Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Wyoming Hereford Ranch Field Trip (May 8th)

On Saturday morning (May 8th) we'll meet at the Wyoming Hereford Ranch visitor parking area in Cheyenne at 8 a.m.  From Laramie, travel east on I-80 to Exit 367 (Campstool Road); travel south approximately 1 mile to the Ranch entrance, which will be on the left (east) side of Campstool Road; drive several hundred yards up the driveway to the parking area adjacent to the big red barn.  The Ranch is privately owned but open to the public for birding; the National Audubon Society has designated it as an Important Bird Area:  https://www.audubon.org/important-bird-areas/wyoming-hereford-ranch.  

Please remember that LAS continues to require masks at our field trip, due to our tendency to crowd together in an effort to see the most exciting birds.  Register for this trip by sending an email to us at laramie.audubon@gmail.com - please include your telephone number so that we can contact you if there is a last-minute change in plans!  

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Volunteer Opportunity - Nest Box Monitoring

The Laramie Audubon Society (LAS), is seeking a group of volunteers to monitor nest boxes at the Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge located southwest of Laramie. We will be looking to form at least three crews to monitor a group of the boxes once weekly from mid-May through mid- to late July.  The weekly time commitment to check a group of 12 to 16 nest boxes is about an hour or so depending on the rate of walking. Last year, we conducted the nest box checks on Sunday, mid-morning and followed the CDC Covid-19 safety guidelines to social distance.  We do not expect a weekly commitment of each volunteer, however we would prefer that volunteers rotate with other members in their crew in an effort to share observations and data between crew members. All new volunteers would be trained by returning volunteers. 

In past years, the nest boxes were primarily used by tree swallows. Data for each nest box will be collected on forms to include: the date, nest status and condition (if nesting material is present, and if an obvious nest central cup is present, if the nest is damaged or gone); number of eggs, number of live or dead hatchlings and fledglings; adult bird activity and behavior; and status of the young (if nestlings are naked and pink, date when presence of wing feathers emerged, and when body feathers completely cover the skin), and dates when the young have fledged. 

The data collected will be entered into Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch database. NestWatch is a nationwide monitoring program developed by Cornell to track status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds, including when nesting occurs, number of eggs laid, how many eggs hatch, and how many hatchlings survive.  Their database is intended to be used to study the current condition of breeding bird populations and how they may be changing over tine as a result of climate change, habitat degradation and loss, expansion of urban areas, and the introduction of non-native plants and animals.  This being said, as a volunteer and community scientist, you will be contributing to the collection of additional data and aid in the future conservation of bird species.  It would be ideal if one person from each of the three monitoring crews would enter the data into the online database.  Again, training will be provided.

LAS thanks all 2020 volunteers and future 2021 volunteers!  Please contact Jan Hart, LAS via email at janhart22@hotmail.com if you are interested in helping with the 2021 nest box monitoring efforts.  Please respond by April 20 if interested so that training and crews' weekly schedules can be arranged.  Also, feel free to contact Jan with any questions at (307) 760-9693 as well.

Flock of Sandhill Cranes observed flying over Hutton Lake NWR by 2020 LAS/NestBox volunteers.
(Photo courtesy of Laurel Armstrong)

Monday, April 19, 2021

In-Town Field Trip - Saturday, April 24th

Join us on the Spring edition of our Laramie Hotspots field trip.  We will meet at 8 a.m. at the southeast corner of Lake LaBonte (a.k.a. Stink Lake) in LaBonte Park, near the corner of North 8th and Canby Streets.  After viewing the waterfowl and surveying the surrounding park areas for song birds, we'll decide where to go next.  Plan on two to four hotspots within the City limits, depending on how the birding is at each stop.  This is a bike-friendly outing, since the potential stops are within a mile or two (or less) of each other.   

Please remember that we continue to require masks on our trips.  We also encourage attendees to bring warm clothes, sturdy shoes, sun protection, water, and snacks, as well as binoculars and other birding equipment.  Most of the walking on this trip will be on level surfaces (e.g., the grass in the park, gravel roads at the cemetery, paved Greenbelt trail).  

We also continue to request that people register for LAS trips by sending a quick message to us at laramie.audubon@gmail.com.  The primary purpose of registration is to facilitate contact tracing in case of potential Covid-19 exposure.  However, if you include your phone number, we'll be able to call if the trip is cancelled at the last minute (apologies to those who didn't get the message about the cancellation of the lek trip!!).  

Friday, April 9, 2021

April 10th Lek Trip Cancelled

The trip leader checked out the access to the lek late this afternoon (April 9) and the road is impassable due to muddy conditions and snow drifts.  Therefore, the LAS lek trip tomorrow (April 10) is cancelled.  We apologize for the late notice - we were hoping that today's wind and partly sunny weather would dry things out.   

