November 2018 Yellowbill

01 Nov November 2018 Yellowbill


President’s Message

Most of our members love seeing photographs of birds at our monthly member meetings, so this month’s presentation by Robert Long should be very popular. Robert has been going to Texas the last few years photographing the spring migration. This last spring he was lucky enough to witness a “fallout” where masses of birds seemingly drop from the sky. This promises to be an excellent presentation.

We have some great field trips this month, including one to Eastman Lake led by Lynda Schafhauser where participants will practice birding by ear. George Folsom is leading a trip to Sycamore Island on the San Joaquin River, and Frank Gibson is leading a trip to Chalome Valley and Parkfield. All three trips are popular, and I hope you’ll be able to attend at least one of them.

This year’s Bird-a-thon successfully raised over $1,000! As of this writing 36 birders contributed $1,173 to Fresno Audubon. It is not too late to contribute so I’m hoping the final tally will be even higher. Thank you to all who participated.

Fresno Audubon is in the beginning stages of two new cooperative projects with the San Joaquin River Parkway. In one project we are defining the methods and protocols for surveying areas of the Parkway’s river lands with the objective of monitoring bird species as these properties are restored and opened to the public. The other project will be a monthly Introduction to Birding class to be held at the River Center. Both projects will bring opportunities to volunteer. We plan to roll these two programs out early next year.

Audubon will be holding a California Assembly this weekend in Long Beach. Barbara Bailey (FAS Secretary) and I will be attending representing Fresno Audubon. This is a great opportunity to meet with other chapters as well as Audubon California staff to learn from each other. I’ll be reporting back to you on the results of the meeting next month.


November Meeting

Springtime in Texas
by Robert Long
13 November 2018, 7-8 pm
UC Center

Robert Long is a lifelong Central Valley resident, raised in Los Banos. He has been a watcher of birds since he was 16.  He became a serious birdwatcher after seeing the movie “The Big Year”. Before seeing the film he had been a casual birdwatcher, but became inspired by the idea of keeping track of the birds he saw. He has traveled to Texas the past two years in the springtime to photograph the remarkable birds that pass through that region. This year he was lucky enough to experience a “fallout” while on South Padre Island. His photos will tell a story that birdwatchers will really enjoy.

We will have a no-host pre-meeting dinner at 5:00 with Robert at BJ’s Brewhouse, which is across the street from the UC Center at 715 E Shaw Ave, Fresno, CA 93710. Please RSVP by email to if you would like to attend the dinner.

We hope to see you on November 13 at 7:00 at UC Center, 550 E Shaw Ave, Fresno, CA 93710.


Field Trips

Our website has a 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 your electronic calendar. Updates to events will appear as they are made. We encourage you to subscribe.

November Field Trips

Wednesday 7 November 2018 – Sycamore Island with George Folsom

Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser

Sycamore Island in Madera County, just across the river from Fresno, has excellent bird habitat.  Uplands, wetlands, ponds, riparian areas and oak groves are found on this preserve of several hundred acres.  It is a part of the San Joaquin River Parkway.  Cormorants, ducks, mergansers, grebes, raptors, sparrows, finches, quail, gnatcatchers and many others can be found there.
There are restrooms and picnic tables on this property.  We will walk a mile or more on dirt roads, but most of the area is drivable for those who prefer driving.  The gate to the property automatically opens when you exit so those who want to leave early can do so.
Checklist:  binoculars, scope, field guide, snacks, lunch, water, sunscreen, hat, radios
Take Highway-41 to Children’s Blvd offramp north of the San Joaquin River and drive past Children’s Hospital as it becomes Ave 9. Continue on Ave 9 to Rd 40 and turn left.  Rd 40 will end at Ave 7 1/2.  Go right on 7 1/2 for a few hundred feet, turn left at an open gate and drive toward the river.  You will come to another gate where we will assemble.

Saturday 17 November 2018 – Chalome Valley/Parkfield with Frank Gibson

Yellow-billed Magpie

Yellow-billed Magpie

Pronghorns and elk and birds, oh my!  We might even be able to throw in some bobcats if we’re lucky!  Yellow-billed Magpies!  All kinds of raptors, including Red-tails, Ferruginous Hawks, both Bald and Golden Eagles, Kestrels and Prairie Falcons are to be expected!  Rough-legged Hawks are a possibility!  Will this be the year that we see a condor?  How about dickie-birds:  Two or three woodpeckers, nuthatches, both phoebes, a couple of towhees, lots of sparrows, pipits and larks, bluebirds, maybe even a roadrunner!  Who will spot a Red-throated Pipit?  Or a longspur?  Plus you get to cross a bridge between the North American and Pacific Plates along the San Andreas fault!  Who could want more?  (Maybe lunch in the Parkfield Café?  Their motto is “Be here when the Big One happens.”)
Meet in the Walmart parking lot, Ashlan and Blackstone, at 6:45 to leave PROMPTLY at 7:00. We will carpool as much as possible for this FAS favorite.  Pit stops will be in Kettleman City and Parkfield.  Bring your books, binoculars, scope if you have one, lunch if you don’t want to try the café, and plenty of water.  Dress for the weather!  We will go rain, shine or fog.  Walking will be minimal and flat.  Depending on the weather, an alternate route home is over the hill to Coalinga with the possibility of Mountain Bluebirds.  Varied Thrush have also been seen on that route.

