Previous Conservation Pages and Information

June 2014

US Fish and Wildlife Proposes Federal Protection for Yellow-billed Cuckoo
From their News Release:

"Sacramento – On October 3, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) proposed to list the western distinct population segment (DPS) of the yellow-billed cuckoo as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the western United States, Canada, and Mexico.  In the U.S., the western yellow-billed cuckoo is known to occur in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.


“The western yellow-billed cuckoo is distinct from populations in the east and has different habitat requirements,” said Jennifer Norris, Field Supervisor for the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Service. “Populations of western yellow-billed cuckoo, and their nesting habitat along rivers and streams, have been declining over the last few decades.  The Service is asking the public to review our proposal to list the western yellow-billed cuckoo as a threatened species and submit comments.  We need all of the best available scientific information to help us make a final decision that most effectively protects the species." 


The service is requesting public comments.  To read more about the proposal as well as learn how to submit comments, read the full document.  Click here.

Keep the Merced River a Wild and Scenic River

There have been ongoing attempts to remove the Wild and Scenic designation from the Merced River.  In March 2013, Congressman Tom McClintock introduced HR 934 to rollback this protection from the river.  Yosemite Area Audubon Society opposes all efforts to de-designate the Merced River.
The Yosemite Area Audubon has voted to oppose the raising of Lake McClure.  We are concerned about the potential flooding of a designated segment of the Wild and Scenic Merced River.  In addition, we are concerned about the negative impacts that flooding a portion of the wild and scenic Merced River would have on wildlife.
We urge our members and friends as well as other Audubon Society chapters and organizations to oppose this bill and any others that would remove this designation from the Merced.
Read the text of Yosemite Area Audubon Society's letter here.
Read the full text of HR 934 here.

Merced River in February Yosemite National Park
The Merced River in February - Yosemite National Park (Photo Megan Ralph)

October 2012

Once a campaign to preserve a habitat or bring a species back from the brink of extinction has been successful, we can congratulate ourselves and move to the next item on our list, right? If only it were that easy. Back when Congress could still work together, in 1968 the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (16 USC 1271-1287) -- Public Law 90-542, approved October 2, 1968, (82 Stat. 906) establishes a National Wild and Scenic Rivers System and prescribes the methods and standards through which additional rivers may be identified and added to the system. That Act reads in part:

It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States that certain selected rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Congress declares that the established national policy of dams and other construction at appropriate sections of the rivers of the United States needs to be complemented by a policy that would preserve other selected rivers or sections thereof in their free-flowing condition to protect the water quality of such rivers and to fulfill other vital national conservation purposes. (Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, October 2, 1968)

To date, only 11,434 miles of river are protected by this act. These miles of river include portions of only two hundred rivers and totals only about one third of one percent of all U.S. rivers.

How can conservation be undone? Special interest try to avoid a direct frontal challenge, and prefer the “death by a thousand cuts“ method. So far in the 112th Congress, there are at least three rivers being attacked to remove existing protection. Ironically, the November, 2011 National Geographic Magazine has a nice photo spread and a short article mentioning that these segments are protected without mentioning current threats.

Locally, we have our eye on HR 2578 by Representative Jeff Denham (R), which would allow the Merced Irrigation District to raise Lake McClure and seasonally flood six-tenths of a mile of the Merced River. This would establish precedent to remove this and other areas that are classified as Wild and Scenic.

Similar bills in other states include:

· In Oregon, HR 2060 by Rep. Greg Walden [R] to amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to adjust the Crooked River boundary, to provide water certainty for the City of Prineville, Oregon, and for other purposes.

· In Minnesota, HR 850/S1134 by Rep. Michele Bachmann [R] to facilitate a proposed project in the Lower St. Croix Wild and Scenic River, and for other purposes

· In Pennsylvania, H.R. 1884 by Rep. Joseph Pitts [R] White Clay Creek Wild and Scenic River Expansion Act of 2011, to designate additional segments and tributaries of White Clay Creek, in the States of Delaware and Pennsylvania, as a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

· In Washington, S. 888 by Sen. Patty Murray [D] to amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to designate a segment of Illabot Creek in Skagit

What can we do? YAAS has joined MERG’s letter in opposition of HR 2578. Letters to our Senators are a good start. Some of these bills haven’t made it to the Senate yet, so official positions may not be forthcoming. Senator Feinstein will be standing for election next year and appears ready to trade water for votes so you voice should be heard. Senator Boxer’s views are unknown at this time.

