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White-tailed Kite

December/January, 2008

Mission: To promote the awareness, appreciation and protection of native birds and their
habitats through education, research and environmental activities.

Program Meetings for the general community are normally held on the third Monday of each month at
6:30 p.m., at the Chico Creek Nature Center, 1968 E. 8th St. In December the meeting is held on the
second Monday and in July and August there are no Program Meetings.

December Program - Members’ Slide Show

Monday, December 15, 6:30 p.m., Chico Creek Nature Center
Come see what Altacal members have been up to as they show off their photos for
our annual members’ slide show. There are always some great new, and sometimes
old, pictures to see and tales to hear. Feel free to bring some of your own slides (35
mm or electronic) if you like. We’ll try to work it out so everyone gets a chance to
participate. Let Mike Fisher ( ) or Jennifer Patten
( ) know ahead of time if you want to show your photos.

January Program – Birding Florida’s Southern Peninsula, the Florida Keys and the
Dry Tortugas – An Electronic Slide Presentation by Tim Ruckle
Monday, January 19, 6:30 p.m., Chico Creek Nature Center
Escape from Chico winter to Florida spring (well, for about an hour) as Tim Ruckle shows photos of,
and talks about, many birds he saw that are rarely seen outside Florida and the U.S. Southeast – Red-
whiskered Bulbuls, Magnificent Frigatebirds with inflated, red gular pouches, a Masked Duck and
about 40 other bird species that
were life birds for Tim. See birds
in, and learn the history of, Fort
Jefferson on Garden Key in the
Dry Tortugas, one of the top ten
birding destinations in the
country. Some of you have
already been there and who
knows? - Maybe others of you
will consider birding there
yourselves sometime.
Magnificent Frigatebird Red-whiskered Bulbul

Upcoming Bird Walks and Birding Trips
All of our field trips are open to beginning birders. Anyone with a sense of wonder is welcome to participate.

December 6 Saturday – Raptor Run

Trip Leader: To Be Announced

Meet at the Chico Park ‘n Ride on Rt. 32 (the lot nearest the freeway) at
8 a.m. We'll look for raptors in the Cottonwood Rd. and Nelson Ave.
areas. Targets are Bald Eagle, Ferruginous Hawk, Rough-legged
Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Merlin, and Burrowing Owl as well as more
commonly seen species. Bring binoculars (and scope if you have one)
water, and a lunch. We should be back around 1 p.m. For updated
information contact Phil Johnson at (530) 570-7139.

Ferruginous Hawk

December 13, Saturday – Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge (SNWF)

Trip Leader: Mike Fisher
The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge located in Willows is the headquarters for the Sacramento
National Wildlife Refuge Complex and is one of six refuges located in the Sacramento Valley of north-
central California. The 10,783-acre refuge consists of about 7,600 acres of intensively managed
wetlands, uplands, riparian habitat, and vernal pools. It typically supports wintering populations of more
than 600,000 ducks and 200,000 geese. This is a great time to see wintering waterfowl as well as many
other birds. Meet at the Park ‘n Ride lot (the one closest to Rte 99) at 7:45 a.m. Bring a picnic lunch.
Dress warm and wear shoes for
walking on the nature trail. After
the nature walk, we’ll drive the
auto-tour route, with a stop for
lunch at the viewing platform. The
birding trip will be over about 2
p.m. There is a $3 entrance fee per
car. Heavy rain cancels. For more
information call Mike at (530) 624-
4777 or email
Viewing Platform and Geese at SNWR, Willows

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count

We’ll repeat some of what we said last issue - This year the Altacal Audubon Society will participate for
the 53rd time in the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) in Chico and in Oroville. More
than 50,000 observers nation-wide participate each year in this all-day census of early-winter bird
populations. The results of their efforts are compiled into the longest-running database in ornithology,
representing over a century of unbroken data on trends of early-winter bird populations across the
Americas. Simply put, it is citizen science in action.

December 21, Sunday - Chico Christmas Bird Count
All levels of birders are welcome to join us on the Chico Christmas bird
count. Beginners will be paired up with experienced birders. Bring warm
clothes, hiking shoes, lunch, bird books and binoculars. You will be
assigned an area and spend the day counting all of the birds in this area. If
anyone is interested in doing just a half day, please let the compiler, Phil
Johnson, (530-570-7139) know ahead of time so arrangements can be made
for the day’s assignments. We will meet at 7:30 a.m. at the Chico Creek
Nature Center. At 5:00 p.m. we meet at Scott and Nina Campbell's place to
compile our results. Scott and Nina will, as usual, be cooking us a great
meal. For possibly updated information, check the Altacal web site at
… and a partridge in a pear tree

December 28, Sunday - Oroville Christmas Bird Count - All levels of birders are welcome to join us
on the Oroville Christmas bird count. Beginners will be paired up with experienced birders. Bring
warm clothes, hiking shoes, lunch, bird books and binoculars. You will be assigned an area and spend
the day counting all of the birds in this area. If anyone is interested in doing just a half day, please let
the compiler, Scott Huber, (530-321-5579) know ahead of time so arrangements can be made for the
day’s assignments. We will meet at 7:30 a.m. at the Agricultural Commissioner's Office on Nelson Rd.
just east of Highway 70. At 5:00 p.m. there will be an optional dinner and compilation at a local
restaurant. For possibly updated information, check the Altacal web site at
January 11, Sunday – Indian Fishery (Pine Creek)
Trip Leader: Mike Fisher
Indian Fishery is an ox bow lake surrounded by a beautiful oak woodland. This is a wonderful area for
birding, watching the wildlife that abounds in the ox bow lake and simply enjoying the grandeur of
massive oaks. It is common to observe River Otters darting through the water, Western Pond Turtles
basking on a fallen tree or herons stalking a meal. A variety of birds are busy in the grandeur of
massive oaks. We’ll take a leisurely walk around the easily negotiated, ½-mile guided nature trail and
see a variety of woodpeckers, as well as other woodland and aquatic birds. Meet at the Park ‘n Ride
(the lot closest to Rte 99) at 8 a.m. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing, bring water and snacks if you
like, and binoculars and a field guide if you have one. For more information contact Mike at (530) 624-
January 18, Sunday – Upper Bidwell Park
Trip Leader: Phil Johnson

We will start our walk along Big Chico Creek and circle back on one of the side
hill trails in search of the wintering birds of Bidwell Park. As always,
beginners are most welcome. Bring binoculars, hiking boots, a snack, and layers
of clothing. Meet at the Gun Club parking lot (across from the golf course) at
8:00 a.m. The walk will go until 11:30 a.m. Call Phil at 570-7139 for details.

