Page updated: August 30, 2015



A California Chapter of the National Audubon Society Serving the communities of Stockton, Lodi, Tracy, Manteca, Escalon, Ripon, and Lathrop--All of San Joaquin County.



Places to Visit on our Website

Chapter Officers & Board Members 

Program and Field Trip Information 

Field Checklist of the Birds of San Joaquin County

Bird Sightings in San Joaquin County

Membership Benefits-JOIN US!



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Other Web Pages to Visit


All About Birds-Cornell Online Guide to Identifying Birds

· Help with Identifying Birds

What to do with an injured or orphaned bird

Wildlife Rehab Information

Central Valley Birds Listserve

San Joaquin Birds Listserve

National Audubon Society 

Central Valley Bird Club 

California County Geographic Birding Guide 

Kern River Preserve

Artist Keith Hansen

Artist Rene C. Reyes

Go Green

If you'd like to receive the Hoot Owl electronically, you can subscribe at SJ Audubon Electronic Newsletter Subscribers

Hoot Owl September-October 2015

Hoot Owl July-Aug 2015

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Hoot Owl January-February 2015

Hoot Owl November-December 2014

Hoot Owl September-October 2014

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Hoot Owl May-June 2014

Hoot Owl March-April 2014

Hoot Owl January-February 2014

19th Annual Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival

November 6-8, 2015

Crane Festival 2015

2015 Crane Festival Artwork, Myra Steward

About the Festival

Long before Lodi existed, Sandhill Cranes descended into the rich delta wetlands at the end of a long migratory journey, some from nesting grounds as far away as Siberia. As they greeted California’s earliest explorers, these magnificent birds darkened the skies over winter marshes. In awe-inspiring numbers, and with a prehistoric call, stately gait, and elegant choreography, the Sandhill Crane continues to attract and inspire visitors.

Each year thousands of visitors make their way to Lodi area wildlife refuges and farmlands to experience first hand one of nature’s spectacles. The abundance of crane habitat continues to nourish our agricultural roots, with water, soil, and climate that sustains the birds, enriches our lives, and benefits our local economy.

For 19 years, Lodi’s Sandhill Crane Festival has celebrated the return of the cranes. In partnership with the City of Lodi, the Festival continues this November, welcoming an ever-growing circle of friends to our community to share the wonder of the Sandhill Crane ... and so much more.

Get the latest Crane Festival news.  Like us on Facebook or join our mailing list.

19th Annual Central Valley Birding Symposium

November 19-22, 2015


Art by Richard Kirkman

The Central Valley Bird Club will be hosting the 19th Annual Central Valley Birding Symposium Nov. 19-22, 2015 at the Stockton Hilton Hotel in Stockton, CA.  Please come and help us kick off this year’s CVBS!  Come meet the CVBS board & staff members! Reconnect with old friends!  Meet new ones!  Take advantage of the scrumptious Hors D’oeuvres buffet & No Host Bar on Thursday night. 

Thursday Night's Keynote speakers are Ed Harper & Ed Pandolfino presenting a program on "A Central Valley Year of Sights & Sounds”.  The CVBS gets off to a supercharged start with this lively and informative presentation. Both Eds are widely known, popular and highly sought-after speakers. 

Friday Night's keynote program is presented by Steve N.G. Howell on “Shift Happens: Rare {Vagrant} Birds in North America.“   Steve is an acclaimed field ornithologist & prolific Writer. He is an international bird tour leader with WINGS and a Research Associate at Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO). 

Saturday Night's keynote program is presented by Kate Marianchild on “Our Magnificent Valley Oaks; Hubs of their Habitats."  Kate Marianchild is a naturalist, birder, and author of the best-selling Secrets of the Oak Woodlands: Plants, and Animals among California's Oaks.  

Workshops include: "Birding: the 12-step Program--Bird ID explained  by Steve N.G. Howell,  "Shorebird ID Workshop" by Jon Dunn,  "A Mini Tricolored Blackbird Symposium", moderated by Dan Airola, and a photo workshop by Bob Steele. Plus, informative workshops by Philip Garone, Keith Hansen, Sal Salerno and Jim Burcio.  

Our field trips always turn up exciting birds. Add in the always entertaining and educational Bird ID Panel, the wonderful display of art and gifts for yourself or others at the Birder’s Market and the camaraderie of hundreds of like-minded folks, and you know you’ll have a good time! There's something for everyone interested in birds. Come and join us to bird, learn, and just have fun! 

