Friday, December 4, 2015

Christmas Bird Count - 19 December


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 37th 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;

Doug Eddy counting birds for the 2014 Albany County CBC. Photo by Libby Megna.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Trip Report: Raptors of the Laramie Plains

by Brian Waitkus

Five people joined Chad Olsen for our annual raptor field trip on November 14.  The day was a surprise with sunny skies and little to no wind.  The trip began by going to the Gelatt Lake area via Pahlow Lane.   The lone Great horned owl was seen at the Hill ranch building complex.  In addition, Golden and Bald eagles, and Norther Harriers, Rough-legged hawks, and Ferruginous hawks were observed along this portion of the trip.  The day before Chad viewed eagles taking coots at the small open water areas on Gelatt Lake, but the warmer weather opened up larger portions of the lake today making the hunting more difficult.  Ducks, gulls and the lone meadowlark were also seen in this area.

Traveling to Brubaker Lane,  near the Laramie River, we observed a Redtail hawk sitting in a cottonwood eating a squirrel.  Traveling from this point to Sand Creek Road and back to Laramie more hawks and eagles were located.  A very good day was had for all and Chad once again delivered an excellent a trip providing great insight into the various raptors.

Species Number
Great Horned Owl 1
Northern Harrier 3 (1 juv)
Rough-legged Hawk 3
Ferruginous Hawk 8
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Golden Eagle 8
Bald Eagle 14 (4 adult, 10 subadults)
Eagle sp. 2
American Coot 156
Mallard 5
Gadwall 1
Green-winged Teal 1
Ring-billed Gull 3
Horned Lark 6+
Western Meadowlark 1

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Program Announcement: Nov. 18, 7PM: Sharp-tailed Grouse in South-Central Wyoming

Please join us tomorrow, November 18th for our last fall program of fall semester.

We will be hearing about the "Population Status of the Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse in South-Central Wyoming." University of Wyoming PhD Candidate, Kurt Smith, will discuss his research on the Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse, an imperiled subspecies of the Sharp-tailed Grouse that may be threatened by energy development. Laramie Audubon contributed to Kurt’s research through its small grant program.

***Note Change of Venue*** Instead of our usual meeting place in the Berry Center, we will be meeting in the CLASSROOM BUILDING on the University of Wyoming campus, Room 214. We will still gather at 6:30PM to socialize and for refreshments before the program starts at 7:00PM.

In addition to our scheduled talk, we will also hold our annual board elections at the start of the meeting.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Upcoming Trip: Raptors of the Laramie Plains, Nov. 14

Ferruginous Hawk, Albany Co., WY © Shawn Billerman
This coming Saturday, November 14, Laramie Audubon Society will lead a field trip that will focus on spotting our local birds of prey. Though it is getting chilly, November is one of the best times to find raptors around Laramie, with good numbers of Ferruginous Hawks still moving through, and Rough-legged Hawks arriving from their Arctic breeding grounds for the winter. If you need help identifying hawks, eagles, and falcons, and want to learn about the natural history of our local raptors, then this trip is for you. All levels of birders are welcome.

Meet at Night Heron Books and Coffeehouse, downtown Laramie, at 8:00 a.m. to caffeinate and carpool. Please gas up ahead of time.

Bring binoculars, spotting scope if you have one, field guide(s), snacks, and plenty of water. Dress in layers for our Wyoming weather. If you have any questions, please call Sophie at 307-742-6138.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Sagebrush Sea Film Showing

If you missed seeing the Sagebrush Sea when we hosted a showing in August, you have a second chance! We are co-sponsoring a viewing with UW Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society and other local agencies. Join us Thursday, November 12 at 6 pm in the Berry Center auditorium. This film was produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and has been highly acclaimed.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Grassland Birds and Wind Energy Talk

Hi all! I'd like to invite you to my talk on the effects of wind energy development on the habitat use and nesting productivity of Horned Lark and McCown's Longspur.

It's taking place Monday, Nov 9 at 2pm on the University of Wyoming campus in the Classroom Building, room 310. 

I hope to see you there!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Upcoming talk: Feathers & Talons by Jeff Birek

Swainson's Hawk. Photo ©Shawn Billerman.
Join Laramie Audubon Society for a free public program:

Wednesday, Oct. 28
UW Biodiversity Center Auditorium
10th Street and Lewis Street
Laramie, Wyoming
Free parking after 5 pm

6:30 pm Refreshments and Bird Chat
7:00 pm Program begins

Feathers & Talons: A Closer Look at Wyoming's Raptors
Raptor expert Jeff Birek of the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory will discuss the identification and ecology of Wyoming’s hawks, eagles, falcons, and other diurnal raptors. He will review field marks, shapes, and behaviors to help us better identify raptors in flight.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Trip Report: Laramie Plains Lakes

On a lovely October morning, 6 people joined the Laramie Audubon trip to the Plains Lakes. Although songbirds were notably absent, waterbird numbers were increasing on many of the lakes. Diversity of waterbirds was still rather low at many sites, but we were treated to wonderful views of the some unusual birds.

