Monday, December 3, 2012

Welcome New Board Members!

At the last public meeting held Nov 28, Laramie Audubon members unanimously elected three new board members and approved the renewal of existing board members up for re-election. The three new board members are:

Vicki Henry: long-time Laramie Audubon member and past board member and officer
James Maley: curator of the Vertebrate Museum at the University of Wyoming
Anika Mahoney: graduate student in Zoology at the University of Wyoming

Please welcome our new board members!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Is this 'Bird Armageddon'?

Since 1966 UK bird population has decline by 44 million which amounts to just under a million birds a year (over 45 years), which is dismal November news indeed.

Yesterday (November 19th) the RSPB published their most extensive survey of the UK’s bird populations over the last 4 decades (including data from 2011); ‘The state of the UK’s birds 2012’. SUKB2012, as it is also known, is a collaborative affair between NGO’s and the UK’s governmental nature conservation agencies: RSPB, BTO, WWT, NE, NIEA, SNH and JNCC. The report uses a mix of indicators to assess the populations of wild birds, seabirds and wintering birds throughout the UK and overseas territories. All species are given a conservation status (red, amber or green) in accordance with the criteria set out in the BTO’s document Birds of Conservation 3, 2009.

View the full story on the British Ecological Society blog here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

UW Collections Manager, Talk & Tour, Nov 28

Dr. James Maley to talk about rails and give a tour of the University’s vertebrate collections: We have all heard of splitters vs. lumpers when it comes to dealing with bird species, but how do scientists determine whether two species really should be lumped together as a single species or whether a single species should be divided into two or more? Dr. James Maley, Collections Manager for the University of Wyoming’s Museum of Vertebrates, will touch on this issue as he discusses his Ph.D. research on the very similar Clapper and King rails during the November public meeting. James used morphology (the study of the form and structure of organisms), genetics, and ecological adaptations to salt vs freshwater marshes to better understand what differentiates Clapper and King Rails--in essence what defines them as species. He also used specimens housed in museums throughout the United States to understand the genetic diversity of the Clapper/King Rail complex, often using scrapings of toe pads from specimens when tissue samples were not available. After his talk, James will provide a tour of the collections at the University of Wyoming Museum of Vertebrates to highlight the importance and utility of bird specimens for avian research and conservation.

We will also be holding a public vote: At this meeting, our members will vote for three new Board Members (Anika Mahoney, James Maley, Vicki Henry), President (Sophie Osborn), Vice President (Brian Waitkus), and Secretary (Julie Hart) at the meeting before the program.  If you are unable to attend, please email your vote to  Thanks for your support!

When & Where: Wednesday, Nov. 28, 6:30pm Bird Chat & Refreshments, 7:00pm Short Business Meeting & Program, UW Berry Center, corner of 10th & Lewis Streets.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

LAS Raptor Trip – November 10, 2012

Despite threats of snow and wind and cold, eight stalwart Laramie Auduboners ventured out to look for raptors in the Laramie area on November 10. We were lucky with the weather as well as with the birds. The snow stopped, the wind died down, and we were treated to looks at a variety of raptors, as well as many other birds and mammals.
Bald Eagle – 4 (All juveniles or subadults)
Golden Eagle – 9
Northern Harrier – 2
Red-tailed Hawk – 1
Ferruginous Hawk – 6 (including one that caught a rodent after we inadvertently flushed it)
Rough-legged Hawk – 11 (mainly adult females; no adult males).
American Kestrel – 1 (a male with a vole)
Great Horned Owl – 1

Eared Grebe
American Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Lesser Scaup
American Coot
Black-billed Magpie
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Western Meadowlark

We had a great look at a pronghorn herd that bunched together and ran when an adult Golden Eagle flew toward it. We also saw another large herd of running pronghorns. Other mammals included a small group of mule deer, a white-tailed deer, and a little red fox poking its head over a nearby hill. Thanks to all who participated!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Laramie Christmas Bird Count to be Dec 15th

VOLUNTEERS SOUGHT TO TAKE PART IN THE 113th ANNUAL CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT. The Laramie Audubon Society will again take part 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 15. This will be the 36th 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. Novices are welcome, and will be paired with more experienced bird watchers. Volunteers can call ahead (307-286-1972) or meet at Coal Creek Coffee (110 E. Grand) at 7:30 am on the day of the count to get data forms and team assignments. Some teams walk, while others drive through the territory. Volunteers will reconvene at The Grounds Internet and Coffee Lounge (171 N. 3rd St.) at 12:00 pm to drop off morning reports and regroup for those continuing in the afternoon. Volunteers should wear warm, layered clothing and boots, and bring water, snacks and binoculars if you have them. Feeder watchers are also welcome. Volunteers are invited to a chili supper where results will be compiled beginning at 4 pm the home of Shay Howlin. Potluck items welcome, but not required. Please contact Shay Howlin if you would like to be assigned a route early, would like forms for feeder watching, or have any questions (307-286-1972; wolfhowlin [AT] gmail [dot] com).

