California Fish and Game Commission decision brings Tricolored Blackbird one step closer to extinction
On June 11, the California Fish and Game Commission voted 2-1 to deny candidacy of the Tricolored Blackbird under the California Endangered Species Act. The Commission, which in December voted to grant the species emergency protections under the Act, rejected the recommendation of the Department of Fish and Wildlife to proceed with listing.
"The Fish and Game Commission betrayed its mandate," said Brigid McCormack, executive director of Audubon California. "The Commission's stated mission is to ensure the long term sustainability of California's wildlife, but today two of its members chose politics over sound policy and rejected the science-based recommendations of its own staff in order to deny protection to one of California's most imperiled birds."
The Tricolored Blackbird, which once numbered in the millions, has declined by 44 percent since 2011. The loss of 90 percent of its historic habitat is likely the main cause of its decline. A recent survey conducted by UC Davis with the support of Audubon California and the California Dept. of Fish & Wildlife counted 145,000 Tricolored Blackbirds remaining in California, down from 260,000 in 2011.
In recent years, Audubon California has supported efforts by the Natural Resources Conservation Service to create agreements with dairy farmers to delay harvests to allow the young birds to fledge. These agreements with farmers have saved many thousands of Tricolored Blackbirds.
Because of the loss of their traditional wetland habitat, Tricolored Blackbirds often create their huge colonies on dairy farm wheat fields. This puts them at risk when the farmer needs to harvest the field before the young birds have fledged.
"While we are displeased the Tricolored Blackbird won't be listed this year, this set back will not hinder our commitment to its recovery," McCormack said. "We are committed to working closely with our partners at government agencies like the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Natural Resource Conservation Service, as well as agricultural groups like Western United Dairymen, to save this iconic species from extinction."
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.
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
|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
|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
|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.
For more information about beneficial insects please visit:
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 (http://digest.sialia.com) 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!
Rare and Unusual Occurrences
at Stockton, Cal.
(from The Condor, Mar., 1901)
This year seems an unusual one in the way of bird migration in San Joaquin County, having added to the list thus far several new visitants and also causing an influx of a single species heretofore unknown in this locality, though common in the eastern foothills. I refer to the Blue-Fronted Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri frontalis.) (Steller’s Jay)
This species has become so numerous in San Joaquin County, and especially within the city of Stockton, that it has for the time being, taken the place of the noisy California Jay (Aphelocoma californica.) (Western Scrub Jay) My record of its first appearance is dated November 11, 1900, at which time I saw two of this species in the vicinity of Stockton. Two days later I saw several of the birds within the limits of the city and from that time on they became quite numerous, showing very little fear in their new haunts and being seemingly at home in the white oaks (Valley Oaks) with which the city abounds. Mr. Belding (Lyman Belding) informs me that he has found them in the heart of the Sacramento Valley, but has no record of their occurrence in this locality previous to this year.
The abundance of the birds is shown by the result of a “blue-jay” shoot which five sportsmen from Stockton took part in on December 2, 1900. They confined themselves to a small area northeast of the city and as a result of their shoot brought home 220 birds, 100 of which were California Jays (Western Scrub Jays) while the remaining 120 were of the Blue-fronted (Steller’s) species. The birds are still here in large numbers and show no signs of decreasing.
W. B. Sampson
Stockton, Cal., Feb. 14, 1901
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 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, 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.
The April 19th San Joaquin Audubon Society field trip to Woodbridge Wilderness Area, led by Mark Elness had a flock of eight Band-tailed Pigeons fly over.
On an April 25th outing to Heritage Oaks winery Mark and Lorna Elness saw a male Costa’s Hummingbird and Hammond’s Flycatcher. David Yee also found a Dusky Flycatcher and a Gray Flycatcher. On May 2nd, Kurt Mize saw a Dusky Flycatcher at Dentoni Park.