01 Oct November 2021 Yellowbill
With this issue of The Yellowbill we are changing how we publish the newsletter. This issue is written as a webpage rather than as a blog post. This means that the pictures will automatically scale to fit the screen of the device you are using to view them. We hope you enjoy this improvement.
Greetings, FAS members and friends. I hope this message finds you well.
Fall is most definitely in the air, and so many of our winter residents have returned! These days, I can hardly step outside during daylight hours without hearing the whistled song of the White-crowned Sparrow, the incessant ‘chip’ calls of the Yellow-rumped Warbler, and the softly grating chatter of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. If I venture far enough, the melancholy song of the Golden-crowned Sparrow and the raspy call of the Spotted Towhee are sure to ring through the air. I hope that you are all enjoying what fall birding has to offer here in the Central Valley, or wherever you may be!
We would like to apologize to all those who were planning on tuning into the virtual field trip at the Madera Wastewater Treatment Plant on Saturday, October 30. The on-site conditions were much foggier than we anticipated and visibility was very poor, so we had to cancel in the morning when we arrived onsite.
Some good news is that FAS is resuming in-person field trips to local birding hot spots. I will lead the first of these on Saturday, November 6 at Kearney Park (6725 W Kearney Blvd, Fresno, CA 93706). We will be meeting at 7:30 am in the parking lot adjacent to the mansion and end by 1:00 pm. We are asking that participants be vaccinated and wear masks in addition to following social-distancing protocols. Registration is required for this event (here). If you have any questions, please reach out to me (Rachel Clark) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-357-0122.
Thank you again to all of those who attended the October 12 general meeting. Blake Barbaree’s talk about shorebird conservation was great! A central theme in Blake’s presentation was the discussion of the Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey, which takes place annually from November 15 through December 15. If you would like more information about what the surveys entail and how you might get involved, check out this website: https://data.pointblue.org/apps/pfss/.
The next FAS general meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, November 9. Homer Hansen, who is an extraordinary birder, will be talking to us about sparrows that overwinter here in our local area. Personally, I am quite excited for this presentation, as sparrows are such an interesting, though sometimes challenging, group of birds, and we have quite a variety here in the Central Valley and the surrounding areas!
As December is only a month away, it is time to start thinking about the Lost Lake Christmas Bird Count. The date is set for Sunday, December 19. We will be following social distancing protocols again this year to ensure everyone’s safety. If you are interested in participating, please reach out to me at email@example.com or 515-357-0122.
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 a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, which is a very common winter resident here in the Central Valley and surrounding areas. The first photo shows this bird from the front. Note the round body, the overall olive-green color, the pale eye-ring with the break on top, the thin beak, and the thin gray legs with the pinkish feet. The second picture shows the bird from the back. Note how the white wingbars are bordered by a black bar beneath, which is one important feature to key in on when on trying to tell this species apart from the similar-looking Hutton’s Vireo. Enjoy the pictures!
Please take care of yourselves!
Fresno Audubon Society Continues Its Annual Membership Drive!
Fresno Audubon’s (FAS) 2021-2022 membership drive is ongoing . FAS annual membership runs from September 1st through August 31 each year.
Thank you to all 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 logo and website.
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.
November General Meeting
Watching Winter Sparrows
Tuesday, 9 November 2021
As winter settles in our neck of the woods, various species and subspecies of sparrows migrate into our locality and often flock with our local breeding sparrows. Part of the challenge of identifying sparrows is recognizing their generic and species specific traits, including behavior and physical characteristics. This presentation will give an overview of a handful of similar species that share common habitat but have differences of natural history, behavior, and field marks that help tell them apart. Some of the similar species that will be discussed include Chipping and Brewer’s; White-crowned, White-throated, and Golden-crowned; Savannah and Vesper; and Sagebrush and Bell’s Sparrows.
