Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Upcoming Trip: Rock Creek Canyon

Golden-crowned Kinglet, photo by Stephen Parsons
Our next field trip, this coming Saturday, June 24, will be to Rock Creek Canyon, up in the Snowy Range. Rock Creek Canyon is a true gem of the Snowies. This cool, shady canyon is home to a fantastic diversity of organisms that aren't always easy to find in the Laramie area. Swainson's Thrushes, Veery, Least Flycatcher, Fox Sparrow, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Evening Grosbeaks breed here among many others. The area also hosts an impressive diversity of plant life and a special reptile that we will also look for. We will plan on spending a couple of hours exploring the area, including a roughly 2 mile hike.

For more info on Rock Creek Canyon and the Arlington trailhead, check out this website.

Meet at 6:00 am the Eppson Senior Center to carpool. We will be back to Laramie by noon, so if you can only join us for part of the trip be prepared to drive yourself or coordinate with others ahead of time.

All Laramie Audubon field trips are free and open to the public; families are welcome. Bring binoculars, water and snacks, and dress for the weather.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Kids' Nature Walk Recap

Photos and post by Lisa Cox, I'm just putting it up. - Libby
A small but enthusiastic group gathered for a nature walk BINGO game in LaBonte Park on Saturday morning, June 10. The weather was perfect, with sun and only the slightest breeze, and the group took a leisurely walk around the lake with many stops to look closer and talk about the natural world around us in the park. We spied many of the items on our BINGO cards, including irises and other flowers, cottonwood and spruce trees and seed cones, bees, damselflies, several birds, and at the end of the walk, in the Feeding Laramie Valley yard (of course!) a rabbit and squirrel.

Birds observed: several red-winged blackbirds, house finches, American crows, grackles and house sparrows, four California gulls, three mallard ducks, grackle, two nighthawks, two American goldfinches and a Eurasian collared dove.

Families, keep your eyes on the calendar for future outings geared toward kids. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Upcoming trip: Labonte nature walk for Kids

Laramie Audubon will lead a special nature walk designed for kids at Labonte Park this Saturday, June 10, at 9 am. We will meet by the Feeding Laramie Valley building on 9th Street. 

Join Lisa and Beth to explore the habitats of Labonte Park, including the plants, flowers, and birds that live there! With our best naturalist skills we will hunt, question, and traverse through out local park. Please meet us at the Feeding Laramie Valley building with your naturalist tools (investigative eyes and curiosity) and we'll supplement the tools with a checklist and scavenger hunt. Bring binoculars if you have them. Please plan on exploring the park for two hours.


Friday, May 19, 2017

The Universal Language of Birds

The Ucross Foundation, Bighorn Audubon Society, and Audubon Rockies invite you to participate in a special event combining art and birds. You can submit your own art and participate in an all-day event celebrating birds on 10 June in Clearmont, Wyoming. Please see the flyer below for details, and click on the image to download the flyer.

Laramie Bird Notes -- 5/6 - 5/18

Although we should be experiencing peak songbird migration about now, many of the local migrant traps have been surprisingly devoid of bird life recently. Nevertheless, several interesting birds have been found over the past week or so.

Birds continue to accumulate in the mountains as the Laramie and Snowy Range become more accessible to birders and birds. A Williamson's Sapsucker, a somewhat uncommon breeder in the mountains here, was photographed at the Vedauwoo campground in the Laramie Range. White-throated Swifts were also found around Vedauwoo recently. Dusky Flycatchers seem to have returned to several places in both the Laramie and Snowy ranges, including the Happy Jack area and Rock Creek Canyon. Northern Waterthrushes, which breed along some of the creeks around the Snowies, were found in Rock Creek Canyon and at the MAPS banding station near Centennial. After a ton of effort this spring, Nate Behl and I finally found a Boreal Owl in the Snowies. After ~17 hours of birding across southeast Wyoming on May 13, we were delighted to hear one bird singing in the Brooklyn Lake area multiple times.

It seems that the vast majority of plains birds have returned to the area and are gearing up for the breeding season. A Common Yellowthroat was found at Hutton Lake NWR, 2 Eastern Kingbirds were found on the road to Hutton, and a Mountain Plover was found on Old Laramie River Road. Mountain Plovers breed in this area and in some of the prairie along Highway 34, but they are notoriously difficult birds to find. A great way to find them is to drive the northern part of Old Laramie River Road during a heavy spring snowstorm (like the one right now). They, along with thousands of other birds, can reliably found on the road in these conditions. Just make sure you don't get stuck -- this road can get pretty muddy.

Indigo Bunting. Photo by Laurel Armstrong.

Lots of fun birds have been found in and around town recently. Swainson's Thrushes, Broad-winged Hawks, and Western Tanagers have been seen at several spots in town. In what continues to be a good spring for Zonotrichia sparrows, a White-throated Sparrow was found along the Greenbelt. A Lazuli Bunting was also seen along the Greenbelt recently. Finally, Laurel Armstrong continues to find great birds in her yard on the east side of town -- both an Indigo Bunting and a Gray Catbird were seen in the past couple days.

Today is a good day to get out and go birding! These late spring snowstorms are really hard on birds, but they offer us great opportunities to observe them. Birding the plains can be very productive in these conditions, as birds congregate in large numbers near roads, but birding around town can -- especially at feeders, can produce some very interesting sightings. As I write this, there are 10 Green-tailed Towhees, 12 White-crowned Sparrows, a Lark Sparrow, a Brewer's Sparrow, and a few Vesper Sparrows at my feeder.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Trip report: Hereford Ranch

This past Saturday, May 13, we had a great trip to the Wyoming Hereford Ranch. The trip coincided with eBird's Global Big Day, so it was nice to get out and submit some data! Highlights included Clay-colored Sparrow, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Plumbeous Vireo thanks to the Boulder folks that were also there, and fluffy Great Horned owlets. I also managed to pick up a Lazuli Bunting while I was working on my checklist after everyone else left...sorry guys.

