November 2020 Yellowbill

30 Oct November 2020 Yellowbill


President’s Message

Greetings, FAS members and friends. I hope that all of you are staying healthy and safe during these unpredictable times.

On Tuesday, November 10, FAS will hold its second general meeting over Zoom. Our speaker for the evening will be Jeff Davis, birder extraordinaire and eBird reviewer for Fresno and Madera Counties.  Jeff will be discussing some of the more common birds in Fresno and Madera Counties, so if you’re interested in learning more about local birds, please register here and join us on Tuesday, November 10 at 7:00 PM.

As COVID-19 restrictions are still in place and the situation in Fresno County remains precarious, it is not yet possible to hold in-person field trips. FAS has decided to bring you the next best thing: live virtual field trips! The plan is to visit different local birding hotspots and allow you to bird safely from the comfort of your home!  Our first virtual field trip is scheduled for Saturday, November 21; we will be visiting the Fresno-Clovis Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility, which is a great destination for herons, egrets, ducks, geese, sandpipers, and many others. The event is scheduled for Saturday November 21 from 9-10 am, and you can register here and we will send you the Zoom meeting information.

As of now, the plan is to proceed with the Lost Lake CBC under strict social-distancing guidelines. Unfortunately, participation will have to be somewhat limited this year. Please stay tuned for an announcement with further details in the coming weeks.

If you are not already, please follow us on Twitter, Facebook and/or Instagram, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. This is a great way to engage with us and stay in the loop! We are always posting fun and educational content, as well as information about upcoming events such as general meetings and field trips.

I’d like to take a moment to talk about two more opportunities to engage with Fresno Audubon. One is to join our board! We are always seeking new voices and perspectives.  Board meetings are held the last Sunday of every month from noon until approximately 2:00 PM. There is zero cost to join the board! The second opportunity is to partake in our citizen science projects.  We are conducting monthly surveys on several properties managed by the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust to assess the level of bird activity and diversity in areas that have undergone restoration efforts. The survey protocol is very easy⏤all you will need is a pair of binoculars and an eBird account. If you are interested in or want more information regarding joining the board or partaking in the surveys, please feel free to reach to me at

To give you a preview of some of the birds you might see during the virtual field trip on November 21, I’d like to share a few pictures with you. In order, the birds are a Dunlin, a Least Sandpiper, and a White-faced Ibis. All three of these photographs were taken at the Fresno-Clovis Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility. We do hope you join us!

Please take care of yourselves!

Rachel Clark
President, Fresno Audubon Society

Dunlin by Rachel Clark

Least Sandpiper by Rachel Clark

White-faced Ibis by Rachel Clark

Vote for Birds

This Tuesday November 3rd is ELECTION DAY! You can also vote early in person or by mail in California. More information below.
The best way to protect birds and the places they need is to make sure you vote this fall. Join National Audubon and bird lovers across the country and pledge to vote for the birds: here.
Need VOTING info in California? Click here.
Want to check your ballot status? Check here.


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 first 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.

November General Meeting

Yellow-billed Magpie by Gary Woods

Reading the Fresno-Madera Birds column of The Yellowbill might give you the impression that rarities are the only birds worthy of our attention.  Pursuing rarities is exciting because it offers the opportunity to discover new occurrences, develop and demonstrate birding skills, build lists, and grow friendships with other advanced birders.  However, even common birds can inspire curiosity.

Jeff Davis has compiled, reviewed, and summarized records of Fresno and Madera county birds for the Fresno Audubon Society for more than 15 years.  He has served as an editor for eBird and North American Birds for nearly as long.  Those activities focus on documenting the occurrence and distribution of rare birds.  In this talk, however, he will discuss the natural history of our area’s more common birds, addressing aspects of their plumage, behavior, changing distributions, migratory patterns, and populations.

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

Field Trips

All field trips are still on hold until the California Public Health Officer lifts the restriction against public gatherings. These restrictions were put in place on March 19, 2020 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. You can read about them here. The board has decided to not restart gatherings as long as Fresno County continues to be a hotspot of COVID-19 infections.

In the meantime, we have created a way for you to see birds live in the field through Zoom. Your view of the birds will be provided by a camera that can magnify the birds giving you a clear view of them. This video stream will be narrated by Rachel Clark, president of Fresno Audubon and avid birdwatcher. You will be able to ask Rachel questions during the meeting as well. You can see an example of what you will experience below, where Rachel will give you tips on identifying Least Sandpiper.