Monday, October 29, 2012

Matt Hethcoat to speak on the effects of natural gas development on songbirds.

Research has shown that energy development in sagebrush habitats can have negative effects on songbirds. It is unclear, however, why the abundance of certain songbirds declines in areas of intensive development. Is it because disturbance and habitat fragmentation reduce the availability of food for these birds or is it because of an increase in generalist predators that are associated with human presence and prey on nests? Matt Hethcoat’s research tackles the second hypothesis and focuses on the effects of natural gas development on the predation rates of sagebrush-obligate songbird nests. He is working to identify what drives the predation patterns on songbird nests in sagebrush habitats affected by energy development. He also hopes to develop some strategies to reduce the impacts of energy development on songbirds. Come and find out more about energy development and songbirds on October 31, 2011. Refreshments start at 6:30 pm and the talk will begin at 7:00 pm in the Berry Center (10th & Lewis) Auditorium.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

October Program

Laramie Audubon Society Program
Wednesday, October 31 (yes, it’s Halloween night)
UW Berry Center, 10th & Lewis Streets, entrance faces north
(free parking along 10th St, south side of Lewis and in UW lot—free after 5pm)

6:30 pm Bird Chat & Refreshments in the lobby
7:00pm  Program begins in the auditorium

Effects of natural gas development on predation rates of sagebrush-obligate songbird nests by Matt Hethcoat. Matt is an M.S. student in the Coop Unit. Originally from western New York, Matt received his B.S. from Humboldt State University in Wildlife biology. Since graduating from Humboldt Matt has worked on research projects around the world, including critically endangered Macaws in Bolivia, endangered Loggerhead Shrikes in California, Fairy-Wrens in Australia, and a montane bird community in Borneo.  These experiences have focused Matt's interests in conservation research and questions pertaining to the reconciliation of wildlife conservation and human livelihoods. Broadly, his other interests include avian ecology, ecological and evolutionary traps, life history evolution, predator-prey interactions, sexual selection, and signalling theory.  Matt's research focuses on the effects of natural gas development on predation rates of sagebrush-obligate songbird nests. We are working to identify specific mechanisms that are driving predation patterns and hope to offer clear strategies for mitigating the impacts to songbirds breeding in habitats affected by energy development activities.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

LAS Picnic Saturday, Sept 8

Members and Friends are invited to our Laramie Audubon Society Picnic on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, 4pm - ? at 468 Boulder Ridge Rd., west of Tie Siding.

Come one; come all.  Please RSVP by Sept. 5 to Vicki at 307-760-9518 so we will know how much food to bring. LAS will provide meat, veggie patties and buns and we ask you to bring sides to share and your own beverages. Alcoholic beverages are OK.

Vicki got a grant from the Wyoming Business Council/State Energy Office for a photovoltaic electric system at the cabin.  Come check out the solar electric system, eat some burgers, take a little hike and enjoy the great outdoors (or indoors!). There is no running water or refrigeration so you’ll need to bring your beverages and coolers. There is plenty of room for camping (35 acres) if you choose to stay overnight, especially if you’ve had a little too much to drink.

From Laramie, take 287 south to Tie Siding (18 miles). Turn right (west) onto County Road 31/Cherokee Park Rd. It’s dirt from here to the cabin. Go 3 miles and turn right onto County Road 319/Boulder Ridge Rd. Go about 4.5 miles to the driveway (2-track) on the left (Saw Dust Trail is on the right). Go down the driveway, past the unfinished cabin, and to the 2-story cabin. Friendly dogs are welcome, too. Phone reception is spotty but is fairly strong in the cabin so call if you need directions. It takes about 40 minutes to get there from Laramie.

Doug Keinath to Speak on the Exposure of Animals to Development in Wyoming

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department classifies 156 species in Wyoming as “Species of Greatest Conservation Need.” But how do we begin to prioritize which are most in need of  limited conservation and research funds and protective efforts? Sometimes triage is necessary and those most exposed to development are most in need of our help. Doug Keinath, a Ph.D. student at the University of Wyoming and Lead Vertebrate Zoologist for the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database has developed tools to take the guesswork out of this task. By looking at species’ distributions and numbers, the various threats that they face, and the intensity of those threats, Doug has developed models to determine which species are most exposed to development in Wyoming. Is the Wyoming pocket gopher more exposed or the Greater Sage-Grouse? The spotted bat or the swift fox? Come and find out as Laramie Audubon kicks off its fall speakers program on September 26, 2012.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rosy-finch survey July 21

Reminder that the Brown-capped Rosy-finch survey is tomorrow, July 21. We will meet at the Friendly Store in Centennial (note: this is a new meeting place) at 8:30 am. Be prepared to spend the day hiking and looking for rosy-finches. The birds are not in predictable locations so considerable walking may be required. Some of the trails have fairly steep portions and the elevation can be challenging for some people. You may also spend time sitting still to search for or observe birds.