They can be contacted at:

Senator Barbara Boxer, 112 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510 (202)224-3553

Senator Dianne Feinstein, 331 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510 (202)224-3841

Save the ____. No on ____. Is this what conservation is all about? We all have noticed birds, animals, wildflowers etc. varying in occurrence from time to time. Does this mean there is a problem? Maybe not! Lewis woodpeckers (Melanerpes lewis,) and Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus) are two local species that may be abundant some years, and not others. How do we know if a concern should be voiced? Local wildfires may cause some species to move to less than their desired habitat but that is a short term effect. Wet or dry years can also change the local environment, but again, what does that mean?

Science depends upon hard data. Amassing records of bird sighting is one example where an individual can take part. Pat Leonard, writing in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Summer 2011 Birdscope supplement, writes about the State of the Birds 2011 report ( where 600,000 bird sightings were analyzed. These records were submitted by the public on eBird. ( The monies are not available to hire an army of students to collect this type of data.! This is a free site which allows you to report birds by location, and can also be used to keep track of all the birds you see if you want to track every bird you’ve seen.


July 2012

The National Audubon Society defines their mission as: “To conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the Earth's biological diversity.” As a grassroots organization, our Yosemite Area chapter supports this mission by providing the local legwork on conservation projects, educational opportunities and participation in citizen science initiatives.
What is conservation? includes the following definitions:

1. The act of conserving; prevention of injury, decay, waste, or loss; preservation: conservation of wildlife; conservation of human rights.

2. The careful utilization of a natural resource in order to prevent depletion.

--------------Yosemite Area Audubon Conservation Activities-------------

Citizen Science

This society is very active in a number of Citizen-science projects, where we assist researchers by collecting data on local bird populations and habitat, and passing that data along. Volunteers are welcomed to join in these activities.

These efforts include Raptor Runs, which involve going over a fixed route twice a month in the winter months counting each raptor we see. YAAS has continued this survey through the summer of 2011, challenging the observer’s skills with the different appearances of Swainson’s Hawks, a bird that overwinters in South America.

In 2010, we participated in surveys of the Long-billed Curlew, the Mountain Plover, a 2010 proposed threatened species by the Fish and Wildlife Service, and in 2011, of the Tri-colored Blackbird, a California species of Special Concern. This year a small colony of Tri-colored Blackbirds was observed in Mariposa County for the first time.
The annual Christmas Bird Counts and Backyard Bird counts are also a highlight of the year, and all are encouraged to join in.
Laws, Regulations and Development Proposals
Not all the action YAAS does is letter writing. An important part of habitat conservation is participating in the local and county processes that create the laws and regulations that affect wildlife habitat and by providing feedback from that perspective. Our chapter has more influence when it comes to local issues. Everyone can voice a position, and by being part of a group, we can work with the elected officials and the regulatory agencies who are the primary respondents to our concerns.
One area of concern relates to HR 869 and HR 2578, House bills which propose to amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, affecting the Merced River. The effect of the proposal would essentially drown part of the Merced River behind Lake McClure.
------------------------------The Local is Global------------------------------
Although the Yosemite Area Audubon Society is primarily focused on Mariposa and eastern Madera Counties, and the surrounding areas we also acutely recognize that habitat changes in our area can have far-flung effects on populations of birds who migrate through or overwinter. With the goal of identifying potential impacts on birds, their habitat, and other animal species that interact in our ecosystems, we seek not only to protect but also to improve the local habitat.
Why be concerned about events half-way around the globe? It boils down to this: Nature does not observe or respect political boundaries. Since so many bird species are migratory, habitat losses that appear far away can affect the local area. For example, the Swainson’s Hawk that summers here may be the longest traveler in this area, going as far as the tip of South America during our winter. For this species to thrive, habitat on both ends of the migration, as well as flyover areas on the way, must be preserved.
In a similar vein, our area hosts wintering birds from the Arctic, as well as strays from Asia which can be found in the valley floor during the winter months. The summer song birds and hummingbirds we enjoy here spend their winters in Mexico, Central and South America. Loss of habitat at either end imperils those species.
What difference does one species make? Every species counts. The loss of one species can affect a local ecosystem in ways that may not be immediately obvious. Examples of this are keystone species whose habits help support a diversity of other species. In this area of oak savanna habitat, the Acorn Woodpecker and the Northern Flicker are two such keystone species. They are the cavity makers that leave the nesting hold that many other species including the Oak Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Western Bluebird and jays, depend upon for nesting. Cutting the oak savanna reduces the number of bird species that can nest there, and therefore reduces the number of birds in that area.
-------------------What You Can Do - Some Easy Ideas---------------------
Participate in local citizen science projects with other members of the Yosemite Area Audubon Society. Call 209-966-2547 for more information about volunteering for a bird count or survey.