Yahi Trail – Upper Bidwell Park

January 22-25 – 10th Annual Snow Goose Festival of the Pacific Flyway
• Backyard, novice, and veteran birders, as well as
wildlife enthusiasts of all ages, can choose from over 60
field trips, presentations, and workshops.
• Local art can be viewed at the festival’s
Uptown/Downtown Wildlife Art Exhibit hosted by
Avenue 9 and All Fired Up! Gallery and Ceramic Art
Center from Friday, January 16 to February 7, 2009.
• In conjunction with the art exhibit, the festival’s kick-off
event will be the “Wildlife Art Reception” at the
Uptown/Downtown art galleries on Friday, January 23.
• A festival highlight is Saturday night’s “Gathering of Wings” Banquet and Silent Auction, which
will be held at the Bell Memorial
Union Auditorium, Chico State
University with keynote speaker,
Ed Harper, well-known birder,
world traveler, and photographer.
His interest in birds goes back to his
early childhood when he was
growing up in Montana. It was there
his interest and love of natural
history blossomed. Always a teacher
at heart, Ed taught mathematics at
American River College from 1969
until his retirement in 2003. With
his passion for birding, Ed has also taught a variety of classes in field ornithology for the ARC
Extension. He designed and taught many popular classes including bird song, migration,
introduction to the birds of the Sacramento area, and various classes on field identification for birds
of prey, shorebirds, and gulls. He is a popular and frequent speaker at many birding festivals and
An experienced world traveler, Ed has traveled to all the continents in search of birds. An avid
photographer, he has photographed over 2000 species of birds. Some of his photos are found in
books and periodicals whereas other images highlight talks and slide lectures. In North America
alone, he has photographed over 750 species of birds. Starting out as a tour leader for the
Massachusetts Audubon Society in 1981, Ed now operates Sandpiper Journeys with his wife,
Susan Scott. Together they have conducted many birding and natural history tours throughout the
Through a series of beautiful images and enlightening discourse, Ed will share an evening of
insight and awe into the beauty and inspiring aspects of bird migration. Throughout recorded
history the migration of birds has fascinated humankind. The outmoded myths and archaic
speculations that once dominated beliefs have been largely replaced by illuminating research and
ingenious scientific studies. We now know the feats of avian migration truly exceed our wildest
imaginations. Just as birds fascinate and command our interest, understanding the great
phenomenon of bird migration further enhances the joy and wonder that birds bring into our
Festival headquarters will be at the Chico Masonic Family Center where free events and activities for
the whole family are held on Saturday and Sunday. Numerous educational exhibits and displays along

with vendors selling everything from binoculars to bird feeders will be in attendance. In addition, there
will be Junior Naturalist activities, and live presentations about owls, hawks, and native reptiles, plus
more. Admission is free.
For more information contact us at;
(530) 345-1865,, Registration for field trips,
workshops, art reception, and banquet starts in December.

Altacal Contributions to the Community

Dawn Garcia, a Federally-licensed Master
Bander and member of the Altacal Audubon
Society Board of Directors, and Steve King, a
dedicated banding assistant and Altacal
member, were invited to conduct a bird
banding demonstration as part of a field camp
course at the Big Chico Creek Ecological
Reserve (BCCER). Led by Director Jeff Mott,
two groups of fifteen 4th to 6th graders and
their chaperones hiked down to the Toyon
Slope banding station. After a short talk
A Group of Excited Assistant Banders
Photo by Dawn Garcia
regarding station etiquette, all the children took the opportunity to go on a net run - checking nets for
captured birds, then watching intently the banding and measuring of birds. Many enthusiastic outbursts
ensued as the kids searched through field guides, discussed beak and feet structure and plumage
characteristics, shared bird experiences and asked a
multitude of questions. We captured ten birds of three
different species: Hermit Thrushes, Spotted Towhees and
a Golden-crowned Sparrow. Several were taught how to
gently handle and release the birds. The children were
absolutely enthused with the experience (as evidenced in the
pictures)! With the assistance of Altacal and the BCCER
staff, Dawn's banding team plans to develop a curriculum for
school-aged kids to excite them about birds, science and
conservation and have "no child left inside!"
Bird in a Bag
Photo by Dawn Garcia

Conservation Corner

Audubon Society Has a Voice in High Places

Audubon President and CEO John Flicker, following the election of President-elect Obama and the new
Congress, said: "Voters in this historic election cast their ballots not only for change, but for a new era
of hope for our environment, and the people, birds, and other wildlife that depend on it. Washington has
been ignoring critical environmental issues for too long. President-elect Barack Obama and a more
environmentally aware Congress offer the promise of leadership and fundamental change that could
usher in new protections for America's great natural heritage, and a new lease on life for species in

Despite real reason for optimism, we cannot take conservation gains for granted. Audubon is committed
to helping the new Administration and Congress to live up to their great promise; and to make
conservation, clean energy and green jobs part of America's path to a brighter tomorrow.
Through our local Chapters, state offices and national grass roots efforts, Audubon will join with others
in the environmental community to ensure that our newly elected leaders lead the way on issues vital to
our environment, our economy and diversity of life on Earth."