Saturday November 21, 2020 ⏤ Virtual Field Trip to Fresno/Clovis Wastewater Treatment Plant with Rachel Clark

With COVID-19 restrictions still in place, in-person field trips are still on the back-burner for the foreseeable future. Well, FAS is here to bring you the next best thing: live virtual field trips! Join us as we take you to some local birding hotspots to show you some of the birds on site and teach you ways to identify them. This is the perfect opportunity to see a diverse array of local birds and interact with the hosts in real time, all from the safety of your home!
The first field trip is scheduled for Saturday, November 21 from 9-10 am. We will be visiting the Fresno-Clovis Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility, which is a great spot for herons, egrets, ducks, geese, sandpipers, and many others! You definitely do not want to miss this! Register here and we will send you the Zoom meeting information.

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

We would also 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 other areas are now closed, but these areas below remain open. Be sure to follow any parking restrictions when birding these areas.

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

Social Media Update

Fresno Audubon is restarting our YouTube channel (, and we have posted a few new videos this month. Please subscribe and watch videos about birding by ear, bird identification tips, and virtual field trips. Also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter where we post photographs from local photographers, rare bird alerts, and links to our events.


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

One of the two Neotropic Cormorants at Fancher Creek Basin,

first detected September 12 and representing the first record for Fresno County, continued there through September 22 (m.ob.).  Remarkably, two others or possibly the same two visited the Orange Cove WTP, about 19 miles southeast of the Fancher Creek Basin, October 2–7 (ph. CR).

Common Poorwills

occasionally show up in odd places during fall migration.  A case in point was one spotted in an alley east of Roeding Park on October 7 (ph. JS).

Marking the seasonal end of the rare shorebird migration were a Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit by Gary Woods

at the Fresno WTP October 1 (ph. GW); single Baird’s Sandpipers

Baird’s Sandpiper by Rachel Clark

at the Madera WTP September 22 (GW) and the Orange Cove WTP October 5 (CH) plus two at the Madera WTP October 10 (NP, LP); four Pectoral Sandpipers

Pectoral Sandpiper by Gary Woods

at Fancher Creek Basin September 16 (SS, ph. GF, LY), with at least two remaining there through September 19 (ph. m.ob.), one at the Fresno WTP September 21 (ph. GW, ph. RS), four at the Parlier WTP also on September 21 (ph. CR, ph. DJ), eight at the Madera WTP September 22 (ph. GW), three at the Fresno WTP October 1 (ph. GW), two at the Madera WTP October 5 (ph. GW), and three there October 10 (ph. NP, LP).

An adult female Vermilion Flycatcher

Female Vermillion Flycatcher by Gary Woods

at the Madera Canal September 27 (ph. GW) and September 30 (ph. RS) was likely the same bird first documented as a juvenile there in November 2017 and that wintered there in 2019–2020.

The pattern of unusually high numbers of Purple Martin

continued, with one at the Fresno WTP September 16 (ph. GW) and another at the Madera Canal September 27 (GW).

The Canyon Wren

Canyon Wren by Rachel Clark

on the valley floor at a ranch surrounded by almond orchards 5 miles south of Madera first mentioned in this column in spring 2020 was joined by a Rock Wren

Rock Wren by Larry Cusick

September 13 (ph. CS).  Although Rock Wren routinely disperses in fall to the valley floor at the edge of the foothills, records of it well away from the foothills are exceptional.

Always scarce in our area, a Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow by Gary Woods

appeared along Hildreth Rd southeast of O’Neals September 19 (ph. KM), and two visited the Madera Canal September 27 (ph. GW).

Cited Observers: Chris Hiatt, Daniel Jeffcoach, Tony Kurz, George Folsom, Karen McClure, Larry Parmeter, Nathan Parmeter, Chris Rempel, Rick Saxton, Cecelia Sheeter, Jacob Smith, Steve Summers, Gary Woods, Lowell Young. WTP = Wastewater Treatment plant, 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

Antarctica yields oldest fossils of giant birds with 6.4-meter wingspans

Fossils recovered from Antarctica in the 1980s represent the oldest giant members of an extinct group of birds that patrolled the southern oceans with wingspans of up to 21 feet (6.4 meters) that would dwarf the 11½-foot wingspan of today’s largest bird, the wandering albatross. Read more…

Eye size predicts where birds breed and feed

When Ian Ausprey outfitted dozens of birds with photosensor-containing backpacks, the University of Florida graduate student was hoping to learn how light affected their behavior. The unusual study, which tracked 15 species in Peru’s cloud forest, has now found that eye size can help predict where birds breed and feed—the bigger the eye, the smaller the prey or the darker the environment. The study also suggests birds with big eyes are especially at risk as humans convert forests into farmland.  Read more…

Special Type of DNA in Owl Eyes May Be a ‘Lens’ That Supercharges Night Vision

Owls are one of the rare avian predators that catch their prey by night, and new research suggests that there’s something special in the way the DNA molecules in their eyes are packaged, giving them a powerful visual advantage in the dark. Read more…

