Thursday, September 18, 2014

At the pond: A marvelous meeting

From page A8 | February 23, 2014 |


Cedar waxwings were the most abundant bird found in the recent Great Backyard Bird Count held at the North Davis Ponds. 89 were counted. Their song is an unusual, high pitched sreeee. Jean Jackman/Courtesy photo

A marvelous meeting happened one rainy day this month. We had a first meeting of Friends of North Davis Ponds — the Julie Partansky Pond and the Northstar Park Pond. And people showed up with incredible gifts to share.

Chris Dunford, recently retired president of Davis-based Freedom from Hunger, brought a list of 175 birds he has observed at the North Davis Ponds or nearby vicinity since 2005. He has been a serious birder since he was a kid growing up in Connecticut. He has a Ph.D. in ecology and sociology from the University of Arizona in Tucson.

The 175 birds were all sighted in North Davis on walks from his house to the pond and on to the fields just north of the city limits; however, most were sighted at the pond and adjacent area. Chris reports his sightings to eBird where one can generate a list showing frequency of sightings of each recorded species for each month and for each week.

Ed Whisler, wildlife consultant who had a hand in creating the pond habitat, brought another gift — a list of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and fish at North Davis Ponds and surrounding area. Since one woman had a story of an encounter with a fox at the pond, the list already needed a new addition. Ed also volunteered to lead the Great Backyard Bird Count, an international citizen-scientist event at the pond on Feb. 15.

Sarah Mayhew, professional photographer, who has been regularly adding to the Friends of West Pond Facebook, has already added an album on our new Friends of North Davis Ponds. She is a good birder and took many photos on our Great Backyard Bird Count.

Jim Gray, one of the Northstar developers, also attended the meeting, and gave us a short history of the pond. Nikki Nicola offered her expertise at developing agendas, sending notices and keeping a meeting on schedule. Gene Trapp and Jo Ellen Ryan, movers and shakers of Friends of West Pond, were there to give advice and encouragement.

Whisler led the Great Backyard Bird Count, our first event, on Sunday, Feb. 15. Ten people came at 8 a.m. on that gray, overcast day and sighted 42 species. We saw an amazing number of yellow cedar waxwings, 89 in the trees around the ponds.

Real birders are a study in patience. Where some of us are inclined to look and then move on, they stand, patiently, listening. Soon one identifies the song of a bushtit and looks in that direction and spots some. Another person detects motion under a bush and finds a golden-crowned sparrow. I’m ready to move on and they discover three more.

There are plans afoot to have monthly birding strolls out at the ponds led by our experts. Stay tuned. Or better yet, if you use Facebook, friend us and you will see postings of events. We have just begun Friends of North Davis Ponds with many great photos and events. You also will find a complete list of the birds sighted on Feb. 15. And we also will add the list of 175 birds sighted since 2005. If you are not on Facebook but would like to be a friend, send me an email and I’ll make sure you get a notice.

If you read the newspaper early enough, you may wish to join us on a Sunday morning cleanup, today from 10 a.m. to noon. We will meet at the Julie Partansky Pond, at the short observation deck. Be sure to wear boots. We’ll clean up and attempt to remove some graffiti.


People at the West Pond participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday they counted 48 species and on Sunday, 42 species.

What birds are in your back yard? They need the basics — food, water, cover or shelter, and space.

There are a lot of winter birds now. At certain times of the day, they come in large numbers. Water is the item most people forget.

Speaking of water, on March 15 there will be a big Don’t Frack California rally in Sacramento. Go to, Food and Water Watch or Credo to learn more. Yolo MoveOn invites people to carpool from Davis at 11:15 a.m. RSVP Frances at 530 848 2696 or email Fracking requires vast amounts of water mixed with toxic chemicals to break up shale and release oil. This process exacerbates climate change by releasing methane gas and it depletes water resources in a time of severe drought.

Kiss each day!

— Jean Jackman is a Davis resident. Got a story, correction, comment? Contact her at





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