Remember to bring binoculars and/or spotting scope, a field guide, warm clothes (including wind protection), lunch and snacks, water, and sunblock. Maps can also be useful. Bring your friends along for a great day of hiking and bird-watching in the Snowies!

For more information, see previous post or contact Sophie Osborn: 307-742-6138 or sophie [AT] wyomingoutdoorcouncil [dot] org.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Research on Sage-Grouse Movements in WY

Interseasonal movements of greater sage-grouse, migratory behavior, and an assessment of the core regions concept in Wyoming

Abstract: Animals can require different habitat types throughout their annual cycles. When considering habitat prioritization, we need to explicitly consider habitat requirements throughout the annual cycle, particularly for species of conservation concern. Understanding annual habitat requirements begins with quantifying how far individuals move across landscapes between key life stages to access required habitats. We quantified individual interseasonal movements for greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; hereafter sage-grouse) using radio-telemetry spanning the majority of the species distribution in Wyoming. Sage-grouse are currently a candidate for listing under the United States Endangered Species Act and Wyoming is predicted to remain a stronghold for the species. Sage-grouse use distinct seasonal habitats throughout their annual cycle for breeding, brood rearing, and wintering. Average movement distances in Wyoming from nest sites to summer-late brood-rearing locations were 8.1 km (SE = 0.3 km; n = 828 individuals) and the average subsequent distances moved from summer sites to winter locations were 17.3 km (SE = 0.5 km; n = 607 individuals). Average nest-to-winter movements were 14.4 km (SE = 0.6 km; n  = 434 individuals). We documented remarkable variation in the extent of movement distances both within and among sites across Wyoming, with some individuals remaining year-round in the same vicinity and others moving over 50 km between life stages. Our results suggest defining any of our populations as migratory or non-migratory is inappropriate as individual strategies vary widely. We compared movement distances of birds marked using Global Positioning System (GPS) and very high frequency (VHF) radio marking techniques and found no evidence that the heavier GPS radios limited movement. Furthermore, we examined the capacity of the sage-grouse core regions concept to capture seasonal locations. As expected, we found the core regions approach, which was developed based on lek data, was generally better at capturing the nesting locations than summer or winter locations. However, across Wyoming the sage-grouse breeding core regions still contained a relatively high percentage of summer and winter locations and seem to be a reasonable surrogate for non-breeding habitat when no other information exists. We suggest that conservation efforts for greater sage-grouse implicitly incorporate seasonal habitat needs because of high variation in the amount of overlap among breeding core regions and non-breeding habitat. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.

Full Citation: Fedy, B. C., Aldridge, C. L., Doherty, K. E., O'Donnell, M., Beck, J. L., Bedrosian, B., Holloran, M. J., Johnson, G. D., Kaczor, N. W., Kirol, C. P., Mandich, C. A., Marshall, D., McKee, G., Olson, C., Swanson, C. C. and Walker, B. L. (2012), Interseasonal movements of greater sage-grouse, migratory behavior, and an assessment of the core regions concept in Wyoming. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 76: 1062–1071. doi: 10.1002/jwmg.337

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Bird Surveys--Volunteers Needed


Nightjar season is upon us again! For those who are interested, this year’s nightjar surveys will be conducted between June 27 and July 9. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this effort, the Laramie Audubon Society is a yearly participant in a National Nightjar Survey that was initiated in 2007 by the Center for Conservation Biology. Nightjars are enigmatic, nocturnally-active birds whose populations are thought to be declining throughout North America. Wyoming has two species of nightjars: Common Nighthawk and Common Poorwill. In 2009, the LAS adopted five survey routes in the vicinity of Laramie (Sybille Canyon, Buford, Harmony, Fox Park, and Rock River). 

Surveys take no more than two hours and consist of making 10 stops along an established 9-mile route. At each stop, we count the number of nightjars heard during a 6-minute period. Brief training sessions will take place on the UWYO campus in the Student Union at 6 pm on June 25 and June 26.

Click here for more information. Contact Sophie Osborn to participate or ask questions: 307-742-6138 or e-mail her at

Please join us for our annual survey of the Snowy Range’s rosy-finches as we hike in the beautiful Snowy Mountains. You are sure to see alpine birds, colorful wildflowers, and maybe an American pika. Pikas in the Snowies have been isolated from other pikas for hundreds of years and are thought to be a distinct subspecies. 

