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Clark's Grebes rushing across Clear Lake - photo credit Barry Boulton

May Audubon Program Will Highlight Bird Behaviors

Contributed by Len McKenzie –

Birdwatching, or birding, has been soaring in popularity in recent years, becoming one of the fastest-growing pastimes in North America. Among the myriad reasons for its widespread appeal, across demographic as well as geographic boundaries, are the fascinating behaviors birds display in their daily habits, seasonal patterns and social inter-actions.

Many of those behaviors, embedded in their genetic codes and manifested in their diverse biological adaptations, are crucial to their reproduction and survival. Birding enthusiasts also know that birds’ varied structural features and behaviors offer clues, and are sometimes pivotal, in making positive identifications in the field.

Birds must navigate their lives in an increasingly precarious world, having evolved and adapted to differing conditions and patterns. Bird videographer Barry Boulton, using high-definition video sequences of various species, will discuss “Insights into Bird Behaviors” in a narrated video presentation at the Yosemite Area Audubon Society’s monthly program Thursday, May 10, at 7 p.m. at the New Community United Methodist Church on Road 426 in Oakhurst.

Featuring cranes, egrets, herons, blackbirds, ospreys, sapsuckers, owls and grebes, Barry will analyze courtship displays, sexual selection, sibling rivalry, altruism, speciation, natural selection and convergent evolution in discussing how and why different species respond to environmental demands for survival.

He will also highlight the rise and the importance of bird conservation, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, now under grave threat after a century of success in protecting species since its passage in 1918. His program will also underscore the dramatic loss of habitat in California since the mid-1800s, a primary cause of conservation crises such as the precipitous population decline of the Tricolored Blackbird.

Barry, a resident of Murphys, is currently the president of the Central Sierra Audubon Society, which serves Tuolumne and Calaveras counties, and has been the chapter’s newsletter editor for the past five years. An avid bird videographer, he uses this technology to showcase avian behaviors in talks to regional community groups, raising awareness of birds as sentient beings that deserve care and conservation.

As Barry says, birds “are more than backyard attractions or beautiful calendar photos, bur rather have their own personalities and cultures with fascinating and meaningful behaviors.”

Like all YAAS programs, Boulton’s presentation is open and free to the public, although donations to defray program costs and to support Audubon’s local activities are welcome.

The following Saturday, May 12, YAAS will also host a field trip down White Rock Road, considered by many the best birding route in Mariposa County. Participants will meet at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds at 8 a.m. to carpool.

The trip is free and the public is welcome. Bring binoculars, field guides, water, snacks and lunch. The trip is expected to end about 2 p.m.

Call (209) 742-5579 or visit www.yosemiteaudubon.org for more information about the program or the field trip.

The mission of the National Audubon Society, the namesake of noted 19th-century naturalist and bird painter John James Audubon; its state affiliate, Audubon California; and local chapters such as the Yosemite Area Audubon Society is 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.

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