30 Apr May 2019 Yellowbill
May marks the end of our birding season as the summer heat makes local birding more difficult and less pleasant. But we end the season with four field trips in May, including two into the cool mountains. We also have trips to Ball Ranch (rescheduled following a rain-out earlier this year) and one to Basalt Campground which is a natural trap for migrant birds. We’ve decided to cancel the Friday trip to Millerton Lake scheduled for 3 May since it followed so closely on the 1 May trip.
There will be no general meeting this month, but we will start the next season in September with a potluck at Lost Lake Park. Your board will be working over the summer to find ways to improve attendance at our general meetings. See the section below on the May meeting cancelation for more information.
I’m happy to report that our partnership with the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust is going very well. We installed a fountain, creating a bird feeding/watering area at the River Center that is attracting a large variety of birds. We held our first birding class at the site on April 20, and the students appreciated the ability to easily see some birds to practice using their binoculars.
On another positive note, our social media presence is rapidly increasing thanks to the efforts of Nancy Gilmore and Susan Estep. We are now getting participants in birding classes and field trips that found us through Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. We’ve had attendees from southwest Fresno, an area of Fresno we have long struggled to connect with. People are contacting me regularly now to lead new types of bird walks: Yosemite Lakes, a teacher of at-risk students at Scout Island, and Shinzen Gardens have all recently asked for guided bird walks. It’s great to see this growth.
I’ll be heading to Sacramento next week to lobby our legislators with California Audubon and other California chapter representatives. We will be lobbying for the bills that Audubon has identified as best for the health of birds and the environments they need to thrive. I’ll let you know how it goes, but my previous experience with Audubon Advocacy Day has been very rewarding.
This will be the final issue of The Yellowbill until September. I hope everyone has a great summer, and let’s look forward to more fun birding and conservation work next season.
Help support the bird feeders and fountain at the River Center
As part of our partnership with the River Center, Fresno Audubon Society volunteers George Folsom, Gary Gilmore and Judy Johnson have installed a birdbath fountain and numerous feeders. George built a brush pile, and Susan Estep and Judy have been keeping the feeders full. A video by Nancy Gilmore of the fountain installation can be found here, and a video of a White-crowned Sparrow using the fountain can be found here. The fountain, feeders and brush pile are being heavily used, and we need funds to help offset the costs of the fountain ($400) and bird seed. The new feeding site ensures that children attending the FAS birding classes will have many birds to see. Please help by making a donation. You can donate online here, or send a check to:
Fresno Audubon Society
P.O. Box 3315
Fresno, CA 93650
Thank you for your continuing support of Fresno Audubon Society.
May General Meeting
There will be no general meeting in May. Over the summer the board will be working on ideas to attract more members to the meetings. Our attendance is typically 10-15 people, which is not enough to justify bringing in high-quality outside speakers. Our best attendance (up to 60 people) is for local birders showing their photos. We have surveyed the membership and learned that people do not attend for many reasons, including the fact that the Internet now makes access to information so easy. We have discussed reducing the meetings to quarterly, advertising more broadly, live-streaming the meeting, starting earlier, and never scheduling a field trip on the day following a meeting. We will consider all of these ideas this summer. Anyone wanting to provide input on these meetings may do so to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We do plan to start the season next September with a potluck and birding at Lost Lake Park. We tried to do that for May but ran into a two-month lead time to reserve the facility. Watch for news on this event in late August.
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 link to 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. Follow the links within each writeup for more information on destinations and meeting point locations.
May Field Trips
Wednesday 1 May 2019 – Ball Ranch with George Folsom
Ball Ranch, on the San Joaquin River Parkway offers various habitats, including grasslands, wetlands, ponds, riparian areas and oak groves. Cormorants, ducks, mergansers, grebes, raptors, sparrows, finches, quail, gnatcatchers, woodpeckers and many others can be found there. Occasionally we have found Lewis’s Woodpeckers.
Wednesday 15 May 2019 – Basalt Campground with George Folsom
Join us on a birding outing to Basalt Campground near San Luis Reservoir where many migratory birds stop on their way north in the spring. We have a chance to see several species of warblers, vireos and flycatchers. Yellow-billed Magpies are usually found there along with other resident birds. Roosting owls are frequently observed. Time allowing, we may also bird along the south side of the reservoir or the forebay.