Note that the trip to Hutton Lake NWR will go on as planned.  If the access is muddy, we will just park farther from the water and enjoy the walk and the additional opportunity to observe grassland birds. 

Great Sage-Grouse Lek plus Hutton Lake NWR


Saturday, April 10th will be a "double header" for LAS!  We'll head to the Greater Sage-grouse lek early and then reconvene later in the morning at Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge.  Attend either or both trips!  But bundle up - the current forecast looks cold!  Please email us if you plan to attend (laramie.audubon@gmail.com).  And please remember your mask - we continue to abide by National Audubon Society guidelines for covid-safe field trips.  

Lek Trip - Meet at the Eppson Center for Seniors (1560 North 3rd Street) at 5:30 a.m. - we won't wait for stragglers, because timing is important for this event.  From the Eppson Center we will caravan to the lek.  After watching and listening while the males boom and strut, we'll return to Laramie by approximately 8 a.m.  

Hutton Lake NWR Trip - At 9 a.m. we will gather at the observation platform at the far end of the Refuge.  The stars of this trip are the large numbers of migrating ducks that the Refuge typically hosts each Spring.   Directions:  From Laramie, head south on 3rd Street/ US-287, turn right onto County Road 22 (as if entering the cement plant), then turn left onto Sand Creek Road (parallel to railroad tracks - many people have missed this turn and mistakenly entered the cement plant parking lot). Stay on Sand Creek Road for about 8 miles, then turn right at the National Wildlife Refuge sign.  To reach the viewing platform, continue west from the sign for approximately 0.75 miles, and then turn left (south) and follow the two-track until it ends (approximately 0.4 miles).  

American Avocet adult and juvenile at Hutton Lake NWR, July 2020. 
Photo courtesy of LAS member Liz Young

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Laramie Plains Lakes - Saturday, March 27th

Laramie Audubon Society's field trip season starts next week with our annual spring Laramie Plains Lakes excursion.  Join us Saturday morning (March 27th) to caravan around the Laramie Valley looking for waterfowl, raptors, and early migratory songbirds.  Migrating ducks have already begun appearing on open water, with local birders reporting Northern Shoveler, Common Golden-eye, Bufflehead, Northern Pintail, Gadwall, American Widgeon, Lesser Scaup, Canvasback, Redhead, Mallard, and other species of teal. 

This trip will meet at 8 a.m. on Saturday, March 27th in the parking lot on the west side of the West Laramie Fly Store (1657 Snowy Range Road).  The group will then caravan to various locations around the valley.  We anticipate heading back to Laramie by noon.  

Due to continued covid-19 safety considerations, we will not be encouraging or arranging carpool groups this season.  In addition, we request that all attendees (1) wear a face covering when outside of their personal vehicle and (2) remain mindful of keeping a safe distance from others.  Also, please register for the trip by emailing us (laramie.audubon@gmail.com).  Having attendees register allows us to anticipate the group size and plan social distancing measures accordingly; it also provides us a means to contact attendees if plans change.

The long-range forecast for next Saturday is cold (high of 33F) with light snow, so please be prepared with plenty of warm clothes, as well as sun protection, snacks, water, and birding equipment!  We are looking forward to trip and hope that you will be able to join us.  Check the Events tab of the blog for the full schedule of spring trips:  http://laramieaudubon.blogspot.com/p/events.html.    

Turkey, near Vedauwoo (photo courtesy of LAS member Liz Young)


Thursday, February 18, 2021

Trip Report - Snow Tracking Trip

LAS's first field trip of 2021 (Saturday, February 6th) was widely anticipated as the kick-off to our Spring schedule.  And, the night before the outing, the forecast looked promising - snow ending Friday night and not resuming until mid-day on Saturday.  Perfect conditions for fresh tracks!  By Saturday morning, snow had ended in Laramie and the group headed toward the Snowies.  Unfortunately, the weather deteriorated in the Laramie Valley, with a whiteout encountered near the junction of Hwy. 11.  Despite the road conditions, five hardy souls gathered at the designated spot (intersection of Hwy. 130 and Sand Lake Road), where it was windy and snowing.  The group observed that any recent tracks were likely to be obscured by the blowing snow, and they decided to cancel the trip.  Unfortunately, there is no available backup date for this event.  We hope that conditions are more favorable for a tracking trip in 2022.  In the meantime, please consider joining one of our upcoming outings:  http://laramieaudubon.blogspot.com/p/events.html.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Spring Field Trip Schedule

 Although we are all still confronting the limitations associated with keeping ourselves and others healthy during the pandemic, the Laramie Audubon Society will host a series of spring field trips, with the goal of safely seeing each other and Wyoming birds.  The schedule kicks off on Saturday, February 6th with our annual Winter Tracking Trip.  All trips will require attendees to wear masks and mindfully keep their distance from others.  No carpools will be coordinated for the foreseeable future, but most trips are relatively close to Laramie, and the Hotspots trip (April 24th) can even be completed on a bicycle.  

