Hundreds of illicit oil wastewater pits litter Kern County

February 27th, 2015 · by Garrison Frost

With the California in the grips of a horrible drought, and water quantity and quality so critical in the Central Valley, it’s not great to hear that oil producers have created hundreds of illicit oil wastewater pits outside state regulations, threatening both birds and groundwater supplies.


Categories: Audubon California · Bird Habitat · drought · Water issues

Audubon California at the Salton Sea

February 27th, 2015 · by Garrison Frost


Representatives of Audubon California — staff, leadership, and board — are visiting the Salton Sea today to get a firsthand look at one of the most important places for birds in the state, and to learn about the many challenges this habitat faces. Yesterday, we toured the lake itself and saw a lot of great birds — including a Roseate Spoonbill — and we heard from a number of experts about the various conservation challenges there, including water loss, salinity, pollution, and more. This is truly an amazing place worthy of considerable conservation attention. We’ll have some video from the area in a few days, but thought we’d share a few photos. Above, the group birds the North Shore Beach and Yacht Club.

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Categories: Audubon California · Audubon Chapters · Bird Habitat · Salton Sea

Capital Public Radio looks at the crows of downtown Sacramento

February 25th, 2015 · by Garrison Frost


Pauline Bartolone of Capital Public Radio digs into the story behind the large flocks of crows in downtown Sacramento, interviewing everyone from the local homeless to expert ornithologists to get a broad picture of this fascinating group of corvids:

Thousands of crows roost on tree tops along 10th street in downtown Sacramento. Over the years, they’ve been reported along K street and on J between 8th and 9th.

“I’ve lived here 30 years, and it was a well established pattern in the 1980s,” says Dan Airola, Editor of the Central Valley Bird Club Bulletin.

Airola estimates anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 crows roost downtown. During the day, they forage for nuts or grains in fields and suburbs as far as 20 miles away. At night, they come to sleep in the city because it’s safe and warm.

(photo by Peter Baer)


Categories: Audubon California · Bird Habitat · Birding

Audubon chapters, advocates step up to fight delisting of Coastal California Gnatcatcher

February 23rd, 2015 · by Garrison Frost


This is a photo of a giant stack of letters we put in the mail last Friday, about 4,700 total from Audubon activists to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service voicing their opposition to the proposed delisting of the Coastal California Gnatcatcher. Pretty impressive, but actually just a small fraction of the comments that Audubon activists have submitted. Audubon chapters have been equally inspired to defend this Threatened songbird. At least 20 chapters have submitted comments to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service opposing the delisting. Here’s a taste of what Audubon chapters have said:

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Categories: Audubon California · Audubon Watchlist · Bird conservation · Bird Habitat · Endangered Species Act

Op-ed: Coastal California Gnatcatcher should remain on the Endangered Species List

February 22nd, 2015 · by Garrison Frost


In today’s Los Angeles News Group publications across Southern California, Audubon California Executive Director Brigid McCormack attacks the petition to delist the Coastal California Gnatcatcher:

It is one thing to argue that a particular species — be it a bird, mammal, fish or amphibian — shouldn’t be listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act. It is another thing to argue that this species shouldn’t be listed because there’s money to be made if we don’t. But it’s a stunning disregard for the natural world to say that the species shouldn’t be protected because it doesn’t exist …

The scientific community has been quick to reject the research behind this claim as cynical and deeply flawed. To date, no other researchers have duplicated or otherwise validated the results of the developers’ study.

It is high time that we stop lending credence to these shameless, self-serving attempts to overturn the bird’s protected status and focus on saving this species from extinction. It is disappointing that the Service found enough in this petition to warrant a formal review, but nonetheless it is taking input from the public before making a decision later this year.

Read the whole editorial here.

(photo by Marci Koski/USFWS)


Categories: Audubon California · Bird conservation · Brigid McCormack · Endangered Species Act · Federal Policy

Raven at Levi’s Stadium

February 20th, 2015 · by Garrison Frost

Lots of people are raving about this cool video captured by a webcam capturing the transformation of Levi’s Stadium to an outdoor hockey rink. We like anything with a Raven in it, but there’s something about this video that isn’t quite right. Why is the stadium construction in time-lapse, but the Raven isn’t? Anyway, we’re all for good fun.


Categories: Audubon California · Bird videos · Birding

Owens Lake Bird Festival, April 24 – 25

February 20th, 2015 · by Daniela Ogden


Each year in spring and fall Owens Lake, at the terminus of the Owens River near Lone Pine, CA, supports hundreds of thousands of shorebirds during their annual migrations between continents. Dried by drastic diversions to bring water to the people of Los Angeles, today dust mitigation and restoration efforts have returned water, creating habitat and attracting birds to the lake once again. Designated as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society in 2001, it is the largest and richest wildlife area in Inyo County.

This April, Friends of the Inyo invites all birders and lovers of wildlife to celebrate the spring migration during the Owens Lake Bird Festival, April 24th and 25th. In its first year, the Owens Lake Bird Festival promises to honor this extraordinary place and the huge migrating flocks of birds that depend on it for rest and nourishment. It will also celebrate the communities of the Southern Owens Valley and their ties, through the watershed, to Los Angeles.