Our full checklist is here. Thanks everyone for birding with us!

Great Horned Owl adult with two chicks. Photo by Tim Banks.

Resighting Brown-capped Rosy-Finches

The Bird Conservancy of the Rockies is asking folks to report banded Brown-capped Rosy-Finches. The finches may be banded with only a silver USFWS with identification number, or may have additional color bands. Please see the flyer here for details on the banding project, the types of bands that may be on the Rosy-Finches, and how to report banded birds.

Brown-capped Rosy-finch

Monday, May 15, 2017

Laramie Audubon's New Look!

You may have already noticed that the Laramie Audubon Society has a new logo appearing on our newsletter and website.  We have had stickers made with this new logo too--be sure to look for them at the next LAS event you attend.

Big shout out and thanks to the University of Wyoming's Biodiversity Institute and their graphic design interns for revamping our old logo--we appreciate it, and are so happy with our new look!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Trip report: Arapaho NWR

Eight of us headed down to Arapaho NWR this past Saturday. Unfortunately the auto tour loop is currently closed due to flooding. But, we found some nice first-of-year birds and lifers for several in the group along the Wetland Nature Trail--Spotted Towhee, Black-crowned Night-Heron, and Savannah Sparrow. Our full checklist is here.

We headed back towards Walden to check out the Walden Reservoir, which turned out to be full of birds. There were a couple hundred California Gulls, many of which were nesting on an island in the reservoir. Double-crested Cormorants and Great Blue Herons were also nesting on that island. We were treated to good views of a White-faced Ibis, Western Grebes, and a fly-by Snowy Egret. Our full list is here. We found additional duck species and Wilson's Phalaropes at a small pond adjacent to the Reservoir; list here.

Birding Walden Reservoir. Photo by Laurel Armstrong.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Upcoming trip: Hereford Ranch

MacGillivray's WarblerOur next field trip is this Saturday, May 13--we'll head to the Hereford Ranch on the east side of Cheyenne. The riparian areas at the Hereford Ranch host an incredible array of expected migrants and often deliver rarities. This trip is a particularly nice one for beginning birders.

Meet downtown at Coal Creek at 8 am to caffeinate and carpool. We will be back to Laramie by 1 pm--if you can only join us for part of the time, be prepared to drive your own vehicle.

All Laramie Audubon field trips are free and open to the public; families are welcome. Bring binoculars, water and snacks, and dress for the weather.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Laramie Bird Notes -- 4/20 - 5/5

Spring migration is definitely in full swing. The winter weather of late has slowed migration down a bit, but look for things to pick up in the near future.

A recent Broad-winged Hawk pretty much caps off the hawk migration season. Be on the lookout for this species high above town on sunny days, as a handful of these uncommonish migrants have been seen each spring over the past couple years.

Waterbirds continue to fill the marshes and lakes west of town. Recent arrivals include Sora, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, American Avocet, Willet, Long-billed Dowitcher, Marbled Godwit, Semipalmated Plover, Baird's Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope, and Common Loon.

In the mountains, Violet-green Swallows, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Pygmy Nuthatch have been seen lately. Recently, a few Northern Saw-whet Owls were heard singing in the Happy Jack area of the Laramie Range.

In town, lots of fun songbird migrants have showed up, including Green-tailed Towhee, Spotted Towhee, House Wren, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Wilson's Warbler, and Wilson's Warbler. Another Harris's Sparrow was found in town by Laurel Armstrong and stuck around for a few days, offering great looks!

Harris's Sparrow. Photo by Laurel Armstrong.
A great way to keep track of migration is to keep track of NEXRAD radar each night. An excellent website to both look at radar and get some information on how to interpret it is in the link below.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Adopt a Catchment!

How do you feel about mountains, ponds, or amphibians? If you like any of those things, check out this great citizen science opportunity by the Rocky Mountain Amphibian Project. Adopt a catchment and survey it for frog, toad, and salamander species this summer. This project is in conjunction with Wyoming Natural Diversity Database, the Biodiversity Institute, and Wyoming Game and Fish.

Click the image below to download the poster.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Upcoming trip: Arapaho NWR

We will head to Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge near Walden, Colorado, this Saturday, May 6. Meet at 8:00 am at Coal Creek Coffee downtown to caffeinate and carpool. The drive to Walden is about one and a half hours via Hwy 230 to Walden CO with stops along the way at Sodergreen Lake west of Laramie and Walden Reservoir in Colorado. Vicki Henry (307-760-9518) will be leading the trip; call if you have questions, and have her number on hand in case you get separated from the caravan.

We will look for shorebirds and waterfowl in breeding plumage, raptors and grassland birds. We may get lucky and see the Western Grebes in courtship display running across the water at Walden Reservoir. At the refuge, there is a hiking/interpretive trail through wetlands where we should see swallows, wrens, warblers, and perhaps a moose. Be sure to bring plenty of snacks and water since this is a lengthy trip. It is possible to eat lunch in Walden after the field trip. We should return to Laramie by 2 pm, but participants in their own vehicles are welcome to leave at any time.