On November 6th, Garry George, Chapter Network Director,

Audubon California, informed us that the Los Angeles Times
reported on the same day that Carol Browner, National
Audubon’s Board Chair, was appointed on November 5th to
President-Elect Obama’s transition team. Ms. Browner headed
former President Clinton’s Environmental Protection Agency.
In her current position she will have a voice in the selection of
Obama’s cabinet and other key positions including Secretary of
the Interior and Administrator of the Environmental Protection

Carol Browner

House Passes No Child Left Inside Act

Most of you likely have heard of "nature deficit disorder" which affects children being raised in our high
technology culture. Most kids don't get out in nature a lot these days. They spend much of their time in
front of TV or a computer, or texting or chatting on their cell phones. Following is great news directly
from an Audubon CA Action Alert (notice the overwhelming yes votes)! – Dawn Garcia
“Environmental education received a major boost on September 19th, when the House approved the No
Child Left Inside Act of 2008 by a vote of 293-109. The legislation would authorize major new funding
for states to provide high-quality, environmental instruction. Funds would support outdoor learning
activities both at school and in non-formal environmental education centers, teacher training, and the
creation of state environmental literacy plans.”

Dawn Garcia reminds us that the owl

banding season is winding down with few
owls being detected or banded this
year. She will present the final results in
our next issue of the White-tailed Kite

Northern Saw-whet Owl Dawn and Alita Huber Check a

Photo by Dawn Garcia Northern Saw-whet Owl
Photo by Mike Fisher

Did You Know?

The first American organization devoted to studying and watching birds was
established in 1873 in Cambridge, Massachusetts and was named the Nuttall
Ornithological Club. Its namesake was the Englishman, Thomas Nuttall, a natural
history teacher at Harvard who produced the first compact guide to North
American birds. He was an early explorer of the North American wilderness and
is considered to be one of the greatest botanists who ever worked in the United
States. In our neck of the woods, we are used to seeing and hearing Nuttall’s

Nuttall’s Woodpecker
Pop Quiz!
Now, for all the marbles, what two other birds are honored with his name? Time’s up! This one’s too
hard, so here’s the answer: Common Poorwill (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii) and Yellow-billed Magpie
(Pica nuttalli).

Sister Society (Cape Cod Bird Club) News

Our Sister Society is fortunate, in a way, that Cape Cod Bay is an

effective trap for seabirds. This phenomenon occurs most frequently
during and immediately following northeasterly storms when large
numbers of shearwaters, storm-petrels, gannets, phalaropes,
jaegers, and other pelagic species are blown shoreward and become
“trapped” by the bay’s confusing geography. However, The bay is
also a trap for marine mammals and more recently has received
considerable attention as a trap for sea turtles in the late fall. The first
stranded Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle of the season was picked up at
Sandy Neck in Barnstable, brought to Wellfleet Bay Wildlife
Sanctuary, and transferred to the New England Aquarium for
evaluation and treatment. While the water is not quite cold enough for
cold-stunning yet, this turtle had a boat propeller wound and could not use one of its flippers. If local
folks find a stranded turtle they are asked to move it above the high tide line, cover it with seaweed to
protect it from the cold, then mark the location and call the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
Lots of other critters have been washing up on Cape beaches of late in addition to the expected Kemp's
Ridley Sea Turtles, including at least 5 Torpedo Rays which are big fleshy oddities capable of
producing a 200-volt shock, and a few ocean sunfish, or Mola Molas, which are the largest bony fish in
the world. Thousands of Northern Gannets and gulls were feeding in Wellfleet Bay on Atlantic Saury,
a 10" beaked bait-fish favored by tuna that have been washing up of late. Also, a pod of Pilot Whales
was seen passing Race Point, and Fin Whales have been sighted off White Crest Beach in Wellfleet. A
Fisher was found road-killed in Eastham recently, and another was reported from Orleans last month
crossing a road. Have these elusive wolverine relatives finally established themselves on the Cape?
The Broad-billed Hummingbird that first showed up on the Cape (a Massachusetts first record) in
August was still being seen in November. I’ll bet there isn’t a single local member of the Cape Cod
Bird Club who hasn’t seen it by now.
A Black-tailed Gull, representing only the second state record for this Asian vagrant, was among the
amazing 11 species of gulls seen in Provincetown during the first week of November. The gulls were
feeding on small planktonic crustaceans washed up en masse on Herring Cove and Race Point beaches.
Other gulls seen included several Little Gulls, a Black-headed Gull, Iceland Gulls, Lesser Black-
backed Gulls, Black-legged Kittiwakes and Bonaparte's Gulls.
Other seabirds noted from Provincetown were 15 Red-throated Loons, 300 Red-breasted
Mergansers, 80 Cory’s Shearwaters, 900 Greater Shearwaters, a Sooty Shearwater, 3 Manx
Shearwaters, 700 Northern Gannets, 150 Black-legged Kittiwakes, 125 Bonaparte’s Gulls, 75
Laughing Gulls, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, 30 Common Terns, and 3 Parasitic Jaegers.
Cave Swallows invaded coastal Massachusetts in mid-November, and were reported locally from
Provincetown, Mashpee, and Nantucket. These are birds of Mexico and Texas that have a tendency to
end up far north and east of where they should be following southwest winds in early November. This is
a relatively recent ornithological phenomenon, as cave swallows were not recorded in Massachusetts
until 2002.
And finally, in the “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water” department, an 11-foot
Blue Shark was found washed up on Lieutenant Island in Wellfleet. Blue sharks, not harmless but not
among the world’s more dangerous shark species either, are widespread in the world’s oceans.
Following in the Footsteps
Rex Burress
There is always a sense of loss when a renowned person dies and severs society not only from the
lovable personality, but also from that valuable accumulated storehouse of
knowledge. Such was the sad news that a former California Fish and Game
manager, John Cowan, died on October 15, 2008.
John was one of those old timers who, at 92, had contributed to the
understanding of waterfowl management, mostly at Gray Lodge Wildlife
Refuge, plus pioneering educational trail ways at Butte College. But mostly
he was a man of the out-of-doors who interacted with that segment of mankind
that "In the love of nature holds communion with her visible forms." Those
environmentally kindred-spirits do indeed flock together, inspiring others as
they teach the wildlife stories and "entice others to look on nature’s loveliness
with understanding."
John B. Cowan
We have the names and writings of a multitude of departed environmental contributors on whose
shoulders we interpreters/wildlife workers/writers stand. We benefit from their studies and discoveries
and accomplishments. The creative community does indeed borrow ideas from other environmental
devotees to heighten nature interpretation and wildlife organizational advancement, each adding a little
bit to the storehouse of knowledge.
I knew some great naturalists in the Bay Area in the Lake Merritt Wildlife Refuge 1960-90 days. Paul
Covel, William Mott, Josh Barkin, Ron Russo - many listed in Covel’s book, "Beacons Along a
Naturalist’s Trail." I know Naturalist Paul was a good friend of John Cowan at a time John was helping
supply wing-injured Canada geese to Lake Merritt.
Those were the important names of yesteryear. When I retired and moved to Oroville, CA in 1993, I
encountered a new set of environmental enthusiasts in that sector, but now when I look at a list of names
presently active in the Bay Area, they are all new to me. I know, though, that they are new generations
carrying on the cause of conservation advancement.
Thus it is that individual efforts, small and large, keep the mainstream of nature interest going. I think
of Dana Mortenson when I recall outstanding naturalist interpreters. Dana was an elderly nature hike
guide in Yosemite in the 1970's, and I was so impressed at his fine use of words as he talked to large
audiences, pointing a wise finger to emphasize a point in a delightful way to engender enthusiasm.
Although he wrote a book on Yosemite wildflowers, he had no national claim to fame but was just
expressing his inner delight at nature and sharing it with an audience. It is the multitude of such simple
interpreters adding to the nature awareness of the world that keeps the cause flowing and generates
As Robert Frost said in his poem, "The Tuft of Flowers", "People work together whether they work
together or apart." And the Chinese said: "A store of small strengths makes one strong," as it makes an
organization strong. Margaret Mead said: "Never underestimate what a small group of people, working
together, can achieve."
Thus we are grateful for John Cowan for his contribution to a segment of nature.

