Rick Saxton, Alex Single, Torin Waters, 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 (246-3272,, the Fresno County Birders e-mail list, or eBird.



No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.