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Turn your eyes toward the sky, look and listen

By September 26, 2010

Enterprise columnist

Did you view the full moon Thursday night Ñ the first day of autumn? Tonight it will be 89 percent full and will rise around 8:30 p.m. Before you go to bed, look at the moon with binoculars, a telescope or a spotting scope and you might see and hear migrating birds passing through.

If you are lucky, you may see a V formation of Canada geese and hear their honks or the rattling kar-r-r-r-r of the sandhill crane. Nocturnal migrating species include nuthatches, owls, wrens, tanagers, blackbirds and sparrows. Some species migrate by day or by night and those include ducks, geese, swans, shorebirds and hummingbirds.

Happy fall, the best birding time of the year and the best planting time of the year. And the two go hand and hand.

First, the birds. YouÕll find birds in every kind of habitat. Out at the city ponds, the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and the Davis Wetlands (at the Davis wastewater treatment plant), you will see shorebirds coming in. Look for greater and lesser yellowlegs, long-billed dowitchers with their sewing machine-like movement, white-faced ibis, sandpipers and red-necked phalaropes. You may see as many as 1,000 at a time. Go to the Grasslands Regional Park for warblers, vireos, barn owls and great horned owls.

There are still warblers here. They are small songbirds that primarily eat insects and generally winter in Central and South America. Look for yellow-rumped warblers, orange-crowned warblers, WilsonÕs, MacGillivrayÕs and black-throated warblers. The first white-crowned sparrows are coming through and flocks of cedar waxwings. SayÕs phoebes are coming on to winter here.

Yolo Audubon volunteers will lead at least six birding events in October. Find details at http://YoloAudubon.com. Take note of the Davis bike and bird trip on Sunday, Oct. 10, which is a good trip for beginning birders of all ages. You will become familiar with common birds wintering in Davis.

Meet at 9 a.m. in the Nugget Market parking lot on Covell Boulevard. You will need a bike, helmet, lunch and water for a long but leisurely day. If you have any questions, call leader Carl Schwedler at (530) 210-3104. Binoculars may be available, but please let the leader know in advance if they will be required.

Your yard will be host to interesting visitors and wintering birds if you have the three basics Ñ food, water and shelter, something definitely not provided by the traditional neat yard of grass and concrete. Maybe this is just the time to change even a small part of your yard to make it more bird-friendly. Dwindling species need all of the habitat help we can provide.

Populations of some of AmericaÕs most familiar birds are down as much as 80 percent due to loss of grasslands, forests and wetlands, and the spread of industrialized agriculture.

We have eliminated about 90 percent of our lawn and it is thrilling to watch birds, bees and dragonflies take advantage of those changes. The hummingbirds love the California fuchsia. We are fortunate to have so many resources to turn to when making yard changes.

The UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery will hold a plant sale on Oct. 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Go to the Arboretum website and see a plan for a wildlife-attracting garden for a 10-by-10-foot garden bed. Check out their low-maintenance garden design for a California natives garden.

The Arboretum will receive a $150,000 federal grant to help pay for a new California native plant garden focusing on wildlife habitat. The new California Native Plant Discovery Garden, measuring about a half-acre, will be at the ArboretumÕs east end, adjacent to the Davis Commons shopping center at First and E streets. The plant sale will include plants that will be used in the new garden.

Put Oct. 23 on your calendar. An Arboretum GATEways Arts Festival featuring music, art, dance and more will provide a sort of early start to the ArboretumÕs 75th anniversary in 2011-12.

Patricia Carpenter, a local gardener and teacher, offers a free subscription to her excellent bi-monthly newsletter, ÒThe Digging Fork.Ó You can read the September/October issue at http://TheDiggingFork.wordpress.com, as well as past issues.

She lists workshops, classes, events and plant sales and says, Why so many sales this time of year? Because it is the best time to plant most everything, especially natives. The winter rains will help the plants become established. The only plants that are best planted in spring are those that are frost-sensitive, like citrus.

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The California Raptor Center needs our help. UC Davis is cutting 100 percent of the funding for the Raptor Center. Volunteers provide most of the labor but $110,000 is needed to keep the center running.

Sierra Club Yolano Group, the Burrowing Owl Preservation Society and Yolo Clean Air will sponsor a Day of Service on Saturday, Oct. 9, during the Cool Davis 10-10-10 weekend. Volunteers will clean up fall leaves, remove plant debris and replace border fencing. To volunteer, contact Carolyn Hinshaw at (530) 757-2830 or [email protected]

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The 14th annual Central Valley Birding Symposium will take place Nov. 18-21 at the Hilton in Stockton. The Central Valley Bird Club sponsors the symposium. See details at http://www.cvbs.org.

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Turkey vultures have been migrating and there are about 500 now roosting on the north side of William Land Park in Sacramento between 11th and 13th avenues. They arrive at sunset and depart in the morning. If you go to see them, carry an umbrella.

Have a glorious fall.

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

Jean Jackman

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