To John:
"To a Waterfowl" - William Cullen Bryant:
"Whether, midst falling dew,/ While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,/ Far through their rosy
depths, doest thou pursue/ Thy solitary way...Thou’rt gone! The abyss of heaven/Hath swallowed up thy
form; yet on my heart/Deeply hath sunk the lessons thou has given,/And shall not soon depart."

Altacal Receives Raffle Gift for November Program Meeting

If you missed the November Program Meeting you also missed a chance at winning a special item in our
usual free raffle. Dawn Bremmer, owner of The Gifted Garden, generously donated a free raffle item
for the meeting. It was a beautiful glass hummingbird feeder that Dawn described this way: “Each of
its three feeding stations is made of an opaque white glass with red glass flower tube ports. The glass is
all recycled. The metal frame holding the feeding stations has a perch in front of each port, so the little
guys have a place to sit still for a minute. Its retail value is $55. Additional info that might be of
interest: the feeder is made in Mexico and the company sends part of all their proceeds to The
Hummingbird Society.” In addition to hummingbird feeders Dawn carries other feeders, bird baths and
assorted bird-themed items.
Bird Walk and Birding Trip Reports
September 19-21 - Point Reyes National Seashore – Trip Leader: Jennifer Patten
If you have never been to Point Reyes National Seashore you are missing one of the great birding
destinations in our state. Point Reyes is a promontory on the Pacific Coast of Northern California.
Located in Marin County, it is approximately 30 miles north of San Francisco. Because of the way it
juts out into the Pacific it is a trap for migrating birds passing along the coast. Every year Altacal
Audubon plans a trip here coinciding with the peak of fall migration. This year eleven members went
along and spent from two to five days exploring the various birding hot-spots of the area. Point Reyes
National Seashore and its surrounding area proved again to be one of our most productive birding trips
of the year. The total number of bird species seen by at least one of the eleven Altacal Audubon birders
on this trip was 141, with all of us getting at least one lifer (a bird never seen before).
The weather on this stretch of coast is notoriously variable. At different times we braved strong wind,
thick fog and rain. But much of the time we had beautiful warm sunny weather in which to hunt for
birds. Our quest took us along beautiful beaches, coastal scrub grasslands, salt and freshwater marshes,
into thick coniferous forests, and even through cow pastures. Yes, a lot of effort, but well worth it to see
such unusual birds as Tennessee Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, American Redstart, Long-tailed
Duck, Pectoral Sandpiper and Marbled
Murrelet. Other noteworthy sightings
included Lawrence’s Goldfinch, Nashville
Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Red-throated
and Common Loons, Black Oystercatcher,
Snowy Plover, Black Turnstone, Pigeon
Guillemot and Virginia Rail.
The Earthquake Trail at the Bear Valley
Visitors Center is always a favorite and
productive birding spot for us. This year was
no exception. We saw a mixed flock of
Townsend’s Warblers and Black-throated
Gray Warblers palling around with Chestnut-
backed Chickadees, Hutton’s Vireos and
Warbling Vireos. All were foraging in the
creek-side willow and alders.
Rear: Warren Patten, Jennifer Patten, Mike Fisher, Gaylord Grams, Rick Wulbern
Front: Carolyn Short, Nancy Nelson, Ruth Kennedy
Not in Photo: J.T. Lewis, Mike Skram
Photo by Tim Ruckle

Next year, instead of just reading about it, think about joining us on this always exciting and productive
Point Reyes National Seashore Altacal Audubon field trip.
October 4, Saturday – Packer and Sul Norte Units of the SRNWR – Trip Leader: Mike Fisher
What looked like a not so pleasant morning for birding and hiking
turned into a very nice day for exploring the Packer and Sul Norte units
of the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge. Currently, the
Refuge is composed of 27 units along a 77-mile stretch of the
Sacramento River between Red Bluff and Princeton.

