Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Public Seminar Tomorrow Night - Sept 25

LAS and the UWYO Zoology & Physiology Department are hosting a guest lecture by Dr. Harry Greene from Cornell University. His talk is titled "Natural History, Aesthetics, and Conservation" and will begin at 7:30 pm in the Berry Center Auditorium. Refreshments and BirdChat will begin at 7 pm in the lobby. Afterwards, Dr. Greene will be holding a book signing for his book Tracks and Shadows.

Please join us tomorrow evening, Sept 25th at 7:30 pm, for an engaging natural history talk!

Field Trip Report - Sept 21

This morning, the Laramie Audubon Society field trip checked a couple of songbird migrant sites in and around Laramie. We had pretty good success, and although it is getting late for many birds, there were still good numbers of migrants around. Along the Greenbelt, we had two MacGillivray's Warblers, a late Western Wood-Pewee, and some other good migrants.

Our eBird list from the Greenbelt is here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S15220827

We ended with a walk through Greenhill Cemetery, where the highlight was a *Cassin's Vireo*. It was seen feeding in the pines along the south edge of the cemetery. A late *Olive-sided Flycatcher* was also actively feeding from the tops of the Black Poplars. We also had a female *Williamson's Sapsucker*, many Yellow-rumped Warblers, and two each of Orange-crowned and Townsend's Warblers.

Our complete eBird list from Greenhill Cemetery is here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S15221619

Good birding,
Shawn Billerman

Cassin's Vireo by Shawn Billerman

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Field Trip to in-town hotspots -- Sat Sept 21

This weekend we will take a field trip to some birding hotspots within Laramie City limits. We will meet at Night Heron books 8 am to fuel ourselves and carpool. We will start with a short walk at Optimist Park and the Laramie Greenbelt, head over to see what is hanging out at LaBonte Park, and finish at the cemetery. The community garden and trees at the cemetery have hosted some great birds in the past week, including lots of Wilson's Warblers and White-crowned Sparrows with rarer sightings of Tennessee Warbler and Lewis's Woodpecker.

All ages and abilities are welcome. Please dress appropriately for the weather.

Wilson's Warbler by Shawn Billerman

Sunday, September 15, 2013

LAS Field Trip - Laramie Plains Lakes - Sabine's Gulls ++

Frank, Chad, and Kristina birding at Twin Buttes by Julie Hart
Today (September 14), 10 people joined the Laramie Audubon Field Trip to the Laramie Plains Lakes in Albany County.  We had fantastic weather, and many great birds.  Ducks appear to be accumulating on all of the major lakes, with good numbers of both dabblers and divers.  Songbirds continue to make a strong showing, and we had many Wilson's Warblers, along with smaller numbers of Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped Warblers in the few scattered trees.  Four *Great-tailed Grackles* continue near Blake's Pond. There are also good numbers of raptors continuing, with Ferruginous,
Swainson's, and Red-tailed Hawks, Prairie Falcon, and both Bald and Golden
Eagles.  Small numbers of shorebirds continue, with Baird's and Semipalmated
Sandpipers, both yellowlegs, and Long-billed Dowitchers.

The true highlights of the day came at Lake Hattie, where we found 5 *Sabine's
Gulls* far out over the lake, best viewed from near the dam.  There was a
single adult, but the rest were juvenile.  The incredible wing pattern was
clearly visible when they would fly.

After the official LAS trip ended, four of us returned to Lake Hattie to
try and get better views of the Sabine's Gulls, and to try to document them
better.  We were not disappointed, and we were able to re-find 3 of the
juvenile birds.  One flew by fairly close to where we were standing.  In
addition to the gulls, we also found an adult *Parasitic Jaeger* that
mostly kept to itself, but gave chase to some Black Terns briefly.  There
was also an adult *Lesser Black-backed Gull* with the California and
Ring-billed Gulls.

Good birding!
Shawn Billerman
American White Pelicans on Lake Hattie by Julie Hart

Friday, September 13, 2013

Field Trip to the Plains Lakes - Sat Sept 14th

The recent weather system has brought in lots of migrants to the area and we will be heading out tomorrow, rain or shine, to see what is around on the Plains Lakes. We will likely spend a lot of time looking at waterfowl, but there are bound to be small migrating passerines fueling up for a long migration. People of all ages and birding levels are encouraged to participate, but please dress appropriately.

Meet at 8 am at Night Heron Books, downtown. We will carpool from there.

Canada and Greater White-fronted Geese by Shawn Billerman

Friday, September 6, 2013

Meet the Sagebrush Sparrow

In Wyoming, many birders have become familiar with the Sage Sparrow, which is a common sagebrush obligate species that breeds across much of the state.  However, the Sage Sparrow as we know it no longer exists.  In July 2013, the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) published their annual supplement to the Check-list of North American Birds.  In this update, the AOU decided, based on extensive research, to split the Sage Sparrow into two species (Chesser et al. 2013).  The first, the Bell's Sparrow (Artemisiospiza belli), is found in chaparral dominated habitat in western California south to central Baja California.  It reaches east-central California, where it has limited contact with the second species (Cicero and Johnson 2007, Cicero and Koo 2012).  The second species, which is widely distributed through the Great Basin in sagebrush steppe, and is especially common through much of Wyoming, is the Sagebrush Sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis).

Sagebrush Sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis) - Albany Co.
The decision to split the Sage Sparrow into two species was based on genetic evidence, ecological data, and morphological differences between Bell's and Sagebrush Sparrow.  These two species come into contact in a narrow region of east-central California.  Where they meet, there is limited interbreeding, meaning each species prefers members of its own species, resulting in few hybrids and little gene flow (Cicero and Johnson 2007, Cicero and Koo 2012).  Further, there are strong niche differences between the two sparrows, with Sagebrush Sparrow preferring the cooler, wetter Great Basin desert sagebrush, and Bell's Sparrows favoring hotter, drier regions with less variability in temperature through the year (Cicero and Johnson 2007, Cicero and Koo 2012).

While this decision has relatively little impact on us here in Wyoming, it does add a new species of bird to the already diverse class, Aves.  It also means that the next time you're in California and see a Sage Sparrow, it is now recognized as a distinct, new species, the Bell's Sparrow.  This new research also adds to our understanding of how species boundaries are formed, and what factors may be important in the constant evolution of species.

Note: all photos in this post are © Shawn Billerman


Chesser, RT, RC Banks, FK Barker, C Cicero, JL Dunn, AW Kratter, IJ Lovette, PC Rasmussen, JV Remsen, Jr., JD Rising, DF Stotz, and K Winker. 2013. Fifty-fourth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds. The Auk 130(3): 1-14

Cicero, C and NK Johnson. 2007. Narrow contact of desert sage sparrows (Amphispiza belli nevadensis and A.b. canescens) in Owens Valley, eastern California: evidence from mitochondrial DNA, morphology, and GIS-based niche models. Ornithological Monographs 27: 78-95

Cicero, C and MS Koo. 2012. The role of niche divergence and phenotypic adaptation in promoting lineage diversification in the Sage Sparrow (Artemisiospiza belli, Aves: Emberizidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 107: 332-354

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

eBird talk tonight!

Please join us for a special talk tonight about eBird!

WHERE:  UWYO Berry Center auditorium, corner of 10th and Lewis St
WHEN: Refreshments and birdchat begin at 6:30 pm, talk starts at 7:00 pm
WHAT: Brian Sullivan, program leader for eBird, will present a stimulating talk about how you can get involved with eBird, an international repository for bird sightings. Learn how eBird can help you keep track of your life list, find new places to birdwatch, and contribute to scientific endeavors!

American White Pelican by Shawn Billerman