Sign up for Action Alerts from the California Audubon Society. Visit their web site at: and click the Action Alerts link.



Birds in the News Archive

August 29, 2013 Young whooping cranes learn migration routes best from their elders.  Read more (Science Daily)
August 28, 2013 Fifteen new species of Amazonian Birds.  Read more (Science Daily)
March 28, 2013 Rodenticide use by growers of illegal marijuana crops harm wildlife. Read more (Wildlife Society News)
February 28, 2013 The impact of rural homes on bird species living nearby. Read more (Science Daily)
February 14, 2013 Studies on Blackbirds show that birds living in urban areas breed earlier in the season than those in rural areas. Read more (Science Daily)
February 1, 2013 How Owls Manage to Swivel Their Heads. Read more (BBC News)
November 2, 2012 Young birds can get "drunk" on berries to their detriment. Read more (Science Daily)
October 9, 2012 American Bird Conservancy and other groups call on US Fish and Wildlife Service to review Northern Spotted Owl recovery plan. Read more. (American Bird Conservancy)
September 27, 2012 The efficient backwards flight of hummingbirds. Read more (BBC Nature)
September 18, 2012 Tool-making crows found to have ability to "reason". Read more (BBC Nature)
September 17, 2012 Brain circuitry and learning in the courtship songs of zebra finches. Read more (Science Daily)
September 17, 2012 Rapid urban expansion a threat to biodiversity. Read more (Science Daily)
September 17, 2012 Protecting ecosystems provides great benefit to human society as well as to the habitat itself. Read more (Science Daily)
September 14, 2012 Bird strikes against windows a huge problem in Canada as well as U.S. - close to 22 million birds a year. Read more (Science Daily)
September 2, 2012 Study of outdoor cats and their alarming success ratio in capturing and killing birds and other small animals. Read more (American Bird Conservancy)
September 1, 2012 Western Scrub-jays hold "funerals" for their dead. Read more (BBC Nature)
July 10, 2012 Lead ammunition hinders condor recovery. Read more (American Bird Conservancy)
August 17, 2012 Two new owl species found in the Philippines Read more (Science Daily)
August 17, 2012 Galapagos Finch genome sequenced Read more (Science Daily)
August 17, 2012 Studies offer better picture of why species move in response to climate change, and where they go. Read more (Science Daily)
August 16, 2012 Studies of bird lice shed light on evolution. Read more (Science Daily)
August 16, 2012 Citizen involvement key in protecting threatened species. Read more (Science Daily)

August 15, 2012 Detection dogs spot Northern Spotted Owls Read more (Science Daily)

