Altacal Audubon Society

A California Chapter of the National Audubon Society

Mission: To promote the awareness, appreciation, and protection of native birds and their habitats through education, research, and environmental activities.

Help Wanted!

In all our areas of interest (e.g., Field Trips, Education, Conservation, etc.) we are trying to get things done more efficiently and effectively by asking members to contribute in any way they can by contacting a Committee Chairperson or other Board member and offering to help in some area of interest.  There's no need to sign on for a particular position or office and you can be sure you'd be appreciated.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED - 15th Annual SNOW GOOSE FESTIVAL of the Pacific Flyway, January 23 - 26, 2014

Altacal Audbon Society plays a huge role in organizing and hosting this wonderful community event. The Altacal board and several members are involved at all levels. Making a difference in our community is what we all strive to do. We are hoping for an even more successful event this year! If you are interested in volunteering please call Jennifer Patten for further information at 345-9356 or

Hobbyist Survey

Dr. Gail Jones from North Carolina University invites Altacal members (and others) to take a Hobbyist Survey at

What is the purpose of this study?
The purpose of this letter is to invite you to participate in a research study “Science Hobbyists” designed to investigate characteristics and educational experiences of people who are active in science hobbies. More and more people are engaging in science hobbies and schools and science centers would like to know more about characteristics of science hobbyists and how organizations might better support hobbyists’ networking and education.  Hobbyists can be a wonderful asset to communities and support for science across the county.

Support us by becoming a member: Membership Application (PDF)

Saw-whet Olw Adoption

Northern Saw-whet Owl project and ADOPT AN OWL!

Altacal Audubon Society is proudly sponsoring Dawn Garcia and her banding crew as they continue researching the migration ecology of the Northern Saw-whet Owl (ageolius acadicus).  Their project was the recent focus of the Greenways Column in the Chico News and Review, (

Dawn also recently launched an "Adopt an Owl" program that will help support the long-term monitoring of the owl. Check out her blog at, to learn more about the owl project and how to ADOPT AN OWL! The package includes a owl certificate, project brochure, and letter of thanks for your tax free donation.

Upcoming Programs

Program Meetings for the general community are normally held on the third Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m., at the Chico Creek Nature Center, 1968 E. 8th St. 

In December the meeting is held on the second Monday and in
July and August there are no Program Meetings. 

April - NATIVE TREES & PLANTS for Bird Habitat

Monday, April 21, 2014 6:30 p.m., Chico Creek Nature Center

Joseph will review slides of some of the native trees that will be seen on his Birds & Trees Walk at Butte Creek Ecological Preserve on April 27. He will go over the many resources that trees provide for our feathered friends, explaining how tree identification is a useful tool to understanding and locating birds better. Karen will discuss the benefits of California native plant hedgerows to birds in the agricultural landscape of the Central Valley. She will provide an overview of plant species that attract birds and talk about her ongoing study which looks at overwintering and breeding songbirds in hedgerows along farm field margins. She will be leading a trip to Bobcat Ranch on May 17.

Joseph O’Neil is a 30 year Chico resident, Certified Arborist and birding enthusiast. His goal is to teach birders tree identification. Karen Velas has worked for Audubon California for the last 7 years on a number of different projects  including Important Bird Areas of California, waterbirds of the San Francisco Bay, habitat restoration and the California Condor. She grew up in southern California and never expected to land in the Central Valley but she loves being in the heart of the Pacific Flyway.

Jen at CR101

Mac and young wombat
Mac and young wombat
May - TASMANIA: Really Down Under
A Birder’s Travelogue
Presented by MAC MCCORMICK
Monday, May 19, 2014 6:30 p.m., Chico Creek Nature Center

Tasmania is an island state of Australia, with almost 200 birds species. Twelve are endemic to Tasmania and not found on the Australian mainland. Mac traveled extensively through the many habitats of Tasmania from southeast South Bruny Island to the remote northwest corner around Marrawah and the Arthur River. The talk features the varied and beautiful birds of Tasmania, such as the Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Superb Fairy-wren, New Holland Honeyeater and the endemic and rare Forty-spotted  Pardalote.

His presentation will also highlight some of the unique marsupials seen on the trip. Have you ever held a Wombat in your arms or had a Tasmanian Devil tug at your pant leg? Mac has! Mac will throw in a bit of history of this little known faraway corner of  the world.

Mac McCormick was a high school teacher in the Bay Area for 37 years. Today he lives in Chico and spends much of his time in Sierra City where he maintains a mountain cabin. He has been a Bird Banding Instructor for the Sierra Nevada Field Campus of San Francisco State University since 1990. Among his many accomplishments -
  • Coauthor of Checklist of the Birds of Sierra Valley / Yuba Pass
  • Author of Checklist of the Birds of San Bruno Mt Park
  • Author of A Checklist of the Birds of Fort Mason
  • Contributor to Birder’s Guide to Northern California
  • Bird consultant new edition of Sierra Nevada Natural History.

Mac is a regular contributor to Altacal Audubon and the Snow Goose Festival. His combination of knowledge, storytelling and humor, make his presentations some of the best received by our members.You won’t want to miss this program!

Upcoming Bird Walks and Birding Trips

All of our field trips are open to beginning birders.  Anyone with a sense of wonder is welcome to participate.


Trip Leaders: Raina King and Steve King

This Second Saturday field trip is to Upper Bidwell Park.Birders of all levels are welcome! With spring migrants showing up early this year, who knows what we might see! Should be exciting! Let’s meet at 9 am at the parking lot on the left just past the gun club  (follow Wildwood Ave for 1.75 miles and turn left just before the gate). We will walk from Horseshoe Lake, up the canyon and then follow the Yahi Trail along the creek as far as time permits (two to three miles round trip) and will be back to the cars by about 12:30 pm. Bring binoculars, water, snacks walking shoes and proper clothing for the expected weather conditions. Rain cancels. For more information contact: Steve King at 530 566-6136.

Upper Bidwell Park
Upper Bidwell Park

April 13, Sunday - BUTTE COUNTY BIG DAY
Trip Leader: Matthew Forster

Join us as we scour the mountains, hills, and valleys within Butte County to achieve the goal of viewing the most possible species of birds in a single day! We will begin in the mountains, past Forest Ranch, in search of such species as Pileated Woodpecker, Townsend’s Solitaire, and Mountain Chickadee. We will then travel to Forest Ranch proper and look for Evening Grosbeak, Purple Finch, Pacific Wren and an array of migrant warblers. As we travel back to the valley, we will make a quick stop at Tuscan Loop to catch a glimpse of California Thrasher. On to the Oxidation Ponds, to look for remaining waterfowl, American Bittern, Virginia Rail, and Sora. As we then drive to the washout, where Big Chico Creek enters the Sacramento River, to catch a glimpse at Yellow-billed  Magpie and Loggerhead Shrike.

Once at the washout, we will search for Lazuli Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Green Heron, terns on the island and sparrows. From there we will travel to Llano Seco, where we should collect an assortment of shorebirds. From there we will journey to Nelson Ave, where  eagles, hawks, Burrowing Owl, Tri-colored Blackbird and possible Grasshopper Sparrow. We will end at Thermalito Afterbay and Tres Villas Road where we will scope the waters for the grebes and end with a glimpse of Short-eared Owl.

Meet at Chico Park & Ride (lot nearest Hwy 99/32) at 5:45 am and depart at 6:15 am. Please bring lunch, plenty of water, binoculars, scopes, and field guides. We will try to keep the amount of cars to a minimum. We shall plan for a return by 7pm. Contact  Matthew Forster at 619 347-2269 or


Trip leader: Joseph O’Neil, Certified Arborist

We will explore the freshly leafed out native trees, shrubs and the spring birds of Butte Creek. This is a 3 to 4 mile intermediate hike along the creek (and over some logs) down to the pond. Violet Green Swallows, Wood Ducks, Yellow-breasted Chats, and  Coopers Hawks have been some of the many species seen here in late April. Beavers and Otters may also be seen. Bring sturdy shoes/boots, water, and snacks for this 3 hour hike. Meet at the parking lot of the preserve at 8 am. The preserve is on Honey Run Road about 3 miles off the Skyway, just past 1182. For information contact Joseph O’Neil at

Oxidation Ponds
Oxidation Ponds


Trip Leader: Matt Forester

We will close up the Second Saturday season with the Oxidation Ponds Wildlife Sanctuary at the Waste Water Treatment Plant, west of Chico. Spring migration will be well underway and most of the waterfowl will be gone. It will be interesting to see what has taken its place, Yellow-headed blackbirds, Great-tailed Grackle, migrating warblers, rails. The walk is under 2 miles and about 3 hours. For shorter, you can walk out to the viewing blind. The walk is flat and pretty easy going. Meet at the Oxidation Pond parking area at 3 pm.  Afternoon keeps the sun at our back and warmer. We should be back to the lot by 6 pm.

To get to the Oxidation Ponds, go west on W 5th St from Hwy 32 in Chico. Follow W 5th St, which becomes Chico River Rd, for 3.9 miles. The wildlife viewing parking area is 300 yards past the main entrance to the water treatment plant, on the left.

Bring binoculars, spotting scopes, water, walking shoes and proper clothing for the expected weather conditions. There is a chemical toilet on the way out to the viewing area. Rain cancels. Contact: Steve King at 530 566-6136.


Trip Leader: Jennifer Patten

What better way to start Mother’s Day than a bird walk to see and hear Spring migrants at one of our local hot birding spots, the Pine Creek Unit of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex. These migrants will be in and in good numbers: beautiful Bullockʼs  Orioles, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Western Kingbirds, Ash-throated Flycatchers and House Finches. We will also be on the look out for Blue Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Western Wood-Pewee, Lawrenceʼs Goldfinches, and Lark Sparrows. This site is located directly  east of Hamilton City and just south off Highway 32 before the Sacramento River and is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The property has 31 acres of fallow, 228 acres of restored native grass and 33 acres of existing riparian habitat - mostly cottonwood  forest, with some riparian scrub and herbland cover. An easy 2 mile walk along flat gravel roads. Bring binoculars, bird field guide, snack and water. Rain cancels. Meet at Chico Park & Ride (lot nearest Hwy 99/32) at 9 am. We will be back around 12:30 p.m. Contact Jennifer Patten 530 345-9356.
Pine Creek
Pine Creek

Bobcat Ranch
Bobcat Ranch
Trip Leader: Karen Velas

Karen Velas, Bird Conservation Project Manager of Audubon California, will lead a birding hike of Bobcat Ranch, a 6800 acre working cattle ranch. We will spend some time at Bray Canyon where there are chances to observe Mountain Quail, Wrentit, Northern  Pygmy Owl, and Pileated Woodpecker. We will make a second stop at an area of Blue Oak Woodland where there could be Golden Eagle, Yellow-billed Magpie, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Rock Wren, Phainopepla, Lark Sparrow.

Meet on the deck in front of Steady Eddys Coffee House (5 E Main St Winters, CA 95694) in downtown Winters at 8 am. We’ll carpool to the site, approximately 15 minutes northwest of Winters. Please bring binoculars, sturdy hiking shoes, drinking water, and a  snack. This trip involves moderate hiking on uneven ground. Contact Karen Velas for information.

Altacal Audubon will need to know the number of people going. Contact Jennifer Patten,, or 530-345-9356 to reserve your spot and for further details. Arrangements also can be made for carpooling when you sign up. It takes 2 hours to drive to Winters, so be prepared for an all day trip. Some Altacalers will be camping Friday/Saturday at Lake Solano Park, located along beautiful Putah Creek near Winters. Make your own reservation at Park contact 530 795-2990.

Uncommon Birds -

Bank Swallow

Altacal Audubon Society has had an exciting opportunity to create an educational brochure to inform landowners along the Sacramento River about Bank Swallows (Riparia riparia), their nesting habitat, and incentive programs to help protect them.    Members Carolyn Short, Raina King and I were awarded a grant to create the brochure and companion website by the Fund for Wild Nature. Go to to learn more about this species population on the Sacramento River.

Image copyright 2006: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Current Newsletter

Newsletter Archives

Board of Directors

Altacal Strategic Plan (2010)

Membership Application (printable PDF)

Gift Contribution (printable PDF)

Trip Reports

National Audubon Society

Audubon California

National List of Audubon Chapters

Central Valley Bird Club

SFSU Sierra Nevada Field Campus

Local Birding Sites

Joe Morlan's California Birding

Chico Creek Nature Center

Friends of the River

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Friends of Bidwell Park

Butte Environmental Council

California Wildlife Festival Calendar




eBird California bird identification

Local Blogs

North-state Naturalists

Liam Huber's banding experiences

Those Amazing Birds

Dawn Garcia's BirdBling Blog

Submission of Articles

Notices or articles submitted for publication consideration should be sent by e-mail message to the newsletter editor as Microsoft Word (if possible) attachments by the 1st of the month for the next issue of the newsletter (i.e., Jan, Mar, May, Jul, Sep and Nov 1st) - – Thanks.

Attention Libraries!

If you would like to receive the White-tailed Kite for distribution to your patrons, please email to let us know how many copies you'd like.

Altacal Audubon Society PO Box 3671 Chico, California 95927-3671