Illinois River at Arapaho NWR

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Upcoming trip: Hutton Lake NWR for pre-K kids

Laramie Audubon is partnering with Little Laramie Hikers to take a special trip to Hutton Lake NWR, tailored to pre-K kids--but all kids and their caregivers are welcome. We will look for waterfowl, check our tree swallow nest boxes, and learn about bird habitats.

We will head to Hutton this Wednesday, April 26. Meet at Bart's Flea Market at 9 am. We will return to Laramie around noon. Laramie Audubon will provide a couple of scopes for looking at wildlife on the lakes. Attendees should bring water, good walking shoes, and appropriate clothing for the weather.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Spring Exploration Event

Laramie Audubon will have a booth at the Territorial Prison's Spring Exploration event this Saturday, 20 April, from 12 - 4 pm. We will have information on our society, an activity for kids, and will take walks to check the nest boxes we have set up around the Territorial Prison property.

There will be a lot of family-friendly booths from many conservation- and science-related groups around Laramie. Admission is free! Here is more info on the event as a whole.

Remember that we also have a field trip to birding hotspots in town Saturday morning (details here), plus we will clean up our section of the Greenbelt. We will be done with the trip in time to enjoy the Spring Exploration event or the Laramie March for Science!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Laramie Bird Notes -- 4/12 - 4/19


Yellow-rumped Warblers (both subspecies and lots of intergrades) are all over right now. Additionally, several Orange-crowned Warblers and a snazzy American Redstart were seen around town today. The warblers seem to be preferentially foraging in deciduous trees and shrubs right now, especially ones that are flowering or budding. The tree area and the Greenbelt have been especially good lately, while Greenhill Cemetery has been relatively birdless.

Waterfowl migration is still underway and there are plenty of birds on the lakes, but new arrivals are likely done for the most part this year. Nonetheless, a Cackling Goose was seen this past week. Furthermore, other waterbirds are just starting to show up. Highlights on the plains lakes this past week include Black-necked Stilt, Semipalmated Plover, Marbled Godwit, American Avocet, White-faced Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Great Egret, Bonaparte's Gull, Western Grebe, and Common Loon.

While checking the plains lakes, be sure to keep an eye to the sky, as swallow diversity also picked up this week, with Barn, Bank, and Northern Rough-winged joining Tree Swallows this week. Violet-green and Cliff Swallows should be right around the corner! American Pipits were also seen on the plains this week.

Sparrows are just starting to make a push into the area, with Savannah Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, and Lincoln's Sparrow seen recently. An unusual find was a Harris's Sparrow along the Greenbelt. Over the next month or so, checking the Greenbelt and other areas with lots of low-lying vegetation around town could produce this species, which shows up regularly along the Front Range in migration. Why shouldn't they come through Laramie?

The first report of a Hermit Thrush in the area came from a residential area on the east side of town. This species should be picking up quite a bit soon, though perhaps they will skip town as some other songbirds have this year and head straight for the mountains!

Two interesting raptor sightings came this past week from the Greenbelt. The first Osprey of the season was seen flying over the river and a juvenile Northern Goshawk was perched in a cottonwood on the north end of the Greenbelt. Keep a look out for Broad-winged Hawks in the coming weeks!

In non-bird news, a massive movement of Painted Lady butterflies into the valley happened this past week, and they are now quite abundant around town. A few whites (Pieris spp.) have also been seen, though I haven't managed to get good enough looks to identify them to species. Wandering Garter Snakes have emerged from their winter hibernacula as well!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Upcoming talk: Melissa Hill with live raptors

Being a wild animal isn't easy, even if you are one of the top predators in North America. How can birds like hawks, vultures, falcons, and owls survive in an ever-changing world? Melissa Hill of the Draper Museum Raptor Experience will teach us about the phenomenal adaptations of these incredible animals, including amazing eyesight, hovering capabilities, camouflage, and the ability to soar for hours without flapping, just to name a few. Four live birds will accompany the program, bringing with them a greater appreciation for their species and their abilities.

Join us Wednesday, April 26, for this special live raptor program. We will meet in the Berry Center auditorium. Parking adjacent to the building is free after 5 pm. Bird chat and refreshments begin at 6:40 pm, and the talk will begin at 7:10 pm.

Melissa Hill is the Live Raptor Program Manager for the Draper Museum Raptor Experience at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming. She has a BS in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology and Management from the University of Wyoming and has been working with raptors since 1997 when she began volunteering with Laramie Raptor Refuge. Hill has worked with four different raptor education programs and more than 70 raptors in her career, teaching thousands of children and adults about the important role that birds of prey, and every species, play in our world.

Click the image below to download the poster.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Nest monitoring at Hutton - Volunteers needed

Laramie Audubon will be monitoring Tree Swallow nest boxes at Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge this summer, and we are looking for volunteers to help! We'll be monitoring from mid-May to early July.

If this sounds like fun and you want to learn more, please join us for an info session Thursday, April 27. We will meet in room 217 of the Berry Center at 6 pm.

Contact Lindsey Sanders with any questions.

Click the image below to download the flyer.

Upcoming trip: Laramie hotspots

Join us on a journey through the best birding spots within Laramie this Saturday, April 22. We'll look for migrating songbirds, especially warblers and sparrows. We usually visit Greenhill Cemetery, Labonte Park, and the Greenbelt. After birding, we will clean up our section of the Greenbelt.

We will meet at 8 am at Coal Creek Coffee downtown to carpool. Bring binoculars and field guides, dress for the weather, and bring water and snacks. This is a great trip for beginning birders and families.

Myrtle x Audubon's Warbler Hybrid

Friday, April 14, 2017

Volunteers needed for Mountain Plover and Sharp-tailed Grouse research

If you're interested in volunteering on avian research in Wyoming this spring/summer, check out these two opportunities through the University of Wyoming:

Volunteer Opportunity--Mountain Plover
Researchers at the University of Wyoming are looking for volunteers to help re-sight banded Mountain Plovers in Thunder Basin National Grassland. Volunteers will get a tour of field sites with a visit to an active nest (and a hatching event if the timing is right!) and potentially a banding demonstration, along with an overview of the ecology of Thunder Basin. Songbird and raptor diversity in the area is high (check out eBird sightings!), and both burrowing owls and swift foxes were regular sightings on colonies last year, so there are also lots of great opportunities for wildlife photography. Click the image below to download the flyer. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Courtney Duchardt for more details:

Volunteer Opportunity--Columbia Sharp-tailed Grouse
Researchers at the University of Wyoming are looking volunteers to help identify locations of new leks in the Baggs area this spring (April - May). The ideal search time is between twilight and an hour after sunrise, so volunteers would need to stay at field housing provided outside of Baggs. Volunteers who can commit to 3-4 days are preferred, especially if you are also interested in helping with grouse trapping efforts. In general, volunteers should be responsible and preferably have some field experience. You will also need to provide your own transportation to Baggs and while lek searching, preferably in a truck and/or an ATV as the roads can be rough. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Aaron Pratt for more details:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Laramie Bird Notes -- 4/1 - 4/11

Apologies for not posting last week. I was buried in reading/writing for my qualifying exams with little time for anything else!

Spring migration is really hopping right now -- it seems like new arrivals are a daily occurrence. Where to start...

Shorebird migration is just getting started, with Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Wilson's Snipe being reported recently. Other species should be showing up soon, including the fan favorite Mountain Plover, so keep your eyes peeled. The plains lakes and Old Laramie River Road north of town are great places to look for shorebirds. There is also a small pond right near the intersection of 287 N and Highway 34 that can be quite good.

In other waterbird news, Wood Ducks, Blue-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Franklin's Gull, White-faced Ibis, Eared Grebe, Horned Grebe, and Pied-billed Grebe have all moved into the area.

Passerine migration is really starting to pick up across all habitat types. Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Mountain Bluebirds have just started to move into the mountains. Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Say's Phoebes, Loggerhead Shrikes, and McCown's Longspurs are all making their way back to the plains. Mourning Doves have been seen around town and the first Yellow-rumped Warblers of the season should be here any day now!

Finally, just yesterday the first Swainson's Hawks of the spring were spotted in several locations around town!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Conservation Expo - April 15

Come down to the Albany County Fairgrounds this Saturday, April 15, to learn about your local conservation agencies, educators, and businesses! The Conservation Expo is hosted annually by the Laramie Rivers Conservation District. The event will run 9 am - 3 pm at the Activities Building on the fairgrounds.  Laramie Audubon will have a booth--hope to see you there.

More info about the Expo, including a partial list of agencies who will attend, is here. The Facebook event page is here.

Bonus photo of Hutton Lake. Conservation is why we have great public land like this!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Trip report: Hutton Lake NWR, 08 April

Today, nineteen Auduboners headed out to Hutton Lake NWR. Fortunately, the wind was light early in the trip, so we had easy viewing of waterfowl on Rush and Hogue Lakes. Ducks and coots are at Hutton Lake NWR in great abundance. We had 12 duck species, but I wouldn't be surprised if we missed some, as the lighting was poor and the wind was ferocious by the time we scanned Hutton. We also found Tree Swallows, recently returned to the area and starting to stake their claim to the nest boxes located around the refuge. We were also treated to both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Marsh Wrens chasing each other through the rushes, and both Golden and Bald Eagles.

You can view our complete list of species here. If you were on the trip and want to be on the eBird checklist, shoot me an email.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Upcoming trip: Hutton Lake NWR

We will bird Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge this Saturday, April 8. The refuge is one of the best places to bird this time of year--we should see ducks, shorebirds, grebes, raptors, and recently arrived songbirds. Migration is in full swing, so we could luck into a rarity!

We will meet at Coal Creek Coffee at 8 am to preemptively caffeinate and carpool. Please bring binoculars, a spotting scope if you have one, field guides, and snacks and drinks. Be prepared for windy conditions. Our trips to Hutton usually last until noon, but anyone is free to leave early if they bring their own vehicle or coordinate with carpool buddies.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Laramie Bird Notes -- Week of 3/20/2017

Bird activity continues to increase in the area as migrants keep trickling in!

On the plains, Says' Phoebe, Brewer's Blackbird, Sage Thrasher, Cinnamon and Blue-winged Teal are recent arrivals, and Western Meadowlarks showed up in huge numbers seemingly overnight this week. Indeed, during this past weekend's trip to the Greater Sage-Grouse lek north of town, several meadowlarks serenaded the group as we enjoyed the truly bizarre courtship ritual of 56 grouse.

New migrants in town include a somewhat early Ruby-crowned Kinglet for the Laramie Valley on UW campus. Another early migrant was a Red-naped Sapsucker found in a patch of aspens on the east end of town. Common Grackles joined the Red-winged Blackbird flocks around town as well. While Northern Goshawks can be found in the mountains year-round, a young bird soaring over UW campus this week was a nice surprise. Finally, Turkey Vultures are slowly but surely making their way back, with a few reports coming in this week from around town.