We started the trip off at Blake's Pond, where there were well over 100 American Wigeons, as well as a lingering Blue-winged Teal. American Coots were also out in force, not only on Blake's Pond but on every lake we visited, with numbers well into the hundreds on Meeboer, Gelatt, and Twin Buttes Lakes. On the deeper water of Twin Buttes, we were also treated to many grebes as well as many diving ducks, including Ruddy Ducks and Lesser Scaup. The highlight from Twin Buttes was one Horned Grebe associating with the many Eared Grebes.

Between Blake's and Gelatt, we encountered what was undoubtedly our most unusual bird of the day, a Sharp-tailed Grouse that was flying fast but low from west to east. With no breeding populations in Albany County, this is a very odd bird, and may represent one of the first records from the county. Its origin remains unknown, but may have come from either the eastern plains near Cheyenne, or from the population in Carbon County on the west side of the Sierra Madre range. Unfortunately, not everyone was able to get on the bird as it disappeared just as quickly as it appeared.

While the Sharp-tailed Grouse may have been the most unusual bird, the undeniable highlight was a very confiding Pacific Loon that we were able to watch closely at Lake Hattie. This bird was associating with two Common Loons, which allowed for an incredible opportunity to study the differences between these two species.

Pacific Loon (left) with Common Loon (right) - Lake Hattie, Laramie Plains © Shawn Billerman

Thanks to everyone who joined the Laramie Audubon on a great trip to the Laramie Plains Lakes!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Upcoming field trip: Plains Lakes

Join Shawn Billerman for another trip to the Plains Lakes this Saturday, 17 October. We will search for lingering migrants and fall rarities. Possibilities include Pacific Loon, White-winged or Surf scoters, Thayer's Gull, and Sabine's gull.

We will meet at 8 am at Night Heron Books & Coffeehouse to carpool. Bring binoculars and field guides, dress for the weather, and bring water and snacks. This will be a shorter trip, and will likely be over by noon or 1 p.m., though participants are free to leave at any time.

Birding at Meeboer Lake. Photo by Libby Megna.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Birding field trip to Hutton NWR Saturday, October 10

Tim Banks will lead a field trip to Hutton Lakes National Wildlife Refuge this Saturday, October 10th.  We hope to see many migrant waterfowl and grassland birds, as well as local and migrating raptors.  Dress in layers for windy weather, and wear good walking shoes.  Bring binoculars and spotting scope if you have one.  Don't forget your snacks and water.  Gas up ahead of time if you are driving your own vehicle.

Meet at 8:00 a.m. at Night Heron Books and Coffeehouse in downtown Laramie on Ivinson Street, across from the Buckhorn Bar.  We will caffeinate and carpool to Hutton Lakes, which is about 7 miles southwest of Laramie on a gravel road.  Roads at Hutton are much improved with parking areas.

Alernate date for this trip is October 24 in case of bad weather.  However, the forecast looks great for this weekend!

Questions about this trip?  Call 307-399-9557 or 307-760-9518.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Trip report: Laramie hotspots

This past Saturday Shawn Billerman led a group of Auduboners to several Laramie parks in search of migrating passerines. Along the Greenbelt we found many Spizella sparrows--mostly Chipping but with a few Clay-coloreds--and foraging flocks of Wilson's, Orange-crowned, and Yellow-rumped warblers. "Stink Lake" in LaBonte Park hosted several species of dabbling ducks and a lone California Gull. The links below take you to our complete checklists.

Greenbelt - Optimist Park
Greenbelt - Flint St
LaBonte Park
Greenhill Cemetery

However, the most unusual bird of the day--dare I say, best bird of the day?--was a sapsucker at Greenhill Cemetery. The bird seems to be a Red-naped x Yellow-bellied Sapsucker hybrid. I have included Shawn's description of the bird and one of his photos below; see our eBird checklist linked above for more photos.

