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About This Year’s Holiday Program
Your Yakima Valley Audubon board has decided we need to continue protecting our members through COVID protocols. After considerable discussion, the Board concluded it would not be safe to have an in-person holiday potluck and program at the Arboretum this year. As with last year, we will offer a special program via Zoom on Thursday December 2, our usual date for this event. But instead of the usual Zoom webinar format, we’ll have a regular Zoom meeting where we can see each other and interact on screen. You can sign in at 6:45 p.m. and visit with others on-screen. Please see the program announcement for the Zoom link. We hope to “see you there” online!

Yakima Valley Audubon Society presents
with Dennis Paulson and Netta Smith

Enjoy summer in the Land Down Under this holiday season!
Thursday, December 2nd, 7 p.m. via Zoom
(Social time beginning at 6:45 p.m.)
Travel with Dennis Paulson and Netta Smith to Queensland, Australia’s most diverse and exciting state. Check out the birds and other animals of a wide range of habitats from rain forests to open woodlands to mud flats, with a side trip to a reef-fringed island of the Great Barrier Reef. Their visit in December 2018 was right in the middle of the southern-hemisphere summer, with hot days and occasional rain. You are likely to agree that this small corner of Australia is a naturalist’s paradise.


Zoom details - This program will be in meeting format so we can see each other and take turns speaking and asking questions directly. To join the program, click the link below or copy and paste it into your browser:

If you are not able to join this program live, a recording will be available on our website, .


Thanks for renewing your membership!

Denny Granstrand, Ross and Diane Bornfleth, Martha Taylor, Joyce Dennison, Eileen Gavin

Welcome New Board Members!

YVAS annual elections were held at the October program meeting. Welcome to our new board members and thank you for your willingness to pitch in!
President: Scott Downes
Vice President: Sarah Shippen
Treasurer: Rich Mathieu
Secretary: Deborah Severtson-Coffin
Director: Karen Zook
Director: Denny Granstrand
Director: Bill Drenguis
Director: Ken Tolonen
Upcoming Field Trips

Second Saturday Bird Walk at the Yakima Arboretum

Saturday, December 11 at 9:00 a.m.
Meet in the Arboretum parking lot in front of the visitor center, 1401 Arboretum Drive, Yakima, WA 98901.
This monthly event is for all ages and birding abilities. We will bird the paths of the Arboretum and Greenway for approximately two hours. The morning will likely be chilly, so bundle up! Participants are welcome to join for the entire two hours or head home as they are comfortable. There is no need to register for this event.
Leaders:  Sarah Shippen and Gene Miliczky
Hope to see you there!

Field Trip Reports

 November 13th Second Saturday Bird Walk

Yakima Arboretum
     After several days of rain and clouds, Saturday dawned cold and clear.  We had 7 birders participate and their efforts were rewarded! The Arboretum grounds were beautiful with a lingering ground fog and vibrant fall colors with the recent rains. We started down the trail towards Jewett Pond and immediately saw Dark-eyed Juncos and Canada Geese flying overhead and White-crowned Sparrows calling and twittering in the brush. We headed into the natural area where it is quieter and saw a Northern Flicker, Song Sparrow, Bewick’s Wren, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. When we arrived at the blind, there was a Sooty Fox Sparrow, California Scrub Jay, and a Golden-crowned Sparrow along with the abundant Chickadees and Juncos.  Jeff Kozma was set up to trap and band birds as a part of a YVAS study grant. He caught and banded a Dark-eyed Junco and Chickadee while we observed.  He told us some Chickadees that had been trapped previously have figured out how to go in get the food without tripping the trap!  
     We continued birding down the Greenway path where we saw a Great Blue Heron catch and swallow a frog in a small pond next to the River. In the riparian areas along the Greenway, we saw a Red-tailed Hawk perched in a snag across the river, American Goldfinches, Song Sparrows, and Bewick’s Wrens. We headed back on the gravel path along the river and then around the Humane Society building to the other side of the Arboretum. In the Cottonwood and pine at the edge of the Arboretum grounds, there was a group of Cedar Waxwings and another Kinglet. It was an enjoyable day with rewarding birding!


COVID-19 is once again affecting how we do the two Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) that YVAS sponsors. We have two or three route leaders on each count who are comfortable having vaccinated people join them. The traditional before-count breakfast and the compilation dinner have once again been cancelled due to COVID concerns.
     We would like you to participate in one or both of the counts. There are a couple of options open for you. One, you can score a spot with one of the route leaders who would like company. Two, you can do a feeder watch throughout the day. In your feeder watch, you can include your yard, your neighborhood, and/or a natural area nearby that won’t be covered by the group doing the CBC route that includes your neighborhood. If you would like to do a park or natural area, we will have to check with the route leader who covers your area to make sure those birds are not double-counted. Please email the compiler if you have questions.
     If you are interested in participating, or to find out if your house and neighborhood is within a count circle, please email the compiler for the CBC area you are interested in: Eric Heisey for the Toppenish NWR count ( or Denny Granstrand for the Yakima Valley count ( . If possible, you will be assigned to a CBC route and you will be sent the route leader’s contact information. If all of the open group spots are taken, we will appreciate you doing a feeder watch. At the end of the day, please send your list of birds and the number seen to the appropriate compiler:
If you have any questions, please email Denny Granstrand:
     If you have Anna’s Hummingbirds coming to feeders at your house, and if they are still there by the dates of the CBCs, it is important that you email the appropriate count compiler with the number of hummingbirds visiting your feeders on count day. The record for Anna’s Hummingbirds seen on the Yakima count is 18 in 2015. Since they are now nesting in Yakima County, it is likely there are many more staying near our feeders than that.

Title photos: Downy Woodpeckers, Female (left) and male (right) by Sarah Shippen.

Q: It’s fall (or winter) and there are still hummingbirds in my yard – shouldn’t they have migrated by now?
A: The hummingbirds seen in October thru February /March in the valley are almost certainly Anna’s Hummingbirds, a species which is steadily expanding its range northward. This is the only hummingbird species that does not migrate south from our area to winter in warmer climates; rather they are year around residents in Washington State with Yakima area populations expanding in recent years.

Q: How do hummingbirds survive in winter? Should I feed them?
A: Hummingbirds are uniquely adapted to surviving winter. They have a very high metabolism which requires a lot of energy to sustain. To conserve energy at night, they go into a state called torpor, where they lower their metabolism to almost nothing (kind of like a really short hibernation) in order to survive the cold.
     Many people do not know that the main source of food for hummingbirds is insects rather than nectar. Drinking nectar gives them the energy they need to sustain their metabolism and hunt insects. There are some insects active in winter, but not many, so having a reliable source of nectar is important to their survival. So, if you plan on putting up a hummingbird feeder in the winter, plan on keeping it up until the temperatures warm in the early spring.
     If you are putting up a feeder, there are a few things to remember. First, keep the feeder clean. This is essential. Change the nectar at least once a week (more often when it is warmer outside), and clean the feeder every time you change the nectar. Wash the feeder with a mild detergent and hot water and rinse well.
     Second, place the feeder out of the reach of cats, at least four feet off of the ground. Third, if it is cold and the feeder freezes, keep a second feeder available. Keep two feeders full of nectar, and when one starts to freeze, bring it inside to thaw and put the other one up. After it gets dark, bring the feeder(s) inside and put them in the fridge until daylight (literally – these birds are hungry when awaking in the morning! It’s best to put feeders out just before daylight).
      The recipe for nectar is simple: Four parts water to one part sugar. Use only cane or beet white table sugar – NO brown sugar - NEVER use honey or artificial sweetener, and NEVER add red food coloring to the nectar. Bring to a boil, cool and store for a week to 10 days in the fridge.
      An alternative to bringing feeders in and out in freezing weather is a heated hummingbird feeder. There are a couple of them on the market locally: Hummers Heated Delight, which is made in Oregon, is a very popular option. There are quite a few people in the Yakima Valley who are using this feeder:
     Another option is the Hummer Hearth, sold at Wild Birds Unlimited. This heater is easy to use and matches up perfectly with hummingbird feeders purchased at WBU, if you use them:
      One thing to remember about using heated feeders is that you need to watch the nectar carefully. Because of the heat, it spoils more quickly than you might expect and you may need to change it more often.
Q: Will putting up a feeder for Anna’s hummingbirds keep other hummingbird species from migrating?
A: NO. That is a myth. We have four species of hummingbirds that visit/live in our area for part of the year. Many people keep hummingbird feeders up year long, and the only species that stay are the Anna’s. The other species are genetically programmed to migrate, and a feeder hanging in your yard will not stop them.

Q: Where can I learn more about hummingbirds?
A: There are a lot of resources for learning more about hummingbirds.

The Effects of Wildfires on Birds
Our forests, shrublands, and grasslands in the Great American West suffer poor health for many reasons. A century of fire suppression and poor management has increased the fuel load in our forests. Non-native invasive species, such as Cheat Grass, make our shrub-steppe and grasslands much more prone to wildfires. Climate change worsens forest and range conditions with hotter temperatures, greater evaporation rates, and extreme drought conditions in California and elsewhere in the West. Fire is a natural event and even a critical component needed to maintain the health of our forests, shrub-steppe, and grasslands, especially so in a number of natural communities. Birds and other wildlife have adapted to a natural fire regime over millennia. However, the wildfires, indeed conflagrations, that are now ravaging the Western United States, are unprecedented in their size and number, and are changing our landscapes across the American West. It is critical for us to improve our management of western forests to reduce risks of wildfire and restore good forest health. And we must seriously work to improve management of our shrub-steppe and grassland communities also. This will take an ambitious effort on public lands and will also require providing incentives to private landowners.

How Are Wildfires Affecting Birds?

Adult birds are, of course, mobile, and can escape the actual fire. However, smoke pollution may adversely affect birds, and wildfire may be reducing the food available to sustain many of our birds. An Internet search provides a number of articles that have recently been written by researchers and concerned individuals.

Here are a few links to articles that shed some light on this topic:
+ From National Audubon News, September 11, 2020:
+ From Audubon California, September 14, 2020:
- From ‘ChirpforBirds’, September 18, 2020:
+ From “Chinook Observer”, December 20, 2018:
+ From ‘10,000 Birds’, August 9, 2018:
+ From ABC4 (Salt Lake City), July 14, 2021:


Final Note:

Again, periodic fires are a part of our natural environment and are critical to maintaining healthy ecosystems. Some species of birds, wildlife, and plants require periodic fires for their continued existence. But the unprecedented number and size of the wildfires that are currently sweeping across our American West give us all great concern about their long-term negative impacts on birds and on our natural environments we value and enjoy so much. We must work to restore the health of our natural systems to ensure a healthy future for us all

Copyright © *2021 Yakima Valley Audubon Society*, All rights reserved.

 YVAS Website:

Our mailing address is:
Yakima Valley Audubon Society
P. O. Box 2823
Yakima, WA  98907


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Yakima Valley Audubon Society · PO Box 2823 · Yakima, WA 98907-2823 · USA

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