We will be entering a state park with a $10 per car fee so carpool to save money as well as the environment. There are restrooms and picnic tables in the campground. Please meet in front of Target in the Marketplace at El Paseo Shopping Center parking lot near Herndon and Highway 99 at 7:45 AM. We plan to be finished by 1:00 PM.
Checklist: binoculars, scope, field guide, snacks, lunch, water, sunscreen, hat, radios
Saturday 25 May 2019 – Swanson Meadow with Rachel Clark
Wednesday 29 May 2019 – King’s Canyon/Grant’s Grove with Tom Zimoski
Earth Day Fresno
Fresno Audubon was again a major sponsor of Earth Day Fresno held at Radio Park on 20 April. We had a very popular booth with a bird ID game, plants for birds (courtesy of Evergreen Nursery), and lots of bird books. Thanks to Judy Johnson and Nancy and Gary Griesser for setting up the booth, and thanks to Nancy Gilmore for promoting the event on social media. Thanks also to the many volunteers working two-hour shifts: Betty and Ken Cornelisen, Sandy Silva, Judy Haber and Pat Libby. We collected a number of contacts at the event and promoted our social media presence. We’ll want to support this event again next year, and we may participate in other outreach opportunities such as Clovis Botanical Garden’s Spring Into the Garden event. This event capped a year of expanded reach into our community, including walks at Shinzen Gardens, teaching at the River Center and at Scout Island as well as continuing our efforts teaching birding to the public and to third graders at the San Joaquin River Gorge.
May Birding Class
19 May 2019 – Introduction to Birding at the River Center
Fresno Audubon and the River Parkway and Conservation Trust have teamed to offer a recurring Introduction to Birding class at the Coke Hallowell Center for River Studies. Students will learn how to use binoculars, why birding is a fun and valuable hobby, and what resources are available to help you identify birds. After the initial class work you will accompany Fresno Audubon experts on a bird walk around the River Center property including the Hidden Homes Trail. The class will meet at the wisteria arbor just north of the River House. The Parkway is handling registration. Register here. The address of the event is 11605 Old Friant Rd, Fresno, CA 93730. The class will run from 8-10, and children are welcome.
Bring binoculars, snacks, water and sun protection. There is no cost to attend. Fresno Audubon will have binoculars to loan if you do not have your own.
by Jeff Davis
photos by Gary Woods
Including reports for the period of
March 16 to April 15, 2019
A Marbled Godwit April 11 (ph. RS)
and 22 Willets April 16 (ph. DH)
at the Fresno WTP were the only ones reported. Both species are scarce springs transients in our area.
A Red Fox Sparrow along the San Joaquin River west of Biola April 3 (GW) was the only one reported this fall-spring period.
The Yellow Warbler at the Fresno Wastewater Treatment Plant first detected January 11 was reported again March 28 (GW).
Nearly two weeks ahead of schedule, a Wilson’s Warbler was at Avocado Lake Park March 19 (ph. DH).
At least one of the wintering Black-throated Gray Warblers continued at China Creek County Park through at least March 17 (JT).
Cited Observers: Diane Highbaugh, Rick Saxton, Jim Throne, and Gary Woods. m.ob. = many observers, 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, email@example.com), the Fresno County Birders e-mail list, or eBird.
Birds in the News
Links to Recent Articles on Birds
Kenn Kaufman’s Backyard Is One of the Best Spots to Witness Spring Migration
What does the name Kenn Kaufman mean to you? Here at Audubon, it’s a lifeline: As the magazine’s field editor and guide to all birdy matters, Kaufman informs almost every fact and photo we publish. From reporters to scientists, interns to policy wonks, he answers our questions day in and day out with the same grace and accuracy that’s vaulted him to the top of the ornithological world.
But for most birders, Kaufman’s name evokes a spirit of daring and dogged adventure. In 1973, at age 19, he survived—and won—the biggest North American birding competition, hitchiking his way to 673 species in dozens of states. He eventually wrote up his travels in the beloved bestseller Kingbird Highway and went on to publish several avian and ecological field guides. Read more…
Watch These Desert Raptors Snack on a Massive Swarm of Bats
As the sun sets on the New Mexico desert, what appears to be a desolate landscape comes alive. A flash of movement from a cave and then, suddenly, thousands upon thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats flood into the fading daylight. But they are not alone. Swainson’s Hawks soar near the cave awaiting their prey. As the bats emerge, the hawks plunge into the swarm talons-first.
