29 Sep October 2021 Yellowbill
Greetings, FAS members and friends. I hope this message finds you well.
With in-person field trips on the back burner for the foreseeable future, FAS will once again be holding virtual trips at various local birding hotspots. We are working on a date and location for a virtual tour in October, so please watch for an email announcement regarding that event. If any of you have suggestions for potential virtual tour locations here in the Central Valley, particularly areas with good cellular Internet speeds and clear views of birds, please send an email to email@example.com.
Many thanks to those who attended the September 14 general meeting. Rich Cimino’s presentation on the birds of Belize was quite enthralling! If you missed this meeting and would like to view the presentation, you can find it and other general meeting presentations on our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/FresnoAudubon.
The next FAS general meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 12. Blake Barbaree of Point Blue Conservation Science will be talking to us about the organization’s shorebird conservation efforts in the Central Valley and beyond. This will be a talk you definitely don’t want to miss.
I’d like to remind all of you that FAS is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, 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 two photos. Both are of an adult male Williamson’s Sapsucker. Note the small red chin patch, the white striping behind the eye and across the cheek, the black breast and backside, and the yellow wash on the belly. This species can be found in coniferous and mixed forests in mountainous areas of western North America. In the Sierra Nevada, look for this uncommon bird in higher-elevation forests, and be aware that the females look nothing like the males! Rather, they have brown heads and black and white barring over a large portion of the body. Enjoy the pictures.
Please take care of yourselves!
Fresno Audubon Society Kicks Off Its Annual Membership Drive!
We are excited to announce the kick-off of Fresno Audubon’s (FAS) 2021-2022 membership drive beginning Wednesday, September 1, 2021 . FAS annual membership runs from September 1st through August 31 each year.
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, provide instructive “birding by ear” videos, conduct introductory birding classes and guided field trips as conditions allow, 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.
In addition, FAS members 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 website.
New This Year
Everyone who joins or renews their FAS membership by Thursday, September 30 will automatically become eligible to win a copy of David Sibley’s newest book, WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A BIRD. ((Lifetime FAS members and folks who have joined or renewed since June 1, 2021 will also be included in this year’s drawing.)
Fresno Audubon Society membership levels are:
$1000 Golden Eagle (Life)
Fresno Audubon Society
PO Box 3315
Fresno, CA 93650
Thank you for your continuing support of Fresno Audubon Society.
October General Meeting
A history of Shorebird Conservation in the Central Valley and Beyond
Point Blue Conservation Science
Tuesday, 12 October 2022
Point Blue Conservation Science has become a leader in the conservation of migratory shorebirds and their habitats across the Pacific Flyway. During this talk, Blake will review the history of shorebird-focused programs at Point Blue, which date back to the founding of the organization in 1965 as Point Reyes Bird Observatory. He will highlight results from recent and ongoing efforts with a focus on the Central Valley, including the Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey that has been supported by members of Fresno Audubon since its inception in 2010. Blake will wrap up the talk by looking forward at emerging programs for shorebird conservation, which highlight the increasing recognition by land managers and policy makers that these magnificent world travelers are sentinels of our rapidly changing environment.
October Big Day — 9 Oct 2021
Mark your calendars for October Big Day — 9 October 2021! Big Days are a 24-hour opportunity to celebrate birds near and far.
Wherever you are on 9 October, take a few minutes to join the world of birding on October Big Day. By taking part in October Big Day you’re also joining the second-ever Global Bird Weekend and celebrating World Migratory Bird Day. Be a part of the global team, and help set a new record for birding.
General Meeting Speaker Schedule
Following is the schedule for future speakers. This schedule is subject to change due to cancelations.
Fresno Audubon Society (FAS) field trip leaders met in June to plan the 2021-2022 field trip season, but there has since been a surge in COVID-19 cases in our area. Our country continues to struggle with our individual risk assessments, and it is clear that there is no simple answer to when we should again offer in-person activities. At the online August FAS Board meeting we made the decision to not hold in-person activities until community transmission returns to a low level. This is defined by the CDC as a 7-day average case rate of <10/100,000 population and a 7-day average COVID-19 test positivity rate of <5%. (You can read about these guidelines in the CDC article Guidance for Implementing COVID-19 Prevention Strategies in the Context of Varying Community Transmission Levels and Vaccination Coverage.) We are monitoring the Fresno County and Madera County COVID-19 data on cases and test results (available here) to determine when community transmission becomes low again. As of this writing the Fresno County 7-day average new case load is 31.8 new cases per 100,000 (down from 39.8 last month), and the 7-day average test positivity is 7.4% (down from 10% last month). The Madera County 7-day average new case load is 31.9 new cases per 100,000 (down from 35.7 last month), and the 7-day average test positivity is 7.7% (up from 5.7% last month). Therefore, there will be no in-person field trips in October. We continue to monitor the data regularly and will make a month-by-month decision on when to again offer in-person trips.