Homer Hansen grew up in Willcox, Arizona surrounded by Sandhill Cranes in winter and Cassin’s Sparrows in summer. Homer has a passion for sharing bird watching with others and is a regular field trip leader for several festivals. He has served as chairman of the Wings Over Willcox Birding & Nature Festival for nearly 20 years. Homer loves working with youths and co-founded the Sulphur Springs Valley Young Birders Club and the associated Arizona Young Birder’s Camp, non-profits dedicated to educating youths about birds (if not for COVID, 2021 would have been the 6th annual camp). He also instructs workshops on sparrows, raptors, flycatchers, warblers, birding by ear, and bird ecology, including: the Lifelong Learning courses for the Tucson Audubon Society, the Southwestern Sparrows Institute of Field Ornithology for the American Birding Association, and educational workshops for the Western Field Ornithologists (WFO) conferences. Homer is a life member of the WFO, Cooper Ornithological Society (COS), and Wilson Ornithological Society (WOS), and he just completed two terms with the WFO board as chairman of the Student Programs Committee.
To receive the Zoom link for the meeting, please register here.
General Meeting Speaker Schedule
Following is the schedule for future speakers. This schedule is subject to change due to cancelations.
Previously the Fresno Audubon Society board had put in-person field trips on hold owing to the surge of Covid-19 cases in our area. We decided that the CDC indicators for low community spread had to be met before we would resume in-person field events. We are, as of this writing, nowhere near meeting these guidelines. Yet our members are contacting us asking us to resume trips.
At our October board meeting the board discussed its decision, and decided to resume in-person field trips in November in spite of the still-high transmission rates. We considered that 1) field trips will be outdoors, and 2) that we will request that attendees be vaccinated, masked and maintain social distance during the trip. We do not think that vaccination rates will rise much in the near future, and we must accept that some risk is still present but is manageable in an outdoor setting. In the end, all activities are risky and each individual needs to assess their own level of risk tolerance. FAS will continue to monitor case rates, and may adjust this decision again in the future.
We will keep the trips local and choose places such as parks that have good parking options. We will not be meeting beforehand to carpool to the field trip location, because riding with others in a closed space can be hazardous. Instead, attendees will meet at the location on their own. If attendees want to carpool with people with whom they feel safe, they may choose to do so.
In November we will have a trip to Kearny Park on Saturday 6 November and a Wednesday trip on 24 November to Lost Lake Park. Please join us!
November Field Trips
Saturday 6 November 2021 ⏤ Kearney Park with Rachel Clark
Join FAS on Saturday, November 6 as we go birding at Kearney Park (6725 W Kearney Blvd, Fresno, CA 93706). Kearney Park is a great local destination that attracts a wide variety of bird life. Our target species include Spotted Towhee, White and Golden-crowned Sparrows, Red-shouldered Hawk, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Yellow-billed Magpie and many more. This is definitely one of those locations where fun and unexpected birds tend to show up, so you never know what you might see! There is a $5 park entry fee, which is paid at the kiosk on the drive in. We will be meeting at 7:30 in the parking lot adjacent to the mansion. Participants should bring snacks, lunch (if desired), water, hat, sunscreen, and binoculars, and should dress in layers. It is forecasted to be a mostly sunny day with a low of 46° and a high of 71°, so it will definitely be cold first thing in the morning. We will likely be wrapping up between noon and 1:00 PM. FAS is asking that participants be vaccinated and wear masks in addition to following social distancing protocols. Registration is required for this event. If you have any questions, please reach out to trip leader Rachel Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-357-0122. Please register here.
Wednesday 24 November 2021 ⏤ Lost Lake Park with Robert Snow
Join FAS on Wednesday, November 24 as we go birding at Lost Lake Rec Area (16385 N. Friant, Friant, CA 93626). Lost Lake is the number one hot spot in Fresno County. Our target species include Orange-crowned Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Wood Duck, Prairie Falcon, Red-breasted Sapsucker and many more. There is a $5 park entry fee, which is paid at the kiosk on the drive in. We will be meeting at 8:00 in the parking lot at the south end of the park (at the (Audubon Trailhead). Participants should bring snacks, lunch (if desired), water, hat, sunscreen, and binoculars, and should dress in layers. We will likely be wrapping up at noon. FAS is asking that participants be vaccinated and wear masks in addition to following social distancing protocols. Registration is required for this event. If you have any questions, please reach out to trip leader Robert Snow at email@example.com or (650) 483-2347. Please register here.
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
by Jeff Davis
Including reports for the period of
September 16, 2021 to October 15, 2021
An American Golden-Plover at the Madera WTP October 12 (ph. ST, JT) and October 15 (ph. GF, RS, LY) provided the third record for Madera County.