"Presumed hybrid individual that showed intermediate characteristics between Red-naped and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. This bird had us leaning toward Yellow-bellied, due to the black border around the red throat and overall lack of a red nape, but these traits were imperfect for Yellow-bellied. The black border around the red throat was very narrow and irregular, and had some red extending over it when the bird was in certain positions. The nape was not clean white, and had a pinkish wash that suggests introgression with Red-naped. The markings on the back are also not consistent with pure Yellow-bellied, being in two rows that are too narrow for typical Yellow-bellied, and possibly too wide for pure Red-naped. This hybrid combination is not well understood, in part due to the strong similarity between the two species. These two species are known to hybridize in the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Alberta. Presumed hybrids have been documented in eastern Colorado, and likely pass through this region regularly but are overlooked due to the difficulty of identification."

Presumed Red-naped x Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Photo © Shawn Billerman.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Upcoming talk: Alison Lyon-Holloran

Cordilleran Flycatcher at the MAPS station near Laramie.
Alison Lyon-Holloran will kick off our fall program season with her talk titled "Audubon Rockies' Programs and Priorities". Alison is the executive director of Audubon Rockies; she will update us on the organization's current programs and activities. Audubon Rockies is one of the regional offices of the National Audubon Society, and serves the states of Wyoming and Colorado.

Alison's talk will be held in the Berry Center auditorium at 7 pm on Wednesday, September 30. As always, feel free to come as early as 6:30 pm to mingle and enjoy refreshments in the Berry Center lobby.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Upcoming trip: Laramie Hotspots

Greenhill Cemetery. Photo by Libby Megna.
This Saturday, September 26, Shawn Billerman will lead us on a tour of the best birding locations within Laramie. We usually visit Greenhill Cemetery, the Greenbelt, and other city parks in search of migrating songbirds. Birders of all levels are welcome! This is a particularly good trip for beginning birders.

We will meet at 8 am at Night Heron Books & Coffeehouse to carpool. Bring binoculars and field guides, dress for the weather, and bring water and snacks. This will be a shorter trip, and will likely be over by noon or 1 p.m., though participants are free to leave at any time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Trip report: Plains Lakes and Hutton NWR

This past Saturday seven Auduboners got out to enjoy sunshine and birds at several lakes outside Laramie. Waterfowl diversity wasn't as high as hoped, but we did have some great looks at several species of raptors. eBird checklists for our main stops are linked below.

Blake's Pond
Meeboer Lake
Hutton Lake NWR

Rush Lake at Hutton Lake NWR. Photo by Libby Megna.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Saturday Field Trip to Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Sept. 19th

Shawn Billerman and Libby Megna will lead a trip to our favorite national wildlife refuge and the lakes west of town (Plains Lakes) to view fall migrants and resident waterfowl, raptors, and shorebirds.  Come and see what birds are stopping in Laramie to rest and refuel while on their long journeys south.  Immature species are often difficult to identify, but Shawn and Libby are knowledgeable and helpful to novice (and expert!) birders in identifying birds in various plumage.

Bring your binoculars, field guides and spotting scope if you have one.  Also bring plenty of water and snacks for the lengthy trip.  Wear layers that are appropriate for changes in the weather.  It's plenty windy at Hutton, so be prepared to hold on to your hat.

This trip will last several hours, maybe into the afternoon, but anyone in their own vehicle can return home early.

Meet at Night Heron Books and Coffeehouse in downtown Laramie on Ivinson Street near the railroad tracks at 8:00 a.m. to caffeinate and carpool.  If you are driving your own vehicle, be sure to gas up ahead of time.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Call for board members

As you are probably aware, Laramie Audubon is dependent on the financial support of its members and on the interest of members and friends in our programs, field trips, and other activities. What you may not be as familiar with is the behind-the-scenes work that is done by volunteer board members to keep the organization operational. Board members serve two-year terms, which typically begin in November. This fall we have room for several new board members.

Anyone who is a member of Laramie Audubon, interested in our mission, and willing to donate time to the organization may be a board member. Board members are expected to attend all board meetings (approximately three per year) and at least some of our programs. Otherwise, involvement can be quite flexible. We generally take a divide and conquer approach!

We are looking for folks who are interested in being “odds-and-ends” board members, willing to fill in as needed for various activities—perhaps helping to arrange speakers, lead field trips, contribute articles to our newsletter or blog, or spearheading an outreach program in the community. We are also looking for people to fill the following specific positions:
1) Membership coordinator
2) Newsletter editor
These positions will require a larger contribution of time compared to the “odds-and-ends” board members and require someone who is computer savvy.

If you are interested in becoming a board member for Laramie Audubon please let us know at that you would like to be a board member candidate. Also let us know if you would be willing to fill either of the specific positions noted above. We will hold board member elections in November—current members of the board as well as Laramie Audubon members vote in order to confirm candidates. If you have questions before committing to be a candidate, please feel free to direct your concerns our way as well.

