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.