Thursday, August 24, 2017

Laramie Bird Notes -- 8/17 - 8/24

As fall migration starts to heat up, the Laramie Bird Notes will resume to bring you all the wonderful avian happenings in the Laramie Valley.

Fall migration this year is starting off with a somewhat strange phenomenon: Pygmy Nuthatches, White-breasted Nuthatches, and at least four different Red Crossbill call types are all over town! Over the past week or so, both nuthatches have been seen at the Greenhill Cemetery, the Greenbelt, and near UW campus, which is pretty strange. It even seems that Red-breasted Nuthatches are much more abundant in town than usual. Type 2 (or Ponderosa Pine crossbills) have been the most abundant crossbill call type around town (especially on campus and at the cemetery), though types 5 (Lodgepole Pine), 4 (Douglas-fir), and 3 (Western Hemlock) have also been found recently.

Pygmy Nuthatches and Red Crossbills are on the move this fall.
Photos by Nate Behl.
It seems likely that the influx of nuthatches and type 2 crossbills into town is due to the lack of a Ponderosa Pine cone crop in the surrounding mountain ranges, as these species depend heavily on the seeds from this tree in fall and winter. Similar reports from along the Front Range of Colorado, and the massive movement of type 2 crossbills into the Great Lakes and northeastern United States, suggest that these species are moving across much of the Rockies. Red Crossbill types 3 and 4 are also moving into the eastern United States, indicating that Douglas-fir and Western Hemlock cone crops are failing in the Pacific Northwest. For a nice primer on crossbill ecology and identifying crossbills to call type, check out this wonderful article from Cornell's Matt Young:

In more normal migrant news, migrant songbirds are really starting to move through town in decent numbers. In addition to the masses of Wilson's Warblers we get every fall, other migrants around town recently include Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, Dusky Flycatcher, Gray Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Bullock's Oriole, Black-headed Grosbeak, Gray Catbird, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Brewer's Sparrow, and Lark Sparrow. Greenhill Cemetery and the Greenbelt have been pretty good for migrants lately and are worth checking.

It is happening again... Photo by Shawn Billerman.
Waterbird migration is also underway, though the coverage of this group hasn't been great in our area lately. Nonetheless, Common Loons, Long-billed Dowitchers, and Baird's Sandpipers have been seen recently. Those looking to find rarities would do well to check places like Hutton Lake, Lake Hattie, Blake's Pond, and the ponds north of Laramie at the intersection of Highway 287 and Highway 34 near Bosler. In addition to a good diversity of migrating shorebirds, you may be rewarded with unusual species like Sabine's Gull, Little Gull, or maybe even a jaeger or two!

Will you find a Little Gull this year? Photo by Shawn Billerman.

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