Libby Megna
LAS Secretary

LAS board members and friends enjoying a day at Hutton NWR. Photo by Libby Megna.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Saturday Field Trip to Hereford Ranch, Sept. 12th, 7:00am

Tim Banks will lead this field trip to Hereford Ranch, just east of Cheyenne, Wyoming, where many eastern bird species can be seen. The ranch holds riparian areas as well as grasslands and forests. Meet at 7:00 a.m. at Night Heron Books and Coffeehouse in Laramie (across from the Buckhorn Bar) to caffeinate and carpool to the ranch. The ranch is located south of Interstate 80. Take the Campstool Road exit to County Road 209 and turn east onto 209.

This trip could last past the noon hour but participants can leave at any time if they have their own vehicle. Be sure to gas up ahead of time; wear layers for the weather; bring plenty of water and snacks. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars, field guides and a spotting scope if you have one. This trip requires lots of walking so wear appropriate shoes.

Questions? Call 307-760-9518 or 307-399-9557.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

August Board Meeting

We will hold a board meeting this Monday, August 24 at 6:30 pm in room 227 of the Berry Center. Our board meetings are open to the public; if you are interested in the behind-the-scenes of the Laramie Audubon Society, feel free to join us.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Are you a Habitat Hero?

Habitat Heroes are people who practice a form of landscape stewardship, called ‘wildscaping’ - landscaping designed to attract and benefit birds, pollinators and other wildlife. Whether the landscape you tend is a residential yard, a few pots on a balcony, a public park, or schoolyard garden, Habitat Heroes believe in growing a healthy community. By combating the loss of open spaces and creating green corridors that link your wildscape to larger natural areas by providing habitat for wildlife we can feel good about doing something positive for ourselves, the environment and our wild friends.

Take part in the Audubon Rockies Habitat Hero program to provide resources for birds and other wildlife!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Sagebrush Sea

In conjunction with the Ruckelshaus Institute, the Biodiversity Institute, Audubon Rockies, and the Wyoming Outdoor Council we are pleased to present a free screening of The Sagebrush Sea this Wednesday, August 12. The Sagebrush Sea is a documentary produced by biologists and filmmakers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology which explores life in the sage desert from the perspective of a Greater Sage-Grouse. The screening will be held in the Berry Center auditorium. Doors will open at 5 pm and the film begins at 6 pm

A panel discussion moderated by Willow Belden, host of Out There: A Podcast about the Outdoors, will follow the film. Panelists include Marc Dantzker, producer of The Sagebrush Sea; and Wyoming Sage-Grouse experts Brian Rutledge and Matt Holloran.

Enjoy light food an beverages while learning even more about Wyoming’s sagebrush ecosystems via displays and material provided by the Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources, the Biodiversity Institute, the Wyoming Outdoor Council, Laramie Audubon Society, Audubon Rockies, The Nature Conservancy, Medicine Bow Conservation District, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, NRCS’ Sage Grouse Initiative, and the Wyoming Game & Fish Department.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Trip report: Rosy-Finch hike

This past Saturday Laramie Auduboners were treated to excellent views of Brown-capped Rosy-Finches, right at the north end of South Gap Lake were our intrepid leader Brian Waitkus said they would be!

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch. Photo © Brian Waitkus.

The Rosy-Finches were actively foraging, and some were carrying food. No nests have been located this year, but the birds' behavior certainly indicated that they have nestlings somewhere nearby.
American Pipit eggs by Libby Megna.

White-crowned sparrows, Lincoln's sparrows, and American pipits are also actively feeding young along the trail to South Gap Lake. Brian had previously located two American pipit nests, one with eggs and one with nestlings. If you are walking along the Gap Lakes Trail in the near future, keep your eyes open and place your feet carefully--the nests are right along the trail!
American Pipit. Photo © Brian Waitkus.
American Pipit nestlings. Photo © Brian Waitkus.

The complete trip list is available on eBird here. The weather and wildflowers were excellent as well. If you're looking for a short hike in scenic country, or want to see Brown-capped Rosy-Finches in their breeding habitat, I highly recommend Gap Lakes Trail! The trail takes off from the north end of the Lewis Lake picnic area.

Gap Lakes Trail. Photo by Libby Megna.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Upcoming trip: Brown-capped Rosy-Finch hike

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch © Shawn Billerman.
Join the Laramie Audubon Society this coming Saturday, July 17th,  to take a hike into the high country of the Snowy Range to search for the elusive Brown-capped Rosy-Finch. This rosy-finch, one of the highest-nesting birds in Wyoming, nests in the northern Colorado Rocky Mountains and Wyoming’s Snowy Range, which are some of the most spectacular vistas in this part of the country.
The mountains this time of year are also blanketed by native wild flowers along the trail that winds between Medicine Bow Peak and Browns Peak. In addition to the rosy-finch, we will likely view American Pipits, White-crowned Sparrows, Violet-green Swallows, California Gulls, raptors, yellow-bellied marmots, and pikas.

The hike will begin at the parking area beside Lewis Lake in the Sugarloaf Recreation Area above Centennial, WY. We will hike approximately one mile each way, to the northern end of South Gap Lake. Do not let the short length of the trail fool you, though. The high altitude of the area and the steepness of short sections of the trail can make this a challenging outing. The constructed trail winds through small wet drainage valleys and across talus boulder fields. It is essential that one wear good hiking shoes or boots that can get wet and give good support. Weather in the high country can be very variable from beautiful sunshine to cooler, with wind and rain. Dress accordingly and bring a coat to protect against the elements.

Sunglasses, insect repellent, and sunscreen are recommended, as are water and snacks, if desired. Binoculars, cameras, and bird, plant, or geology books are also encouraged.

We will meet at the parking area at the end of the gravel road by Lewis Lake at 8:30. The Sugarloaf Recreation area is a U.S. Forest Service fee area ($5); the USFS yearly pass and golden age card are accepted. The drive from Laramie takes the better part of an hour. People can park at the gate and car pool in if desired to cut down on the cost. The hike will last the entire morning, though since it will occur along a designated trail people may return any time at their own leisure.

For further information call Brian Waitkus at 307-343-3121.

Medicine Bow by Libby Megna

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Upcoming Trip: Saturday June 6, Pole Mountain/Happy Jack Trails

Cordilleran Flycatcher © Shawn Billerman
Please join Tim Banks this Saturday, June 6, as he leads a birding trip along some trails in the Pole Mountain area (Happy Jack Trails) to see what forest birds can be found. Many birds are back and singing on their breeding grounds, including various flycatchers, warblers, and other goodies. It should be great birding weather!

We will be meeting at Coal Creek Coffee (downtown) at 8:00 a.m. to caffeinate and carpool. Bring binoculars, water, snacks and suitable hiking shoes and clothes. Be sure to gas up ahead of time. It is about a 20 minute drive from Laramie to the Happy Jack area.

Questions? Call 307-742-6138 or 307-760-9518.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Upcoming Trip - Laramie Hotspots, May 30

Western Tanager © Shawn Billerman
Join Tim Banks this Saturday, May 30, as he leads a walking field trip along the Laramie Greenbelt, LaBonte Park and other birding hot spots in Laramie. We will be searching for late spring migrants, including warblers, flycatchers, and any other lingering birds passing through, as well as breeding birds that have already set up territories. Over the past week, Laramie has seen some good migrants, including Western Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blackpoll Warbler, and Red-eyed Vireo, so who knows what we will turn up on our trip on Saturday.

We will meet at 8:00 a.m. at Coal Creek Coffee, downtown Laramie, to caffeinate and carpool. Bring binoculars and field guides. Dress for the weather. Bring water and snacks. This will be a shorter trip, and will likely be over by noon or 1 p.m., though participants are free to leave at any time.

Birders of all levels are welcome! This field trip is open to the public. Please join us!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Trip Report - Hereford Ranch

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher © Shawn Billerman
Laramie Audubon's trip to the Wyoming Hereford Ranch in Cheyenne on Saturday, May 16 was very successful. We had up to 14 people join on us for at least part of the walk. We saw a total of 61 species over the course of the morning, including 5 species of warbler, including a young male American Redstart that was singing occasionally. In addition to the warblers, we found both Bullock's and Orchard Orioles, with one pair of each foraging together on the ground at one point, some nice sparrows, including Lark and Lincoln's, and a good variety of flycatchers. We ended up finding 3 species of Empidonax flycatcher, 2 species of kingbird, and Say's Phoebe. One particular highlight for everyone was a stunningly beautiful male Western Tanager that posed nicely in perfect lighting.

Swainson's Thrush © Shawn Billerman

The heavy rains and late snowstorms we have been experiencing here in southeast Wyoming have resulted in extensive flooding at the Hereford Ranch, with both foot bridges that cross the creek having been washed out. Though this limited the areas we could explore, it was still a great morning.

If interested, here is the link to our full eBird list from the trip: Wyoming Hereford Ranch

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hereford Ranch Field Trip - Saturday, May 16

Bullock's Oriole - © Shawn Billerman
Laramie Audubon Society members and friends will be heading out to Hereford Ranch in Cheyenne, WY on Saturday morning. This is a great place to see eastern species that are migrating through the region, in addition to the other more expected regional migrants. This area is grasslands, riparian, and there is a lake in the vicinity for waterfowl and shorebirds galore.

