Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February Program - Wednesday

Join us this Wednesday, February 25th for a workshop on difficult bird identification. With spring migration right around the corner, come learn about tricks to identify some difficult groups, such as gulls and shorebirds. Shawn Billerman, a PhD candidate in Matt Carling's lab at the University of Wyoming, will walk you through the identification of the gulls and shorebirds of Wyoming. Shawn has become familiar with Wyoming birds over the past 4 years, and has been birding for the past 18 years. For his PhD research, Shawn is studying hybridization in sapsuckers in the Pacific Northwest, and has broad interests in ecology and evolution in birds. Come join us for an evening of identification tips in preparation for spring migration, which will be underway in a matter of weeks.

Herring, Great Black-backed, and California Gulls at Lake Hattie
Note: all photos in this post are © Shawn Billerman

Monday, February 24, 2014

Record Eagles Counted in the Powder River Basin

 Sixty-two volunteers spent the morning of Jan. 11, 2014 searching for bald and golden eagles across the Powder River Basin.  Their efforts were part of the nationwide Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey, coordinated locally by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Buffalo Field Office.

Volunteers counted 239 bald eagles, 91 golden eagles, and 24 eagles of undetermined species, on new and established survey routes along more than 1400 miles of public roads.  Sightings of several other raptor species were also reported, the most common being rough-legged hawks and red-tailed hawks.

The Midwinter Bald Eagle survey has been conducted in the Powder River Basin since 2006, with 119 eagles counted in that year.  The 2007 through 2013 surveys found 300, 162, 269, 288, 290, 304, and 310 eagles, respectively.  These survey totals vary due to the number of routes covered in each year, but are also influenced by weather and the availability of food sources including carrion, prairie dogs, and rabbits.

Golden eagle observations were reduced slightly from 2013, while bald eagle numbers increased from last year.  It is unknown why there was a shift in numbers seen in the Powder River Basin.  The strong winds along some routes during this year’s survey may have caused golden eagles to stay closer to the ground, making them less visible from roadways.  Bald eagles were primarily seen perched in trees and feeding on carrion.  Additionally, a substantial number of eagles were counted along newly added survey routes.

The BLM relies heavily on area volunteers to complete the survey, and once again had a high level of participation.  All established survey routes were covered, and additional routes were added to include interested members of the public.  Volunteer support makes the midwinter survey a success, and many volunteers, like Dick McCuistion, participate annually.  “I’m a retired wildlife biologist, and it gives me satisfaction to see the bald eagle re-establishing itself and thriving in its Wyoming winter range.  It’s nice to play a small part in this endeavor, and it’s fun to do.  My wife and I look forward to participating every year,” said McCuistion.

While hundreds of bald and golden eagles are seen in the basin during the winter months, only a few stay year-round.  Approximately ten to twelve bald eagle pairs nest in the area.  A greater number of golden eagles remain in the Powder River Basin to breed.  The additional winter populations migrate north in March and April, returning to northern Canada and Alaska.  The information gathered by the survey is used by wildlife researchers and managers nationwide, but is also valuable on the local level.  The data collected helps the BLM to determine important habitats in the Buffalo Field Office resource area, which consists of Campbell, Johnson, and Sheridan counties.

The national Midwinter Bald Eagle survey effort began in 1979 as an effort to identify wintering habitat and develop a total population index for the eagle population in the lower 48 states.  Collecting eagle data over the long-term has allowed analyses of population trends that help to monitor the health of the species as a whole.

Other regions of the state participate in this yearly survey as well.  Wildlife professionals from the BLM, USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service help coordinate local surveys in the following BLM resource management areas, national forests, and national parks: Casper, Cody, Kemmerer, Lander, Newcastle, Pinedale, Rawlins, Rock Springs, and Worland BLM Field Offices, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Medicine Bow National Forest, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park.  The BLM Cody and Worland Field Offices have been participating in the survey since the late 1980’s, resulting in over 20 years of data that has been used in national population trend analyses.

If you are interested in volunteering next year, or would like additional information, contact Charlotte Darling at 307-684-1045 or Darci Stafford at 307-684-1144.  For more information on the national program and its results visit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bird Initiative website

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield. In Fiscal Year 2013, the BLM generated $4.7 billion in receipts from public lands.

                                                         -- BLM –

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bird Banter Archive

Barb Gorges with Cheyenne Audubon has recently begun archiving all of the Bird Banter articles she has written over the years. I've just added her blog to our list of favorites on the right hand side of our site.

Dear Wyobirders,

               I've decided to archive my Bird Banter columns at
www.CheyenneBirdBanter.wordpress.com, in a blog format.

My columns are archived somewhat through the WTE website, and newer ones are
in the Wyobirds archives, but this way I (and you) can use the blog's Search
function to find out when I last mentioned a bird species, or researched a
topic. And the information is also available to the public and isn't just
deteriorating in my file drawer of clippings.

               After 15 years, there are over 200 columns and as it takes
some time to format them, I've decided to aim to post them in groups, by
month, since bird topics are somewhat seasonal. I just finished posting all
the February columns, 1999-2014 (though there will be another one to post
next week).

               I will continue to send Bird Banter to Wyobirds whenever a
column gets published. But you can also go the blog and sign up to get an
email from WordPress whenever a new one is posted. Or you can pass the
information on to your friends if they would like to subscribe to the blog.

               Be warned that for the next 11 months, I will be averaging
20 posts a month (there were a few years when Bird Banter appeared every two
weeks), so if you sign up for the automatic email, you are going to see all
of those old columns. However columns prior to 2014 will have an update
statement at the top. The last 15 years have been a terrific revolution in
how we contact people and get information. Plus, bird names have changed,
and so have some bird issues.

               As always, I look forward to your comments and replies,
whether you post them at the blog or reply to my emails.



P.S. My garden columns are archived at
www.CheyenneGardenGossip.wordpress.com. There were only two years'
worth so I was able to post all of them in January and now there will be
only one a month.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Do bird feeders help spread disease?

The bird feeder in your backyard may seem like a pleasant and innocuous way to attract wildlife. But feeders could also increase the transmission of parasites among certain city birds, a study in PLOS ONE suggests.

Read more....

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Mid-winter events

Thinking about planning your garden for this summer?

Audubon Rockies has a new program to help you be a habitat hero! Plant native species and attract wildlife species to your yard with their ideas. Already have a wildlife-friendly yard? Map it with YardMap

Looking for a citizen science project to get your kids excited about nature in the middle of winter? 

Consider watching and counting the birds at your or a neighbor's bird feeders with the Great Backyard Bird Count. Opening day is this Friday, Feb 14th (closes Feb 17).

Want to get out and explore winter wildlife?

Take your friends and family on a special outing with a tracking expert from the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database. This Saturday we are hosting a wildlife tracking trip to Chimney Park, about 45 min southwest of town. Meet at the downtown Coal Creek at 8 am to carpool. Bring binoculars, snacks, water, and skis or snowshoes. Learn how to read the signs that wildlife leave behind!