Friday, April 24 through Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tickets – $35; Students – $20; Children under 12 – free with an adult

Registration includes evening receptions, a continental breakfast, lunch with inspiring speakers, and in-depth tours with expert guides. [Read more →]


Categories: Birding · Owens Lake

Concerning Apple’s investment in solar energy

February 19th, 2015 · by Garrison Frost


You may have heard the news last week that Apple is investing $850 million in a solar project to power its new headquarters and stores, but you might also have been confused to learn that Audubon California and a bunch of other conservation groups are opposed to the idea. Well, as usual, the reality is a little more complicated than the news reports indicate. While Audubon California is completely supportive of Apple’s efforts (and those of other major U.S. companies) to move away from fossil fuels, this particular project in Monterey County, which has been in the works for some time, poses some substantial risks to birds. (Swainson’s Hawk photo courtesy the USFWS)

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Categories: Alternative energy · Audubon California · Bird Habitat · Climate Change · Global Warming

The Coastal California Gnatcatcher is a different bird

February 18th, 2015 · by Garrison Frost


As any reader of this blog should know, Audubon California is actively opposing a petition to remove Endangered Species Act protections from the Coastal California Gnatcatcher. The Southern California developers who filed the delisting petition — so that they can build on the coastal sage scrub habitat that the bird needs to survive — contend that the bird is not a distinct subspecies from other gnatcatchers in Mexico. The research behind this claim has been widely criticized by ornithologists and biologists who contend that the DNA makers chosen do not explain the obvious physical differences between the Coastal California Gnatcatcher and other gnatcatchers in Mexico. We thought we would show you those physical differences. WARNING: if you don’t like looking at bird specimens, you may not want to read further. (photo above by Robert A. Hamilton)

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Categories: Audubon California · Bird conservation · Bird Habitat · Endangered Species Act

Chemical contaminants suspect in mystery of Alaska chickadee beak deformities

February 17th, 2015 · by Beth Peluso

Chickadees and other birds with beak deformities first started appearing in Anchorage, Alaska in the 1990s. The problem is spreading, with deformities now in Fairbanks, Alaska, south to Puget Sound, and even as far away as Great Britain. New research shows contaminants may be the cause.Black-capped_Chickadee_deformed_beak_USGS_web-size


Categories: Audubon Alaska · Bird conservation · Pacific Flyway

Do spiders have nightmares about birds?

February 17th, 2015 · by Daniela Ogden


Who doesn’t enjoy an early morning snack of spiders? Birds like the Northern Mockingbird pose a serious threat to a spider’s survival. Most deaths occur when spiders hunt. Researchers recently studied how dangerous it can be for spiders by looking at three different strategies, including: free-hunting, two-dimensional web, three-dimensional web. From the published paper:

Free-hunting spiders suffered most from avian insectivores and predation rate was significantly higher than in spiders with two-dimensional webs. Spiders with three-dimensional webs were exposed to a predation rate in between those of the two other hunting strategies. 

Free-hunting refers to spiders that rely on venom injections to find their meals. While these insects often inspire the biggest source of willies for humans , they are brought to their demise by a single peck.

Perhaps this news poses an opportunity for birds to finally be the hero in a horror movie? 

Via Gunnarsson, B. and Wiklander, K. (2015), Foraging mode of spiders affects risk of predation by birds. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. doi: 10.1111/bij.12489.

Northern Mockingbird by Beedie Savage



Categories: birds and culture · Science · Uncategorized

An evening of fishing off the Santa Barbara Pier

February 14th, 2015 · by Garrison Frost


photo by Eric Wat.


Categories: Audubon California · Birding

Now you know how to draw an owl

February 14th, 2015 · by Garrison Frost

draw an owl


Categories: Audubon California · Birding · birds and culture

Join us at the Capitol: Audubon California’s March 11th Advocacy Day is fast approaching

February 13th, 2015 · by Desiree Loggins

Sandhill Cranes by John Carrel, Creative Commons

When you are standing out at Consumes River Preserve or Staten Island watching Sandhill Cranes in the foggy wetlands and agricultural fields, it can seem a world away from the white walls of the Capitol Building. However different they may be, these two distant worlds are intimately connected through politics. Those Sandhill Cranes that you know and love need protected areas and water for habitat especially during this time of drought and many of the decisions around the allocation of precious resources like water and funding are made in the halls of our capitol.

Audubon members and supporters make up a passionate and vocal portion of our legislators’ constituencies. As a collective, we have the ability to begin a serious conversation on why birds matter so that policy makers are held accountable. On March 11th, Audubon California  and Audubon chapter leaders will meet with local district representatives to address drought and water issues, and Audubon’s Climate report. Through this action, we hope to inspire and encourage key decision makers to value conservation and to vote for birds!

We invite you to partner with us on this important day of action. REGISTER HERE today or reach out to your local Chapter Network Manager for more information.

It’s safe to say that those reading this understand that Birds Matter. Our goal is to make sure the folks at the Capitol do, too.

Photo of Sandhill Cranes by John Carrel, Creative Commons

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Categories: Audubon California · Bird conservation · Climate Change · Global Warming · State Policy

Restoring California Least Tern habitat with the San Diego Audubon Society

February 12th, 2015 · by Ariana Rickard

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I grew up in San Diego and recall seeing images of animals coated in oil after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Ever since that time, I have wanted to work on protecting animals and the environment. I looked for local opportunities to take action on issues that were important to me when I was in high school. One summer, my sister and I participated in a beach clean-up on Fiesta Island. I remember being alarmed by the animals I saw that were directly harmed by marine pollution.

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Volunteers filling buckets and bins with invasive plants

Twenty years later, I returned to Fiesta Island to help with another wildlife project, this time with the San Diego Audubon Society. As the Coastal Chapter Network Manager for Audubon California, I visit our local Audubon chapters to learn about all the great work they are doing to conserve birds and habitat. I joined 21 San Diego Audubon Society volunteers last Saturday at Stony Point of Fiesta Island to help prepare a breeding site for California Least Terns. Volunteers removed 52 bags of invasive plants from this important nesting site! [Read more →]


Categories: Audubon California · Audubon Chapters · Bird conservation · Bird Habitat · How to help birds