Meet at 7:00 AM (earlier than usual) at Coal Creek Coffee, downtown Laramie, to carpool and caffeinate to Cheyenne. We will leave no later than 7:15 Be sure to gas up ahead of time--it will take about 50 minutes to get to the ranch. This trip will most likely last into the afternoon, but 
you can leave anytime you like if you drive your own vehicle.

Bring binoculars, spotting scope if you have one, snacks, water, lunch maybe (or you can eat somewhere in Cheyenne), and layer your clothes for weather. Forecast looks good for Saturday morning in Cheyenne!

Birders of all levels are welcome! This field trip is open to the public. Please join us!

Friday, May 8, 2015

CANCELLED - Field Trip to Arapaho NWR

Due to the arrival of heavy rain and the possibility of snow tomorrow, the field trip to Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado has been cancelled for tomorrow, May 9. Stay tuned for the potential of a rescheduled trip later in the month.

If you are interested in a rescheduled Arapaho NWR trip on May 23, please contact Vicki Henry at 307-760-9518.

Stay safe and stay warm with the forecasted winter storm this weekend!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Trip report: Plains Lakes & Hutton

Both the weather and the birding were great for our trip to the lakes on Saturday. Duck numbers overall were down, but we still found quite a few species. Shorebird species are moving through; we got to see fantastic display flights by willets and Wilson's snipes. Songbirds were evident as well: recent arrivals are yellow-rumped warblers, Brewer's blackbirds, Brewer's sparrow, vesper sparrow, Say's phoebe, and multiple species of swallows.

Wilson's Snipe along Brubaker Lane. Photo © Shawn Billerman.

Tiger salamander found at Meeboer. Photo by Libby Megna.
Many fields have flooded since the snowstorm, providing good stopover habitat and birding opportunities. We found several Franklin's gulls and a few Bonaparte's gulls along Pahlow west of the Gelatt marsh.

In total we detected 72 species. Below are links to our eBird checklists and the species list for the day.

Blake's Pond
Meeboer Lake
Gelatt Marsh
Lake Hattie Reservoir
Brubaker Lane
Hutton Lake NWR

Species List - 25 April 2015
Canada Goose
Canada Goose
American Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Common Goldeneye
Common Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron

Hooded Merganser
Golden Eagle
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Swainson's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
Bonaparte's Gull
Franklin's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
American Kestrel
Say's Phoebe
Ring-billed Gull
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Marsh Wren
American Robin
Sage Thrasher
European Starling
McCown's Longspur
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Brewer's Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Common Grackle
Great-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow
Auduboners at Hutton NWR. Photo by Libby Megna.

Friday, April 24, 2015

April Board Meeting

We will hold a board meeting today, Friday, April 24 at 5:30 pm. We will meet in room 227 of the Berry Center. Our board meetings are open to the public; if you are interested in the behind-the-scenes of the Laramie Audubon Society, feel free to join us.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Upcoming trip: Plains Lakes & Hutton Lake

We'll head out to the lakes once again this Saturday, April 25. The lakes are one of the best places to bird this time of year--we should see lingering ducks, shorebirds, grebes, raptors, and some passerines. I've been out to some of the lakes with Ornithology students this week, and we got quite a few species; see our eBird checklists: Blake's and Meeboer.

Meet at Coal Creek at 8 am to fuel up. We will visit both the Plains Lakes and Hutton NWR, so be prepared for a longer day and more driving. Of course, you can leave early if you drive your own vehicle or arrange with carpool buddies. We will probably be back to Laramie around 2 pm after a visit to all the lakes. Bring binoculars, a spotting scope if you have one, snacks/drinks and dress for the weather.

Blake's Pond after the snowstorm. Photo by Libby Megna, 21 April 2015.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Upcoming trip: Hutton Lake NWR

Auduboners at Hutton Lake. Photo by Libby Megna.
Join us for a birding trip to Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge this Saturday, April 11. Tim Banks will lead the search for waterfowl, raptors, shorebirds, and songbirds. Migration is in full swing, so we are likely to find some surprises.

We will meet at Coal Creek Coffee at 8 am to carpool. Please bring binoculars, a spotting scope if you have one, field guides, snacks and drinks. Be prepared for windy conditions. Our trips to Hutton usually last a few hours, but anyone is free to leave early if they bring their own vehicle.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Trip report: Plains Lakes

The weather was great for our trip last weekend, but disappointingly the waterfowl were largely absent from the lakes. Ducks and gulls were moving through in good numbers earlier in the week, but the lakes were relatively empty on Saturday. But migration and the nesting season are ramping up--we were treated to views of Great Horned Owls on nests and recently returned Red-winged Blackbirds and Western Meadowlarks.

More migrants will be passing through in the next several weeks, and waterfowl migration is far from over.

In total we detected 33 species. Below are links to our eBird checklists and the species list for the day.

Blake's Pond
Meeboer Lake
Gelatt Lake
Twin Buttes Reservoir
Lake Hattie Reservoir
Hutton Lake NWR

Species List - 21 March 2015
Canada Goose
American Wigeon
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Lesser Scaup
Common Goldeneye

Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Ruddy Duck
American White Pelican
Golden Eagle
Northern Harrier
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Horned Owl
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Mountain Bluebird
American Robin
European Starling
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
House Sparrow
Photos by Libby Megna.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Upcoming talk by Frank Rahel and Jessica Dugan

Little Laramie River. Photo by Libby Megna.
Have you ever wondered what lurks below the surface of the Laramie River as you stroll along the Greenbelt? Now is your chance to find out! Although brown trout get most of the attention, the Laramie River also has a healthy assemblage of native, nongame fishes. This Wednesday, 25 March, University of Wyoming professor Dr. Frank Rahel and his graduate student Jessica Dugan will provide a glimpse into the finny biodiversity that lives largely unseen within the Laramie River by enlightening us about the biology of these species and telling us how they have responded to habitat improvements along the Laramie Greenbelt.

As always, we will meet in the Berry Biodiversity Center auditorium for refreshments and mingling at 6:30 pm, and the talk will begin at 7 pm. See you there!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Upcoming trip: Plains Lakes

This Saturday, 21 March, Shawn Billerman will lead a trip to the Plains Lakes. Ducks and gulls are coming through in good numbers already, so the birding should be great! Red-winged blackbirds, mountain bluebirds, and western meadowlarks have also already made an appearance on the plains.

Meet downtown at Coal Creek Coffee at 8 am to carpool. We should be back to Laramie by 12-1 pm, but feel free to join us for only part of the time--though you may need to drive your own vehicle. Feel free to email us if you'd like arrange a ride with somebody beforehand.

Redheads on Lake Hattie. Photo © Shawn Billerman.
All Laramie Audubon trips are free and open to the public; families are welcome. Bring water and snacks, binoculars, a spotting scope if you have one, and be prepared for vagaries of weather.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Upcoming trip: Greater Sage-Grouse Lek

DISCLAIMER: This trip is subject to schedule changes depending on the road conditions. Please check back here frequently for updates.

Female Greater Sage-Grouse. Photo © Shawn Billerman.

This Saturday, March 14 we will head out to a Greater Sage-Grouse lek. Come and watch these iconic birds strut their stuff. Meet at 6 am at the Eppson Senior Center parking lot, at Curtis St. and 3rd St.  We will carpool to the lek (display ground) at 6:10 am sharp.  The early start is totally worth it--there's nothing like being audience to dozens of male Sage-Grouse calling and dancing to attract mates. You will need 4WD or AWD to navigate the dirt two-track, or share a ride with somebody who does. Please call Vicki at 307-760-9518 if you plan to attend so we will be sure not to leave without you.

It will be cold and windy on the prairie so dress very warmly.  Bring spotting scope, binoculars, warm drinks, and snacks.  We should be back to Laramie by 8 am.  At this time, alternate dates are March 21 and March 28, meeting at the same place, same time, unless notified differently.

Male Greater Sage-Grouse on the lek. Photo © Shawn Billerman.

More details on possible schedule changes:
With the unusually warm weather melting snow, warming the ground and causing rivulets through mud, the trip may not be possible this Saturday.  Perhaps if it stays below freezing in the mornings, we will be able to get out there but we would have to leave the lek before it warms up enough to thaw the ground. We will check conditions Wednesday or Thursday morning to see if it is doable, and give further details then. You may call in advance to be sure the trip is not postponed or cancelled.

Watching the lek. Photo by Libby Megna.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Rosy-Finch Extravaganza

The recent cold snap that has plunged Laramie back into winter may not be welcomed by most people, but for birders, it is giving us a rare chance to experience the wonders of rosy-finches. In Wyoming, we can see all 3 North American rosy-finch species, as well as another distinct subspecies.  The three species include the Black Rosy-Finch (Leucosticte atrata), Brown-capped Rosy-Finch (Leucosticte australis), and the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch (Leucosticte tephrocotis), as well as the 'Hepburn's' Rosy-Finch, a distinct subspecies of Gray-crowned. All of these can even be seen in a single flock, especially here in the Laramie area, the only area in the state where you can see our local breeder, the Brown-capped Rosy-Finch.