For those who have been keeping up with National Geographic’s Hostile Planet since the TV series premiered on April 1, such scenes of intense survival are not unfamiliar. As its name implies, the series explores how animals survive in some of the world’s harshest habitats, and the ways in which climate change is making their lives tougher still. In each episode—four out of six have aired so far—demanding environments challenge animals time and again. Baby Barnacle Geese jump from cliffs hundreds of feet high. Golden Eagles fight for a bite of a fox carcass. Pounding surf batters Rockhopper Penguins. It’s survival of the fittest on the small screen. Read more…
20,000 kilometres over the ocean: Tracking a songbird’s remarkable journey
Ontario researchers have led an international team that tracked an “incredible” 20,000-kilometre voyage by a tiny songbird in an effort to understand why its population has collapsed and how it can be saved.
Ryan Norris, an ecology professor at the University of Guelph, and his team discovered that the blackpoll warbler, which weighs the same as two loonies, migrates from its breeding grounds in northwest North America to the eastern seaboard where it refuels.
Then it takes a straight, non-stop shot south over the Atlantic Ocean to its winter grounds in the Amazon basin. Then they go back again. The blackpolls repeat that journey every year. Read more…
How birds unlock their super-sense, ultraviolet vision
The ability of finches, sparrows, and many other birds to see a visual world hidden to us is explained in a study published in the journal eLife.
The study reveals two essential adaptions that enable birds to expand their vision into the UV range: chemical changes in light-filtering pigments called carotenoids and the tuning of light-sensitive proteins called opsins. Read more…
Emperor penguins flee unsteady ice after ‘unprecedented’ failure to breed
Antarctica’s charismatic emperor penguins are thought to be particularly vulnerable to climate change, because warming waters are melting the sea ice where they live and breed. Now, the penguins have abandoned one of their biggest colonies after breeding pairs there failed to raise almost any new chicks in 3 years. Although the move cannot directly be attributed to climate change, researchers say it is an ominous sign of things to come for the largest of penguin species. Read more…
Who’s Your Mommy? Why A Screech Owl Helped a Wood Duck Hatch and Raise Her Duckling
Earlier this month, wildlife artist and photographer Laurie Wolf peeped some exciting activity in the bird box outside her Jupiter, Florida, home.
According to National Geographic, Wolf saw a little ball of fluff bobbing around the box, which she assumed was a little owlet since a eastern screech owl moved into the box over a month ago.
Shortly after spotting the hatchling, Wolf and her husband saw the resident adult female pop her head out of the box, and then a yellow-and-black duckling appeared beside the owl. The bird was a baby, but it certainly didn’t belong to the bird of prey. Read more…
Fossil of first known perching bird found
The fossilised remains of what could be the earliest example of a passerine bird have been unearthed in Wyoming, USA, according to a paper published in Current Biology. The remains are believed to date back to the early Eocene, 52 million years ago.
Passerine birds are those that have feet adapted for perching and account for approximately 6,500 of the 10,000 bird species alive today. But scientists are unsure of their origins. 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 now have an Instagram site (@fresnoaudubon), and we will showcase photos there as well.
Taken at Woodward Park in February 2019:
Taken 3 June 2016 at Convict Lake, Mono County, CA:
Taken 3 March 2016 at Estero Llano Grande SP, Hidalgo County, TX:
Taken 2 July 2016 at SKP Park of the Sierra, Coarsegold, Madera County, CA:
Taken 20 October 2018 at Merced NWR, Merced County, CA:
Taken 2 October 2018 at Wymann Mangrove Boardwalk, Brisbane, Australia:
Taken 15 October 2017 at Etty Bay, Queensland, Australia:
Taken 7 March 2016 at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley SP, Hidalgo County, TX:
All photos taken 12 April 2019 at Lost Lake Park:
Taken 29 March 2019 at Millerton Lake:
Taken 29 March 2019 at Millerton Lake:
Taken 5 April 2019 at San Joaquin River Trail overlooking Millerton Lake:
Taken 5 April 2019 at Lost Lake Park:
Taken 29 March 2019 at Millerton Lake:
Taken 4 April 2019 at Road 208, Madera County, CA:
Taken 12 April 2019 at Dorstan Lane, Madera County, CA:
Taken 4 April 2019 at Road 406, Madera County, CA:
Taken 4 April 2019 at Road 208, Madera County, CA:
All photos taken at Cañada Larga Road, Ventura County, CA: