October 2018 Yellowbill

30 Sep October 2018 Yellowbill


President’s Message

We have a great program this month by Alex Single who has just finished his masters degree in Biology at Fresno State. He will discuss the nesting of Black Swifts in the Southern Sierra. Alex spent many days in the high Sierra looking for this elusive bird which only nests at high elevations. We’ll be having a no-host dinner with Alex before the meeting at 5:00 pm at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse across the street from our meeting location at the UC Center. To RSVP, please send a message to admin@fresnoaudubon.org.

We have two field trips out of town this month and one locally at the Coke Hallowell River Center. The trip to the Stephens Ranch in Moss Landing should be very productive. Birding this site in years past, we have seen many thousands of shore birds along Elkhorn Slough. The Saturday trip this month will be to Wawona and Mariposa Grove, which has recently reopened after being closed for a three-year-long restoration. Details of all three trips are found below and on our calendar.

I hope all of you that live in the city of Fresno will vote yes on Measure P in the November election. This measure would add a 3/8% sales tax within Fresno to fund the maintenance of existing parks, add new parks and trails and increase access to arts and culture. The measure would raise an estimated $38M/year for 30 years, or about $39/household/year. Fresno ranks near the bottom of all cities in the ParkScore developed by the Trust for Public Lands to compare the parks of major American cities. This year we are ranked 94 out of 100 cities. Measure P will greatly improve our chronically underfunded parks, and underserved neighborhoods. You can read the details of the measure here. Since this measure would increase taxes, a supermajority of 66.6% of voters is required to pass the measure, so your YES vote is very important.

Thanks to the people who took our surveys on Fresno Audubon communications and activities and to those who came to the September meeting to discuss our strategic direction. Although only a few of you (22 to date) have taken the survey, your answers have given us more confidence in our direction for Fresno Audubon. There were many good suggestions, which we will try to implement if possible. One example was the request to add a section to the Yellowbill blog linking to recent news articles about birds. You will find that new section following Jeff Davis’s column on Fresno-Madera birds in this issue. If you haven’t already then these short surveys you can find them here:

FAS Communications

FAS Activities


October Meeting
Black Swift Nesting in the Southern Sierra
by Alex Single
9 October 2018
UC Center

Black Swift Nesting Area, Southern Sierra by Alex Single

Black Swift Nesting Area, Southern Sierra by Alex Single

The Black Swift is one of the most elusive and poorly understood birds in Fresno County. It is also designated as a California Species of Special Concern, with an estimate of only 200 breeding pairs statewide. The program will cover a systematic survey of Black Swift nesting locations in the southern Sierra Nevada, with a focus on foraging areas, as well as Black Swift ecology and areas of future research.

Alex Single is a member of Fresno Audubon Society and recently completed a master’s degree in Biology at Fresno State.

We will have a no-host pre-meeting dinner at 5:00 with Alex 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 admin@fresnoaudubon.org if you would like to attend the dinner.

We hope to see you on October 9 at 7:00 at UC Center, 550 E Shaw Ave, Fresno, CA 93710.


Field Trips

Our field trip schedules are coming together thanks to the hard work of Kevin Enns-Remple (Saturday field trips) and Susan Estep (Wednesday Walks). A pdf schedule of the trips as they now stand is available here. The list still has a few holes in it, mostly missing trip leaders, but September is finalized. The Wednesday Walk trip list as it stands today can be found here, and the Saturday trip list can be found here. 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.

October Field Trips

Wednesday 10 October 2018 – River Center with Judy Johnson

The River Center is a great location for inexperienced as well as experienced birders. There are easy views of birds along the Hidden Homes Trail surrounding the pond at the Center. We will also venture along the trail downstream from the Center along the San Joaquin River. It is not uncommon to see up to 50 species at this location, including Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Common Gallinule, various ducks and shorebirds. We will meet at the River Center, 11605 Old Friant Rd, Fresno 93730 at 7:45 to sign in for birding at 8:00. After birding we will eat lunch at the River Center.