Places to bird within a half hour drive of Fresno
We would also like to offer the following suggestions for birding on your own.
Jensen River Ranch https://goo.gl/maps/qorJF8uGUHrNxgFj8
Riverbottom Park https://goo.gl/maps/sUsBGxJ8v31YFha48
River West https://goo.gl/maps/bNmBDPMiqrtKofJq9
Big Dry Creek Reservoir grasslands https://goo.gl/maps/dYJzn47CPGwaLrt58
Enterprise Canal, Clovis https://goo.gl/maps/5oXTKD6r4eqi27Yv7
Cotton Wood Park, Clovis https://goo.gl/maps/1Sqs4aXkyBbw2sod7
Wildwood Native Park and trail to Sycamore Island https:goo.gl/maps/y3VmVhchMA6kH2t18
Hildreth (210) Rd loop https://goo.gl/maps/JJk5jtyV8FNTBKMp8
2021 Nest Box Project Results
by Bill Ralph
Yosemite Area Audubon Society
The nest box project this year was able to continue with extra precautions and social distancing. This unfortunately limited the number of participants I was able to invite.
This year I had added four locations, which the late Steve Simmons had been monitoring for over 40 years. Two weeks after I started monitoring, one company where I was monitoring 21 Barn Owl boxes from two ranches showed me maps for 190 new boxes on an additional 12 ranches! Different ranches continued to install new owl boxes on existing bare poles or to replace broken boxes. This was a dynamic situation to say the least.
Rebecca Wang, one of the four volunteers who started with me, wanted to get a publication out of this to go with her application for admission to a Ph.D. program. I jumped at that, and told her of questions I had about four locations and the differences of fecundity between those locations. Professor Matt Johnson at Humboldt State has worked on Barn Owls in the Napa Valley for years. He responded to an email I had sent late last year and included all the locations where owls were banded. Short story, he got involved along with two of his students, and showed us his measurement protocol for each box site.
Challenges this year for the birds were 1) year two of a severe drought, and 2) a probable shortage of insects. Then came two high-heat periods. Owls started nesting later, and many owlets were still in the nest box and pre-fledged. A number of them died from the heat. Ducks and kestrels also were negatively impacted by the heat.
Here are this years counts:
From 2017 through 2020 I submitted belly feathers from one kestrel nestling per box for Kristen Ruegg’s study of the American Kestrel Genoscape. The results of this study of North American kestrels were published on April 26, 2021 in Ornithology, 168:2, The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) Genoscape: Implications for monitoring, management, and subspecies boundaries.
Where do we go for the 2022 monitoring season? It is still unknown where we will be with the COVID-19 variants, vaccinations and boosters. For those interested in monitoring, with or without learning to band, I’m hopeful I can take more volunteers next year. If you are interested, please reach out to me.
Bill Ralph, firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Jeff Davis
Including reports for the period of
August 16, 2021 to September 15, 2021
The Greater White-fronted Goose that summered at the Fresno Wastewater Treatment Plant remained there at least through September 13 (ph. RS)
Rare shorebirds continued to pass through our area on their way to wintering sites farther south. They included a Sanderling
at the Madera WTP August 20 (ph. GF), August 21 (LP, LW), August 22 (ph. GW), and August 23 (ph. CC) and another at the Fresno WTP September 13 (ph. RS); three Baird’s Sandpipers
at the Fresno WTP August 19 (ph. RS), singles there August 23 (ph. GF), August 27 (ph. GW), September 2 (ph. GW), and September 7 (ph. GW), plus six at the Madera WTP September 12 (ph. GW) and two there September 13 (ph. GW, CS); two Pectoral Sandpipers
at the Madera WTP August 22 (ph. GW), one there August 23 (ph. CC), four there August 31 (ph. GW), two there September 3 (ph. GF), 12 there September 12 (ph. GW), eight there September 13 (GW, CS), and singles at the Fresno WTP August 24 (ph. GW) and September 7 (ph. GW); two Semipalmated Sandpipers
at the Fresno WTP August 19 (ph. RS); single Solitary Sandpipers
at Hume Lake August 27 (JJ) and at the Madera WTP September 12 (ph. GW); and single Willets at the Madera WTP August 23 (ph. CC) and August 31 (ph. GW).
Rare swallows during the period included single Bank Swallows
at Madera WTP August 22 (ph. GW) and at Avocado Lake September 10 (JN) and a juvenile Purple Martin at the Madera WTP September 13 (GW, CS).
A juvenile Black-throated Sparrow
in Oakhurst September 10 (VJ) and another at the West Side Detention Basin north of Huron September 13 (AS) might have dispersed from the recently established local Sierran breeding population.
Cited Observers: Cory Chen, George Folsom, Chris Hiatt, Jessica Jedvaj, Vernon Johnson, John Luther, Jeremy Neipp, Linda Pittman, Rick Saxton, Alex Single, Cecelia Sheeter, Liz West, 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 eBird, the Fresno County Birders e-mail list, or Jeff Davis (email@example.com).
Fun Family Activity-Attracting Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world, and they’re quite an impressive sight when they flock to your backyard. If you’re looking for ways to get your children, nephews, or grandchildren interested in learning more about these birds, it’s easy to attract them to your own yard for a fun family activity. With the right food, feeder, and setup, attracting hummingbirds is easy. It does not matter if you live in Vancouver BC or San Diego; these tips will help you out! Let’s discover together some awesome tips that will make your family activity fun and successful. We will also learn some basic information about these incredibly fascinating birds and how to attract them. Before you know it, you’ll have a fabulous flock that will make bird watching a favorite pastime for the entire family. Read more…
Male Hummingbirds Are So Annoying, Females Wear Disguises to Not Be Harassed
When it comes to birds, sexual dimorphism can be very pronounced indeed. Males may announce their presence with flashy feathers, while females of the same species are much more sedate – an adaptation thought to be related to sexual selection and reproduction. While not universal for all birds, such was thought to be the case for the white-necked jacobin (Florisuga mellivora). But scientists have now discovered that a significant number of the females of this hummingbird species are brilliantly colored, just like the males. Read more…
Research finally reveals ancient, universal equation for the shape of an egg
Researchers from the University of Kent, the Research Institute for Environment Treatment and Vita-Market Ltd have discovered the universal mathematical formula that can describe any bird’s egg existing in nature, a feat which has been unsuccessful until now. Read more…
Birds Are The Last Dinosaurs. Why Did They Survive?
Sixty-six million years ago, thanks to the Chicxulub meteor—and possibly additional stressors like volcanic eruptions—85% of the species on Earth went extinct, and the Cretaceous period drew to a close. The loss of species included most dinosaurs, but not all. Today’s birds are the last of the dinosaurs, descendents of ancestors that didn’t just survive this mass extinction, but evolutionarily exploded into thousands of species distributed around the world. Read more…
The awe-inspiring winners of the Bird Photographer of the Year awards
A sublime shot of a Roadrunner facing the US-Mexico border wall has taken top prize in this year’s Bird Photographer of the Year contest. The contest is one of the biggest in the world to solely focus on bird photography. Read more…
Could a birding boom in the U.S. help conservation take flight?
“Three puffins, one o’clock!” the Audubon naturalist shouts. Thirty passengers spring from their upper-deck benches and crowd the port side of the Hardy III, which rolls over the choppy waters of Muscongus Bay, off the Maine coast. Between the shrieks of laughing gulls and the splash of sea spray, camera shutters click. Although a number of seabirds—herring gulls, double-crested cormorants, guillemots, arctic terns, common eiders, northern gannets—have been spotted on and around the enormous granite boulders of Eastern Egg Rock, the tuxedoed birds with the colorful beaks are the undeniable stars. Read more…
Large communal roost of Swainson’s hawks discovered in Panoche Valley
Hollister resident, birder and naturalist Debi Shearwater noted a rare find in San Benito County: Swainson’s Hawks (Buteo swainsoni)—at least 143 of them. Shearwater, who has led bird tours all over the world, said she had not expected to find so many of the species in Panoche Valley as the bird is rare in San Benito County, though common in the Central Valley. Read more…
Wing shape determines how far birds disperse
Bird dispersal movements are thought to depend on complex demographic and genetic factors. Dr. Santiago Claramunt, Associate Curator of Birds at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology of the University of Toronto, shows that there may be a simpler explanation: bird dispersal distances depend on the morphology and flight efficiency of the wings. The study, “Flight efficiency explains differences in natal dispersal distances in birds,” was published in the journal Ecology. Read more…
‘You Bloody Fool,’ Says First Talking Duck Known to Science
Thirty years ago, Ripper the duck sounded as if he’d had enough. “You bloody fool,” he repeated relentlessly in a recently rediscovered recording. Besides that shocking soundbite, Ripper—who was 4 years old at the time—also managed to imitate the sound of a door slamming shut. Researchers have analyzed his vocalizations, as well as those of a different duck that was able to imitate the calls of another species, and their findings are published this week in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Read more…
