WHO WAS WHO  IN CALIFORNIA BIRDING
1965-1989
RON LeVALLEY
Ron LeValley is a longtime northern California birder who was active throughout almost all our period of review. He first appears in the southern California region of Audubon Field Notes in fall 1969, when he is credited as observing a host of vagrants with Guy McCaskie from Pt. Loma to the Salton Sea to Death Valley. This was the year that Ron graduated from Sacramento State College (now Sacramento State University). Clearly, Ron took to chasing rarities across California very early on. Just a glance at the rarities he has found (below) suggests the breadth of his Statewide experience. He began a long involvement with Point Reyes Bird Observatory as early as 1966, and later served as a PRBO biologist on S.E. Farallon Island in 1968 and again from 1979-1981.

Ron may be best known, however, for his birding in Humboldt County. He attended Humboldt State University in the mid-to-late '70s, obtaining his Master's in Biology in 1980. There he became a regular in the pack of good, active Humboldt birders that included Dick Erickson, Tom Schulenberg, Stan Harris, Gary Lester and others. They discovered numerous vagrants traps and added much to our knowledge about birds in northwestern California. Among the more impressive birds to his credit is a Black-backed Wagtail that he observed from his home in McKinleyville perhaps the best 'yard bird' at any one's home in California!

Ron served for 20 seasons as a Regional Editor for American Birds in northern California, scattered over six different years. This ties him with Ted Chandik for the 3rd longest period of work on this important seasonal journal.

In 1979, Ron founded and for 15 years operated an ecotourism company specializing in marine mammals and island biology. His travels extended from South America and the Galapagos to Alaska, Australia and Africa. He has been teaching natural-history and bird-watching classes for more than 30 years. As a professional photographer, Ron has compiled an impressive collection (over 30,000 images) of wildlife photographs that he uses for presentations and publications.

More recently, and after the close of our period of review (in 1989), Ron founded and became the senior biologist of Mad River Biologists, an environmental consulting firm in Arcata. 
Ron co-authored and coordinated a training program, under the auspices of the Pacific Seabird Group, to develop the Marbled Murrelet Inland Survey Protocol. Nearly all of the Marbled Murrelet surveyors in California and southern Oregon have gone through his training program.

Photo (left or above) circa 1976, courtesy Ron LeValley
 

Significant bird records: many records of local interest, and numerous vagrants; those of Statewide importance include:
  • Yellow-bellied Flycatcher  16 Sep 1976  S.E. Farallon I. SF first CA record [co-finder]
  • Yellow-throated Warbler  30 Jun 1971  Scotty's Castle INY 3rd CA record [co-finder]
  • Black-backed Wagtail  13 May 1985  Mad R. estuary HUM 3rd CA record
  • White-rumped Sandpiper  11 Jun 1978  Pt. Reyes MRN 4th CA record
  • Tufted Duck  15 Feb 1972  Golden Gate Park, San Francisco 4th CA rec, and 1st really 'chasable' one
  • Buff-breasted Sandpiper  3 May 1980  Arcata HUM 1st spring rec for CA
  • Curlew Sandpiper  28 Aug 1981  Ft. Dick DN 9th CA rec [co-finder]
  • Prothonotary Warbler  24 May 1974  Furnace Creek Ranch INY 11th CA rec, and first seen by m.obs.

Selected publications 1980-1989:

  • Ainley, D. G., G. W. Page, L. T. Jones, R. E. Jones, L. E. Stenzel, and R. L. LeValley. 1980.   Beached marine birds and mammals of the North American west coast: a manual for their  census and identification. U. S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., Biol. Serv. Prog., FWS/OBS-80/03.
  • DeSante, D. F., Johnson, N. K., LeValley, R., and Henderson, R. P. 1985. Occurrence and identification of the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher on Southeast Farallon Island, California. West. Birds 16:153-160.

All photos © to photographers identified on this page; all rights reserved.
All text © Don Roberson; all rights reserved.

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