Feb 2014 Stanislaus Audubon

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Feb 2014 Stanislaus Audubon

Transcript of Feb 2014 Stanislaus Audubon

  • Valley Habitat 1

    The Valley Habitat February 2014

    A Joint Publ icat ion of the Stan islaus Audubon Soc iety

    and the Yokuts Group of the S ierra Club

    Trimming the Carbon Footprint

    by Steve Tomlinson, Yokuts Treasurer

    Hi folks. Needless to say there are several

    transportation options which help to reduce the burn-

    ing of fossil fuels. In our area this would include

    Amtrak, bus services, hybrid vehicles, electric cars, or

    bicycles. Personally I have not driven a car for over

    eight years. My primary focus today will be on elec-

    tric bikes or E-bikes. I recently spent a day in Sacra-

    mento and purchased my third E-bike. It was quite

    convenient as the bike shop is three blocks from the

    Amtrak station and close to good food as well as a

    Starbucks. I test drove a couple of bikes on an asphalt

    trail along the Sacramento River. After the first ride

    I said "It's FUN" when asked how the ride was. The

    bike is a "pedal assist" bicycle in that you can regulate

    how much the electric motor assists your pedaling. Or

    you can go with throttle only. The range of mileage

    on a battery charge ranges from about 10 to 25 miles.

    Top speed is 20 m.p.h. There are lots of electric bikes

    available with a range in prices as well.

    I could talk for days about alternate transporta-

    tion and E-bikes. I am more than open to anyone's


    However the prevalent concern for me

    is whether individuals are willing to make a change or

    sacrifice to help save the planet.

    The bike shop owner tells me that environ-

    mental reasons account for about 5%-10% of E-bike

    purchases. The #1 reason is to have "fun". Behind fun

    are saving money and health. Of course change is not

    always easy, even when done for good reasons. Re-

    sistance, rationalizations and excuses are always easy

    and convenient. My experience is that cutting the car-

    bon or making a lifestyle change is not really that

    hard. New habits can take the place of old ones.

    Yokuts Group of the Sierra Club Program 7p.m. Friday, February 21, 2014

    Adam Blauert : New and Future Hiking Opportunities in California

    Adam Blauert is a correspondent to the Merced Sun-Star. He's an avid outdoorsman who enjoys

    fishing, backpacking, and exploring the western states.

    His talk will center on new and future hiking opportunities in California. For those who want a sneak

    preview of what Adam could present, take a look at

    some of his columns in the Merced Sun-Star at mercedsunstar.com. His topics range from the dessert to the

    coast, the mountains to the Central Valley.

    Be sure to explore his galleries on Bodie, Death Valley and the Black Rock Dessert.

    College Avenue Congregational Church 1341 College Avenue - Refreshments and socializing begin at 6:45 p.m. and the meeting starts at 7:00 p.m. -Non-members are always welcome! The program is free and open to the public.

    The beautiful 2014 Sierra Club Engagement Calendars and Wall Calendars will be sold, discounted, at the

    Ferbruary 21st program or you can call Doug Hardie at (209) 524-6651 to order them.

  • Valley Habitat 2



    On November 30, Justin Bosler had a PALM WARBLER at Dinosaur Point in San Luis Reservoir; that is only the second Merced County record for this species. Kent van Vuren had three PECTO-RAL SANDPIPERS and a RUFF at the restricted access Los Baos Water Treatment Plant on De-cember 4. At that same location on December 18, Kent had a SAGEBRUSH SPARROW, a species which was split from the newly named Bells Sparrow last summer. Gary Woods saw six MOUN-TAIN PLOVERS off Sandy Mush Road on December 7. On December 28, another RUFF was found by Al DeMartini and Peter Metropulos at the Los Baos Water Treatment Facility ponds. Dale Swanberg found a NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL at Henderson Park near Snelling on December 30.

    Although not a county record, this was the first visual sighting of this species of owl in Merced County. On January 3, Kent van Vuren reported four BROWN PELICANS continuing at San Luis Reservoir. Also on January 3, Kent Johnson had a male adult VERMILION FLYCATCHER on Santa Fe Grade Road. This is possibly the same bird returning to that location over several previ-ous winters.


    Harold Reeve, Bill Amundsen, Eric Caine, and Ralph Baker had a female GREATER SCAUP on December 8 at the

    Modesto Water Quality Control Facility. On December 11, Sal Salerno had a TOWNSENDS SOLITAIRE in Del Puerto Canyon. Harold Reeve found a HERMIT WARBLER associating with Townsends Warblers at Tuolumne River Regional Park on December 24. While re-finding this warbler at that park on December 28, Frances Oliver had a

    WESTERN TANAGER. The Hermit Warbler and tanager are apparently overwintering, which is possibly due to the

    warm, dry climate that our county had in December.

    Sherrie and Harold Reeve found a juvenile female YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER on Sonora Road, one mile

    west of Knights Ferry, on December 30. If this sapsucker is accepted by the S.B.R.C, it would be only the third record of this species since 1987. Jurgen Lehnert, a birder visiting California from Germany, found a BELLS SPARROW in Del Puerto Canyon on January 6.

    (NOTE: The LARK BUNTING found on November 1 was still seen by several observers on the Caswell-Westley

    Christmas Bird Count on January 5.)


    John Sterling YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER John Harris

  • Stan islaus Audubon Soc iety

    Valley Habitat 3

    All birdwatchers, from

    backyard enthusiasts to ornithol-

    ogists, began as beginners. During

    that learning curve, each of them

    has wondered, Why doesnt that bird in the field look like this one

    in the book? Intermediates still get

    stumped, and even advanced bird-

    ers have been known to retract

    their initial calls. In exploring

    some reasons for misidentification,

    I will have to state the obvious

    again. But if we remember how

    mistakes were made, we will not

    only make fewer of them, but also

    we will forgive ourselves, and each

    other, when we inevitably stumble.

    I would like to highlight

    three issues with misidentification:

    observers misinterpreting the bird,

    the birds themselves being abnor-

    mal, or books misaligning from

    actual birds.

    1. ITS NOT YOU, ITS ME! First, lets put observers

    on the spot. Our minds often gain

    an unfair advantage over our sens-

    es. What we actually see is often

    distorted by what we expect or

    wish to see. If we swiftly assume

    the bird we see is a particular com-

    mon species, our minds will em-

    phasize only marks that confirm

    our assumption, while overlooking

    other details that may actually be

    there. That bird we dismiss as just

    another Savannah Sparrow with a

    glance may really be an uncom-

    mon Vesper Sparrow with closer


    This observer bias can run

    in the opposite direction, too. At

    times, we may wish to see a rare

    species so urgently that we may

    temporarily turn a common bird into a rarity by bending what we

    see and hear to our wishes. We

    dont want to trust our senses be-cause of what is at stakeso much traveling, so much searchingso we allow our imagination to run,

    like wild dogs rampant in the field.

    It would seem these

    perceptual errors would be reduced

    with multiple observers, but there

    is often a collective hypnosis among like-minded birders. If a

    field trip leader (or someone who

    just acts confidently) makes the

    first call on a bird, nearly everyone

    may not only believe that call, but

    will choose to see what they have been told is there. Years ago, I

    tramped in the rain with birders in

    Humboldt County to see a Spotted

    Owl that was called in, and merely

    glanced at, by our leader, until an

    astute birder borrowed my binocu-

    lars and named it correctly as a

    Barred Owl.

    Yes, we should let our

    senses get ahead of our minds, but

    no, we cannot always trust our

    senses. Optical illusions abound in

    the field. Estimating a birds size is tough enough, but a dark back-

    ground can make a pale bird ap-

    pear larger than the others, while a

    light background can cause a dark

    bird to appear larger than the rest.

    A bird viewed near the horizon

    among trees, or seen flying through

    fog, or even spotted through a

    scope, may appear larger than a

    bird flying directly overhead or

    flying in a clear sky, or larger even

    than a bird seen closer to us with

    binoculars. One shorebird by itself

    is often more difficult to size than one that is foraging with Dunlins

    and Least Sandpipers, which can

    provide helpful reference sizes for


    Judging a birds shape may be made more difficult by its

    differing postures, not to mention

    its constantly altering feather ar-

    rangements. A perched bird facing

    the wind may have a sleeker shape

    than when foraging on the ground.

    A bird may fluff up its feathers

    when cold, pull its feathers down

    when frightened, or raise its feath-

    ers when annoyed, changing its