The tentative schedule is posted on the Events page of our website:  http://laramieaudubon.blogspot.com/p/events.html.   Please remember to register if you plan to attend a trip, so that we can let you know if the details change due to weather or other considerations.  

We hope to see you this Spring!  

Mountain Bluebirds  photographed at Blakes' Pond (courtesy of LAS member Laurel Armstong).
Mountain Bluebirds  photographed at Blakes' Pond during the Spring 2019 Laramie Plains Lakes field trip (courtesy of LAS member Laurel Armstrong).

Monday, December 28, 2020

Northern Goshawk

LAS member Jason Lillegraven shared the following image of a Northern Goshawk, which spent time yesterday in his backyard on the south side of Laramie. 

 Northern Goshawks typically hunt birds and small mammals, including crows, squirrels, and rabbits, both within the forest and along the forest edge. They often perch in trees while watching for prey; this Goshawk appears to be using the fence for that purpose!  The Audubon Guide to North American Birds (the source for the information provided above) has more photos and information regarding this fascinating predator.

If you have photos or information regarding birds of interest in the Laramie area, please feel free to share them with us!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Bird Count - Watch for These Birds!

Laramie had a successful Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, with a record number of birders braving the wind and cold or loyally watching their feeders.  Lists were compiled by our organizer, Shay Howlin, during a Zoom meeting, which, although fun, was no match for the potluck held during previous years.  

Pine Grosbeaks (photo courtesy of Chris Dewey)
The volunteers documented 39 species and almost 4,000 individuals.  In addition to the species counted on Saturday, a tally is kept of all species observed during Count Week.  Below is a short list of common species that we did not see.  If you have seen any of these birds within 7.5 miles of Laramie since last Wednesday (December 16th), or see one between now and Tuesday (December 22nd), please let Shay know (wolfhowlin@gmail.com); if you have seen other, less common species, feel free to let her know about those birds, too.  Please include information regarding the date and location.

American Kestrel
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Northern Shrike
Steller's Jay
Clark's Nutcracker
Horned Lark

Monday, December 7, 2020

121st Annual Christmas Bird Count - Volunteers Needed

The Laramie Audubon Society will again take part in a 100-year-old Christmas tradition, the annual Christmas Bird Count. Volunteers are welcome to join in the count with the LAS chapter as it conducts the Albany County Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, December 19. This will be the 43rd count of the Albany County circle. Volunteers are needed to help count every bird present in the 15-mile diameter circle around Laramie on the day of the count. All levels of bird watchers, including feeder watchers, are welcome. 

The National Audubon Society has provided guidelines to run a COVID-19 safe and socially distanced CBC. All volunteers for the Albany County circle need to pre-register or attend one of two drop-in zoom calls to receive a route assignment. There will not be any in-person meetings prior to the count. Contact Shay Howlin (307-286-1972; wolfhowlin@gmail.com) for information and to register. 

 Volunteers are the backbone of the Christmas Bird Count and are encouraged to participate despite changes to the format. As usual, some teams will walk, while others will drive through their territory. All participants will be required to wear masks or social distance during the count. Carpooling is only permitted for existing family or social pod groups. 

 Virtual compiling will take place at 6 pm on the day of the count. Electronic submission of data forms will be encouraged to facilitate the compiling event. Please contact Shay Howlin if you would like to be assigned a route early, would like forms for feeder watching, or have any questions.  Click here to download the data form. (the link will take you to MediaFire, the company that hosts LAS's document downloads; Media Fire will prompt you to click a blue button near the upper right corner of the screen.)

Female Red-flanked Bluetail, Laramie, November 2019
(photo courtesy of Laurel Armstrong)

Friday, October 30, 2020

Rosy-finch Volunteer Opportunity

Some of us Laramie Auduboners are enthusiastic Rosy-finch observers. So we were excited to see this community science opportunity from our friends at the Wild Utah Project. Their message is quoted below.

If you've been seeing rosy-finches in your area (or even if you haven't but you're still in the range), here is a cool project to get involved with: The Black Rosy-finch Study is seeking Feeder Count Volunteers for our winter 2020-2021 season! Rosy-finches are one of the least-studied birds in North America, and we are trying to fill data gaps for these colorful birds with the help of community scientists. Volunteers will conduct 20-minute bird feeder counts for Rosy-finches once every three weeks throughout the winter and early spring (December – April). You can choose to do surveys at publicly accessible bird feeder locations, or at your own bird feeders in your backyard.

We will hold a live zoom training session on Thursday, November 19th from 7pm-8pm, and will have a recorded online training available for those who are unable to attend the live session. To learn more and sign up, visit https://wildutahproject.org/rosy-finch