Monday, October 19, 2015

Trip Report: Laramie Plains Lakes

On a lovely October morning, 6 people joined the Laramie Audubon trip to the Plains Lakes. Although songbirds were notably absent, waterbird numbers were increasing on many of the lakes. Diversity of waterbirds was still rather low at many sites, but we were treated to wonderful views of the some unusual birds.

We started the trip off at Blake's Pond, where there were well over 100 American Wigeons, as well as a lingering Blue-winged Teal. American Coots were also out in force, not only on Blake's Pond but on every lake we visited, with numbers well into the hundreds on Meeboer, Gelatt, and Twin Buttes Lakes. On the deeper water of Twin Buttes, we were also treated to many grebes as well as many diving ducks, including Ruddy Ducks and Lesser Scaup. The highlight from Twin Buttes was one Horned Grebe associating with the many Eared Grebes.

Between Blake's and Gelatt, we encountered what was undoubtedly our most unusual bird of the day, a Sharp-tailed Grouse that was flying fast but low from west to east. With no breeding populations in Albany County, this is a very odd bird, and may represent one of the first records from the county. Its origin remains unknown, but may have come from either the eastern plains near Cheyenne, or from the population in Carbon County on the west side of the Sierra Madre range. Unfortunately, not everyone was able to get on the bird as it disappeared just as quickly as it appeared.

While the Sharp-tailed Grouse may have been the most unusual bird, the undeniable highlight was a very confiding Pacific Loon that we were able to watch closely at Lake Hattie. This bird was associating with two Common Loons, which allowed for an incredible opportunity to study the differences between these two species.

Pacific Loon (left) with Common Loon (right) - Lake Hattie, Laramie Plains © Shawn Billerman

Thanks to everyone who joined the Laramie Audubon on a great trip to the Laramie Plains Lakes!

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