Monday, December 11, 2017

Laramie Christmas Bird Count

Christmas Bird Count season is upon us! A CBC is a great way to get out and socialize with other birders while collecting valuable data, and is fun for both veteran and novice birders. Check out Audubon's CBC site to learn more about how the CBC works and to explore data from past counts.

The 40th annual Laramie CBC will be held on Saturday, December 16. Shay Howlin is the compiler for the Laramie count; if you have any questions, please direct them to her at

Meet at Coal Creek Coffee downtown at 7:30 am to get your area and birding buddy assignments. Alternatively, call Shay ahead of time at 307-286-1972 for details. If you are new to CBCs, Shay can pair you with a more experienced birder--just let her know that you're interested the count but would like some help! We will meet up again at The Grounds Internet Cafe at noon to compile morning reports and regroup those who want to keep birding in the afternoon.

You 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!

Gray Jay

Board meeting

Sorry for the short notice, but we will hold a board meeting today at 5 pm in the second floor conference room of the Berry Center. Our board meetings are open to the public; if you would like to see the inner workings of LAS, feel free to attend!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Board member elections, Fall 2017

The 2017 Laramie Audubon elections are here!  We will be voting for new board members during our monthly meeting this Wednesday, November 29, at 7pm in the Berry Center auditorium on the UW campus (our normal meeting spot).  Only current LAS members can vote in these elections.

We have six members running to fill openings on our Board.  Candidates are not running against each other--please vote for each candidate based on their individual merit.

2017 Laramie Audubon prospective board members:

Laurel Armstrong started birding with her daughter in May 2016. It has been an awesome experience and LAS has played a large part in developing her love of birds. The field trips have been a great source of knowledge as well as a whole lot of fun. Her academic background is in engineering, but most of her life has been devoted to being a parent. She is excited to contribute to Laramie Audubon and the birds of Wyoming in a small way by joining the board.

Art Denison has had a lifelong interest in birds and has been an Audubon member for over 50 years.  He is a retired professor of Physics at the University of Wyoming, and was manager of a physics group at the Idaho National Laboratory and Livermore National Laboratory for 30 years.  He is a lifelong student, still auditing classes in ornithology and neurology at UW.  He regularly attends LAS field trips and meetings, and enjoys participating in the organization.  He is excited at the prospect of contributing more to the Laramie Audubon Society as a member of the board.

Paul Dougherty started birding while attending summer camp at his local Massachusetts Audubon sanctuary as a kid.  Over the years, participating in Christmas Bird Counts and Bird-a-thons helped to transform his interest in birds into an aspiration for a career in ornithology.  He is currently a PhD student at the University of Wyoming studying avian speciation.  He has enjoyed attending field trips since moving to Laramie this past fall, and is excited to continue birding with Laramie Audubon members, and expand his participation in the organization.

Sue Favret started birding while hiking, and quickly realized how much help others can be in bird identification. She joined Illinois Audubon and with them monitored bluebird boxes, worked on habitat improvement, and participated in various other Audubon activities. She can recount with joy the first personal sightings of a number of species. She’s running for the board of Laramie Audubon to give back to the birding community from which she has gained so much.

Zoe Gustafson recently moved to Rock River to work for WEST Inc as a data analyst.  She hopes to combine her passions of ornithology and statistics into a career as a Biometrician.  Since moving to Laramie, she has come on some recent fall field trips and has enjoyed learning about all the bird species in the area.  She is excited to be a part of a group in the community that promotes something that she loves—avian conservation!  She says that if elected to the board, members can count on her to work hard to make Laramie Audubon even better.

Kathy Rittle first became interested in the natural world as a child exploring her local woods and on family excursions to a Massachusetts Audubon property. She has an M.S. in Geology from University of Wyoming, and works at Trihydro assisting with assessment and remediation of former industrial sites.  She has previously served on the board of the Wyoming Children’s Museum & Nature Center and has lead youth gardening programs at both the Children’s Museum and Slade Elementary School.  Since discovering the MAPS banding station during the summer of 2016, she’s volunteered there at every opportunity.  That experience has fueled her desire to become more involved with the Laramie birding community.

Upcoming talk: Science Cafe with the Chalfoun Lab

Join the Laramie Audubon Society and the Biodiversity Institute next week, Wednesday November 29, for a Science Café featuring work by Dr. Anna Chalfoun and her lab. Chalfoun studies the effects of human disturbance on wildlife.

Brewer's sparrow nestlings begging on the Jonah Field
Photo by L. Sanders
The Science Cafe will focus on recent research by the Chalfoun Lab centered around sagebrush-obligate songbirds living on natural gas fields in western Wyoming.  It will delve into why songbirds aren't doing well near energy development, whether they are able to adjust their behaviors based on habitat quality, and what effect climate change may be playing in conjunction with energy development.  The Science Cafe will feature talks by Dr. Anna Chalfoun and two of her students: Lindsey Sanders and Tayler Scherr.

