Friday, December 26, 2014

At the pond: Migration time is here


Shorebirds arrive at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. By mid-August, birder Steve Hampton observed 35 species in 1.5 hours. Jean Jackman/Courtesy photo

From page A12 | August 24, 2014 |

It’s happening again. The great migration is in full swing.

Now begins the peak time of the year to see huge numbers of birds — in your own back yard if you have provided some feeders, water or habitat landscaping — or out at our wetlands, creeks and ponds.

Birder extraordinaire Steve Hampton reported that he generally gets maximum species diversity the last week of August but in mid-month, on a 40-minute North Davis walk, he recorded 12 highlight species — many warblers, black-headed grosbeak and the spectacular Lazuli bunting — which is named for the gemstone lapis lazuli because the male has a bright blue head and back.

Out at the Yolo Bypass, Steve recorded 35 species in 1 1/2 hours. His list included five long-billed curlews, 20 white-faced ibis, three snowy plovers, 2,500 least sandpipers and 800 long-billed dowitchers. You can view his complete list at:

Get your binoculars out and take a drive out to the Yolo Bypass. There is a posted auto tour. Drive with your windows open. Though I am an avid cyclist, I will say this place is one where you can see much from your car. Bikes are not allowed. The birds do not see your predatory-looking legs and are less likely to fly. Stop by the bathrooms and get out and stretch your legs. I guarantee you that you will find something of interest along that auto tour.

How to identify those birds and learn a little? I love, love, love the free Merlin identification ap. I’ve written about it before for the iPhone, but it now works for the Android phone as well.

Merlin is the easiest go-to-help for bird ID for beginner and intermediate birders. And when you use it, you are being a citizen scientist. Go to: to learn about it and for a free download. You answer five simple questions about a bird and it will come up with a list of possible matches of North America’s four hundred most common birds. Then you can read about the bird, listen to its call and see a range map. When you confirm identification of your bird, your observations become data used for science. As you play the call, the bird often answers and comes closer.

Not just birds are migrating but butterflies, too. They are traveling to the Monterey pine and eucalyptus groves along the California coast if they live west of the Rockies. Monarchs east of the Rockies overwinter in mountains near Mexico City. It takes several generations to fly north but only a single generation to fly south to a home where they have never been. I have enjoyed seeing them in Bolinas, hanging in huge clusters and basically sleeping or mating. Their children and grandchildren fly north. You can help them by planting native milkweed and not using pesticides.

* Want a respite from ugly news? Google “Nova, Journey of the Butterflies” to view a dazzling 52-minute movie on your computer — filmed by photographers using ultralights, helicopters and air balloons to follow the 2,000-mile migration. Monarchs are having a hard time surviving due to habitat loss and use of ag pesticides. So we who love them have to compensate for that loss. In the last 20 years, 90 percent have disappeared. Visit to see 35 years of butterfly data collected by professor Art Shapiro.

* Love nature? Be her voice. Speak up. Big oil, pharma and ag spend millions on lobbying in California. Big oil has spent $63 million lobbying in Sacramento since 2009. Many of their issues pay no heed to critter needs, so we must be active protecting critters and their habitats as well as ours.

* Do you worry about the Valero crude-by-rail project that will bring 100 tank cars of Bakken crude oil through Davis daily? You can attend a public workshop from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept.7, in the Blanchard Room of the Stephens Branch Library, 315 E. 14th St. The ramifications of an oil spill in our waterways or a fire in rail cars are incredible. For more information, call Lynne at 530-756-8110.


Is preserving open space an issue for you? More than 70 percent of us voted in 2000 to tax ourselves for 30 years to fund open space. Now a developer wants to purchase public greenbelt for the Paso Fino project in Wildhorse. There is a currently approved plan which enhances the greenbelt, brings a grove of heritage Canary Island pines into public ownership and quadruples the housing density on the site.

But the developer wants to eliminate the greenbelt and many pines and squeeze 12 houses onto the site. It would set a precedent of selling greenbelt to a private developer. For more information, visit


Birding at the West Pond begins at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 3. Meet at the gazebo at the west end of Isle Royale.

There is a bird stroll at the North Ponds at 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 6. Meet at the parking lot at 3500 Anderson Road. Bring binoculars if you have them.

2014 Coastal Clean Up Day is Sept. 20. Both North Davis Ponds and West Ponds will have a volunteer clean up. Check their Facebook pages for details. Save the day.

— Jean Jackman is a Davis resident. Her columns appear monthly. Comment, question, correction? Contact



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