Weird bat-winged’ dinosaurs glided through treetops in attempt at flight

A new study investigating the flight capabilities of two tiny dinosaurs with thin, bat-like wings is shedding light on the evolution of avian flight itself — an evolution that, it turns out, had a lot of dead ends and false starts along the way. Read me…

The Blue-footed Booby Dance Gets the Girl Every Time

What’s brown, white and blue, and moves like a TikTok dance challenge? A 3.3 pound (1.5 kilogram) wild ocean bird that’s named after a Spanish insult and whose numbers are slipping into endangered territory. Read more…

Why bird brains are more brilliant than anyone suspected

Although bird brains are tiny, they’re packed with neurons, especially in areas responsible for higher level thinking. Two studies published last month in Science explore the structure and function of avian brains—revealing they are organized similarly to mammals’ and are capable of conscious thought. Read more…

The Reason Dodo Birds Went Extinct

If there’s one thing most people know about the dodo bird, it’s that they were dumb. Every Scantron test they took would be Christmas-treed, and had they not gone extinct, they would be the kind of personified creature to text, vape and change pants while driving. As legend has it, this creature was only really ever a danger to itself — a true poster child for The Darwin Awards… at least, that’s the story we’ve been fed. But apparently, the story of the guileless dodo hunted to extinction may be a load of doodoo. Read more…

Record-Breaking Bird Flew Nonstop From Alaska to New Zealand

A conservation group has tracked a migration for the ages, in which a male bar-tailed godwit flew from Alaska to New Zealand without taking a single break. As the Guardian reports, the bar-tailed godwit departed southwestern Alaska on September 16 and arrived 11 days later at a bay near Auckland, New Zealand. The bird, designated 4BBRW (for the blue, blue, red, and white identification rings attached to its legs), was tracked by Global Flyway Network, a conservation group that studies long-distance migrating shorebirds. Read more…

Stunning Images Focus on Birds at Their Finest

Whether their subjects are soaring high above the horizon or swimming leisurely through a lake, these intimate photos show a variety of birds in a kaleidoscope of colors, marking this year’s winners of the Bird Photographer of the Year photo competition. 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.

Mary Cantrel

Great Horned Owl by Mary Cantrell. Millerton Lake.

Black-necked Stilt by Mary Cantrell. Cottonwood Park, Clovis.

Dan Cobb

Sandhill Crane by Dan Cobb. Merced NWR, 8 October 2020.

Yellow-rumped Warbler by Dan Cobb. Lost Lake Park, 16 October 2020.

Yellow-rumped Warbler by Dan Cobb. Lost Lake Park, 16 October 2020.

Larry Cusick

Rose-breasted Grosbeak by Larry Cusick. Central Fresno, 21 October 2020.

Red-breasted Grosbeak by Larry Cusick. Central Fresno, 21 October 2020.

Clayton Dahlen

Green Heron by Clayton Dahlen

David Divelbiss

Anna’s Hummingbird by David Divelbiss. Squaw Valley, CA, 17 May 2020.

Karen Glass

Black-necked Stilt by Karen Glass. Merced NWR, 18 October 2020.

Helen Gigliotti

Magpie-Shrike by Helen Gigliotti. Tanzania.

Black-lored Babblers by Helen Gigiotti. Tanzania.

Lilac-breasted Roller by Helen Gigliotti. Tanzania.

Superb Starlings by Helen Gigliotti. Tanzania.

Male Von der Deckens Hornbill by Helen Gigliotti. Tanzania.

Nina Jones

Lesser Goldfinch by Nina Jones. Oakhurst, 5 October 2020.

Lesser Goldfinch by Nina Jones. Oakhurst, 5 October 2020.

California Quail by Nina Jones. Aspendell, 14 October 2020.

Northern Flicker by Nina Jones. Owens River Rd, 13 October 2020.

Mountain Chickadee by Nina Jones. Ancient Forest, 14 October 2020.

Golden-crowned Sparrow by Nina Jones. Oakhurst, 5 October 2020.

Cecelia Sheeter

White-fronted Geese by Cecelia Sheeter. Merced NWR.

White-crowned Sparrow by Cecelia Sheeter. Merced NWR.

Anna’s Hummingbird by Cecelia Sheeter. Madera County.

Ring-necked Pheasant by Cecelia Sheeter. Merced NWR.

Say’s Phoebe by Cecelia Sheeter. Merced NWR.

White-crowned Sparrow by Cecelia Sheeter. Merced NWR.

Red-winged Blackbirds by Cecelia Sheeter. Merced NWR.



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