Checklist: binoculars, bird guide, water, sun protection and lunch.

Leader: Judy Johnson, jajohn1@comcast.net, 559-977-2787.


Saturday 13 October 2018 – Wawona and Mariposa Grove with Larry Parmeter

Pileated Woodpecker by Gary Woods

The Fresno Audubon trip on Saturday, October 13 will be to Wawona and the Mariposa Grove, which has just reopened after being closed for three years due to renovation. We will meet at the Target parking lot at Riverpark shopping center at 7:00 am and carpool to Wawona.  Bring lunch and water. We will bird in and around Wawona, then head to the Mariposa Grove. Cars are no longer allowed at Mariposa Grove, so we will take the park shuttle bus from Wawona to the Grove, and carry our food and birding equipment with us. This is a good opportunity to see mountain birds such as Pygmy Nuthatch, Townsend’s Solitaire, Cassin’s Finch, Mountain Quail, possibly Black-backed and Pileated Woodpecker, and maybe even Northern Pygmy-Owl, along with many fall migrants passing through the mountains. This will be an all day trip.

Checklist: binoculars, bird guide, water, sun protection and lunch.

Leader: Larry Parmeter, lanpar362@gmail.com, (559) 276-8753.

Wednesday 24 October 2018 – Stephens Ranch/Elkhorn Slough with Robert Snow

Pectoral Sandpiper by Gary Woods

Pectoral Sandpiper by Gary Woods

Join us for an exciting field trip to the Stephens Ranch in Moss Landing. This unique property was originally purchased by David Packard to stop the development of the northern side of Elkhorn Slough. His son-in-law Robert Stephens continues to run the ranch as a haven for birdlife. Expect to see numerous species of upland birds as well as shorebirds in the multi-thousands.

This is an out of town trip starting at 8:00 am, so you can either stay the night before nearby (Watsonville is the most economical) or leave Fresno at 5:30 am to arrive by 8:00. After birding we will eat lunch and then return home, so expect the day to end around 4:00 pm.

Directions: You can navigate to the Elkhorn Native Plant Nursery (now closed) in Moss Landing, then turn east on Struve road. Proceed towards the former nursery, and you will see the ranch house meeting point on your right. The coordinates are Struve Rd, Moss Landing, CA 95039, 36.831258, -121.758357.

Checklist: binoculars, bird guide, water, sun protection and lunch.

Leader: Robert Snow, 650-483-2347, rsnow@fresnoaudubon.org.



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

A Common Ground-Dove along Flum Ditch in Biola June 13 (ph. GW) was at the same location where

Common Ground Dove

Common Ground Dove

this species was first detected in Fresno County in August 2017 and then again in January 2018. 

A Pacific Golden-Plover at the Madera WTP April 13 (JDu, m.ob.) to April 17 (ph. GW, ph. GF)

Pacific Golden-Plover

Pacific Golden-Plover

established the third record for Madera County. Other rare shorebirds in our area included two Marbled Godwits

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

at the Madera WTP June 5 (ph. GW) and one at the Fresno WTP August 3 (ph. GW, ph. GF); a Sanderling



at the Fresno WTP May 9 (ph. DJ); up to five Baird’s Sandpipers at the Fresno WTP on multiple dates

Baird's Sandpiper

Baird’s Sandpiper

between July 30 and September 13 (ph. m.ob.) and at the Madera WTP between August 2 and August 29 (ph. m.ob.); single Pectoral Sandpipers at the Fresno WTP May 2 (ph. RS), September 7 (ph. GW),

Pectoral Sandpiper by Gary Woods

Pectoral Sandpiper

September 10 (ph. CR), and September 13 (ph. RS) and at the Madera WTP August 29 (ph. GW, ph. GF); up to two Semipalmated Sandpipers at the Fresno WTP on multiple dates between July 27 and September

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Semipalmated Sandpiper

1 (ph. m.ob.) and one at the Madera WTP August 29 (GW); a Solitary Sandpiper at the Madera WTP July

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

25 (ph. GF) and August 13 (ph. GF), and two there August 29 (ph. GF, GW); and a Willet at the Fresno WTP August 2 (ph. LP, NP).




A total of 79 Lewis’s Woodpeckers at the San Joaquin Experimental Range April 21 (JT) was one of the

Lewis's Woodpecker

Lewis’s Woodpecker

largest counts from our area. A Say’s Phoebe feeding young in a northeast Fresno neighborhood June 19

Say's Phoebe

Say’s Phoebe

(JDa) represented the first breeding record for the Central Valley floor in Fresno County. Similarly, a juvenile at Big Dry Creek Reservoir May 29 (ph. RS) represented the first breeding record for the eastern edge of the Central Valley in Fresno County, though the presence of this species at this location through the 2017 breeding season suggests it likely bred then too. These records coincide with similar records north and south of our area, suggesting a recent broad-scale breeding range extension into the Central Valley.

Bank Swallow is a scarce spring and fall transient through our area; singles were at the Madera WTP

Bank Swallow

Bank Swallow

August 2 (ph. GW) and August 4 (ph. GF) and at the Fresno WTP August 10 (GW). Scarce at any season, three Black-throated Sparrows were a surprise find at Junction View on Highway 180 in Giant Sequoia

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

National Monument June 11 (ph. TD, DD). Even more surprising was the discovery of one carrying food at that location June 14 (ph. GF) and two fresh juveniles there July 22 (EE), establishing the first breeding record for Fresno County; another juvenile, a dispersant, was at the Fresno WTP September 1 (GW, ph. RL, MH). Less than annual in our area, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak female or immature male was along Road

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

208 July 11 (ph. KM), and another, a second-year male, was at Minarets Vista near Mammoth July 20 (ph. SS et al.).

Cited Observers: Jeff Davis, Diane Dentlinger, Tom Dougherty, Jon Dunn, Elias Elias, George Folsom, Mark Haywood, Diane Highbaugh, Daniel Jeffcoach, Robert Long, Karen McClure, Larry Parmeter, Nathan Parmeter, Chris Rempel, Rick Saxton, Alex Single, Susan Steele, Jim Tietz, and Gary Woods. ph. = photographed by, WTP = Wastewater Treatment Plant.


Birds in the News
Links to Recent Articles on Birds

These songbirds impale their prey in a ghoulish hunting technique

Bite a mouse in the back of the neck and don’t let go. Now shake your head at a frenzied 11 turns per second, as if saying, “No, no, no, no, no!”

You have just imitated a hunting loggerhead shrike, long considered one of North America’s more ghoulish songbirds for the way it impales its prey carcasses on thorns and barbed wire. Read more…

Birds’ voiceboxes are odd ducks

Birds sing from the heart. While other four-limbed animals like mammals and reptiles make sounds with voiceboxes in their throats, birds’ chirps originate in a unique vocal organ called the syrinx, located in their chests. No other animals have a syrinx, and scientists aren’t sure how or when it evolved. In a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, an interdisciplinary team of developmental biologists, evolutionary morphologists, and physiologists examined the windpipes of birds, crocodiles, salamanders, mice, and cats to learn more about how syrinxes evolved. Their findings seem to confirm: the syrinx is an evolutionary odd duck. But it might have arisen from a reinforcement at the bottom of the windpipe that we still see in many other animals. Read more…

Birds flying south. How many will return?

A new study used cloud computing and data from 143 weather radar stations to estimate how many birds migrate through the United States.

Adriaan Dokter, a postdoctoral fellow at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is the lead author of the study, published September 17, 2018, in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. Dokter said in a statement from Cornell:

We’ve discovered that each autumn, an average of four billion birds move south from Canada into the U.S. At the same time, another 4.7 billion birds leave the U.S. over the southern border, heading to the tropics.

In the spring, 3.5 billion birds cross back into the U.S. from points south, and 2.6 billion birds return to Canada across the northern U.S. border. 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…

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