How colourful collars can help reduce the number of birds killed by domestic cats
Rainbow coloured, high-visibility ruff collars for free-roaming house cats can reduce the number of birds the felines are able to kill, according to preliminary results from a study at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, B.C. “It looks like the high-viz collars work,” said Professor Ken Otter, chairperson of UNBC’s department of ecosystem science and management. Read more…
3.4 Million Acres Of Spotted Owl Habitat Could Soon Be Restored
Close to 3.4 million acres of protected habitat were stripped from Northern Spotted Owls in 2020. With more than 70% of their habitat already gone, these imperiled birds are hurtling toward extinction. “Robust critical habitat protections are essential to ensuring the survival of the northern spotted owl. The Trump administration’s arbitrary and sweeping reduction of protected areas was conducted without public input or scientific basis. Interior is reviewing the Trump administration’s rollback of northern spotted owl critical habitat designations to adequately protect this threatened species and the habitat it needs for recovery,” a U.S. Department of Interior spokesperson said in a statement emailed to The Washington Post. Read more…
My Top Tips for a Wildlife-Friendly Garden
When people talk about creating a wildlife-friendly garden, they often focus on small additions like nesting boxes, feeders, or bug or bee “hotels.” These things are beneficial; however, if you really want to create a wildlife-friendly garden, it is important to go back to basics. Read more…
Where Do Species Come From?
The evolutionary biologist Jochen Wolf was working from home when we first spoke, in April, 2020. Germany was under lockdown, and his lab, at Ludwig Maximilian University, in Munich, had been closed for weeks. Still, a reminder of his research had followed him from the office. “I have a crow nest right in front of me,” Wolf said, from his rooftop terrace. The nest was well hidden at the top of a tall spruce tree. Through the branches, Wolf could see a female crow sitting on her eggs. Read more…
After Sunset, Thousands Of Swifts Dance Into A Chimney In Eugene
It’s fall migration for the Vaux’s Swifts. These birds summered in Canada and now they are heading south to Mexico and beyond, with their offspring. One of their stops is here– Agate Hall chimney on the University of Oregon campus. It’s the second largest roosting site in the state, after Chapman School chimney in Portland. Read more…
‘Spectacular’ sight of godwit migration to Firth of Thames reserved for one man
“I live on the same grounds as Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre, so nothing much has changed,” Woodley told Stuff. “I’m fortunate that I get to share my bubble with thousands of godwits.” This idyllic lockdown is the norm for Woodley, who has spent 28 years watching shorebirds, such as godwits and oyster catchers, arrive and leave. He usually has a team of volunteers helping him out by running programmes, sales and monitoring bird migration, but for the past few days he’s been doing most of the work himself. Read more…
An encounter with a wedge-tailed eagle filled me with awe and a sense of danger
Over the past few years, my amateur bird watching has escalated into more of an obsession, one that occasionally pulls me out to more remote areas of Australia. Several months ago on one such trip, I had cause to think about what drew me to birds. On that particular day, I was walking in the Warrumbungles in New South Wales, trekking up a slope toward Mt Exmouth. I rounded a corner to spot an enormous wedge-tailed eagle perched on the ridge above me. It was an adult, with dark, near-black plumage, boxy shoulders and an immense beak. Its sheer mass was striking. Read more…
World’s most dangerous bird raised by humans 18,000 years ago, study suggests
The earliest bird reared by humans may have been a cassowary — often called the world’s most dangerous bird because of its long, dagger-like toe. Territorial, aggressive and often compared to a dinosaur in looks, the bird is a surprising candidate for domestication. However, a new study of more than 1,000 fossilized eggshell fragments, excavated from two rock shelters used by hunter-gatherers in New Guinea, has suggested early humans may have collected the eggs of the large flightless bird before they hatched and then raised the chicks to adulthood. New Guinea is a large island north of Australia. The eastern half of the island is Papua New Guinea, while the western half forms part of Indonesia. Read more…
eBird Essentials, a free course from the Bird Academy
Get up to speed on how the largest biological citizen-science program in the world can help you with your birding. The eBird community gathers more than 100 million bird sightings each year from people like you. Providing a powerful tool for motivated bird enthusiasts everywhere, eBird helps you find more birds and keep track of your sightings. Collectively, these sightings are now empowering a global scientific community and helping answer pressing conservation questions. Full of video tutorials, this course will get you ready to confidently store and share your sightings with eBird. Read more…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.