In December we issued an end-of-year financial appeal, and nearly a hundred Chapter members responded generously, contributing over $4,000. Your contributions, coupled with a wonderful gift from the C.A. Webster Foundation—a long-time SJAS supporter—will allow us to expand our program in the coming year. Thanks!
Alan England, President/Membership Chair
Help SJ Audubon Go Green
Each issue of The Hoot Owl is distributed to 600+ recipients. That's a lot of paper and energy expenditure that adds to our carbon footprint--not to mention a $2900 annual drain on our minimal treasury. Many conservation organizations are moving towards electronic-only communications. If you are willing to receive The Hoot Owl in an electronic-only version, please let us know at email@example.com.
Alan England, President/Membership Chair
THE 43rd WALLACE-BELLOTA CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT
On Sunday, December 28th, 45 intrepid bird enthusiasts took to the rural foothills and fields of eastern San Joaquin and western Calaveras counties to see what birds they could locate there between 7am and 6pm. Area Audubon society birders have been doing this in the same area, at about the same date for nearly 50 years. 44 miles were covered on foot and 421 by auto by 13 groups of from two to five birders per group. There was a record turn out of 45 birders aged from 10 to 75, some novices and others who started on this count 43 years ago. One group fielded a family of five, including a kid who aspires to become an ornithologist. She is off to a good start.
You know how dry it has been here and this was evidenced by the dry and nearly dry ponds in the area. There were not as many water birds as in wetter years, but Barrow's Goldeneye were spotted in the Calaveras River as they have been on only two other counts. For the first time on the count a (usually coastal) Sanderling was spotted by the group led by ace birder David Yee. Another first for this count was a Chipping Sparrow found by Andy Engilis who came down from Elk Grove to help with the count. (Most intelligent Chipping Sparrows go south for the winter.) Other unusual sightings included the hybrid Red-shafted X Yellow-shafted Flicker and the Slate-colored form of the Fox Sparrow.
The weather for the count was great but dry, and although we had a record number of counters the total number of individual birds was down as was the number of most species. The number of crows and magpies, impacted by West-Nile Virus, is still down but the number of Eurasian Collared Doves is up for the third straight year. The total number of species seen on the Wallace-Bellota Count did increase from 135 to 139 thanks to the efforts of our 45 counters. Come join us next year, you can help to locate, identify, count or record our local birds.
Steve Stocking, Compiler
Band-tailed Pigeons/ Passenger Pigeons
We did not note any Band-tailed Pigeons on the Wallace-Bellota Count this year although they have been seen on four of the prior counts. They move around in flocks and are attracted to areas where there is a large production of acorns (mast). This year some locations had abundant acorn production and others had an average year. Different species of oaks produce acorns on different schedules, which are not in synchrony. No wonder this species wanders. They do show up at the feeders of one of our neighbors who puts out peanuts and sunflower seeds. David Lukas (2011) describes them as being highly episodic, and Beedy and Pandolfino (2013) point out that they roam nomadically in search of food. They are hunted, but occur in smaller flocks than did the Passenger Pigeon, and so escaped extinction although their numbers did drop when they were heavily hunted.
There are some "experts" interested in "de-extinction" of the Passenger Pigeon who hope to resurrect a genetically approximate "simulacrum.” They have recovered Passenger Pigeon genes from the toe pads of museum specimens and they plan to combine them with genes from the Band-tailed Pigeon which are genetically the most closely related species. The manipulated eggs would be inserted into a Band-tailed Pigeon. Does this seem like a good idea to you? A writer in the January 6th issue of the New Yorker points out that the Passenger Pigeons lived in large flocks which, when their habitat was destroyed "descended on cultivated fields like plagues of locusts." The writer also reminds us that in Dubai in 2011 a "chimeric duck" was successfully engineered which walked like a duck and quacked like a duck but at least reproductively was a chicken!
Steve Stocking Education Chair
December 9, 2013– February 13, 2014
(All sightings pertain to San Joaquin County)
Submitted by Liz West
Nan Ballot found an out of season Blue Grosbeak along the Calaveras River west of I-5 in Stockton on December 28th. She has seen the grosbeak several times since then, most recently the 30th of January.
On January 16th, David Yee found a Long-tailed Duck and a gray morph Gyrfalcon. The Long-tailed Duck was in the Mokelumne River between Bouldin and Staten Islands. The Gyrfalcon was on the ground near Hwy 12 on Bouldin Island feeding on a kill, it then flew up and disappeared behind a berm.
Cliff Hawley, Joanne Katanic and Frances Oliver had an early Violet-green Swallow on Staten Island January 18th.
David Yee saw an immature Glaucous Gull in a flooded field at the west end of Woodbridge Rd. on January 25th. On January 29th, Terry Ronneberg found 18 Western Gulls at the Koster Rd. gravel pond.
Tristan McKee found a Harris’s Sparrow on Austin Rd. just north of the entrance to Caswell State Park and at least one Chestnut-collared Longspur at the west end of West Lathrop Rd. in a large flock of Horned Larks on February 10th.
San Joaquin Audubon Society
PO Box 7755, Stockton, California 95267
For more information contact:
San Joaquin Audubon Society President: Alan Englandwdchkgsqrl@yahoo.com firstname.lastname@example.org
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