When:  July 21, 2012, 8:30am

Where:  Meet at the Forest Service Visitor Center, on WY 130, approximately 1-2 miles west of Centennial WY. After a brief orientation session, we will divide the group into teams and will divide up the survey routes. Survey routes occur on well-established trails.

What to expect:  Be prepared to spend the day hiking and looking for rosy-finches. The birds are not in predictable locations so considerable walking may be required. Some of the trails have fairly steep portions and the elevation can be challenging for some people. You may also spend time sitting still to search for or observe birds.

What to bring:  Binoculars and/or spotting scope, a field guide, warm clothes (including wind protection), lunch and snacks, water, and sunblock. Maps can also be useful. Bring your friends along for a great day of hiking and bird-watching in the Snowies.

Click here for more information. If you have questions, contact Sophie Osborn at 307-742-6138 or e-mail her at

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Birding events May 19 and 20

Bald Eagle confections sold by Laramie students in 2010.
SATURDAY -- Laramie Audubon Society and Laramie Raptor Refuge are co-sponsoring an event to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day Saturday, May 19, at Optimist Park.  Optimist Park is located on the south side of Garfield Street across from C&A Feed Store, between Cedar and Snowy Range Road.

Bird Walks will be led by Julie Hart at 8am and 10 am. Meet at north parking lot of Optimist Park. Bring binoculars and field guides and dress in layers. Be prepared to walk a mile or more along the Laramie River to spot spring migrants and locals.

Games and information tables will be stationed along the Green Belt. All ages and abilities welcome.

SUNDAY -- Hereford Ranch in Cheyenne, Sunday, May 20.  Meet at the downtown Coal Creek Coffee at 7:30 am. Shay Howlin will lead us to one of the best birding areas in southeastern Wyoming to view spring migrant songbirds.  Call 307.286.1972 to RSVP or just show up.

Birding at the Hereford Reservoirs in Cheyenne.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Plains Lakes Tour - Saturday, April 21

Join us this Saturday for a tour of the Plains Lakes. We will head to the lakes west of Laramie to view spring migrants and resident waterfowl, raptors and shorebirds. Trip leader: Shawn Billerman. Meet at the downtown (110 E Grand) Coal Creek Coffee at 8 am to carpool. Field trips are open to all levels of birders. Remember to dress in layers and bring your scope, binoculars, field guide, snacks, and water. Photo: Lake Hattie, Julie Hart.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sage Grouse Lek Trip Saturday April 7th

Come watch the grouse strut their stuff.  Meet at 5 am at the Eppson Senior Center parking lot, Curtis & 3rd St.  We will carpool to the lek at 5:10 am sharp.  You will need a high clearance or 4WD vehicle.  It takes about an hour to drive to the lek.  Bring a scope if you have one.  It is usually very windy at the lek so dress extra warm.  We are usually back to Laramie by 7:30 or 8 am.

You can just show up at the parking lot at 5 am or earlier.  If you need more information or if you want to tell us you are coming, please call 307-760-9518. It would be nice for us to have an idea about how many people to expect. 

Alternate date in case of inclement weather or impassable roads is April 21, meeting at Eppson Senior Center parking lot at 5 am, leaving at 5:10 am sharp.

Chimney Park Tracking Trip Report

Sunday April 1 three Laramie Audubon people joined Gary Beauvais for our annual winter animal snow track trip, no really, this was the day we picked for this outing.  Up in the forest near the Chimney Park Boy Scout camp we found about 3/4s of the area still covered with old snow.  The trip this year occurred without the aid of snowshoes or skis and though we located only semi-melted tracks of moose and coyote a good time was had by all.  Discussions during our little trip ran from identifying scat, to viewing fungus that creates a furry mat under snow,  to identifying how plants had been altered by mammals (i.e. moose on willow and aspen, and red squirrel and woodpeckers on pine).  Only a single blue grouse (I know it is now a "Dusky') was observed, but chickadees and a creeper were heard. In all a very nice spring outing.

Brian Waitkus
LAS Vice-President

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bird Banding in Laramie

Alex Rose, LAS Secretary and ornithologist, has been banding House Finches and Mountain Chickadees around Laramie for a research project on migration patterns. Here are just a few photos of Alex in action in the backyard of LAS President, Tim Banks.

 Downy Woodpecker

 House Finch with unique color band combination

 Alex with a color-banded Mountain Chickadee

Alex with a Sharp-shinned Hawk

Friday, January 13, 2012

Yant's Puddle featured in Audubon Magazine

Check out the recent article on Yant's Puddle and BP's role in its drying up in Audubon Magazine by Ted Williams: This is an interesting (albeit disturbing) article in the current Audubon magazine: