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

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