August 12, 2012 Protected areas and nature reserves aid wildlife in responding to climate change. Read more (Science Daily)
August 10, 2012 Spider-web inspired glass with ultraviolet glazing helps protect birds. Read more (BBC)
August 7, 2012 New bird species discovered in Peru Read more (Science Daily)
August 3, 2012 Sound recordings show varying weather leads to versatility in bird song. Read more (Science Daily)
August 2, 2012 Disguise tactics of female cuckoos Read more (Science Daily)
July 30, 2012 All chickens descend from common Southeast Asian ancestors Read more (Seed Daily)
July 30, 2012 Pollution motivates both rich and poor to Go Green Read more(Science Daily)
July 30, 2012 Wild Peacocks dying in Pakistan Read More (Terra Daily)
July 28, 2012 Valley farmers help Tri-Colored Blackbirds by delaying harvests Read more (Fresno Bee)
July 25, 2012 Songbird Migration Schedules Read more (Science Daily)
July 23, 2012 How Anna's Hummingbirds cope with heavy rainfall. Read more (New York Times)
July 23, 2012 Ducks Unlimited organization helps with wetland restoration. Read more (SF Gate)
July 23, 2012 Destruction of Western Snowy Plover nests result in closure of California beach. Read more (SF Gate)
July 22, 2012 Population of Florida's Grasshopper Sparrow takes a sharp downward turn toward extinction. Read more (Orlando Sentinel)
July 21, 2012 Brown Pelicans are having a rough summer - many underfed birds in California's coastal areas. Read more (SF Gate)
July 19, 2012 Storm petrels use scent to identify relatives. Read more.
Gyrfalcons overwinter at sea - first falcons found to do so. Read more.
Loss of predators adversely affect North American forest ecosystems Read more (Science Daily)
Imported plants bring damaging insects and disease organisms to native flora. Read more (Science Daily)
April 9, 2012 Political fight over lead ammunition vs. bald eagles. Read more (Terra Daily)
March 22, 2012 Unusual winter weather provides spectacular data for the Great Backyard Bird Count. Read more (Science Daily)
Adelie Penguins blatantly steal nesting materials. Watch video.
January 8, 2012 Western Bluebirds catch lots of pesky insects. Read more (SF Gate)
November 22, 2011 Nevadans urged to utilize law that allows the removal of the claim marker stakes that have caused the deaths of millions of birds. Read more (Focusing on Wildlife)
November 21, 2011 Study shows Floriday scrub-jay population decline over 18 years. Read more (Focusing on Wildlife)
November 14, 2011 Spoon-billed sandpipers brought to UK for captive breeding program. Read more (BBC)
November 12, 2011 New warbler species in Vietnam, the Limestone Leaf Warbler. Read more (The Guardian)
November 4, 2011 Millions of birds migrating to Spain caught illegally in glue-filled traps, destined as filling for tapas in restaurants. Read more (The Guardian)
November 2, 2011 California birds increasing in size due to climate change. Read more (Terra Daily) or the abstract from the research.
October 26, 2011 Archaeopteryx: Bird or Dinosaur? Read more (Guardian UK)
October 24, 2011 West Nile virus transmission patterns. Read more (Terra Daily)
September 20, 2011 New fossil analysis of bird extinction. Read more (BBC News)
September 15, 2011 Dinosaur feather evolution in Canadian amber. Read more (BBC News)
September 14, 2011 Great Gray Owls thrive on Sierra Pacific lands. Read more (Sacramento Bee)
September 9, 2011 Wind-tunnel study shows migrating birds burn muscle and organs to stay hydrated. Read more (LA Times).
September 1, 2011 Mixed pair of vireos - Least's Bell and White-eyed - successfully nest in Oceanside area. Read more (Signon San Diego).
July 29, 2011 Scientists show that weathered crude oil is less toxic to bird eggs during tests using oil collected from the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon spill. Read more (Terra Daily).
Northern Goshawk video - simulation of flight through narrow spaces between trees (BBC). Watch video
October 26, 2011 Archaeopteryx: Bird or Dinosaur? Read more (Guardian UK)
October 24, 2011 West Nile virus transmission patterns. Read more (Terra Daily)
September 20, 2011 New fossil analysis of bird extinction. Read more (BBC News)
September 15, 2011 Dinosaur feather evolution in Canadian amber. Read more (BBC News)
September 14, 2011 Great Gray Owls thrive on Sierra Pacific lands. Read more (Sacramento Bee)
September 9, 2011 Wind-tunnel study shows migrating birds burn muscle and organs to stay hydrated. Read more (LA Times).
September 1, 2011 Mixed pair of vireos - Least's Bell and White-eyed - successfully nest in Oceanside area. Read more (Signon San Diego).
July 29, 2011 Scientists show that weathered crude oil is less toxic to bird eggs during tests using oil collected from the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon spill. Read more (Terra Daily).
Northern Goshawk video - simulation of flight through narrow spaces between trees (BBC). Watch video

Eagle Owl Flight

The video below was captured using a very high speed camera - for a longer version, click here.