Page updated: June 27, 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.



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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

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Hoot Owl July-August 2015

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Hoot Owl March-April 2014

Hoot Owl January-February 2014

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."

Tricolored Blackbird Message

from Chris Conard, Preside of the Central Valley Bird Club:

CV Bird Club Members and others,

I'm proud to announce a milestone for the Central Valley Bird Club with
the publication of an expanded issue of the Bulletin dedicated to
Tricolored Blackbird Ecology and Conservation.

The issue is available free to Club members, and is required reading for
anyone interested or involved in Tricolored Blackbird conservation. Others
can receive the issue by joining the Club or buying it separately (see

Please distribute this announcement to all you think might be interested:

The Tricolored Blackbird, one of California’s most
emblematic species, was recently listed as Endangered under the California
Endangered Species Act and has been petitioned for Federal ESA listing.
The species has declined dramatically in recent years.

The Central Valley Bird Club has recently published a special expanded
issue of the Central Valley Bird Club Bulletin on the Tricolored
Blackbird. The issue includes nine articles by species authorities Dr.
Robert Meese and Edward C. (Ted) Beedy and other active researchers and

The special issue issue provides the most up-to-date information on the
status of the Tricolored Blackbird, previous and new techniques for
estimating the size of the population, and ecology of Central Valley and
Sierra foothill populations. Importantly, the issue also includes key
conservation recommendations regarding species recovery needs and
guidelines for managing nesting and foraging habitats. Finally, it also
reports on several new programs designed to protect and recover the species
on agricultural and grazing lands.

The special issue is required reading for anyone interested or involved in
Tricolored Blackbird conservation. Central Valley Bird Club members will
receive the special issue as a part of their normal membership subscription
to the Bulletin. Others may receive the issue by joining the Central
Valley Bird Club ($25/year, which includes quarterly issues of the
Bulletin) or may order an individual copy of the Tricolored Blackbird
special issue for $15. Proceeds from the sale of the special issue will be
earmarked for Tricolored Blackbird conservation projects.

To join the club or solely purchase the
Tricolored Blackbird issue, you can do so through the same Online Reg site
used to sign up for the Central Valley Birding Symposium:

or send mailing information,
and email address and a check ($25 membership or $15 to purchase special
issue) to:
Central Valley Bird Club
c/o Frances Oliver
1817 Songbird Place
Lodi, CA 95240

Congratulations to the authors and everyone who worked on this issue and
especially to the Bulletin' s editor, Dan Airola, who has worked for many
months bringing everything together and completing this important and
timely publication.

Thank you,

Chris Conard
President, Central Valley Bird Club


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!


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 at Kings Canyon Steve 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


April 15, 2015– June 3, 2015

(All sightings pertain to San Joaquin County)

Submitted by Liz West


 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.

The Steller’s Jay is still present at Lodi Lake as of April 25th. Jim Rowoth reports that it was very noisy and obvious.

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.

On May 12th, Ralph Baker found a Gray Flycatcher at Jacob Meyers Recreation Area.

Pat and Dave Croft saw a male Baltimore Oriole at Westgate Landing Park on May 15th. There is a good possibility of Bullock’s Oriole parentage a couple generations back based on amount of white in the wings and other field marks visible in photos examined by James Rising, an expert on Bullock’s/Baltimore hybrids. The oriole has been seen through June 1st.

While at Westgate Landing Park on May 16th, Pat Bacchetti found a Calliope Hummingbird and Gil Ewing saw a Dusky Flycatcher.

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

For more information contact:
San Joaquin Audubon Society President: Alan England

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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