Other rare shorebirds in our area included one Baird’s Sandpiper and one Pectoral Sandpiper at the Fresno WTP September 17 (ph. GW).
We average about two Red-naped Sapsuckers per year, so one along Calvin Crest Rd September 16 and October 1 (NJ) was notable; coincidentally, one was there in January 2020.
A Grasshopper Sparrow along the Madera Canal October 6 (ph. RS) was the first reported in our area since December 2018.
Fresno County’s third Chestnut-sided Warbler visited the Enterprise Trail in Clovis September 16 and 17 (ph. RS, ph. m.ob.).
Cited Observers: George Folsom, Nina Jones, Rick Saxton, Robert Snow, Janny Tillmann, Steve Tillman, Gary Woods, Lowell Young. m.ob. = many observers. 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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 email@example.com 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.
Birds in the News
Links to Recent Articles on Birds
Raptors In Flight: Striking Portraits by Mark Harvey Frame Birds of Prey on the Hunt
Following his portraits of acrobatic birds performing a series of stunts, photographer Mark Harvey turns his focus to the larger, more powerful creatures of the avian species. The new collection, titled Raptors In Flight, centers on birds of prey and their graceful movements while on the hunt. Whether framing a barn owl diving to the ground or a harris hawk splaying its wings, each of the images highlights the raptors’ unique physical features, making the individual details of their feathers, curved beaks, and eyes visible. Shot with his signature style that applies a hearty dose of drama to the already striking creatures, the photos are shot one at a time in a slow, medium format. “Lighting is a key aspect of my work to help draw out fresh views of well-known subjects, and these birds are no exception, set within an intricate lighting setup to ultimately show the birds in a new light,” Harvey shares. “With their wings spread wide, these top avian predators’ beauty is put on full display.” Read more…
Pandemic Bird-Watching Created a Data Boom—and a Conundrum
ON A MORNING in late September, Kestin Thomas stood next to the towering glass facade of the Time Warner building in Manhattan holding a dead bird. The small body was still warm in his hand, but he couldn’t feel the flutter of a heartbeat or the soft puff of breath escaping. He recorded the death on a data sheet, marking the time, day, and location. Then he put the bird in a plastic bag and took it home, leaving it in the freezer for a day before finally dropping the body off at the New York City Audubon Society. Read more…
Birds Have a Mysterious ‘Quantum Sense’. Scientists Have Now Seen It in Action
Seeing our world through the eyes of a migratory bird would be a rather spooky experience. Something about their visual system allows them to ‘see’ our planet’s magnetic field, a clever trick of quantum physics and biochemistry that helps them navigate vast distances. Read more…
Louisiana: Restored nesting island wildly popular with birds
RABBIT ISLAND, La. — (AP) — Restoration of an island in Louisiana’s fragile coastal area is proving wildly popular with the birds it was rebuilt for, their numbers exploding on the recently added land, authorities said Wednesday. Pelicans, egrets, herons, ibis, terns, and other colonial water birds built about 6,100 nests on Rabbit Island — more than 16 times the number biologists had expected, a news release from the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority said. The island supports the only brown pelican colony in southwest Louisiana, and about 1,500 pairs of pelicans were among the nesting birds. They included many of the 322 pelicans banded there this year and last, the agency said. Read more…
What Makes a Good Bird Photo?
Bird photography is a popular genre that can be undertaken in a variety of different ways, with each style presenting its own challenges. Nonetheless, there are common elements in what makes a successful bird photo, and this excellent video features two seasoned pros discussing seven important aspects of every compelling image. Read more…
They’re Spreading the Joy of Birding—and Making It More Inclusive
Tenijah Hamilton started birding last year after the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and she now hosts the Bring Birds Back podcast, often focusing on the interconnectivity of people and nature. Journalist Purbita Saha loves to go birding in any season and particularly enjoys observing female birds, the unsung counterparts to their showy male companions. Christopher Joe runs a bird and wildlife tour company on his family farm in rural Alabama, offering a safe space for all to experience the thrill of birding. All three came to birding in their own way, but they share a common mission: to inspire more people to become advocates for the natural world, in the midst of a looming biodiversity crisis. Read more…
Which bird migrates the farthest?