Packer Unit, Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge

This riparian habitat along the Sacramento River is critically important for fish, migratory birds, plants,
and river system health. It provides shelter for many songbirds and water-associated animals, including
River Otters, turtles, Beavers, American White Pelican, Ospreys and Bank Swallows.
This field trip, led by Altacal and co-sponsored by the Sacramento River Preservation Trust, is one of
a series of trips intended to increase community awareness of these valuable public wildlife areas. Even
though the day started with rain, a group of seven met at the Park-‘n-Ride to carpool over to Glenn
County, near Butte City, where the units are located.
Beginning with the Packer Unit, we walked the 1.5-mile loop trail that explores the center of the refuge.
Even before we hit the trail, still in the parking lot, we had flyovers of Red-tailed Hawk, Northern
Flicker, Great Egret, and Sandhill Crane. Someone spotted a tree full of Western Bluebirds and
mixed in were a few American Robins. The walk along the trail was very pleasant, if not super birdy.
We picked up most of the regulars including American and Lesser Goldfinch, Tree Swallow,
Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Black Phoebe, California Quail, Spotted Towhee, Bewick’s and House
Wren and several flocks of Cedar Waxwing. A highlight was the flyover of a beautiful, adult
Ferruginous Hawk. It soared right over our heads for about a minute giving us beautiful looks.
Then it was back in the car for the short trip over to the Sul Norte Unit. Coming from Chico on Hwy
162 you turn right on the only road between the river and Hwy 45. It is not marked, but the road turns
back and parallels Hwy 162. This leads to the parking lot for the unit. Leaving the cars, we proceeded
to hike the trail that circles this 590-acre unit. Our intention was to do only a portion of this
approximately 3-mile trail but we missed our cutoff point and ended up hiking the whole trail. It turned
out to be a very nice hike. Some of the new birds we picked up in this unit included; Downy
Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Hawk, Oak Titmouse, American Kestrel, White-breasted Nuthatch,
and Northern Mockingbird. Everyone got very excited when Jennifer Patten spotted a baby Northern
Pacific Rattlesnake hiding out in a drainage ditch. The trail fronts the Sacramento River for a while
and we spotted Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, and Double-crested Cormorant along the water’s
edge. On our way back to the cars we had flyovers of Greater White-fronted Geese and two Lewis’s
Woodpeckers. A total of 42 species was seen on this morning.
October 19, Sunday- Butte Basin Field Trip – Trip Leader: Phil Johnson
Nine eager birders showed up for an early season sampling
of the birds found in the Butte Basin. We started off the day
at the Park ‘n Ride where we were treated to a great look at a
Red-Shouldered Hawk that was coughing up some
remnants of its last meal. When we arrived at the Llano Seco
unit parking area, we instantly saw groups of Greater
White-fronted Geese in the rice fields near by. The pond to
the south of the parking area was flooded and had many
Northern Pintail, American Wigeon and Mallards. On
our walk out to the back platform, we strolled by a dry field
with Long-billed Curlews feeding in the grasses. As we
Butte Basin Habitat
watched them, a group of White-faced Ibis flew in to join them. Once we got the back platform, we
were able to get good looks at Sandhill Cranes flying about and resting at marshy edges of the ponds.
The back ponds were already flooded up, and had big numbers of waterfowl.
After getting back to the cars, we headed South down 7-mile Lane to a marshy spot. A large number of
Black-crowned Night-Herons were seen in the willows surrounding the ponds. Wood Ducks and a
Common Moorhen were also on the water. After searching the reedy edges, we eventually were
treated to a good look at a Sora, walking about in the open. Our drive further south was fruitless, due to
lack of water in the rice fields, but we did have a nice stop at Nelson Rd. to get good looks at Belted
Kingfisher, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Lesser Goldfinch.

October 31, Friday - Owl-o-ween - Trip Leaders: Dawn Garcia and Scott Huber

Owl-o-ween Part One: Area Search

Despite the foreboding forecast, six lost souls (Judy, P, Cathy, Naomi, Doug,
and Kris) met Scott at the Park-‘n-Ride for a trip to the dark side of birding
(night time owling) at Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve. Just at dusk we
found a number of bird species settling in for the night: Western Bluebirds
flying overhead, Hermit Thrush, Bewick's Wren and Acorn Woodpeckers
calling, Golden-Crowned Sparrows singing and Wild Turkeys jostling for
position on the limbs of the black oaks just behind the caretaker’s residence. A
small herd of deer crossed the meadow below us.
In between the sounds of rattling chains, creaking doors and wailing ghouls we
listened for the deep hoots of Great Horned Owls, the toots of Northern
Pygmy-Owls and the bouncing ball vocalization of Western Screech Owls.
We were successful in at least one of the species as a Great Horned Owl gave us an abbreviated song
from below the barn. At approximately 6:45 p.m. we ambled through the dark of a moonless night to
where even more frightening phenomena awaited us...Dawn's Little Banding Station of Horrors!
Owl-o-ween Part Two: Let the Games Begin
Met by Dawn and her ghoulish crew of two (Raina King and Nancy Nelson), Dawn shared the story of
the decapitated head of the beautiful "Betty," who was later found wailing in the woods by participants
who hiked the trail to the nets. Several other goblins and creepy things were hung in the area to make
the most of the Halloween tradition. Candy was served in a skull bowl with a creepy motion detector
skeleton hand that grabbed at the guests when they reached for taffy.

The mist-nets, erected to capture Northern Saw-whet Owls,

produced no captures other than a Rain Beetle (Pleocoma
spp.). But we respect all creatures of the night and the Rain
Beetle is so cool, we brought him back to share with the group
(released unharmed of course). For more information on rain
beetle natural history see:

Upside-down Rain Beetle – Photo by Dawn Garcia

Through the night, we did hear bats and a few Saw-whet vocalizations and matched Scott's detection of
a Great Horned Owl (albeit ours was plastic and staged by the hostess!). Rain, wind, and the petite Gray
Fox predator gave us enough reason to close the nets after only two hours. All were invited back to see a
Saw-whets in the hand.
November 8, Saturday - Butte Creek Ecological Preserve
Trip Leader: Liam Huber
Despite the forecast for rain, a dozen hardy birders took a
chance and were treated to a beautiful morning of birding at
Butte Creek Ecological Preserve.
A view of the Butte Creek Ecological Preserve

Altacal's very own junior naturalist, Liam Huber, guided the eager group which included a few seasoned
Altacal members as well as a few first-timers from the community.
Liam reports: We took the banding route to the dry river bed and got some looks at Black Phoebes and
Golden-crowned Sparrows. We then followed the dry river bed to the pond. On the way, we heard a
Varied Thrush calling, saw Evening Grosbeaks and got close-up views of Cedar Waxwings, which
we heard and identified well in advance. At the pond, we had at least 25 Wood Ducks, 2 Canada Geese
and several Mallards and American Coots. We also saw at least 40 Steller's Jays, and that's not
exaggerating! We were excited because that was extremely low elevation for this species. Ruby-
crowned Kinglets were also numerous and we caught a look at some Downy Woodpeckers. In
addition to the birds, I caught a Ring-Necked Snake for the group to examine and photograph.
I think everyone enjoyed the trip and I enjoyed leading it.
Many thanks to my Uncle Steve who went along with us because my Dad was in Texas.

September Program - Birdwatching in Panama with Altacal Audubon

Presented by Mike Fisher
After Altacal’s two-month summer hiatus, it was wonderful to see a record attendance of members and
guests reassembled for our September program, “Birdwatching in Panama”. For those of you who
weren’t able to attend, our program venue has upgraded to Chico Creek Nature Center’s newly
constructed facility - the interpretive center and nature lab building located just a few steps in back of
our old meeting place. Although Gruck the crow, one of the more vociferous unreleasable animals
housed in the original CCNC meeting room might feel deprived of stealing the entertainment spotlight
with his vocalized intonations during our presentations, the rest of us are very appreciative of the
progress which allows us to congregate in such an ideal setting, made possible in part by our long-
established working relationship with CCNC.
Mike Fisher, whose duties as co-vice president often include introducing our
monthly program speakers, took on a full load as he carried the September
presentation himself this time, holding a captivated, interactive audience
through his two-hour slide show on Altacal’s first international birding
excursion, a trip to Panama. Mike is an exemplary model of a “beginning”
birder, having only seriously undertaken the hobby/obsession in the past three
years. His inexhaustible energy serving on the Altacal Board and exceptional
ability to enthuse and activate birders at all levels has elevated our
organization beyond expectation.

White-tailed Trogon
Photo by Mike Fisher
The armchair version of birding Panama with Altacal included many impressive photographs of the
most extraordinarily decorated birds seen by the fortunate few who were able to make the trip in person.
Resplendent Quetzal, Turquoise Cotinga, Speckled Tanager, Veraguan Mango, Scintillant
Hummingbird, Spot-crowned Barbet, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush and Emerald Toucanet
were among them. Altacal member and trip organizer Steve Margolin, who has led previous birding
excursions to Panama, set up the venue and escorted our members on the three-week tour that covered
an extensive area of varied habitats from inside the western border with Costa Rica, to deep within the
eastern border with Columbia.

It was equally touching to listen to Mike’s wife, Laura
Rivero-Fisher - a self-described non-birder, revel in
memories of her interactions with the warm welcome
and hospitality from the native Embra children who
greeted them after a long, perilous journey by boat to
the secluded village where they camped over during
the long trek to viewing the Harpy Eagle’s nest.

Embra Boy of the La Marea Tribe

Wearing Mac McCormick’s Hat

Photos by Mike Fisher Embrá women looking at

some photographs brought
by Laura Rivero-Fisher

Altacal’s first international birding trip was a great success despite the absence of the highly sought-after
Harpy Eagle.
October Program - Nome Alaska: Birding the Last Frontier! - Scott Huber
At Altacal’s October Program Meeting, 45 attendees thoroughly enjoyed
listening to Scott Huber, Field Trip Director for Altacal Audubon and owner
of BigBirders Birding Tours, as he narrated a photographic account of the
three weeks that he spent in the Nome, Alaska area in May and June of 2008,
a portion of which was spent with another Altacal member, Tim Ruckle, and
the remainder as a guide for several groups of birders from around the
American Golden-Plover - Photo by Scott Huber

Scott explained that because it was breeding season the birds were all in their
freshest and most colorful plumage, and throughout the evening he showed photographs of many of
them. Adding spice to the mix were sightings of Asian birds such as Bluethroat and Arctic Warbler .
And birds were not the only attraction. A fringe benefit was the amazing mammal display – Grizzly,
Moose, Red Fox, Caribou, Musk Ox and others.
Finally, there was the tundra itself, a place that belongs to the animals but tolerates a few humans
including birders who visit primarily during a few weeks in June.

Musk Ox – Photo by Scott Huber

Scott remained for a while after the presentation to discuss

with participants the upcoming Altacal Alaskan birding trip
he is leading in June, 2009.

Opportunities and Events

Sacramento National Wildlife Complex

December, ‘08 through April, ’09 – Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Interpretive Programs
Witness the magnificence of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge’s (SNWR) wintering
waterfowl as their refuge naturalists guide you through wetland habitats on the auto tour and walking
trail. Whether you’re a seasoned refuge veteran or a casual visitor, these tours are geared to varied
interest and skill levels. See the schedules at the links below. If you would like more information or to
sign up for a tour, please call the Sacramento NWR at 530-934-2801 or e-mail them at: Here are the links to the information on their website: December,
January, Febuary March & April . Check out their “Hot Topics” section. They list Altacal’s upcoming
field trips.

January 16 – 19, Friday-Monday - Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival

Every January on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend (January 16-19 in 2009), the Morro Coast
Audubon Society in collaboration with California State Parks, Central Coast Natural History
Association, the city of Morro Bay, the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce, and Friends of the Estuary,
host the Winter Bird Festival. All-day and half-day tours will take participants to a wide variety of
habitats, including deep water pelagic, oak woodland and riparian, wetland and estuary, and the unique
grassland habitat of the Carrizo Plain. Workshops will cover a vast array of topics ranging from
beginner birding classes to gull identification. Outstanding Evening Speakers will make presentations on
Saturday and Sunday. A variety of vendors will be present with nature related artwork, books, field
equipment and attire, and local merchant wares.
Morro Bay California is one of the few remaining estuaries on the Pacific flyway. Christmas Bird
Counts on the bay have numbered above the 200 species mark, and the festival bird lists have totaled
over 220 species for the weekend, making this area on the central California coast a prime birding
For more specific information, go to:

February 6-8, Friday-Sunday – 13th Annual San Francisco Bay Flyway Festival
Spend time with thousands of other people enthusiastic about the wild and wide-open spaces of San
Francisco Bay and its mysterious “north shore.” Many of the nearly 70 outings are free and don’t require
pre-registration, making it an outstanding option for beginning birders. Informational slide presentations
are inspirational and educational. Plus, the festival was chosen as the site for two days of American
Volkssport Association-sanctioned walks.
For more specific information go to:

February 13-16, Friday-Monday – The Great Backyard Bird Count

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in
counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can
participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you
can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.
For more information, go to:

(If you have any interesting sightings in your yard, on the way to work, or in the Butte, Glenn or Tehama counties area in general in late
November, in December or in early January you can send them to the Newsletter Editor at by November 7 for possible
inclusion in the next newsletter.)

September 28
Patricia Puterbaugh heard a California Spotted Owl right outside her forest
home in Cohasset and then heard another calling back. “They hooted for a good
ten minutes. It was extremely exciting for me as right at that time I was
preparing for a very important meeting with the Almanor Ranger District USFS
staff regarding a logging project we have been following near Yellow Creek.
We also see and hear Pileated Woodpeckers regularly in our woods.”

California Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis)

Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

October 22 – Jennifer Patten saw a Burrowing Owl and a Prairie Falcon off Lassen/Meridian Roads
in Tehama County.

October 26/27
A first Butte County record BOBOLINK was spotted by Jim Snowden on
Sunday October 26th at the CSU, Chico Farm and seen later that day by Bruce
Deuel. On the next day, Monday, J.T. Lewis, Mike Skram, Tim Ruckle, and
Scott and Liam Huber also found it.

CSUC, University Farm - Bobolink

Photo by J.T. Lewis
October 31
John Oswald reported that a Wild Turkey flock of about 25-30 birds has
resurfaced at Keefer and Cohasset Roads, Chico.
November 2 - Phil Johnson saw a Rufous-crowned Sparrow in Upper Park.
November 9-12 – Bill Haas, of Doe Mill Ridge in the Sierra Foothills, had the following sightings:
I today had my first yard Golden Eagle (I’ve had Bald Eagle overhead on several occasions), an adult,
perched atop a tall pine, apparently drawn to a Turkey Vulture-feeding-frenzy at the edge of the
vineyard. One of the Gray Foxes that frequents our front porch, and perfectly healthy otherwise, had
been shot. The carcass had been rendered to half its original size within a few hours.
Oddly enough, it seems also to have attracted a Steller’s Jay, which never got too close to the kill while
I was watching. Steller’s is not new, but it certainly is rare at this elevation; I usually record no more
than two or three observations each year.
Much to my surprise – but due in no part to any lack of looking on my part – I was yesterday rewarded
by another yard first: one individual of the Rocky Mountain race of the (slate-colored) Dark-eyed
Junco. My numbers are now running approximately 1000 – 1 in favor of the Oregon race of the junco.
…I had several Saw-whet Owls pass thorough the yard, including one that spent the night in and called
from a nest box in the small grove of gray pines. October 20 was the first night I recorded the species –
a good night indeed for neighborhood owls: A saw-whet owl visited the vicinity of a nest box south of
the house. Two adult Great Horned Owls (male and female) called from the Wilder Drive area west-
northwest of the house and two Western Screech-Owls were observed, one at the top of Wilder [by
Bill] near SR-32 and a second at the top of Wilder near the vineyard [by Dr. Lariann Baretta].

[Peregrinations reports on birds seen on trips outside the Butte/Glenn/Tehama counties area except for those sponsored by
the Altacal Audubon Society or other local birding groups - Ed]

October 17
J.T. Lewis and I went rarity-chasing for Asian birds (a DUSKY WARBLER at Antonelli's Pond in
Santa Cruz and a RED-THROATED PIPIT at Crissy Field in San Francisco) on Friday, October 17
and managed to see both. It was a long but successful day (5 a.m. - 9 p.m.) - about 13 hours driving and
three hours out-of-the-car birding - beautiful weather. The warbler was a skulker, preferring the dark
undergrowth beneath a willow just a couple of feet above the water. The Santa Cruz Sentinel published
an article about the warbler and the birders in attendance: .
The Red-throated Pipit at Crissy Field favored the edge of a gravel pathway right next to the grass. We
also saw a Lapland Longspur working the grassy area. – Tim Ruckle
Dusky Warbler – Antonelli’s Pond, Santa Cruz Red-throated Pipit – Crissy Field, San Francisco
From a Joe Morlan Post Unknown Photographer

Lapland Longspur – Crissy Field

Photo by Calvin Lou

October 25

Swallow Storm Prequel-Birders Unite!

On October 16, 2008 a Canadian wildlife Biologist and Purple Martin expert posted an avian SOS to
his friend and fellow martin expert Dan Airola (he studies the Sacramento population of martins that
nest in weepholes in underpasses) to the location of the probable huge roost of swallows. Bruce
Cousens studies bird migration with the assistance of radar images, and originally found this roost by
radar (see picture below). He has only ever seen two larger roost signatures; one near Dayton, OR and
one on the lower Colorado River in SE CA. As Bruce is living in Canada, he was hoping that local CA
birders would follow up as to the species and number of swallows (he had predicted around 100,000
Barn Swallows and Tree Swallows). Dan, also the chief editor of the Central Valley Bird Club (CVBC)
Bulletin, posted to the (CVBC) list. Bruce was rewarded with confirmation of a giant roost of Tree
Swallows - some estimates were 500,000 to 1,000,000 birds! They remained in great numbers for
approximately two weeks, departing by October 29, 2009 (as posted on CVB). This is a great story, not
only of swallows but of the unity of birders, from Canada to California!
Despite the 300-mile-plus round trip, three of us (Dawn Garcia,
Nancy Nelson and Raina King) went to see the Tracy Tree Swallow
phenomenon and were not disappointed. We pulled up at about 6:05
p.m. to 15 other cars and many observers including families.
Swallows were flying and chattering overhead and over the fields but
really began to thicken as sunset got closer.

Tree Swallow
Photo by Marie Read

Forming huge swirls of birds, like plague numbers of insects, one "group" would circle in whirlpool
formation and begin to dive, spiraling into the corn fields. It absolutely looked like a distant rainstorm.
Another would form and dive, and another, until all was quiet and the sun had set. On our way out
(6:45) Killdeer became active and we had a hooting Great Horned Owl calling from a distant field. -

Radar loop from the morning of October 16 with the typical

expanding Swallow roost dispersal "halo" signature in the lower centre.
Swallows Located by Bruce Cousens, Wildlife Conservation Biologist,
Nanaimo, BC, Canada

Submission of Articles
(Notices or articles submitted for publication consideration should be sent by e-mail message to the newsletter editor as
Microsoft Word (if possible) attachments by the 7th of the month prior to the next issue of the newsletter (i.e., Jan, Mar, May,
Jul, Sep and Nov 7th) - – Thanks, Ed.)
Altacal Board of Directors
President Phil Johnson 570-7139/
Co-Vice-Presidents Jennifer Patten 345-9356/
Mike Fisher 624-4777/
Secretary Kathryn Hood 342-9112/
Treasurer John Oswald 342-1651/
Membership Carolyn Short 345-4224/
Finance Mike Fisher 624-4777/
Publications/ Tim Ruckle 566-9693/
Publicity/Web Site Wayland Augur 893-9222/
Field Trips Scott Huber 321-5579/
Sanctuary, Lands Ruth Kennedy 899-9631/
and Refuge
Conservation Dawn Garcia 872-2165/
Education vacant
Directors-at-Large John Merz 345-4050/
Jackson Shedd 342-5144/
Marilyn Gamette 343-3154/
Dave Tinker 824-0253/
Nancy Nelson 345-0580/

Board meetings are held at 5:15 p.m. on the 2nd Wednesday of each month. The usual meeting place is the Altacal Audubon
Society/Snow Goose Festival office at 635 Flume St., Chico. The public is welcome to attend.
Local Chapter Membership Application

Please join us! Your membership will help Altacal Audubon Society (AAS) continue its important work.
Altacal is a chapter of the National Audubon Society. In addition, it is a separately incorporated non-
profit organization. With a local chapter membership, 100% of your membership dues goes to support
local projects and activities. AAS is an all-volunteer organization that conducts all of its programs with
no paid staff. We offer regularly scheduled field trips focused on birds and bird habitats, our own
website,, a bi-monthly newsletter (White-tailed Kite), monthly membership meetings
which include lectures and media presentations on birds and other natural history-related topics, and
advocacy to protect and conserve local habitats as well as special projects and programs. Other AAS
activities include:
• sponsoring and participating in the annual Snow Goose Festival
• sponsoring and participating in the annual Endangered Species Faire
• founding and providing continued support to the Chico Creek Nature Center
• owning and managing the Arneberg Sanctuary as a wildlife habitat and research area
• helping to monitor the bird populations at the Del Rio Wildland Preserve near the Sacramento
• paying to maintain public access and a wildlife viewing blind at the Chico Oxidation Ponds
• leading annual Christmas Bird Counts in Chico and Oroville for the past 51 years

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Welcome to the Altacal Audubon Society! Please indicate your choice of membership options:

‰ $20 Basic Membership ‰ $10 Low Income/Student/Retired ‰ $35 Family

‰$50 Sponsor ‰ $100 Sustaining ‰ $500 Patron ‰ $1000 Benefactor

Payment method: ‰ Cash ‰ Check Date: ______________

Important: Membership in Altacal Audubon does not include membership in the National Audubon
Society. We encourage you to also support National Audubon in their important education and lobbying
efforts. To join the National Audubon Society contact them at their website

Name: Phone: (_____) _______________

Address: _________________________________ E-mail Address: ____________________________

City: ________________State: ____ Zip Code: _______

‰ Save paper! Send me an e-mail version only

‰ E-mail me Altacal Action Alerts
‰ I would be interested in volunteering to help

Please make checks payable to Altacal Audubon Society, and mail to: AAS, P.O. Box 3671, Chico,
CA 95927

Dates to Remember
December, ‘08 through April, ’09 – Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Interpretive Programs
December 6, Saturday - Raptor Run - Trip Leader: Phil Johnson
December 13, Saturday – Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge (SNWF) -Trip Leader: Mike Fisher
December 19, Monday - Altacal Program - Members’ Slide Show
December 21, Sunday - Chico Christmas Bird Count
December 28, Sunday - Oroville Christmas Bird Count
January 11, Sunday – Indian Fishery (Pine Creek) Trip Leader: Mike Fisher
January 19, Monday - Altacal Program – Florida Birding – Tim Ruckle
January 16-19, Monday – Friday, Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival
January 18, Sunday – Upper Bidwell Park Trip Leader: Phil Johnson
January 22-25 – Thursday – Sunday, Snow Goose Festival of the Pacific Flyway
February 6-8, Friday-Sunday – 13th Annual San Francisco Bay Flyway Festival
February 13-6, Friday-Monday – The Great Backyard Bird Count