To look over the line-up of speakers, workshops, and fieldtrips, check out our website at:

REGISTRATION is now open 


CVBS Steering Committee

Frances Oliver, Registrar

Judge halts 30-year permit to kill eagles at wind farms

August 12th, 2015 · by Garrison Frost

     In a decision that has far-reaching implications for both bird conservation and wind energy, a U.S. District Court judge yesterday set aside a controversial rule that would allow operators of wind energy facilities to accidentally kill Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles for up to 30 years. The eagles are currently protected under federal statute, though wind energy companies can obtain a five-year permit. The industry pushed for the extension to give developers more “regulatory certainty.”
     U.S. District Court Judge Lucy H. Koh determined that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service failed to adequately determine the impact of the permits on eagle populations, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit was Debi Shearwater, a charismatic leader of bird tours along California’s central coast. The American Bird Conservancy was also among the plaintiffs.  When the permits were announced, Audubon was among the groups to express outrage. Audubon President David Yarnold said:
     “Instead of balancing the need for conservation and renewable energy, Interior wrote the wind industry a blank check. It’s outrageous that the government is sanctioning the killing of America’s symbol, the Bald Eagle. Audubon will continue to look for reasonable, thoughtful partners to wean America off fossil fuels because that should be everyone’s highest priority.”


eBird Mobile

The new eBird Mobile app makes it possible to collect and submit observations directly to eBird from the field.  iOS and Android users who were accustomed to entering eBird data using the BirdLog app are encouraged to switch to eBird Mobile, the new and official app for entering data to eBird.

Merlin Bird ID

In a breakthrough for computer vision and for bird watching, researchers and bird enthusiasts have enabled computers to achieve a task that stumps most humans—identifying hundreds of bird species pictured in photos. Build in concert with the exceedingly popular Merlin app, the Merlin Bird ID tool lets you upload an image of a bird that you’ve photographed, and if the photo shows one of the supported species, it returns the correct species in the top 3 results, 90% of the time. It currently supports 400 species in North America, but will eventually be expanding to more species in North America, and worldwide.  Give it a try.

borrowed from Audubon At Home

Plants for Birds and Wildlife

Planting for birds
Spicebush, photo courtesy USDA-NRCS Plants Database

Birds and wildlife have adapted to utilize native plants that provide food, cover, nesting sites or a combination of resources. Native plants provide food at different times of the year to birds in the form of seeds, fruit or as invertebrate host sites. The growth habits of native plants present recognizable, safe nesting sites and cover that protect birds from inclement weather and predation. The importance of these plants to birds, insects and other wildlife cannot be overstated.

Using native plants in your backyard landscape will offer the most resources to birds and wildlife and serve as rewarding attractants. On these pages you will find some examples of plants that are particularly valuable to specific birds and other beneficial organisms. A more comprehensive database with regional references is in the works at Audubon At Home and will be available online in the near future.

Plantings for birds in our area:

Nuttall's Woodpecker, Oak Titmouse, Yellow-rumped Warbler- California Live Oak

Wrentit, California Towhee, Spotted Towhee - California Wax Myrle

For more information about native plants please visit:

California Native Plant Society

Master Gardener's Program in San Joaquin County

Plants for Beneficial Insects

Predators. Parasitoids. Pollinators.

Welcome them into your Healthy Yard.

These are the insects, bugs and other organisms on the front line of pest control in your yard, guarding against destructive bugs and helping plants reproduce. Nature supplies these beneficial bugs of course, but you can encourage them to remain in your yard by providing them with some essential elements.

Nearly every plant in a natural environment will sustain at least some damage by pests…it is part of the natural balance. But pests don’t overpopulate a natural ecosystem due to the presence of natural enemies. In a healthy yard with its native plants and pesticide-free environment, pests will appear—and so will natural enemies.

THE INSECTS – Wild Friends, Natural Enemies

lady bug
Ladybug feeding on cottonwood leaf beetle eggs, photo by James Solomon, USDA Forest Service

Move Over, Lady - It has long been known that ladybugs (or lady beetles), especially in their larval stage, are "good bugs" with voracious appetites for aphids. Without dismissing the value of ladybugs as garden friends, there are other natural pest enemies that are much less conspicuous but even more valuable. The lowly "gnat" that flies by your ear may in fact be the tiny eulophid wasp – a full-grown one is just one-eighth inch – on her way to lay up to one hundred eggs in the pupae of tree-destroying beetles.

Predatory and parasitoid flies and wasps are key players in the biological control of insect pests. Many, in fact, are reared in laboratories and dispersed into crops, forests and neighborhoods to control exotic insect pests (i.e. elm leaf beetle). Click on the link below to learn more about the tiny denizens of your yard and other beneficial organisms.

THE PLANTS – Nectar for Natural Pest Enemies

hover fly
Syrphid (hover) Fly, photo by Carl Dennis, Auburn University

Nectar is an important dietary supplement for beneficial wasps and flies. Asters and their cousins (such as daisies and goldenrod) offer excellent resources and there are native varieties in every part of the country. Flowers that are composites - where many small symmetrical flowers occur in a central disk - are perfect for small wasps and flies such as the common predaceous hover fly (pictured left). Many of the beneficial insects are small and require a short flower structure in order to access the nectar.

