28 Sep October 2023 Yellowbill
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The Yellowbill is published monthly except in June, July and August. It is edited by Robert Snow (email@example.com) except for the Member Photos section, which is edited by Clayton Dahlen (firstname.lastname@example.org). Archived issues are available at https://fresnoaudubon.org/the-yellowbill/.
Hello, FAS members and friends. Fall is finally here! The White-crowned Sparrows are back on the Valley floor, singing their unmistakable jubilant songs. Not long behind them will be Golden-crowned Sparrows, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Yellow-rumped Warblers! I hope you are all enjoying the cooling temperatures and the birds that come along with the changing season.
We want to thank everyone who signed up for membership during the 2023-2024 membership drive during the month of September. Your support helps to keep FAS afloat and allows us to bring you guided bird walks, introduction to birding classes, bird counts, as well as monthly zoom meetings with expert speakers. We could not do all of this without your support. Thank you again! If you have not yet renewed your membership it’s not too late. See the section below on how to join.
We have some exciting events scheduled for the month of October:
- Wednesday, October 11 ⏤ River West Madera, 8:00 AM – 12:30 PM
- Saturday, October 14 ⏤ The Raptor Trail on the Kings River at Pine Flat Dam, 8:00 AM – 1:00 PM
- Saturday, October 21 ⏤ Introduction to Birding Class at the River Center, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
- Wednesday, October 25 ⏤ Sycamore Island, 8:45 AM – 1:00 PM
Anyone interested in these and other upcoming events can check out the FAS event calendar for more information and links to registration: https://fresnoaudubon.org/event-calendar/
We still require that participants of FAS in-person events must not be exhibiting any symptoms of Covid-19. Registration is still REQUIRED for all in-person field trips, and participants must register individually. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation.
I want to let everyone know that the 2023 Lost Lake Christmas Bird Count is scheduled for Saturday, December 16. The count circle covers not just Lost Lake, but also surrounding sections of both Fresno and Madera Counties. The count will last from sunrise to sundown, but participants can take part for as much or little as they’d like. It is not necessary to be an expert birder. Those who are less experienced can be paired with someone more experienced. Anyone who is interested in participating or might have any questions should reach out to me via email at email@example.com.
We want to thank all who joined us for the first general meeting of the 2023-2024 season on Tuesday, September 12. Rob Furrow of UC Davis talked to us about using flight calls to monitor nocturnal migration. You can see his recorded presentation here: https://youtu.be/793wmtH6uYA.
The next general meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 10. Bruce Lyon, professor of Evolutionary Ecology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will be talking to us about the breeding biology of coots. This should be a very interesting presentation! Here is the link for registration: https://conta.cc/3Eh7XdA.
Please follow FAS on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube) if you’re not already. This is the perfect way to keep up with current FAS events, view past general meetings, and view fun, educational content!
FAS is currently seeking volunteers to help put together our monthly newsletter, The Yellowbill, starting in January 2024. Knowledge of WordPress is helpful, but we will train you if you are not experienced with WordPress. If interested, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are also currently seeking a Speaker Coordinator. Tasks include reaching out to and scheduling potential speakers for FAS monthly general meetings. If interested, please reach out to email@example.com.
To end this message, I’d like to share a photo I took recently of a young Cliff Swallow. Note the dingy breast, off-white belly, chestnut throat and forehead, and long, dark, narrow wings. Note also the fleshy gape (the skin at the corners of the mouth), which a tell-tale sign of a young bird. During the breeding season, this species is seen flying under bridges and other similar concrete structures, where they nest in colonies. Look for their gourd-shaped mud nests with the opening on the side. Enjoy!
Please take care of yourselves!
Fresno Audubon Society Kicks Off Its Annual Membership Drive!
We are excited to announce the Friday, September 1, 2023 kick-off of Fresno Audubon’s (FAS) 2023-2024 membership drive. FAS annual memberships run 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, conduct guided field trips, teach introductory birding classes, maintain the bird feeding station at the River Center, conduct multiple bird surveys, and advocate for regional and local bird-related issues.
FAS members also have exclusive access to the FAS Birding Resource Guide, an online compilation of Central Valley birding resources, and new members receive an FAS sticker that displays the Fresno Audubon website.
New This Year! Everyone who joins or renews their FAS membership by Friday, September 30 will automatically become eligible to win their choice of one of two books—David Sibley’s newest book What It’s Like to be a Bird or Stan Tekiela’s Birds of California Field Guide. (NOTE: Lifetime FAS members and those folks who have joined or renewed since June 1, 2023 will automatically be eligible for 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
The Breeding Biology of Coots
Tuesday, 10 October 2023
Reconsider the coot: the crazy reproductive antics of a common marsh denizen.
