Friday, May 19, 2017

The Universal Language of Birds

The Ucross Foundation, Bighorn Audubon Society, and Audubon Rockies invite you to participate in a special event combining art and birds. You can submit your own art and participate in an all-day event celebrating birds on 10 June in Clearmont, Wyoming. Please see the flyer below for details, and click on the image to download the flyer.

Laramie Bird Notes -- 5/6 - 5/18

Although we should be experiencing peak songbird migration about now, many of the local migrant traps have been surprisingly devoid of bird life recently. Nevertheless, several interesting birds have been found over the past week or so.

Birds continue to accumulate in the mountains as the Laramie and Snowy Range become more accessible to birders and birds. A Williamson's Sapsucker, a somewhat uncommon breeder in the mountains here, was photographed at the Vedauwoo campground in the Laramie Range. White-throated Swifts were also found around Vedauwoo recently. Dusky Flycatchers seem to have returned to several places in both the Laramie and Snowy ranges, including the Happy Jack area and Rock Creek Canyon. Northern Waterthrushes, which breed along some of the creeks around the Snowies, were found in Rock Creek Canyon and at the MAPS banding station near Centennial. After a ton of effort this spring, Nate Behl and I finally found a Boreal Owl in the Snowies. After ~17 hours of birding across southeast Wyoming on May 13, we were delighted to hear one bird singing in the Brooklyn Lake area multiple times.

It seems that the vast majority of plains birds have returned to the area and are gearing up for the breeding season. A Common Yellowthroat was found at Hutton Lake NWR, 2 Eastern Kingbirds were found on the road to Hutton, and a Mountain Plover was found on Old Laramie River Road. Mountain Plovers breed in this area and in some of the prairie along Highway 34, but they are notoriously difficult birds to find. A great way to find them is to drive the northern part of Old Laramie River Road during a heavy spring snowstorm (like the one right now). They, along with thousands of other birds, can reliably found on the road in these conditions. Just make sure you don't get stuck -- this road can get pretty muddy.

Indigo Bunting. Photo by Laurel Armstrong.

Lots of fun birds have been found in and around town recently. Swainson's Thrushes, Broad-winged Hawks, and Western Tanagers have been seen at several spots in town. In what continues to be a good spring for Zonotrichia sparrows, a White-throated Sparrow was found along the Greenbelt. A Lazuli Bunting was also seen along the Greenbelt recently. Finally, Laurel Armstrong continues to find great birds in her yard on the east side of town -- both an Indigo Bunting and a Gray Catbird were seen in the past couple days.

Today is a good day to get out and go birding! These late spring snowstorms are really hard on birds, but they offer us great opportunities to observe them. Birding the plains can be very productive in these conditions, as birds congregate in large numbers near roads, but birding around town can -- especially at feeders, can produce some very interesting sightings. As I write this, there are 10 Green-tailed Towhees, 12 White-crowned Sparrows, a Lark Sparrow, a Brewer's Sparrow, and a few Vesper Sparrows at my feeder.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Trip report: Hereford Ranch

This past Saturday, May 13, we had a great trip to the Wyoming Hereford Ranch. The trip coincided with eBird's Global Big Day, so it was nice to get out and submit some data! Highlights included Clay-colored Sparrow, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Plumbeous Vireo thanks to the Boulder folks that were also there, and fluffy Great Horned owlets. I also managed to pick up a Lazuli Bunting while I was working on my checklist after everyone else left...sorry guys.

Our full checklist is here. Thanks everyone for birding with us!

Great Horned Owl adult with two chicks. Photo by Tim Banks.

Resighting Brown-capped Rosy-Finches

The Bird Conservancy of the Rockies is asking folks to report banded Brown-capped Rosy-Finches. The finches may be banded with only a silver USFWS with identification number, or may have additional color bands. Please see the flyer here for details on the banding project, the types of bands that may be on the Rosy-Finches, and how to report banded birds.

Brown-capped Rosy-finch

Monday, May 15, 2017

Laramie Audubon's New Look!

You may have already noticed that the Laramie Audubon Society has a new logo appearing on our newsletter and website.  We have had stickers made with this new logo too--be sure to look for them at the next LAS event you attend.

Big shout out and thanks to the University of Wyoming's Biodiversity Institute and their graphic design interns for revamping our old logo--we appreciate it, and are so happy with our new look!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Trip report: Arapaho NWR

Eight of us headed down to Arapaho NWR this past Saturday. Unfortunately the auto tour loop is currently closed due to flooding. But, we found some nice first-of-year birds and lifers for several in the group along the Wetland Nature Trail--Spotted Towhee, Black-crowned Night-Heron, and Savannah Sparrow. Our full checklist is here.

We headed back towards Walden to check out the Walden Reservoir, which turned out to be full of birds. There were a couple hundred California Gulls, many of which were nesting on an island in the reservoir. Double-crested Cormorants and Great Blue Herons were also nesting on that island. We were treated to good views of a White-faced Ibis, Western Grebes, and a fly-by Snowy Egret. Our full list is here. We found additional duck species and Wilson's Phalaropes at a small pond adjacent to the Reservoir; list here.

Birding Walden Reservoir. Photo by Laurel Armstrong.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Upcoming trip: Hereford Ranch

MacGillivray's WarblerOur next field trip is this Saturday, May 13--we'll head to the 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 Coal Creek at 8 am to caffeinate and carpool. We will be back to Laramie by 1 pm--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.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Laramie Bird Notes -- 4/20 - 5/5

Spring migration is definitely in full swing. The winter weather of late has slowed migration down a bit, but look for things to pick up in the near future.

A recent Broad-winged Hawk pretty much caps off the hawk migration season. Be on the lookout for this species high above town on sunny days, as a handful of these uncommonish migrants have been seen each spring over the past couple years.

Waterbirds continue to fill the marshes and lakes west of town. Recent arrivals include Sora, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, American Avocet, Willet, Long-billed Dowitcher, Marbled Godwit, Semipalmated Plover, Baird's Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope, and Common Loon.

In the mountains, Violet-green Swallows, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Pygmy Nuthatch have been seen lately. Recently, a few Northern Saw-whet Owls were heard singing in the Happy Jack area of the Laramie Range.

In town, lots of fun songbird migrants have showed up, including Green-tailed Towhee, Spotted Towhee, House Wren, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Wilson's Warbler, and Wilson's Warbler. Another Harris's Sparrow was found in town by Laurel Armstrong and stuck around for a few days, offering great looks!

Harris's Sparrow. Photo by Laurel Armstrong.
A great way to keep track of migration is to keep track of NEXRAD radar each night. An excellent website to both look at radar and get some information on how to interpret it is in the link below.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Adopt a Catchment!

How do you feel about mountains, ponds, or amphibians? If you like any of those things, check out this great citizen science opportunity by the Rocky Mountain Amphibian Project. Adopt a catchment and survey it for frog, toad, and salamander species this summer. This project is in conjunction with Wyoming Natural Diversity Database, the Biodiversity Institute, and Wyoming Game and Fish.

Click the image below to download the poster.