These same flowering plants will attract a wide range of important pollinators such as native bees, butterflies and honeybees. When they produce seed, these plants will provide a valuable food source for birds and other wildlife in the fall and winter.

Plant a variety of plant types such as groundcover, trees, and shrubs, mimicking natural growth patterns to form complex habitat that will be home to a greater variety of beneficial insects.

THE INSECTS – Information and pictures of the lesser-known but effective natural enemies that occupy your backyard.

PLANTS TO ATTRACT BENEFICIAL INSECTS – Your guide to some stellar examples of the useful plants that will attract a variety of beneficial insects. Look for examples of similar native flowers occurring in your region.






Joe-pye Weed


For more information about beneficial insects please visit:

Xerxes Society

Beneficial Insects in Your Garden


If you’re interested in finding out what rare and unusual birds are being seen in California (or anywhere in the US, for that matter), you should check out Sialia, aka The Birding Lists Digest.  Sialia ( was created to help birders find out "what's going on lately" in various regions of the U.S. with a minimum of hassle. The Digest automatically compiles all posts to dozens of birding email lists and organizes them by region, by day, and by list. Birders can view the current day's messages, or browse messages from the last 30 days. This system allows birders to find information about rare bird sightings and other goings-on around the country in a timely and efficient manner.  Check it out!



Friends Who Are Gone But Contributed So Much


Verna Johnston, 95, a founding member of the Calaveras Big Trees Association and resident of Camp Connell, died in Carmel Valley March 1st.  Verna was a science educator, photographer and writer as well as a self-described lover of nature.

Born and educated in Illinois, she came to California, where she taught biology and environmental science at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton for 37 years. A well-known naturalist, Mrs. Johnston lived to educate and reveal the beauty and wonder in nature.

She published more than 100 articles in professional journals and popular magazines ranging from Audubon to The New York Times. Her first book, “Sierra Nevada,” was published in 1970 as part of the series “A Naturalist’s America,” edited by Roger Tory Peterson. Life Magazine featured her in an article in November 1998.

In 1982, she retired to Camp Connell to “hibernate, hike and write.” It was there that she wrote two more books, “California Forests & Woodlands: A Natural History” in 1994 and “Sierra Nevada: The Naturalist’s Companion” in 1999, both published by The University of California Press.  Her photos illustrate these books and the most recent is still available at the new Calaveras Big Trees State Park bookstore.

Ms. Johnston was an active member of the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, the Wilderness Society and other groups.  She was one of the first presidents of the (then) Stockton Audubon Society and was a respected environmental leader in Stockton for many years. She worked to protect native plants and animals in the Sierra and in California’s Central Valley, and was also active in helping to set aside Point Reyes National Seashore. She served on the San Joaquin County Parks and Recreation Commission during the time when Oak Grove Regional Park was developed and was a leader in having part of that park preserved as a natural area. She was also a founding member of the Calaveras Big Trees Association, where her photos will be on view at the new visitors’ center.

Verna donated books and photos to the Calaveras Big Trees Association and supported the Park in other ways as well.  Her love of books and the out-of-doors also led her to establish the Verna Johnson Nature Collection at the Arnold branch of the Calaveras County Public Library.

Following her wishes, Verna's ashes will be mixed with the earth of the Sierra Nevada, the place she called "home.”
Steve Stocking, Education Chair
San Joaquin Delta College, Retired
Board Member, Calaveras Big Trees Association


(January 4, 1938 - November 9, 2014)

Steve at Kings CanyonSteve planting Oaks

Steve Stocking teaching a wildflower class at King's Canyon / Steve Stocking planting native grasses at Oak Grove Park

One of our great San Joaquin Audubon Society members has left us. Steve was a huge contributor to our club for decades, leading bird and wildflower field trips, serving as our President, Director at Large, Education Chair, Hoot Owl Newsletter Editor, Historian, and Christmas Bird Count Compiler. Never one to be idle, Steve also served as Conservation Chair for our local Sierra Club, Delta-Sierra Group, the California Native Plant Society, the Nature Conservancy, the Sequoia Natural History Association, the League of Women Voters, Calaveras Big Trees Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

Steve loved to observe nature and talk to people about it, to share his knowledge and thoughts about the birds, the plants, and the environment.  Steve was not afraid to share his views on unchecked development, destruction of the environment, or unsustainable habitat.  He was an active contributor to the "Letters to the Editor" column in the Stockton Record where he shared his views on the environment and other topics.  But he didn't just talk, Steve made things happen.  He believed in helping shape the world to be a better place.  He played a major role in crafting the San Joaquin Habitat Conservation Plan with Waldo Holt and the Council of Governments to guarantee habitat would exist in the future for threatened and endangered plants and animals.  He was instrumental in establishing Oak Grove Regional Park with Verna Johnston and others, ensuring there was a natural area in the park available for wildlife.