From left to right: Dr. Anna Chalfoun, Tayler Scherr,
and Lindsey Sanders.

As usual, we will meet in the Berry Center auditorium. Parking adjacent to the building is free after 5 pm. Bird chat and refreshments begin at 6:30 pm, and the talks will begin at 7:00 pm.

We will also hold our annual board member elections at this meeting. Members who cannot attend this meeting will be able to vote via an online survey, coming soon to your email.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Upcoming trip: Laramie Valley

This Saturday, November 11, we will take a tour of the Laramie Valley for whatever birds we can find. There should be lingering waterfowl, and raptor diversity is usually good in the valley. Join us for the adventure--never know what we might find!

We will meet at 8 am at Night Heron Books & Coffeehouse to carpool. Bring binoculars, a scope if you have one, and field guides. Dress for the weather and bring water and snacks. We should be back to Laramie around noon; if you can only join us for part of the time, be prepared to drive your own vehicle or coordinate with carpool buddies.

Birders of all levels are welcome! Our trips are free and open to the public.

White-tailed Jackrabbit

Friday, November 3, 2017

UW Beast Feast

The University of Wyoming student chapters of The Wildlife Society and American Fisheries Society are hosting their annual Beast Feast on Saturday, November 11th from 5:30 - 9 pm at the Train Depot. See the flyer below for details. This is a great, family-friendly event that supports student involvement in wildlife science and conservation in Wyoming!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Upcoming talk: Small grants updates

Please join us this coming Wednesday, October 25 for three talks by our most recent Small Grants recipients. Jesse, Courtney and Rebecca received LAS funds to help with their research and outreach efforts. See below for descriptions of their projects.

As usual, we will meet in the Berry Center auditorium. Parking adjacent to the building is free after 5 pm. Bird chat and refreshments begin at 6:30 pm, and the talks will begin at 7:00 pm.

Communicating Science: Lessons from the Field Surveys Podcast by Jesse Alston

Jesse will tell us about the new podcast he started with the help of an LAS outreach grant--Field Surveys.  Field Surveys is an ecology and conservation podcast that takes listeners behind the scenes of how ecology and conservation really get done.

Living on the edge: Bird diversity on a grassland/sagebrush ecotone in Thunder Basin National Grassland by Courtney Duchardt

The Thunder Basin National Grassland, situated along the transitional zone ('ecotone') between the Great Plains and sagebrush steppe, is an extremely diverse place. Shaped by disturbances including fire and black-tailed prairie dog grazing, it is home to a surprisingly diverse community of birds including greater sage-grouse, mountain plovers, burrowing owls, and lark buntings (and about 90 more!). Courtney will present a little about the natural history and species diversity of the region, as well as her own research in this amazing landscape.

State of Emergency: Reducing the impacts of natural disasters through restoration by Rebecca Upjohn

Natural events, like hurricanes and wildfires, are essential parts of most ecosystems.  As ecosystems are altered through climate change, invasive species and human intervention, the frequency and intensity of these events increases, causing exceedingly more damage to human infrastructure and vital ecosystem services and functions.  Restoration ecology plays an important role in developing methods to address these underlying issues, reverse damage to critical habitats, and reduce the impacts of future events.

Photos courtesy of Jesse, Courtney, and Rebecca.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Upcoming trip: Nest box cleanup

Grass, feathers, and poop left behind in a tree swallow box.
Photo by L Sanders

All of the birds using our nest boxes at Hutton and the Territorial Prison have fledged their nests, and the boxes need to be cleaned out for next year.  We have a couple of boxes to install at Hutton as well to replace boxes destroyed by cows this summer.  After we finished cleaning out boxes at Hutton, feel free to stick around to bird the lakes!

A tree swallow box in use at Hutton NWR.
Photo by L Sanders

We will meet at 8 am at Night Heron Books & Coffeehouse to carpool. Bring clothes to get dirty, close toed shoes (for cactus!), something to scrape out the boxes with if you have it (like a putty knife), and binoculars. Dress for the weather and bring water and snacks. We plan to be back in Laramie by 11:45 am; if you can only join us for part of the time, be prepared to drive your own vehicle or coordinate with carpool buddies.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Upcoming trip: Plains Lakes

We will head to the Plains Lakes this Saturday, October 14. Hopefully we will find a variety of duck species across Blake's Pond, Twin Buttes, and Lake Hattie. Plus, raptor diversity out on the plains is almost always excellent.

We will meet at 8 am at Night Heron Books & Coffeehouse to carpool. Bring binoculars, a scope if you have one, and field guides. Dress for the weather and bring water and snacks. We should be back to Laramie around noon; if you can only join us for part of the time, be prepared to drive your own vehicle or coordinate with carpool buddies.

Birders of all levels are welcome! Our trips are free and open to the public.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Call for board members

Dear Laramie Audubon members & friends,

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 board meetings (approximately three per year) and at least some of our programs. Otherwise, involvement is quite flexible. We generally take a divide and conquer approach!

Three of our board members are retiring this fall and one is on sabbatical, so we are looking for at least four new board members. We have specific vacancies which need to be filled:
1) Membership coordinator – manage database of members, send renewal reminders, coordinate with treasurer
2) Publicity chair – advertise events to our email list, ensure that events are advertised in the Boomerang, compile event descriptions for the newsletter/blog
3) Newsletter co-chair – work with newsletter editor to compile newsletter four times a year, write articles for newsletter or solicit articles from others

We are also looking for folks who are interested in being “odds-and-ends” board members, willing to fill in as needed for various activities: to arrange speakers, lead field trips, contribute articles to our newsletter or blog, or spearhead an outreach program in the community. If you would like become a board member to add a new facet or outreach project to Laramie Audubon, that’s an option as well--we are happy to hear your ideas!

If you are interested in becoming a board member for Laramie Audubon, please let us know at Provide a description of relevant experience or interests, explain what you would bring to the board, and note if you would like to fill a position listed above. We will distribute your description to LAS members so that they can be informed when they vote on board members in November. If you have questions before committing to be a candidate, please feel free to direct your concerns our way. If you join the board, your first commitment would likely be a board meeting in December; however, if you would like to get involved sooner we can bring folks aboard as interim members.

Libby Megna
LAS Secretary

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Upcoming trip: Rock Creek Canyon

We will travel to a birding hotspot at the north end of Snowies this Saturday, October 07. During fall migration, the morning flight of birds up Rock Creek Canyon can be really spectacular.

Because it is a bit of a drive to the canyon, we will meet at 7 am at the Eppson Senior Center to carpool. Bring binoculars and field guides, dress for the weather, and bring water and snacks.

Wilson's Warbler

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Trip report: Laramie hotspots

This past Saturday, we checked out two of Laramie's best birding spots: Greenhill Cemetery and the Greenbelt at Optimist Park. Despite chilly temps and overcast skies, the birding turned out to be pretty good.

Greenhill Cemetery was quite active, with a large warbler flock consisting of mostly Yellow-rumped Warblers and Wilson's Warblers. However, we also lucked into a Nashville Warbler. A flock of mixed sparrows, including several Clay-colored Sparrows, foraged in the community gardens. A Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker was present among several individuals of the Red-shafted subspecies. We also managed to get the nuthatch slam: Red-breasted, White-breasted, and Pygmy. In total, we encountered 36 species; our complete list is here.

The Greenbelt was not as birdy, but we did add a few species to our day list. Most notably, we had a distant flyby Lewis's Woodpecker. In total we had 27 species; our complete checklist is here.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Migration Day at Commissary Ridge

HawkWatch International (HWI) announces the beginning of the 15th season of raptor migration research at the Commissary Ridge HawkWatch, located 25 miles north of Kemmerer, Wyoming, and will be co-hosting a migration celebration event.

This area hosts an amazing migration route for raptors traveling south for the winter, however few people are aware of the treasure in their own backyard.  Audubon Rockies, HawkWatch International, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department have teamed-up to provide free public events on October 6 and 7.

Daly Edmunds, Audubon’s Director of Policy and Outreach in CO and WY, talks about Migration Day, October 6 and 7. "Together, we want to raise awareness and appreciation for these species," said Edmunds. "This is the first time we are offering this event and are really excited to be able to offer a variety of events that not only bring live raptors for people to see up close but also gives people an insider’s look at why Commissary Ridge is such an amazing place to see thousands of raptors each year."

For more information, visit register for these events so that organizers can stay in touch with you should weather conditions change. 

Click here for a downloadable PDF version of the poster.

Migration Day Events Schedule

Friday, Oct 6th – Come enjoy presentations by HWI, Audubon, and WGFD Nongame Biologist Susan Patla. Patla will briefly present about how Game and Fish manages bird (avian) species in WY and about avian species of conservation concern. Snacks will be available as the public learns about the unique migration route that sees thousands of raptors come by Kemmerer every year, and tips shared to help you identify a variety of beautiful birds.  Be ready to be amazed at seeing some of these live birds up close! Presentations will take place at the Kemmerer Public Library, beginning at 6 pm.

Saturday, Oct 7th – Start the day with a bird walk at Lake Viva Naughton, 8 am to 10 am.  If you have binoculars and/or spotting scope, you are welcome to bring them as we explore the lake and learn about the birds that call it home.  Note: Audubon and WGFD will have limited equipment that people can use at the site.

Saturday, Oct 7th – The public is invited to go hawkwatching with experts at Commissary Ridge HawkWatch from 11 am to 5 pm. Participants are welcome to stay as long as they want – to learn about raptor identification and why this area provides such unique opportunities for HWI to conduct migration research. Trapping efforts will be underway and if successful, participants will get to see one or more of these impressive birds up close and learn about measurements collected to help understand the health of our raptors.

This post written by HWI/Audubon Rockies/WYGFD, I just put it up. --Libby

Monday, September 18, 2017

Trip report: Hutton Lake NWR

Despite looming rainclouds, eighteen birders headed out to Hutton Lake NWR on Saturday, September 16. It turned out to be a good decision! We had a sprinkle of rain but then the cloud cover cleared.

I noted more waterfowl on Hutton Lake during this trip than when I was out there a couple of weekends ago, but they were still mostly dabblers and relatively few diving ducks. There are definitely a lot more Eared Grebes out there now, and Redheads are increasing--so hopefully diving duck diversity will pick up in the next few weeks. We found six species of shorebirds as well.

We accumulated 48 species; the highlights were Red-necked Phalaropes, Black-crowned Night-Herons, Horned Grebes, and cooperative Virginia Rail and Sora.

Our full checklist is here.

Birding from the back side of Hutton. Photo by Libby Megna.

Upcoming talk: Buzz Hettick

Please join us next Wednesday, September 27, for a talk by Buzz Hettick from Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. Buzz will discuss issues related to public lands in Wyoming.

As usual, we will meet in the Berry Center auditorium. Parking adjacent to the building is free after 5 pm. Bird chat and refreshments begin at 6:30 pm, and the talks will begin at 7:00 pm.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Higher Ground Fair

Laramie Audubon will have a booth at the Higher Ground Fair, 23 and 24 September. The fair will be open 9 - 6 am on Saturday and 9 - 4 pm on Sunday at the Albany County Fairgrounds.

Visit our booth to find out about our upcoming field trips and programs. We love talking about birds in the area, hearing your bird stories, sharing the best local birding spots, and discussing local conservation projects and priorities. You can also join us for Bird Bingo to win prizes!

Check out Higher Ground's website here to see a list of activities and vendors at the fair. Click here to download a copy of the poster.

Upcoming trip: Laramie hotspots

Join us on a journey through the best birding spots within Laramie this Saturday, September 23. We'll look for migrating songbirds, especially warblers and sparrows. We usually visit Greenhill Cemetery, Labonte Park, and the Greenbelt. This is a great outing for beginning birders or families.

We will meet at 8 am at Night Heron Books & Coffeehouse downtown to carpool. Bring binoculars and field guides, dress for the weather, and bring water and snacks. If you'd like to meet up with us later in the morning, feel free to email to find out where we're at.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Monday, September 11, 2017

Citizens' Climate Lobby events

Our local chapter of the Citizens' Climate Lobby has a couple of events this week. See the poster below if you'd like to get involved in climate action locally! Click here to download a copy of the poster.

Note that the Encana Auditorium is in the Energy Innovation Center at the University of Wyoming. The Advocacy Training event on the 15th will be a good chance to learn about the Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Trip report: Hereford Ranch

Photo by Laurel Armstrong.
On Saturday, September 9, twenty birders joined our trip to the Wyoming Hereford Ranch in Cheyenne. And it turned out to be a beautiful day with excellent birds!

We found a total of 48 species. The highlights were a Blackpoll Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and Red-eyed Vireo. We also found a Blue Grosbeak and Cassin's Kingbird--not unexpected for Laramie County, but not always easy to find. Sparrows were lacking but there were flocks of finches--including more Lesser Goldfinches than I have seen all in one place.

The eBird checklist with photos of the rare warblers is here.

Blue Grosbeak. Photo by Nate Behl.

Upcoming trip: Hutton Lake NWR

We will bird Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge this Saturday, September 16. The refuge is one of the best places to bird during waterfowl migration. We should see dabbling and diving ducks of a variety of species, and hopefully will luck into some shorebirds. Hutton also hosted a Little Gull in September 2013, so keep a sharp eye out!

We will meet at Night Heron Books & Coffeehouse at 8 am to preemptively caffeinate and carpool. Please bring binoculars, a spotting scope if you have one, field guides, and snacks and drinks. Be prepared for windy conditions. Our trips to Hutton usually last until noon, but anyone is free to leave early if they bring their own vehicle or coordinate with carpool buddies.

Little Gull

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Project Nest Watch report by the Laramie Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts checking nest boxes at Hutton NWR,
photo by Lisa Cox
Please join us for our upcoming evening program, next Thursday, September 14.  Bird chat starts at 5:30 pm, and the program will begin at 6 pm pm. Please note the day and time change for this program, as compared to our regularly schedules evening programs.

The Laramie Girl Scouts have been working with the Laramie Audubon Society all summer to check Tree Swallow nest boxes out at Hutton National Wildlife Refuge.  They will report back to us on what they learned about bird nesting biology and ecology this summer, as well as describing their experiences with checking nest boxes, and giving us their findings from a summer spent on the refuge.

We will meet in the Berry Center auditorium. Parking adjacent to the building is free after 5 pm. Bird chat and refreshments begin at 6:40 pm, and the talk will begin at 7:10 pm.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Laramie Bird Notes (8/24 - 9/4)

Migrant activity has been really good over the past week, especially in the songbird department. Although the Laramie Valley doesn't generally get a great diversity of warblers in migration, a respectable 11 species were recorded this past week. Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped Warblers seem to have made a decent push into town recently, while a few Yellow Warbler reports may be some of our last for this early migrating warbler. In addition to the expected migrant warblers, we also had reports of two unusual species for our area, Black-and-White Warbler and Magnolia Warbler. Good places to find migrating warblers include Greenhill Cemetery, UW campus, the Greenbelt, and generally anywhere with lots of trees. Rock Creek Canyon on the north tip of the Snowy Range can be quite good for warblers in fall migration.

Magnolia Warbler. Photo by Nate Behl.

In other songbird news, a decent selection of vireo species has been found around town lately, including Warbling, Red-eyed, Cassin's, and Plumbeous. Sparrows are also on the move, with a few juncos (both Gray-headed and Pink-sided) and Clay-colored Sparrows being seen around town, as well as gobs of Chipping Sparrows. Chipping Sparrows have actually been moving out of the mountains since mid-July, on their way to wetter and more productive regions to complete their molt.

Flycatchers have also put on a good show lately. In town, several Empidonax species have been moving through, including Dusky, Hammond's, Gray, and Willow, along with Olive-sided Flycatcher and lots of Western Wood-Pewees. Further out on the plains, Western and Eastern Kingbirds continue to move through. Be sure to check those yellow kingbirds closely for a Cassin's, or maybe even something more unusual!

In addition to a few miscellaneous songbirds such as Hermit Thrush, Gray Catbird, and Western Tanager around town, crossbills are still around in decent numbers, though the big push of types 3 and 4 has calmed down a bit lately. Most Red Crossbills around right now are type 2. Even more exciting, an immature White-winged Crossbill was seen at Greenhill Cemetery in a flock of Reds, so be sure to pick through those crossbill flocks carefully! Crossbills moving through are really struggling to find food, so now is a good time to make sure your feeders are filled -- you might get lucky and have a flock visit for a while!

Compared to last week we have several more waterbird species to report. Baird's Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, and Semipalmated Plover are some of the more notable shorebird species. Other waterbirds include good numbers of Franklin's Gulls and White-faced Ibis. Despite modest effort at searching Hutton Lake and Lake Hattie for jeagers and rare gulls, nothing has been found. Those intent on finding these and other rare waterbird species should continue to monitor these lakes, as several reports from Colorado and other nearby states have really picked up recently.

Baird's Sandpiper. Photo by Shawn Billerman.
 A couple noteworthy birds that didn't really fit well into the rest of the post include Rufous Hummingbirds (which will likely leave our area entirely in the next couple weeks) around the Berry Center on campus and a somewhat early Merlin on the Greenbelt.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Upcoming trip: Hereford Ranch

Our next field trip is this Saturday, September 09. We'll head to the Wyoming Hereford Ranch on the east side of Cheyenne. The riparian areas at the Hereford Ranch host an incredible array of expected migrants and often deliver rarities. This trip is a particularly nice one for beginning birders.

Meet downtown at Night Heron Books & Coffeehouse at 7 am to caffeinate and carpool. We will get back to Laramie at noon--if you can only join us for part of the time, be prepared to drive your own vehicle.

All Laramie Audubon field trips are free and open to the public; families are welcome. Bring binoculars, water and snacks, and dress for the weather.

Birding at Hereford last fall. Photo by Libby Megna.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Outdoor Movie Screening: The Messenger

Kick off the fall with the Laramie Audubon Society and University of Wyoming Biodiversity Institute on Thursday, September 7th with an outdoor screening of the critically acclaimed documentary, The Messenger!

With breathtaking visuals, The Messenger is an ode to the beauty and importance of the imperiled songbird, and what it means to all of us on both a global and human level if we lose them. Watch the trailer here.

The event will take place on the South hillside of the Williams Conservatory on the UW campus. The conservatory is located south of the Aven Nelson Building on campus, at 9th and University. Join us at 7:30 pm for refreshments and open access to the conservatory; film starts at 8 pm.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Laramie Bird Notes -- 8/17 - 8/24

As fall migration starts to heat up, the Laramie Bird Notes will resume to bring you all the wonderful avian happenings in the Laramie Valley.

Fall migration this year is starting off with a somewhat strange phenomenon: Pygmy Nuthatches, White-breasted Nuthatches, and at least four different Red Crossbill call types are all over town! Over the past week or so, both nuthatches have been seen at the Greenhill Cemetery, the Greenbelt, and near UW campus, which is pretty strange. It even seems that Red-breasted Nuthatches are much more abundant in town than usual. Type 2 (or Ponderosa Pine crossbills) have been the most abundant crossbill call type around town (especially on campus and at the cemetery), though types 5 (Lodgepole Pine), 4 (Douglas-fir), and 3 (Western Hemlock) have also been found recently.

Pygmy Nuthatches and Red Crossbills are on the move this fall.
Photos by Nate Behl.
It seems likely that the influx of nuthatches and type 2 crossbills into town is due to the lack of a Ponderosa Pine cone crop in the surrounding mountain ranges, as these species depend heavily on the seeds from this tree in fall and winter. Similar reports from along the Front Range of Colorado, and the massive movement of type 2 crossbills into the Great Lakes and northeastern United States, suggest that these species are moving across much of the Rockies. Red Crossbill types 3 and 4 are also moving into the eastern United States, indicating that Douglas-fir and Western Hemlock cone crops are failing in the Pacific Northwest. For a nice primer on crossbill ecology and identifying crossbills to call type, check out this wonderful article from Cornell's Matt Young:

In more normal migrant news, migrant songbirds are really starting to move through town in decent numbers. In addition to the masses of Wilson's Warblers we get every fall, other migrants around town recently include Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, Dusky Flycatcher, Gray Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Bullock's Oriole, Black-headed Grosbeak, Gray Catbird, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Brewer's Sparrow, and Lark Sparrow. Greenhill Cemetery and the Greenbelt have been pretty good for migrants lately and are worth checking.

It is happening again... Photo by Shawn Billerman.
Waterbird migration is also underway, though the coverage of this group hasn't been great in our area lately. Nonetheless, Common Loons, Long-billed Dowitchers, and Baird's Sandpipers have been seen recently. Those looking to find rarities would do well to check places like Hutton Lake, Lake Hattie, Blake's Pond, and the ponds north of Laramie at the intersection of Highway 287 and Highway 34 near Bosler. In addition to a good diversity of migrating shorebirds, you may be rewarded with unusual species like Sabine's Gull, Little Gull, or maybe even a jaeger or two!

Will you find a Little Gull this year? Photo by Shawn Billerman.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

September Membership Month

We hope you are all enjoying this beautiful August weather, and are looking forward to fall migrants that will soon be heading south through town.  We at the Laramie Audubon Society are excited both for the influx of migrants and for September Membership Month!  

As you probably already know, we’ve changed our membership renewal to be once yearly, rather than every 365 days.  So by renewing this September, your membership will be good until we send you a reminder for renewal again in August 2018.  You can send your check to our mailing address using the attached form, or you can go online to and click on the “JUST GIVE” button to renew your membership with a credit or debit card. 

LAS continues to be an effective voice for conservation and education around Laramie thanks to the support of our members. With your LAS membership you will continue to receive the Laramie Audubon Society newsletter and support the projects and vision of your local Audubon chapter.  We encourage you to receive your newsletter electronically, to save paper.

Remember, September will be Membership Month for Laramie Audubon Society.  If you haven’t already, renew your membership now and it will last until August 31, 2018.

Board meeting

We will hold a board meeting Wednesday, 23 August at 6 pm in the second floor conference room of the Berry Center. Our board meetings are open to the public; if you would like to see the inner workings of LAS, feel free to attend!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Field Surveys Podcast

Last fall, Laramie Audubon funded a small grant request for a local podcast called Field Surveys.  The goal of the podcast is to take listeners behind the scenes of how ecology and conservation really get done.  We are excited to share that the first two episodes have been released!  New episodes will come out monthly for the next year or so.

You can listen to the podcast here:

It is also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Stitcher, so you can download it straight to your phone.

Jesse Alston, the creator of Field Surveys, will be speaking at our monthly LAS meeting on Wednesday, October 25.  Be sure to drop by if you want to learn more about this new podcast.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Trip report: Rosy-finches in Snowies

This post is by Brian Waitkus, I'm just putting it up. - Libby

July 22, 2017
14 members and friends of Audubon gathered at the Sugarloaf Recreation Area, Lewis and Libby Lake parking area for a one mile hike to the Gap.  The quest for the trip was to locate Brown Capped Rosy-finch, but other birds, mammals, and butterflies were also observed.  The weather was great with cool temps and mostly blue skies.  At the Gap, after 45 minutes, we were fortunate to locate a pair of Rosy-finch marking a new species for many in the group.

The following birds were noted:
2 Brown Capped Rosy-finch                       2 Robin
9 American Pipit including 3 chicks            2 Yellow Rumped Warbler
2 Wilson’s Warbler                                     1 Ruby Crowned Kinglet (call)
12 White Crowned Sparrow                       2 Flicker
2 Townsend’s Solitary                                1 Red Breasted Nuthatch
1 California Gull                                         3 Swallow (sp?)
1 Bald Eagle                                               1 Golden Eagle
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow                                    1 Vesper Sparrow

The Laramie Audubon crew. Photo by Laurel Armstrong.

Trip Report: Visit to the banding station

The group crowded around the banding table to observe.
Photo credit: Lindsey Sanders

We had a very successful trip to the banding station this past Sunday!  10 Laramie Audubon members and 6 Cheyenne Audubon members ventured out to the LIND banding station to see the station in action.  Libby Megna taught us about the history of the banding station, and the importance of studying breeding birds to get a grasp on demography and survival of local species.

Hatch year Lincoln's Sparrow (left) and Song Sparrow (right).
Photo credit: Libby Megna

We observed many birds being extracted from mist nets and banded--they caught 29 total birds at the station on Sunday!  Species observed in the hand included Song Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Black-capped Chickadee, and  more.  The two most exciting species of the day were Northern Waterthrush and Rufous Hummingbird!  We got many opportunities to see hatch year birds compared to adults, and to observe the differences between hatch years of the same species, which was a treat.  Along with birds caught in the mist nets, some of our other birding highlights included Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Sandhill Crane, Belted Kingfisher, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Bullock's Oriole, and Williamson's Sapsucker.

The LIND banding station runs every 10 days for the entire breeding season, so we hope to be able to take trips like this again in the future.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Upcoming trip: Visit to bird banding station

Second-year female Bullock's Oriole. Photo by Libby Megna.
This Sunday, July 23, we will head out to the MAPS banding station at Fred Lindsey's place near Centennial. This banding station is run by Audubon Rockies, and is part of the North American Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survival banding network. The goal of this banding program is to monitor demographics--survival and reproduction--of breeding birds. We will learn about how birds are banded, what we can learn from banded birds, and how we are able to determine the age of birds by looking at details of their plumage. Families and kids are welcome!

The banding station is on private property that is the best place for Northern Waterthrushes and Gray Catbirds in the county. This is a good opportunity to see and learn about bird banding as well as visit a great place. Meet Lindsey Sanders at Coal Creek Coffee downtown at 8 am to caffeinate and carpool. This is a nice chance for kids to get up close and personal with birds, but be aware that both the grass pollen and mosquitoes can be intense at this location, although usually aren't too bad at the banding station itself. Feel free to hang out at the banding station, but if you want to walk the net lanes you will be traipsing through standing water. Be prepared with mosquito repellant and appropriate clothes (long sleeves recommended), antihistamines, and boots or shoes that you don't mind getting wet.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

RESCHEDULED: Rosy Finch Field Trip

UPDATE: The Rosy Finch field trip has been rescheduled!  The road from the highway to the parking area at Lewis & Libby Lakes will still be closed this weekend, so we are pushing the field trip date back to July 22.  We will meet at the Lewis & Libby Lakes parking lot at 9am!

Our next field trip is this Saturday, July 15 July 22.  We'll head up to the Snowies to look for Brown-capped Rosy Finch, and other high-elevation summertime species.

Black-capped Rosy Finch, 
photo by Shawn Billerman
We will park at the Lewis and Libby Lakes parkings areas and head down a walking trail of one mile to the north end of South Gap Lake.  The area may still have some snow, could be wet, and crosses sections of boulder fields.  The hike will go up to 11,000 feet.

The Brown-capped Rosy-Finch is a species of concern because it breeds only in the Snowy Mountains and on mountain peaks in Colorado and northern New Mexico. If the current global warming trend continues, its mountain habitat islands are likely to shrink and to be invaded by other avian species that are currently excluded by the harsh conditions. In spring and summer, Brown-capped Rosy-Finches often feed at the edge of snowdrifts, where seeds that were blown onto the snowpack during winter emerge from the melting snow cover.  In past years we have done surveys for rosy finches in this area, but this year we will just be heading out to see if we can find any.

Meet at the Lewis and Libby Lakes parking area at 9 am. Please bring binoculars and/or spotting scope, a field guide, warm clothes and rain gear, good hiking shoes, hat, lunch and snacks, water, sunblock, and insect repellent.

All Laramie Audubon field trips are free and open to the public; families are welcome.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

POSTPONED: Project Nest Watch report by Laramie Girl Scouts

POSTPONED:  The Laramie Girl Scouts have been monitoring Tree Swallow nest boxes at Hutton NWR this summer.  They were going to give a report on their monitoring in late-July, but this has been rescheduled for September.  Stay tuned for the new date of their report!

Trip Report: Amphibian Search

Andy showing a Leopard frog tadpole to a young herper.
Photo credit: Lindsey Sanders
Last Saturday, eight enthusiastic LAS members went on an a search for amphibians in the Laramie Range.  And we were successful!  Led by Andy Gygli, a graduate student at the University of Wyoming, we ventured around a pond in Happy Jack and found Leopard frog and Tiger Salamander tadpoles, as well as an adult Leopard Frog!  We also saw three garter snakes along the banks of the pond.

An adult Leopard Frog.  Photo credit: Lindsey Sanders

We hope to have more herp trips like this in future, to learn more about the amphibians and reptiles of Wyoming!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Upcoming trip: Amphibians of the Laramie Range

Recent small grants recipient Andy Gygli will lead an amphibian herping trip in the Laramie Range on Saturday, July 8. We'll visit a pond in the Happy Jack area, and hope to see Tiger salamanders, boreal chorus frogs, and maybe even some Northern leopard frogs! We'll do some birding on the hike to the pond as well. The hike will be ~2 miles round trip, so come prepared for a little hiking to access the site. We'll need to bleach equipment before splashing around to look for herps, so please wear old clothes that can get messy.

We will meet at Coal Creek Coffee at 8 am to preemptively caffeinate and carpool. Please bring rubber boots or hiking shoes that can get wet, binoculars, field guides, snacks and drinks. We'll likely be back in town around noon, but if you need to come back early you can if you bring your own vehicle or coordinate with carpool buddies.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Trip Report: Rock Creek Canyon

Five birders managed to dragged themselves out of bed quite early this morning for a hike in Rock Creek Canyon. I was hesitant to schedule the trip this early for fear of losing possible participants, but, in the end, I think we were all quite happy with the decision. The dawn chorus in the canyon was simply overwhelming.

Looking for a singing Northern Waterthrush...and a MacGillivray's Warbler...and a Veery...

The primary impetus for this trip was the chance to see uncommon breeders that are difficult to find elsewhere this time of year. We got great looks at most species in this category and heard all the other ones we were hoping for. Highlights included Fox Sparrow, American Redstart, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Northern Waterthrush, Veery, Swainson's Thrush, and Gray Catbird.

Singing (Slate-colored) Fox Sparrow.
 The group also got incredible looks at some of the more common yet delightful species including many Evening Grosbeaks, Western Tanager, MacGillivray's Warbler, Hammond's Flycatcher, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, and Spotted Sandpiper.

As always, the butterflies, wildflowers, and non-avian wildlife (including 3 moose) in the canyon did not disappoint.

Spotted Sandpiper.

(All pictures in this post are from Laurel Armstrong)

A full checklist of the species encountered is listed below:

2 Common Merganser
1 Great Blue Heron
1 Red-tailed Hawk
1 Spotted Sandpiper
2 Mourning Dove
4 Broad-tailed Hummingbird
1 Red-naped Sapsucker
1 Northern Flicker
1 Olive-sided Flycatcher
4 Western Wood-Pewee
8 Hammond's Flycatcher
2 Dusky Flycatcher
3 Cordilleran Flycather
15 Warbling Vireo
1 Steller's Jay
1 Clark's Nutcracker
1 American Crow
2 Tree Swallow
6 Mountain Chickadee
5 House Wren
2 Golden-crowned Kinglet
5 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
5 Veery
5 Swainson's Thrush
10 American Robin
1 Gray Catbird
2 Cedar Waxwing
3 Northern Waterthrush
6 MacGillivray's Warbler
1 American Redstart
8 Yellow Warbler
6 Yellow-rumped Warbler
1 Chipping Sparrow
3 Fox Sparrow
2 Song Sparrow
1 Green-tailed Towhee
8 Western Tanager
4 Black-headed Grosbeak
3 Lazuli Bunting
6 Pine Siskin
4 American Goldfinch
15 Evening Grosbeak

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Upcoming Trip: Rock Creek Canyon

Golden-crowned Kinglet, photo by Stephen Parsons
Our next field trip, this coming Saturday, June 24, will be to Rock Creek Canyon, up in the Snowy Range. Rock Creek Canyon is a true gem of the Snowies. This cool, shady canyon is home to a fantastic diversity of organisms that aren't always easy to find in the Laramie area. Swainson's Thrushes, Veery, Least Flycatcher, Fox Sparrow, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Evening Grosbeaks breed here among many others. The area also hosts an impressive diversity of plant life and a special reptile that we will also look for. We will plan on spending a couple of hours exploring the area, including a roughly 2 mile hike.

For more info on Rock Creek Canyon and the Arlington trailhead, check out this website.

Meet at 6:00 am the Eppson Senior Center to carpool. We will be back to Laramie by noon, so if you can only join us for part of the trip be prepared to drive yourself or coordinate with others ahead of time.

All Laramie Audubon field trips are free and open to the public; families are welcome. Bring binoculars, water and snacks, and dress for the weather.