Map to meeting place:

Wednesday 28 November 2018 – Eastman Lake with Lynda Schafhauser

Ferruginous Hawk by Gary Woods

Ferruginous Hawk by Gary Woods

We are surrounded by bird songs and calls every day, but are we listening? Can we identify our bird neighbors by ear? For the first hour of of our field trip we will bird by ear in a neighborhood adjacent to our meeting point, listening past the school , lawn mower, and traffic noise.
The group will then caravan to Eastman Lake, birding along the route. Eastman Lake is a federal facility accepting the annual and senior America the Beautiful federal lands and parks pass for each car, otherwise a $5  entrance fee is required. Along the route, and at the lake, the group may see Golden and Bald Eagles, Western and Mountain Bluebirds, American Pelicans, hawks, falcons and seasonal migrants, including shorebirds, and a variety of ducks.  There will be moderate walking. Expect to lunch at one of the park picnic areas (restrooms available); We should finish up at about 1 pm.
The meeting point for this walk is the Madera Amtrak station on Road 26, Madera. Be there by 8:15 for departure at 8:30. Cars can be parked at the station for those wishing to carpool from that point. Heavy rain will cancels this trip. You can text or voicemail Lynda at 560-474-0651 for additional information.

Map to meeting place:



by Jeff Davis
photos by Gary Woods
Including reports for the period of
September 16 to October 15, 2018


Scarce at any season, two Costa’s Hummingbirds visited a feeder in a northwest Fresno yard September 17 (ph. GW).

Costa's Hummingbird

Costa’s Hummingbird

An American Golden-Plover at the Madera WTP September 27 (ph. GW) through September 29 (CH, KER) provided the second record for Madera County.

American Golden-plover

Other rare shorebirds in our area included three Marbled Godwits at the Fresno WTP September 21

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

(ph. RS, DH, ph. GW), with two there September 25 (ph. RS, ph. DH) through October 1 (ph. RS); a single Baird’s Sandpiper at the Madera WTP September 23 (ph. GW);

Baird's Sandpiper

Baird’s Sandpiper

and a peak count of 22 Pectoral Sandpipers, including four at the Fresno WTP September 17 (ph. RS), seven there September 19 (GW), four there September 21 (ph. RS, GW), one there October 3 (ph. RS), 12 at the Madera WTP September 23 (ph. GW), and 22 there September 27 through October 3 (ph. GW).

Pectoral Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper

Also in the rare waterbird department, a Common Tern visited the Fresno WTP September 28 (ph. GW, ph. DH).

Common Tern

Common Tern

Rare sparrows included a Black-throated Sparrow at Dry Creek Reservoir October 12 (RS)

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

and single Grasshopper Sparrows at Dry Creek Reservoir September 19 (ph. RS) and September 20 (ph. GW, ph. RS) and two there October 2 (ph. RS) through the end of the period (ph. RS).

Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow

Cited Observers: Kevin Enns-Rempel, George Folsom, Chris Hiatt, Diane Highbaugh, Rick Saxton, and 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

Animals Are Riding an Escalator to Extinction

Mountains vary substantially as they rise, in both climate and vegetation, like layered cakes in which every tier is radically different. For that reason, mountains are hotbeds for the birth of new species, many of which tend to stick to a very narrow band of altitude. That’s true even for birds. It’s easy to imagine that, being winged, they can travel wherever they like, but they too are restricted by layers of climate. And those restrictions are changing. Read more…

Research Shows Good-Looking Birds Are Terrible Singers

Humans sometimes fall prey to a stereotype in which the objectively attractive appear to need to do less in order to be successful, while the genetically less fortunate may have to work harder in order to present themselves as viable mates.

It turns out the Brad Pitts of the bird world may demonstrate a similar dynamic. In new research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, male birds with bright, pleasing feathers tended to be terrible singers, while birds who had comparatively plain features could make it at Carnegie Hall. Put another way: Ugly birds need to have a musical back-up plan. Read more…

The First True Ornithologist

In a new biography of Francis Willughby, zoologist and historian of science Tim Birkhead argues that Willughby (1635-1672) was the first true ornithologist. Francisci Willughbei: Ornithologiae Libri Treswas, after all, published in 1676; the English translation, The Ornithology of Francis Willughby, followed in 1678. Birkhead calls it a “blockbuster, a massive compendium of ornithological knowledge” and notes that it was “an unparalleled success.” Willughby’s reputation as a scientist, however, is only now being rehabilitated. Read more…

Black circles keep birds of prey away from planes

When birds collide with airplanes that are taking off or landing, the results can be catastrophic. And while there are deterrent systems that do work on some birds, they’re not effective with raptors (aka birds of prey). According to new research, however, an optical illusion may do the trick. Read more…

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