Coots are often overlooked by birders because they are so common. I have been studying the reproductive antics of American Coots for the past two decades and have discovered that there is far more to this bird than meets the eye. In the talk I highlight some of our discoveries about the parental and reproductive strategies of coots, from both a natural history and scientific perspective. We all are familiar with the story of the cuckoo female that lays eggs in the nests of other species rather than raising chicks herself. Some coot females do this sort of thing, but they lay their eggs in the nests of other coot females. Why would they do this — why lay eggs elsewhere when you have your own nest? What do the birds that receive these unwanted foster eggs do? Coots are just as bizarre when it comes to raising their own kids, and there are many puzzling features of coot parental care behavior. For example, why do coots lay far more eggs than they can normally raise and why do they beat up their kids so much? And, finally, why are baby coots born with such a ridiculously fluorescent orange plumage? I will answer these questions in my talk. In addition, because our coot research was done in a wild part of central British Columbia, I will also briefly highlight a few of the special birds we encounter at our study site. Finally, the research program is expanding to ask similar questions in a mysterious coot in the High Andes of Argentina.
To receive the Zoom link for the meeting, please register here.
Introduction to Birding Class
October Field Trips
FIELD TRIP GUIDELINES ⏤ Fresno Audubon Society is offering field trips during the now-endemic COVID-19, subject to the following rules. With the continuing risks of exposure and potential illness, everyone must determine their own level of risk aversion. The CDC has recommended that masks should be optional when outdoors. It has been shown that a well-fitting N95 mask protects the wearer for several hours from an infectious dose of virus, so anyone concerned about exposure can choose to wear a mask near others if they feel at risk. Following are our current guidelines for our field trips.
- Participants must pre-register individually using the FAS event registration system.
- Participants must self-screen their own temperature before the outing and must not attend if they are feverish.
- Participants must consent to Fresno Audubon Society’s Liability Waiver by pre-registering.
- Social distancing is encouraged.
- Masks are not required, but participants are encouraged to wear a mask whenever they feel the need.
- Some field trips meet up at a central point before traveling to the field trip location. Participants may form their own car pools at these meetup points.
- Participants must contact their trip leader should they test positive for COVID-19 within three days following the outing so that we can notify others who attended the trip.
Wednesday 11 October 2023 ⏤ River West Madera with John McDaniel
Registration is required. Register here for the event here.
We will meet at 8:00 a.m. just outside the Valley Golf Center (which is south and down the hill from Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera County). The walk will mostly follow along the San Joaquin River downstream toward Sycamore Island. Although the river is also accessible from Wildwood Native Park, we will start from the Golf Center as the status of the Park is uncertain at this time.
We plan to take Palm Avenue south toward the river from the golf course, past the pipe gate, then following the river downstream, first on the service road to Sycamore Island, then along the Riverfront Trail, ultimately emerging at a grouping of several ponds and a large lagoon just north of the river channel. The Riverfront Trail follows a berm next to the river and is somewhat narrow and uneven. For anyone not comfortable with it, the Sycamore Island road can be followed instead. Total distance is about 3.5 miles.
Although this is directly across the river from River West Open Space, be prepared for some different birds on the Madera County side. We will be looking especially for our some of our early returning winter friends, including common merganser, white-crowned sparrows, black-crowned night heron, white-throated swift, northern flickers, phainopepla, Say’s phoebes, ruby-crowned kinglets, yellow-rumped warblers, and black-throated gray warblers.
Bring suitable clothing (layers) and walking shoes, snacks, water, head covering, sunscreen, and binoculars. The ponds and lagoon will be quite amenable to spotting scopes, although they are more than a mile and a half from the assembly area.
Directions: Take Highway 41 north from Fresno, to the first exit north of the San Joaquin River (Exit 138A). Turn right at the intersection and follow Cobb Ranch Road back toward Fresno until you get to the first intersection. Turn right and proceed under the Highway 41 bridges to the parking area just outside the golf course where we will assemble.
Checklist: binoculars, scope, field guide, snacks, lunch, water, sunscreen, hat, dress in layers
Leader: John McDaniel
Phone: (559) 779-7186
Saturday 14 October 2023 ⏤ The Raptor Trail Field Trip on The Kings River at Pine Flat Dam with Susan Heidebrecht
Registration is required. Register here for the event here.
Join FAS for birding along the Kings River. The trail begins across from the parking lot on the south side of the bridge just below Pine Flat Dam. The trail is basically an easy walk of approximately a mile and a quarter each way, but there is some uneven terrain and river rocks create a cobblestone surface in parts. Some of the expected target species include Bald eagles, golden eagles, osprey, nuthatches, woodpeckers and oak titmice.
Meet in the parking lot at the south side of the bridge by 8:00 a.m. If you want to look for directions from the eBird map, the Raptor Trail is just across the river from the North Riverside Access Park eBird Hotspot. GPS Coordinates 36.8298592686927, -119.33621274737327.
Participants should bring snacks, lunch (if desired), water, hat, sunscreen, and binoculars, and should dress in layers. Registration is required for this event. If you have any questions, please reach out to either trip leader.