The Arctic tern, an elegant white seabird, migrates farther than any other bird. It travels from pole to pole. It breeds on the shores of the Arctic Ocean in the Northern Hemisphere’s summer. Then it heads to the Southern Hemisphere to continue its life of endless summertime. This bird also sees more daylight than any other. Read more…
How to Shoot RAZOR SHARP Photos with ANY Camera
All photographers strive to make images with maximum sharpness and detail, but depending upon conditions that goal isn’t always easy to accomplish. Sometimes you can improve soft photos during the editing process, but the preferred approach is to use proper shooting techniques so you get what you want in the camera. In today’s tutorial from nature photographer Jan Wegener, you’ll learn how he consistently captures stunning images with optimum detail and sharpness. As he explains, “High-quality gear helps, but there are a lot more factors to consider to nail the image every time.” Read more…
Crows Leave Creative Present for US Man After He Feeds Them for Two Years
For American bird enthusiast and musician Stuart Dahlquist, it was nothing short of a mind-blowing surprise when a pair of crows left him a present. In a tweet posted on May 24, 2019 Dahlquist had shared his experience with his followers on Twitter as he posted the picture of the creative present left by the pair of crows for his family. The musician told his followers that he and his family have been feeding a small family of four crows, which includes a mated pair and their two-year-old offspring for several years. As a gesture of gratitude, a week before the tweet was posted, the pair of crows left the gifts two days in a row. The gift which Dahlquist talks about was made by the crows. The birds used the pull tabs from aluminium cans and threaded them onto pine twigs. Dahlquist commented on the gesture and mentioned in his tweet, “This isn’t only generous, it’s creative, it’s art. My mind is blown.” Read more…
SpaceX destroys endangered species habitat, defies federal approval process
While SpaceX is focusing on exploring distant planets, the company’s operations are taking a toll on planet Earth, specifically in Boca Chica, Texas. Here, the SpaceX Starship Super Heavy Project and launch site are being built and expanded, even though some of the infrastructure has yet to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is deeply concerned about the facility’s impacts on wildlife habitat and species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including the federally Threatened Piping Plover and Red Knot, and the Endangered Northern Aplomado Falcon. Read more…
Born Knowing: Baby Chicks and Baby Humans
Despite the phylogenetic distance between us — the last common ancestor to birds and mammals dates back almost 300 million years — baby chicks and baby humans seem to have similar patterns for the recognition of stimuli of high social value. The newborns of both species are attracted by schematic faces in which three high-contrast blobs are arranged in an inverted triangle inside a roundish outline. The same stimulus presented upside down, that is, in the position of a triangle pointing upward, does not arouse excessive interest. Similar to chicks, human newborns just a few hours old prefer to look at a handful of dots that move like a chicken or other biological entity rather than a rigid or randomly moving whole. Read more…
Photographer Captures Baby Barn Owl Mid-Run
Dutch photographer Hannie Heere was photographing barn owls when she captured an adorable shot of a baby barn owl running across grass.
Heere is 63-year-old and lives in the city of Dordrecht in The Netherlands. While she has always enjoyed photography throughout her life, she did not start taking it seriously until her children became adults and left home. In 2016, she began taking courses and workshops, and her primary focus has been on nature and wildlife photography. On May 28th, Heere was out shooting when she spotted a confident small owl chick nearby. It was fluffy with white down, which are replaced with mature feathers as the owl grows old enough to fly. Read more…
Flamingos dye their sun-faded feathers to stay pretty in pink
California Condors Are Capable of Asexual Reproduction
ARCHIMEDES HAD HIS famous “Eureka!” moment about water displacement after stepping into a very full bath. Oliver Ryder and Leona Chemnick’s big “Aha!” arrived in a parking lot. They were standing outside the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance at the end of a work day in 2013, and Chemnick, a researcher in the alliance’s conservation genetics lab, was describing a puzzling situation. The zoo is home to dozens of California condors, part of a rehabilitation effort that began after the birds’ population plummeted during the 20th century. In 1987 conservationists captured the last 22 birds from the wild and slowly nursed the population back from the brink of extinction. There are now about 500 condors in California and Mexico, but the bird is still critically endangered, so scientists carefully track the parents and chicks in the zoo’s breeding program. Read more…