Black Rosy Finch. Photo by Nate Behl.
The mountain bird community continues to increase in diversity. American Robins, Townsend's Solitaire's, and Gray-headed Juncos have all returned to high elevations in the Snowy Range. Cassin's Finches continue to increase in number as well and can be heard singing relentlessly from tree tops. An American Goldfinch and a Mountain Bluebird at ~11,000 ft in the Snowies were somewhat odd sightings for the time of year. American Three-toed Woodpeckers have started drumming in spruce forests where they seem to be moderately common and taking advantage of the extensive bark beetle outbreak. Rosy-finches put in a good show this past week, with a handful of Brown-cappeds and Gray-crowneds seen at feeders around Centennial. A flock of 50 rosy finches on an exposed, south-facing slope higher up in the Snowies had all three species, including a gorgeous male Black Rosy Finch!

American Three-toed Woodpecker. Photo by Cody Porter.

In non-bird news, Tiger Salamander migration has picked up around La Bonte park. Be on the lookout for moving salamanders on rainy nights for the rest of the spring! Also, a pasque flower was found in bloom in the Snowies!

Blooming pasque flower. Photo by Cody Porter.

Tiger Salamander. Photo by Cody Porter.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Upcoming talk: Small Grants updates

Please join us this coming Wednesday, March 29 for two talks by our most recent Small Grants recipients. Both Gabe and Andy received LAS funds to help with their research efforts. See below for descriptions of their projects.

As usual, we will meet in the Berry Center auditorium. Parking adjacent to the building is free after 5 pm. Bird chat and refreshments begin at 6:30 pm, and the talks will begin at 7:00 pm.

Sick and tired of being sick and tired: Can amphibians combat a deadly disease? by Gabe Barille

In recent decades, many amphibian populations have declined worldwide, and conservation relies on understanding how different stressors affect these amphibians. This research studied how boreal toad movement and habitat selection changed in the presence of livestock grazing and disease in western Wyoming. By assessing how multiple stressors may interact to influence amphibian behavior, ecology, and habitat quality, we may provide a framework for future research evaluating amphibian declines.

CSI Medicine Bow: Where have all the frogs gone? by Andy Gygli

Amphibians play critical roles in ecosystem function and are declining globally. Good conservation depends on accurate distribution data, but searching for a two inch long, camouflaged and aquatic animal is especially challenging. How can we use new DNA technology for more accurate surveying and more effective management?

 Photos courtesy of Gabe and Andy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Laramie Bird Notes -- Week of March 13

It's beginning to feel a lot like spring in the Laramie Valley, though we're not celebrating just yet. Nevertheless, the warm weather has really stirred up bird activity in the past week!

Waterbird migration continues to supply the bulk of new birds to the area, with American White Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorant, American Coot, Northern Shoveler, Greater Scaup, and Cinnamon Teal making appearances on the plains lakes recently. Ring-billed, Herring, and California Gulls have also moved back into the area in good numbers. Now would be a good time to pick through those gulls carefully, as there are several interesting species along the Front Range that could conceivably make their way through our area soon (Thayer's, Iceland, and Mew Gull among these species). Great Blue Herons, Sandhill Cranes, and Killdeer are also new additions this week.

In town, Northern Flickers, House Finches, Song Sparrows, Eurasian Collared-Doves, and Pine Siskins are all singing. Juncos are still around, though less common than a few weeks ago when we had colder weather. American Robins have also made a major push into the area and seem to be setting up territories.

Sandhill Cranes. Photo by Nate Behl.

On the plains, Mountain Bluebirds and Horned Larks continue to increase in numbers. Curiously, there are still no Western Meadowlark reports from the plains, though they are almost certainly out there. McCown's and Chestnut-collared Longspurs are making their way up the plains along the Front Range and should be arriving in the next week or so, as should Say's Phoebes. A Marsh Wren at Gelatt Lake marks the first of this species in the area this year.

Pine Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins, and Red Crossbills continue to impress in the Snowies. By contrast, passerine numbers are just starting to increase in the Laramie Range, most notably with the arrival of American Robins. Male Dark-eyed Juncos were heard countersinging in the Snowies, suggesting that Gray-headed Juncos may have arrived and are setting up territories, though no visuals were obtained. At least one Bohemian Waxwing was found along Sand Lake Rd. in the Snowies. As the snow continues to melt, south facing slopes with juniper and bearberry are being exposed, providing food for this and other frugivorous species. Hairy Woodpeckers were also heard singing and drumming in both the Laramie and Snowy Ranges this week and a couple Dusky Grouse were found in the Snowies.

Sadly, Saturday's owling trip to various places in the Laramie Range failed to yield a single owl, as did at least one trip to the Snowies. It's possible that we're just a bit early for owls to be easily detected. Nevertheless, several moths were found flying around at night in both locations, and butterflies should be emerging any day now -- Mourning Cloaks and Milbert's Tortoiseshells were seen in Cheyenne and Curt Gowdy State Park. In other non-avian news, Tiger Salamanders, Boreal Chorus Frogs, and possibly Wandering Garter Snakes should be emerging any day now.

The next few weeks should be quite exciting. This is the time of the year when spring migration combined with heavy, wet spring snowstorms can produce magical birding opportunities in the Rockies. At least some snow is forecast for this week, so get out there!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Upcoming trip: Plains Lakes

This Saturday, March 25 we will head out to the Plains Lakes for some spring birding. This is a great opportunity to learn duck identification and visit some of the best birding spots in the Laramie Plains. We usually stop by Blake's Pond, Meeboer Lake, Gelatt Marsh, and Lake Hattie.

This trip will take place after the sage-grouse lek trip. Feel free to join us for either or both trips! Meet at Coal Creek Coffee at 8 am to caffeinate and carpool. Bring binoculars and a spotting scope if you have one, dress for the weather, and bring water and snacks. We should be back in Laramie around noon.

Male Lesser Scaup Closeup

Upcoming trip: Sage-grouse lek

This Saturday, March 25, we will head out to a Greater Sage-Grouse lek north of Laramie. Come and watch these iconic birds strut their stuff on their display ground.

Meet at 6 am at the Eppson Senior Center parking lot, at Curtis St. and 3rd St. We will carpool to the lek at 6:10 am sharp.  The early start is totally worth it--there's nothing like being audience to dozens of male Sage-Grouse calling and dancing to attract mates.

In case of inclement weather or poor road conditions, we will reschedule to April 1. This post will be updated in case of cancellation, and we will send out an update email. If you have any questions, contact us via email.

Greater Sage Grouse

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Laramie Bird Notes: Week of March 6, 2017

It was a week of moody weather in the Laramie Valley, with a couple of signs that bird life is returning to the high plains.

Overhead, you may have begun seeing several groups of birds common during early Spring migration: ducks, geese, and gulls. Due to open water on the plains lakes, many ducks have been reported. Some diving ducks like Lesser Scaup, Redhead, and Canvasback as well as dabbling ducks like Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, and Gadwall all appear to be spending time in our fair county. If you pay attention to the skies above you, even in town, you might have noticed several groups of Canada Goose as well as a dozen or so solitary gulls flying overhead. Yesterday, two birders found a Lesser Black-backed Gull at Meeboer Lake. Gull diversity has certainly grown leaps and bounds in the past week!

Bald Eagle, a bird seen pretty commonly in our area, seem to be migrating through in large numbers lately. Over 30 individuals were reported on the drive back to town from Lake Hattie yesterday.

Up in the Medicine Bow Range on the other side of the valley, our local crossbill experts are still finding birds pairing up to raise young. If you've ever wondered why crossbills breed at all times of the year or anything else about crossbills, check out Cody's lead article in our December 2015 newsletter which you can download here.

As far as songbirds, a quick look on the eBird data report for Albany County shows the only newly reported bird last week was a Cassin's Finch. Mountain Bluebirds continue to pour onto the plains; Cody saw 50 or so yesterday when out birding with a friend. Be heartened, early migrants typically begin showing up in our area beginning in mid- to late-March. Who among us will see the first Lincoln's Sparrow, or Say's Phoebe, or Hermit Thrush of the year? These are all birds that you might expect to show up early, especially if you look hard enough for them. I hope all of you have a chance to go out and look for birds as the weather becomes a bit more friendly.

Good birding,
Cody and Doug

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Upcoming trip: Owling in the Laramie Range

Owls are one of the most celebrated yet least understood groups of birds. Despite a handful of chance encounters over the years, relatively little is known of owl abundance and diversity in the Laramie Range. On this trip to Happy Jack/Vedauwoo, we will target species that have been found in the area, including Northern Saw-whet Owl, Long-eared Owl, Great Horned Owl, and Northern Pygmy-Owl. Join us this Saturday, March 18, for an evening owling trip to the Laramies.

We will meet at 6 pm at Coal Creek Coffee downtown. Expect to hike or snowshoe for 2 - 3 miles, and bring flashlights/headlamps. Dress warmly!

Northern Saw-whet Owl. Photo (c) Nicholas Sly.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Trip report: Montane Bird Hop

Clark's Nutcracker. Photo by Lisa Cox.
This post is by Lisa Cox, I'm just putting it up. --Libby

Saturday's Bird Hop was a lot of fun. We had ten total, including two kids, one of whom ticked off two lifers and one who got one.

There was no action at The Beartree, so we wandered around the back into the trees, and found a home with feeders and ALL the action! The owner eventually came out to chat with us, said he'd seen maybe 20 to 22 Clark's Nutcrackers and a bunch of Red-winged Blackbirds earlier in the morning. He invited us back any time, and some of us were talking about how it would be fun to return seasonally just to chat with him and see what's happening around the feeders.

As we were gawking there, a young couple joined us who hadn't been able to get to town in time to meet up. Luckily, we had ended up in front of their house!

We moved on to Albany via Dinwiddie Road, and found the feeder on the deck at the Lodge full, but no birds around there or in the nearby trees. A couple of the guys at the Lodge explained they'd had three cats around for a year, and the birds just haven't really come back since the cats have been gone. Our small group decided to have a late breakfast (great move!) and keep our eyes on the feeder. It was a gorgeous sunny day, with not much wind, and we all enjoyed each other's company--but still saw no birds there.

Here's our list for the day:
Centennial feeders:
7 Evening Grosbeaks
5 Black-billed Magpies
6 Steller's Jays
2 Mountain Chickadees
2 Black-capped Chickadees
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Oregon Dark-eyed Junco
4 Clark's Nutcrackers
We heard a nuthatch in the trees, but no one spotted it.

Along the way out and back:
Scads of Canada geese- "Scads" is the proper technical term, yes? ;)
1 Bald Eagle
2 unidentified raptors
several Horned Larks
several Common Ravens
More elk and deer than you can shake a stick at, as my dad would say.

Great trip. Would love to do it again.

Steller's Jay. Photo by Lisa Cox.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Laramie Bird Notes: Week of February 27, 2017

Despite the windy weather over the last week, bird activity was pretty impressive for this time of the year!

In the migrant department, Dark-eyed Juncos continue to trickle into town and are abundant on UW campus and especially at Greenhill Cemetery. Pink-sided, Slate-colored, Oregon, and White-winged juncos have all been seen around town and in the Snowies recently. Many individuals have been singing, reminding us that spring is...still a couple months away in Laramie. The only missing subspecies is the locally breeding Gray-headed Junco, which should be showing up at some point this month. Mountain Bluebirds and Red-winged Blackbirds also continue to push into the Laramie Valley, so keep an eye out for them on the plains and in the wetlands around town. American Goldfinches, which are pretty uncommon this time of year, were detected at feeders on the east end of town. Thanks to the open water on some of the plains lakes, waterfowl are already making their way into our area in decent numbers. Mallard, Common Merganser, Canada Goose, Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Canvasback, and Ring-necked Duck have all been seen on either Blake's Pond or Lake Hattie. Nate Behl also had a Barrow's Goldeneye, an uncommon migrant in our area, on Lake Hattie.

Raptors, the staple of winter birding on the high plains, put in a good show this past week, with Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, and Rough-legged Hawks being especially common. Red-tailed Hawk numbers seem to be slowly increasing. A pair of Ferruginous Hawks, a species that overwinters on the plains in low numbers, were seen between Laramie and Centennial hunting prairie dogs. The pair included one dark and one light morph individual.

The diversity of birds in the Snowy Range this winter continues to delight. Red Crossbills, Pine Siskins, Clark's Nutcrackers, and Pine Grosbeaks are all quite abundant and gearing up to breed. Black-capped Chickadees were heard singing in high elevation drainages this week and a few pairs of Mountain Chickadees were seen nest building. A few Golden-crowned Kinglets and American three-toed Woodpeckers were also found in the spruce forest along Sand Creek Road. With the warm weather this winter, the feeders in Centennial have been less active than usual, though two Gray-crowned Rosy Finches and several Evening Grosbeaks were highlights this week.

Pine Grosbeak feeding on aspen buds. Photo by Cody Porter.
The undisputed highlight of this past week was a flock of 50 Bohemian Waxwings found along the Laramie River west of town. Now would be a very good time to check trees and shrubs with fruit and to pick through those Cedar Waxwings carefully!

Good birding,
Cody and Doug

Monday, February 27, 2017

Laramie Bird Notes: Week of February 20, 2017

Hello readers of the Laramie Audubon Society blog! We (Cody and Doug) are going to begin a weekly report of the birds we see in and around town. You can let us know what birds are around your neck of the woods, too, by leaving a comment below our post!

Last week, we made a concerted effort to break the doldrums of winter and try to see what birds were hiding in Laramie. During daily bird walks on the University of Wyoming campus we were rewarded with a Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana), presumably the same one found earlier in the winter by Don Jones and still hanging around the Agriculture building. Other noteworthy birds on campus were a flock of Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) and singing Pine Siskin (Pinus spinus) and Townsend’s Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi). One of Doug's favorite birds, Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) also showed up this week. You can keep track of what birds are on campus by checking the eBird hotspot for the University of Wyoming.

Moving off campus, we lucked into a flock of Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) in West Laramie near the Laramie River. While picking through the flock, Cody noticed a smaller bird that turned out to be a vagrant Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus)! We were pretty excited to see an unexpected bird, let alone a species that is almost never seen in southeast Wyoming.

Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus) found by Cody Porter in West Laramie. Photo by Nate Behl.
Also in the fields west and north of town we found many wandering mixed flocks of Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris) and Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus). We didn't manage to find any Snow Buntings in those flocks, but they have been heard flying over town. Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) has returned to the Laramie Basin and you can also find plenty of predatory birds on the plains like Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus), Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), and Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor).

Lastly, we wanted to report that some of the plains lakes have open water. Blake's Pond and Lake Hattie both had open water where we found Redhead (Aythya americana), Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris), and Mallard (Anas platyrynchos).

There's a lot of winter ahead, but if you look hard enough you just might find something on the wind-swept plains of Laramie!

Good birding,
Cody and Doug

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Upcoming trip: Montane birding and cafe-hopping

Lisa Cox and Brian Waitkus will lead us on a cafe-hopping, bird-finding adventure this Saturday, March 4. We will visit Albany and Centennial, enjoy hot chocolate and relaxing feeder-watching, and look for rosy-finches, evening grosbeaks, and other montane specialties.

Meet at Coal Creek at 8 am to carpool. If you can only join us for a short time, feel free to drive your own vehicle or arrange with carpool buddies. Bring binoculars and dress for the weather.

Evening Grosbeak in Centennial. Photo (c) Brigid Grund.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Trip Report -- Snowy Range Hike (2/18)

Yesterday morning 27 participants went for a beautiful hike to the Brooklyn Lake area in the Snowy Range. The excellent cone crop of Engelmann Spruce in the area this year is supporting a large number of winter seed-eating birds compared to most years. In a couple hours, we managed to find the following species:

1 Steller's Jay
1 Gray Jay
2 Clark's Nutcracker
2 Common Raven
1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
4 Mountain Chickadee
6 Red-winged Blackbird
7 Pine Grosbeak (including a couple of singing males)
10 type 2 Red Crossbill
6 type 5 Red Crossbill (including one very cooperative pair building a nest)
4 Pine Siskin

One group also observed a Rough-legged Hawk and a Golden Eagle on the drive back to Laramie.

A small contingent also went out looking for owls yesterday night. While no owls were heard or seen, the group was treated to stunning views of the Milky Way and a handful of bright meteors. The only animal activity detected was a Red Fox feeding on a fresh Mule Deer carcass along the road near Centennial.

Pictures courtesy of Jimena Golcher.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Change of location for this weekend's field trip


Given the lack of birds along Vedauwoo Rd. in the Laramie Range, and the abundance of birds in the Snowy Range this winter, we have decided to visit the latter instead of the former for our winter birds field trip this weekend (2/18).

Target birds for this trip to the Snowy Range will be White-winged Crossbills, Red Crossbills, Pine Grosbeaks, Gray Jays, Clark's Nutcrackers, all of which have been seen in the area in the last week.

We will meet at 8 am at Coal Creek Coffee to carpool. Bring binoculars and field guides. Dress for the weather and bring water and snacks. If you can only join us for a short time, be prepared to drive your own vehicle or coordinate with carpool buddies.

Birders of all levels are welcome! Our trips are free and open to the public.

Upcoming talk: Birding by Ear CANCELLED

Next Wednesday, February 22, Libby Megna will give an informal talk on common songbirds of Albany County, and how to identify them by sight and sound. We will especially pay attention to easily misidentified species. This talk should be very helpful for beginning birders, and hopefully the experienced folks can learn some new things too. February is too early for most birdsong in Wyoming, but start practicing now to be ready for spring migration!

We will meet in the Berry Center auditorium. Parking adjacent to the building is free after 5 pm. Bird chat and refreshments begin at 6:30 pm, and the talk will begin at 7:00 pm.

Yellow-headed Blackbirds sound hilarious--listen here. Photo (c) Shawn Billerman.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Upcoming trip: Winter birds

Join us this Saturday, February 18, for a winter bird walk  Vedauwoo Glen Road in the Laramie Range (see map for meeting place) LOCATION CHANGED TO SNOWY RANGE. Last year, the highlights were some early Mountain Bluebirds, a family of Red Crossbills actively feeding young, a wandering flock of Common Redpolls, and a group of noisy Pygmy Nuthatches. We will also keep our eyes peeled for Northern Pygmy-Owl, which was found in the Laramie Range for the first time last year.

This trip will coincide with the Great Backyard Bird Count, a citizen science initiative to gather data on numbers of birds during the Presidents' Day weekend. We will count the birds we see and submit the data to eBird. If you can't join us for this trip, I encourage you to count birds in your backyard--or anywhere else!--during 17 - 20 February.

We will meet at 8 am at Coal Creek Coffee to carpool. Bring binoculars and field guides. Dress for the weather and bring water and snacks. If you can only join us for a short time, be prepared to drive your own vehicle or coordinate with carpool buddies.

Birders of all levels are welcome! Our trips are free and open to the public.

Common Redpoll

Monday, February 6, 2017

Trip report: Snow tracking

This post and photos are by Brian Waitkus

Tracks left by a weasel
On Saturday the 4th of February four people joined Dr. Gary Beauvais, Director of the University of Wyoming’s Natural Diversity Database, for what has long become an annual Laramie Audubon winter outing. We once again joined Gary to learn about identifying animal tracks left in the snow. The lessons learned over the years have been expanded to include other winter animal behavior and effects of forest session on various animal and plant species.

This year a light snow fall and wind combined to erase much of the evidence of animal movement. We were able to discover coyote/fox, pine squirrel, weasel, and moose tracks while also learning how domestic dog prints can easily be discerned from other canid tracks. The family dogs rarely practice the perfect step of their wild cousins. This occurs when the snow deepens and to conserve energy animals place their hind feet into the same location they stepped with their front feet.

Bird sightings in the deep forest was slightly better than most years with 3 stellar jays, 2 crows, 2 gray jays, and more than 20 mountain chickadees being observed.

Gary Beauvais discussing forest succession with the group

Monday, January 30, 2017

Upcoming trip: Snow Tracking

Tracks on Track
Photo by Per.

Join us Saturday, February 4, for our annual snow tracking field trip on cross-country skis or snowshoes. Gary Beauvais, Director of the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database, will lead us on a snow tracking trip to look for tracks made by mammals and birds. Dr. Beauvais will teach us how to identify what made the tracks while we learn about the behaviors of mammals during cold winter months.

Bring snow-shoes or cross-country skis, whichever you prefer.

Meet at 8:00 a.m. at Coal Creek Coffee, downtown Laramie, 110 Grand Ave., to caffeinate and carpool to Chimney Park Trailhead near Fox Park on Hwy 230. Chimney Park is a fee area so bring $5 per carload or US Forest Service pass to park.

This trip lasts several hours so bring plenty of water and snacks and warm outdoor clothes. You may leave at any time if you have your own vehicle. Otherwise, we should be back in Laramie by 1:00 pm.

Back-up date for this trip is February 11, if the weather is too harsh.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Audubon Crane Festival

The Audubon Crane Festival, hosted by Audubon Nebraska, will occur March 16 - 19 this year. If you would like to attend the festival, Laramie Audubon is facilitating ridesharing and coordinating roommates. On-line registration for the festival itself has begun--see the link above.

For information on crane-watching, the Crane Festival, and facilities in Kearney, contact Tim Banks. To find others who plan on attending, contact Lindsey Sanders. We recommend that you arrange lodgings as soon as possible.

Sandhill Cranes in flight

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Upcoming talk: Mindy Meade

Chestnut-collared Longspur. Photo (c) Shawn Billerman
Join us this Wednesday, January 25 for our first evening program of the spring season.

Mindy Meade, federal biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, will provide a brief overview of the Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program which relies on voluntary habitat conservation on privately-owned land. She will take us on a photographic tour of her latest projects within Albany and Carbon counties. Presentation emphasis will focus on benefits to migratory birds and declining fish and wildlife species.

As usual, we will meet in the Berry Center auditorium. Parking adjacent to the building is free after 5 pm. Bird chat and refreshments begin at 6:30 pm, and the talk will begin at 7:00 pm.