Map to Fresno meeting location, 7:45 AM
Wednesday 25 October 2023 ⏤ Sycamore Island with George Folsom
Meeting location: Sycamore Island (36.8590560, -119.8230324)
Meeting time: 8:45 AM
End time: Noon, or you may stay and have lunch with the group
Sycamore Island, part of the San Joaquin River Parkway, is along the San Joaquin River in Madera County downstream from River West open space. It offers a variety of habitats: river, ponds, riparian, grasslands, and wetlands. We can expect ducks, raptors, herons, egrets, owls. woodpeckers, finches, swallows, sparrows among many others.
This is a large property and we will do a combination of driving and walking. Walking distance will be 1 to 2 miles but those who don’t care to walk can drive to most of the areas. There are picnic shelters with tables for lunch and restrooms on the property.
Participants should bring snacks, lunch (if desired), water, hat, sunscreen, and binoculars, and should dress in layers.
Registration is required for this event. If you have any questions, please reach out to trip leader George Folsom at 559-435-9374 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
September Field Trip Reports
Fresno/Clovis Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility with Gary Woods and George Folsom
Twenty birders led by Gary Woods had a nice day of birding observing 49 species. A group entering the facility can be difficult, but it was well organized with cooperative security personnel and went smoothly. Highlights were 2 rare Neotropical Cormorants and a large flock of American White Pelicans. There were many Eared Grebes and Greater Yellowlegs but only one lonely American Avocet. Rick Grijalva spotted a Blue Grosbeak in the vineyard east of the ponds. This was the first visit to this site for several birders in the group. Laura Voss, an employee of the Treatment Facility and beginning birder joined the group and we trust we have sent her on the way to becoming an expert on the birds that frequent the Treatment Facility. We finished the day with a lunch stop and storytelling at Kearney Park.
The eBird list is here. https://ebird.org/checklist/S149496467.
Balsam Meadows Snow-Park and Forebay with George Folsom
Blue skies, white clouds and mild temperatures greeted 18 birders as we hit the trail. Though not rare, we were delighted to see Lewis’s Woodpeckers at this location. Violet-green Swallows were often seen against the white clouds and Chipping Sparrows were numerous feeding on the ground. A lone Eared Grebe was diving in the forebay. After completing the Balsam Meadows loop trail and lunch in the parking lot, some of the group went up to Tamarack Snow-Park. After birding there with little success we moved to Coyote Snow-Park. Three of us walked the road for about a half mile and were rewarded with a Black-backed Woodpecker along with several other species of woodpeckers and numerous Western Bluebirds. The Black-backed Woodpecker, Lewis Woodpecker and Hermit Thrush were life birds for several birders. We welcomed two people who were on their first Fresno Audubon Society walk, and we hope they will join us again. The total species count for both sites was 28.
eBird lists are here:
Grant Grove and Indian Basin Grove with Kevin Enns-Rempel
Almost 20 participants ventured up highway 180 on September 23 for a day of birding in Grant Grove Village, Crystal Springs Campground, and Indian Basin Grove. The weather was beautiful though the air was a bit smokey from forest fires. Birding started out slowly at Grant Grove and Crystal Springs, though we did eventually end up with 23 species. Highlights included Black-throated Gray Warbler, excellent looks at Golden-crowned Kinglets, one skulky MacGillivray’s Warbler, and fine looks at a singing Fox Sparrow. The birds at Indian Grove Basin were very sparse, though a particular highlight was a flock of at least nine Pygmy Nuthatches. That species can be difficult to find in Fresno County, so it probably gets the prize for “best bird” of the day.
Meet the 88-Year-Old ‘Unlikely Birder’ On a Quest to Link Two Famed National Parks
by Carmen Kohlruss
by Jeff Davis
Birds in the News
Links to Recent Articles on Birds
Song Learning in the Songbirds
One of the great joys of spring in Maine is hearing the song of a newly arrived White-throated Sparrow. It’s distinctive poor–sam–peabody–peabody -peabody (or as our northern neighbors prefer, my–sweet–Canada–Canada–Canada) evokes the Maine woods. We are treated to this song all summer long.
I had to grin when I recently heard a song that sounded vaguely like a White-throated Sparrow but with a certain hesitancy and missed notes. What I was hearing was a young male, born just a few months ago, learning to sing.
A Migrating Cuckoo Named Hummus Makes a Tasty Case for Land Conservation
After more than a year, Steven Prager had all but given up on monitoring for local Motus pings. Audubon’sAppleton-Whittell Research Ranch in Arizona, where Prager is the director, installed its radio telemetry tower in March 2022. At the start, Prager checked the ranch’s data log daily for any indication that a bird tagged with a radio transmitter had passed nearby. But months of nothing had dampened his initial eagerness. “I hadn’t been checking it frequently at all,” he says. Then, one day last month, he got a text from a friend and fellow researcher tracking a Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo wearing a transmitter. The bird, his friend said, was on the move and may have come through the ranch.
Birds with more complex vocal skills are better problem-solvers
Bird photographer of the year 2023 winners – in pictures
An image of a peregrine falcon tackling a brown pelican that ventured too close to its nest in California is the overall winner of the world’s largest bird photography competition, which had more than 20,000 entries from all over the world competing for a £5,000 grand prize