Black (left), Gray-crowned (center), and Brown-capped Rosy-Finch (right)

Outside of North America, there are 4 additional species of Leucosticte, all inhabiting alpine or tundra habitats. In the past, our North American rosy-finches were lumped with the Asian Rosy-Finch (Leucosticte arctoa) (Macdougall-Shackleton et al. 2000, Johnson 2002), but have since been split on the basis of molecular data and studies of a hybrid zone between Gray-crowned and Black Rosy-Finch (Johnson 2002).

Rosy-finches are famous denizens of the high alpine regions of the Rocky Mountain region, nesting far above treeline in talus slopes and cliff faces, foraging for seeds and insects at the edges of snow fields. Due to the remoteness of their nesting habitat, relatively little is known of the breeding biology of the three rosy-finch species. Each species largely breeds in mountain ranges isolated from the other species, with Brown-capped Rosy-Finches nesting from far northern New Mexico, through much of the alpine of Colorado, and reaching its northern limit in the Snowy Range of Wyoming (Johnson et al. 2000). Black Rosy-Finches are the "middle" rosy-finch, nesting in the Uinta Range of Utah, through the Wind River Range of Wyoming north to the Bitterroots in Montana, and west to central Nevada (Johnson 2002). Finally, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches are the most widespread species, nesting in Sierra Nevadas in California all the way north to Alaska and the Pribilof Islands. They get as far east as northern Montana, where they occasionally hybridize with Black Rosy-Finches in the Bitterroot Mountains (Macdougall-Shackleton et al. 2000, Johnson 2002).

Rosy-finch habitat - Mount Evans - Clear Creek Co., CO

Even in the winter, rosy-finches can spend a lot of time high in the mountains, sometimes only descending in bad weather to the valleys, foothills, plains, and high deserts of the West (Macdougall-Shackleton et al. 2000, Johnson 2002). Again, Gray-crowned Rosy-finch is the most widespread and frequently encountered species in most places, but in some areas of Utah and New Mexico, Black and Brown-capped Rosy-finches may outnumber them. In Colorado, southeast Wyoming, and northern New Mexico, large mixed flocks containing all 3 species can be found.

Gray-crowned and Black Rosy-Finch flock - Albany Co., WY

Here in southeast Wyoming, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch is by far the most abundant species, with flocks numbering in the hundreds not uncommon in some places, swirling through the air and raiding bird feeders. Within these Gray-crowned flocks, most represent the "interior" subspecies; up to 10-20% of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch flocks may be made up of the "coastal," Hepburn's subspecies, characterized by entirely gray cheeks and face as well as crown.

'Hepburn's' Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch - Laramie Co., WY

'Interior' Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch - Laramie Co., WY

'Interior' Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch - Albany Co., WY

In the foothills of the Snowy Range, small numbers of Brown-capped Rosy-Finches can also be encountered amidst the large Gray-crowned flocks. These are often difficult to pick out, as some Brown-capped Rosy-Finches can show fairly extensive gray in the head, best told by the extent and contrast of the gray with the brown on the face and head.

Brown-capped Rosy-Finches - Larimer Co., CO

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch (with Gray-crowned) - Laramie Co., WY

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch - Albany Co., WY

Generally one of the harder species to find locally, Black Rosy-Finches are only occasionally encountered in flocks in southeast Wyoming. Farther west, they are much more common, sometimes being the dominant species along the foothills of the Wind River Range and in the Jackson Hole region. While adult male Black Rosy-Finches are very distinct and easy to identify, females and young birds can be surprisingly tricky. These birds are separated from both Brown-capped and Gray-crowned by the overall "cold" brown and charcoal gray plumage on the body.

Black Rosy-Finch - Albany Co., WY

As winter continues in Wyoming, you can still expect to find rosy-finches close to the mountains, with birds generally returning to their breeding grounds by April when still snow covered. March can be an especially good month to find big mixed flocks of rosy-finches outside of Laramie, as birds from farther south are beginning to return northward. Occasionally, large flocks of rosy-finches can be found coming to feeders around the foothills as late as May when large spring snow storms come through. So, get out there and go see these spectacular birds of the alpine tundra of the West. 

All photos in this post © Shawn Billerman and are not to be used without permission.


Johnson, RE, P Hendricks, DL Pattie and KB Hunter. 2000. Brown-capped Rosy-Finch (Leucosticte australis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:

Macdougall-Shackleton, SA, RE Johnson and TP Hahn. 2000. Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch (Leucosticte tephrocotis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:

Johnson, RE. 2002. Black Rosy-Finch (Leucosticte atrata), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: