Welcome to the 2021 Virtual 25th Central Valley Birding Symposium. This year, we will be hosting an abbreviated online version of the symposium with many of your favorite speakers. In addition to having access to the program during and after the event, registration will renew your membership in the Central Valley Bird Club (CVBC). Registration is per family; a couple only has to register once to view the symposium on a single screen. Discounted registration is available for students.
All workshops and programs are virtual.
Opening Remarks: David Yee
Welcome back! Though we wish we could see all of you in person, virtual is the next best thing. David will welcome back the symposium family and preview the next 2 days.
Shout-out to Sponsors: David Yee
President's Message: Pat Bacchetti
Through the magic of Zoom, the Board was able to remain active though the pandemic. Pat will provide a summary of Club news, along with some new opportunities for membership involvement.
Presenter: Ed Pandolfino
We all know how much the Central Valley has changed in the past few decades – increased development, changes in agriculture, changing climate. But how has all that affected our breeding birds? Ed will take us through the results of the recently completed SECOND Sacramento County Breeding Bird Atlas to answer that question.
This new Atlas is a follow up to an earlier Atlas effort led by Tim Manolis, completed in the early 1990s, but not published until now. The CVBC just published a book comparing the results of those two Atlases. The authors include Ed, and three other CVBC stalwarts: former presidents and board members, Tim Manolis and Chris Conard, and current board member Lily Douglas.
Some of the results may match your expectations (grassland birds in general in trouble), but others may surprise you. For example, we now have MORE species of breeding birds than during the earlier Atlas period. Ed will discuss the “winners”, new breeding birds, the “losers”, birds no longer breeding in the County, and dramatic changes in breeding habitat selection for some species.
The bottom line from this comparison is NOT a story of “doom and gloom” but one of the amazing resiliency and adaptability of birds.
Ed Pandolfino spent most of his early life on the move, living in many different states and countries and attending 13 different schools between first grade and high school. After a checkered and inconsistent college experience that included dropping-out and touring Europe as a drummer for a rock and roll band, Ed finally settled down and earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Washington State University. He spent over twenty years working in various management positions in the medical device industry. After an eyeball-to-eyeball encounter with a Spotted Towhee (then Rufous-sided Towhee), Ed’s relationship with birds transformed instantaneously from oblivious to obsessed. Since retiring in 1999, he has devoted his life to birds, working on habitat conservation and avian research. Ed has served as president of Western Field Ornithologists, vice-president of San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, conservation chair for Sierra Foothills Audubon Society, and Regional Editor for Northern California for North American Birds and is currently on the board of Institute for Bird Populations. He has published more than three dozen articles on status, distribution, behavior of western birds. He co-authored with Ted Beedy, Birds of the Sierra Nevada: Their Natural History, Status, and Distribution, illustrated by Keith Hansen and published by U.C. Press in May 2013.
Presenter: Jon Dunn, with Lara Tseng
Lumps and splits, mitochondrial RNA, clades, species vs. subspecies-what does it all mean, and why should I care? And who makes the decisions about how new splits or lumps are made-or not. These decisions not only involve lumps and splits; linear sequences within families and higher levels of taxonomy are also involved. Jon, a long-time member of the Committee on Classification and Nomenclature of the American Ornithological Society, will help us all make sense the latest taxonomic data.
Jon Dunn has lived much of his life in California, where he became a birder at age eight, an event triggered, he says, by the life-altering appearance of a bright adult male Hooded Oriole in his garden. Jon has extensive knowledge of the identification and distribution of North American birds. Jon was Chief Consultant for the first five editions of the National Geographic Society’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America and co-author with Jonathan Alderfer of the sixth and most recently, the 7th edition (2017). He has also long been interested in Asian avifaunas. He is co-author (with Kimball Garrett) Birds of Southern California: Status and Distribution (1981) and the Peterson Field Guide to Warblers (1997). Jon is a member of the Committee on Classification and Nomenclature of the American Ornithological Society and served for 30 years on the California Bird Records Committee. He is currently president of Western Field Ornithologists. Beyond birds, Jon has a keen interest in politics, history, and the music and poetry of Leonard Cohen.
Lara Tseng is a keen 14-year-old birder and aspiring ornithologist who enjoys being out in the field looking at birds but she places an even greater emphasis on scientific research. Lara conducted a study on the timing of eggshell consumption by Western Bluebirds of which a paper will soon be published in the Journal of Emerging Investigators. Lara is currently attending classes as a freshman as part of the Early Entrance Program at Cal State LA. Over the last year, she has been assisting Jon with presentations. Lara has also done her own research and presented on the ten subspecies of Dunlin (Calidris alpina), her very favorite species.
Presenter: Rich Cimino
Keynote Program: Rosemary Mosco
Join us for an entertaining and informative evening with Rosemary Mosco, a bird-lover, science communicator, writer, and cartoonist. Rosemary is the creator of the popular Bird and Moon Comics, where she combines her knowledge of science and love of birds with a keen sense of humor. She’s written about pigeons, butterflies, the solar system, how kids can explore the natural world, and more. Explore the natural world with us from Rosemary’s unique point of view.
Rosemary Mosco is a science communicator, acclaimed cartoonist, and speaker on all things bird. She’s the creator of the webcomic Bird and Moon and has authored many science books for young people, including co-authoring the bestselling Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid. She lives in Massachusetts.
Opening Remarks: David Yee
Bird Identification Panel: Moderated by Ed Harper
This program has become an annual favorite. What better way to learn about the finer points of bird identification than by listening to the experts go through the process! Our illustrious panel will include Jon Dunn, Emmett Iverson, Linda Pittman and Lynnette Williams. They will be presented with photos of difficult-to-identify bird groups (golden plovers, female goldeneyes, etc.), then each will mention what features they use to aid in clinching an ID.
Ed Harper, an esteemed birder, photographer, and presenter, was a long-time educator before taking up bird photography. He and his wife travel extensively, viewing and photographing the world’s wildlife and scenery. Ed also spends much of his time in his beloved home state of Montana. Ed traditionally kicks off the Symposium with one of his stunning photography presentations. He also creates and directs the challenging Bird ID workshops at the Symposium and at Western Field Ornithologists conferences.
Presenter: Paul Miller
There are many ways to go “birding”: optics, no optics, on foot, by car, etc. However, the ability to move through a birding area and use optics provides the greatest chance of seeing more birds. For most birders, these abilities are taken for granted. But for those with various types of physical impairments, walking and using optics may be challenging. This short presentation will focus on Paul’s adaptive optics. His muscular dystrophy prevents him from using a binocular or spotting scope without support and remote focusing equipment. He will provide a brief discussion and show examples.
Paul Miller is a retired transportation planner with a background in non-motorized and ADA-related facilities. Living with a slowly progressive form of muscular dystrophy his entire life, he has learned to adapt and build various types of adaptive birding equipment.
Presenters: Kelsey McCune, Lily Douglas, Cliff Feldheim and Dan Airola
Join us for short presentations on conservation and research programs based in the Central Valley. Facilitated by Dan Airola.
Behaviors Related to the Rapid Range Expansion of Great-tailed Grackles
Great-tailed grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) are rapidly expanding their geographic range. The ability to expand the range into new areas could be facilitated by behavioural differences between individuals on the range edge and those in other parts of the range. Movement behaviors in particular are thought to be important for expanding and invasive species, but no studies have examined movement behavior in different populations along an expanding range, and its relationship to other behavioral traits like exploration or behavioral flexibility. We studied grackles from two populations in different areas of the current range - Arizona (middle of the northern expanding edge), and northern California (near the northern edge of their range). We tested whether performance on behavioral tasks in captivity relates to subsequent movement behavior in the wild measured using home range size, step length (distance between two sequential observations) and turning angle for each individual over time. Results will inform whether differences in behavior may be important for a species to expand its range. If behavioral patterns differ in populations at different locations along the range, then movement and other behavioral traits could form an “invasion syndrome” that allows some species to colonize new habitat while others without all of these traits fail.
Kelsey McCune completed her Ph.D. in animal behavior from the University of Washington in 2018. Her dissertation compared asocial California Scrub-Jays and social Mexican Jays on social behavior, learning ability and personality traits. Her research discovered the presence of social learning in both the social and asocial species, that only Mexican Jays positively assort by boldness, and that jays in the wild are better problem-solvers than jays held in captivity. Currently, Kelsey is a postdoctoral scholar at UCSB and part of the Grackle Project research group started by Dr. Corina Logan. Their research seeks to understand behavioral traits related to invasion success in birds.
Abundance and Distribution of Blue-winged Teal in California - a review of the last 150 years
Cliff and co-author Melody Gere review historical records, old and recent publications, eBird, and Christmas Bird Count Data to assess the change in abundance and distribution of Blue-winged Teal in California from the late 1870’s to 2020. They used GPS telemetry to track the migratory movements of Blue-winged Teal captured in the winter on the Bridgeway Island Pond in West Sacramento, CA.
Cliff Feldheim is an award-winning, nationally recognized waterfowl biologist with over 20 years of professional experience. He currently works for California Trout where one of his roles is to bring together fish and bird management and conservation in the Sacramento Valley and Suisun Marsh.
A Blueprint for Bird Conservation in the Central Valley
Lily will introduce the Central Valley Joint Venture program. The Joint Venture’s implementation plan provides a roadmap for local partners and stakeholders to restore and protect wildlife habitat to create resilient, healthy bird populations, as well as benefits for other wildlife such as threatened and endangered species and species of conservation concern. The plan also provides additional benefits to local communities including clean water, flood protection, ground water recharge, and recreational opportunities, such as birding and hunting.
Lily Douglas, with the USFWS, is the Assitant Coordinator of the Central Valley Joint Venture, a cooperative, self-directed partnership of 19 federal and state agencies, organizations and a corporation working together to conserve Central Valley birds and their habitats for current and future generations.
Yellow-billed Magpie population status and habitat characteristics in urban Sacramento, California
Most research on the ecology of the Yellow-billed Magpie (Pica nuttalli) has been focused in oak woodlands and savannas in California’s Coast Ranges; urban and suburban populations, some of which are sizable, have received little attention. In 2020, we studied eight colonies in six parks around Sacramento and in 2021 expanded the survey to 43 sites, detecting 827 breeding magpies. Population estimates based on nest counts were generally higher than those from direct counts, and nest counts were more repeatable and efficient. Counts of recently fledged young in family groups yielded reproductive rates similar to those observed near the coast before arrival of West Nile virus in 2003, suggesting that the virus is not currently affecting nestlings’ survival. Sacramento magpies nested in the upper canopy of a wide variety of large trees, both native and non-native. They foraged preferentially in low herbaceous habitat-irrigated turf and unirrigated annual grassland that was mowed or grazed. The presence of rivers and streams influenced occupancy strongly. Colony size was strongly related to the amount of low herbaceous foraging habitat within 0.5 km of colony sites with nearby flowing water. Our results suggest that at least 4 ha of low herbaceous foraging habitat is needed to support a small nesting colony. Retention of herbaceous habitat near large trees and flowing water, plus mowing or grazing to keep herbaceous growth low, should benefit urban Yellow-billed Magpies.
Dan Airola is a Wildlife Biologist and Ornithologist who conducts conservation research for at-risk birds in Northern California. Dan serves as a Central Valley Bird Club Board member, Conservation Chair, and Editor of Central Valley Birds. He also is the current President of the Western Section of the Wildlife Society, an organization of professional biologists. Dan has conducted long-term research on Purple Martins, Tricolored Blackbirds, Swainson’s Hawks, Turkey Vultures, and migratory songbirds, and recent studies on magpies and Ospreys.
Presenter: Keith Hansen
Keynote Program: Kimball Garrett
Telephone trees to spread the word about rare bird sightings……a Great-tailed Grackle being a rare bird sighting….chickens after hawks, or parrots next to doves, in checklists….waiting a week for your slides to be developed….no munias or Eurasian Collared-Doves, but plenty of shrikes and Tricolored Blackbirds…no Central Valley Bird Club, and no Western Field Ornithologists.
This was California in the late 1960s when Kimball Garrett started birding, and now as a birding “elder” he gets to look back on the sweeping changes in California birds and birding over the last half century. This retrospective, drawing on examples from the Central Valley wherever possible, will look at how the birds have changed through range expansions and contractions, declines and extirpations, naturalization of non-native species, the changing status of vagrants, and larger global changes as our climate goes down the tubes. We’ll also examine how birding has changed, from advancing technologies in communication, photography, and audio-recording, to records committees, eBird, iNaturalist, and a growing awareness of birding’s deleterious carbon footprint. And finally, we’ll look at the advances and applications of the science of ornithology, including how molecular data and modern genomics have revolutionized our understanding of bird taxonomy (and why birders should care about that), how field guides and other publications have evolved, and how conservation biology is now the dominant theme in ornithological research.
Kimball Garrett grew up in Los Angeles area and began birding in earnest in the mid-1960s. He has collaborated with Jon Dunn on Birds of Southern California: Status and Distribution (1981) and A Field Guide to Warblers of North America (1997), with Jon and Brian Small on Birds of Southern California (2012), and with Jon, Brian and Dave Quady on Birds of Northern California (2015). Since 2000 he and Guy McCaskie have co-edited the seasonal reports for the Southern California region for North American Birds. He has done stints on the California Bird Records Committee and the board of Western Field Ornithologists and has been the full-time Ornithology Collections Manager at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County since 1982. He and his wife, Kathy Molina, (along with their dogs, sheep and chickens), live in Juniper Hills in the desert foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains north of Los Angeles.
Closing: David Yee