Although Steve retired after 35 years of teaching, first at Franklin High School then San Joaquin Delta College, he never stopped teaching or learning.  He was always mentoring others to carry on the work he started.  David Yee spoke of how Steve enthusiastically recruited him to become an active Audubon Board member in the 1970's and how Steve was still discussing the mysterious distribution of Acorn woodpeckers with him just this past October.  And Kathy Hieb, recipient of the Sandhill Crane Festival's 2014 Conservation Award, talked about how Steve Stocking inspired her to be active in conservation during her acceptance speech this November.

Steve was a teacher to many, an inspiration to most, and a friend to all.

.Kasey Foley, Programs Chair, San Joaquin Audubon Society

(March 22, 1934 – March 18, 2015)

Margaret Williams

     Margaret Williams, past president of San Joaquin Audubon Society, passed away on March 18th of this year.  She was a few days short of her 81st birthday.  
     Her family moved to California from Colorado at an early age, and her father helped with construction of the Oroville dam.  She had a brief marriage, after which she attended nursing school in the Bay Area.  She worked as a nurse for several years. She went back to Stanislaus State and the University of Hawaii to receive her Masters in Medical Geography in the 1970’s, which took her to Samoa and Indonesia.  She used to regale us with stories of the long houses she slept in, with rats nibbling at her hair, and of delicacies like chicken lungs that she was served while overseas.  After returning to the states, she worked for several years at SJ General Hospital in French Camp.  She eventually ended up as director of nursing at the Hospice of San Joaquin, where she retired around 2000.  
     She became active in the birding community as the result of her volunteer work at Micke Grove Zoo in the early 1990s.  This is where I first met her.  We became fast friends and took countless birding excursions throughout the county, state, and country. Several of us from SJAS enjoyed her company on birding trips to Veracruz and Costa Rica. She was incredibly curious and adventurous, traveling to Trinidad, the Yucatan, Ecuador, Morocco and Scotland as well.   In addition to birding, she took road trips throughout the US with friends and family.
     Margaret served on the board of directors of SJAS for most of the 1990s.  She was a key member of the group that assembled our local county birding guide (now out of print).  She assisted with field trips for the local group, as well as the Crane Festival and the Central Valley Birding Symposium.  After retirement, she relocated to Nevada City to be closer to family, and she became active in the Sierra Foothills AS. 
     Margaret was renowned for the memorable “nosh” that she brought on birding trips, and for the legendary meals she provided on overnight SJAS camping trips to Mono Lake, the White Mountains, and the Kern River Preserve.  She loved wildlife and loved to watch nature programs on PBS.  She would often pick up the phone and strongly “suggest” that I turn on the TV to watch certain programs on birds as well.  In addition to nature, she enjoyed music and the theater. We often attended concerts and the opera together.  She loved playing games, especially Scrabble.  
   Margaret was tough as nails and as sharp as a tack up to the end.  She leaves behind a son and two grandsons, as well as numerous cousins.  SJAS was lucky to have her sharp wit and insightful curiosity.  Her passing leaves a great void for those of us who knew and loved her.  

Jim Rowoth


June 15, 2015 – August 10, 2015
(All sightings pertain to San Joaquin County)
Submitted by Liz West

On Fourth of July, Mark and Lorna Elness saw a Bonaparte’s Gull at the Tracy Sewage Ponds. It continued through August 2nd.  On August 4th, Sal Salerno reported two adult Western Gulls at Koster Rd. ponds. They are attracted to the Recology compost yard nearby.

Mark Elness found a Short-billed Dowitcher, July 12th at the Ripon Sewage Ponds.

On August 10th, David Yee visited both Stockton and Lodi Sewage ponds. At the Stockton Sewage Pond entrance visible from outside the ponds was a juvenile Willet. In the Lodi sewage ponds, he found four Lesser Yellowlegs and a juvenile Bank Swallow.

San Joaquin Audubon Society
PO Box 7755, Stockton, California 95267

For more information contact:
San Joaquin Audubon Society President: Dale Smith,

Send website comments or questions to:

Kasey Foley:




For San Joaquin Audubon Field Trips visit our Field Trips Page.




 Membership in the National Audubon Society includes:


San Joaquin Audubon's Hoot Owl newsletter 6 times per year.

AUDUBON magazine.

Monthly field trips led by San Joaquin Audubon members.

General Membership meetings from September-December and February-April.  We often have local experts presenting topics such as Beginning Birding, Gardening for birds and butterflies, Raptor Rehabilitation, Sandhill Cranes-our local winter wonders, Swainson's Hawk conservation, Slide presentations on trips to Mexico, Galapagos, Honduras, Florida,and much, much more.

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