YOLO COUNTY NEWS

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From turkeys to tundra swans, birds are everywhere

By November 28, 2010

Enterprise columnist

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Are you sick of hearing about turkeys yet? Sorry, but I just have to brag about the size of our North Davis flock. It was once an astonishing flock of nine. Now I count 37 turkeys casually parading through our neighborhood on a daily basis. Males and females stay together during the nonbreeding season and flocks join together.

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It\’s fascinating to watch as they fly up to roost in Canary pines along the North Davis greenbelt. One evening, for variation, half flew to my neighbor\’s roof adjoining the greenbelt. From there, they flew into the Canary pines. But half decided to stroll farther down the greenbelt to the memorial grove trees. Some changed their minds and flew from their first roost to run after the half moving on.

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Are you aware of all of the different sounds turkeys make? You can listen to a dozen different sounds and calls at the website of the National Turkey Federation. There are clucks, yelps, tree calls, assembly calls, fly-down cackles, purrs and more. Have a listen at http://www.nwtf.org/nwtf_newsroom/turkey_calls.html.

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Thousands or millions of birds are now flying into our region. They are coming from the far north to winter here or on their way to Central or South America. Out at the Yolo Bypass, there are flocks of geese, ducks and shorebirds. Snow geese, tundra swans and sandhill cranes can be viewed landing or passing through.

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At the Davis wastewater treatment plant east of town there are now gulls of all varieties as well as new duck species coming in. And away from water, unusual species are arriving — mountain birds pushed out of their areas due to snow at low elevations.

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Hooded mergansers arrived at the West Davis Pond last week. Gene Trapp and Jo Ellen Ryan spotted five males and three females. They also reported wood ducks and Canada geese.

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Unfortunately, our viewing opportunities have been fenced off at the North Pond, now the Julie Partansky Wildlife Pond. Since Oct. 19, when I returned after a lengthy vacation, there have been no signs of explanation. I called the city repeatedly, was shuffled to different departments and people, and finally got an answer from James Newman, parks and general services superintendent.

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He said, “The overlook has been closed since the first of October because of hazardous and unsafe conditions. The wood is rotting out all up and down the entire deck and walkway plus there are screws and nails protruding.

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“We are in the process of securing funding to replace the entire length of the overlook. The cost is around $75,000. There are other parks amenities that also are in need of repair/replacement and we have to weigh all the needs together and prioritize their importance. We will be meeting to discuss about this the first part of December.

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“We understand that this is a very popular amenity and we will strive to make the repairs within as short a time span as possible. Originally, when the overlook was closed we thought that we would be able to do this in a quicker timeframe so as to minimize the closure. But as stated above, the funding is scarce in this economic climate and this project is competing with other projects. We will try to get signage up as soon as possible to explain the situation.”

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Both my husband and I would be happy to be on a fix-up crew for a temporary solution. It seems like a few boards, some screw and nails could fix it up until money is available for a rebuild. This story will be continued in my next column. Meanwhile, we definitely need signage. That walkway is a popular destination point for hundreds of Davisites each day.

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I\’m sure I see only a small portion of the birds that come into my yard, unlike Ed Whisler, a wildlife biologist who has been doing a Big Year Yard Count. He lives in Old East Davis on J Street in a 1950s development. The dominant trees are Chinese hackberry. He is keeping track of birds seen or heard from his yard, but he has to be in his yard to see or hear them. On Nov. 8, he added his 100th bird to the list.

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He writes: “At 4:20 p.m., a large flock of bushtits was bee-bopping around in my birch trees. I kept hearing something a little higher-pitched than the gang of bushtits. After the bushtits finally moved on, a small bird remained high up in the tree. After a several minutes of neck-breaking viewing, I finally saw a female golden-crowned kinglet. Yahooo! My 99th bird was the evening grosbeak. The mountain birds came through for me.”

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Last Sunday, the real/expert birders were thrilled to find a tropical kingbird on the east side of the pond at F Street. This large tyrant flycatcher is a first county record. It\’s a gray bird with a yellow belly and a large bill. Birders are continuing to find it along F Street. It breeds as far south as Peru and on Trinidad and Topago.

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The annual Audubon CBC Bird Count is coming up Dec. 19. You can help even if you are a novice. A bird identification workshop will begin at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 8, at the Davis Senior Center, 646 A St. There are 10 count areas and you can sign up for walking, driving or hiking or options. After the count, there is a compilation and potluck at 5:30 p.m., also at the Senior Center, with drawings for prizes. You are welcome to the evening event even if you did not go out on the count.

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For a map of the count circle, visit: http://www.yoloaudubon.org/article/98/christmas-bird-count.

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This is the 111th year for the Audubon\’s citizen science survey. It takes place between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5 all over North America. The results will help scientists understand the impact of global warming, oil spill disasters and loss of habitat, and help us understand where to put conservation efforts. The count also reveals success stories such as the return of the bald eagle. This week, birders reported seeing a bald eagle on County Road 103.

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The prestigious journal Nature cited the count as a model for citizen science. If you are a novice, you might wish to check out birding basics at http://birds.audubon.org/birding-basics.

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— Jean Jackman is a Davis resident; her columns appear monthly. Got a comment, question, correction or story? Contact her at [email protected]

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Jean Jackman

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