Sunday, March 25, 2018

Trip report: Plains Lakes

Following the lek trip, some hardy souls refueled on coffee and headed out to the Plains Lakes. We found a lot of waterfowl on Blake's Pond, most of which unfortunately flushed when we exited our cars. The highlight of the stop was an early Marbled Godwit. We also saw all three species of teal--this is pretty early to have so many Cinnamon Teal in the area.

Meeboer hosted the usual American Coots but not much else. We skipped Gelatt and headed to Twin Buttes, where we found the Barrow's Goldeneye that had been previously reported by Jonathan Lautenbach. There were several other species of ducks present on Twin Buttes, and we experienced a few hundred Redhead fly over us.

Our lists for the day are below.
Pahlow Lane
Blake's Pond
Meeboer Lake
Road by Gelatt Lake
Twin Buttes Lake

Red-tailed Hawks at nest by Blake's Pond. Photo by Libby Megna.

Trip report: Sage-grouse lek

We had a great morning at the sage-grouse lek yesterday! The weather was good--not too cold, and calm. We were able to hear the gurgling, ridiculous calls of the males as they strutted for the hens. We counted a total of 28 males and 7 females. We also enjoyed the antics of Horned Larks setting up their territories around us. Our checklist from the day is here.

Greater Sage-Grouse males displaying. Photo courtesy Liz Young.

Opportunity to Attract Kestrels and Aid in Kestrel Research

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

Elizabeth Wommack, Staff Curator and Collections Manager of the University of Wyoming Museum of Vertebrates, has been studying American Kestrels in California for many years.  The researchers in California continuing this study have decided to replace their existing kestrel nest boxes with larger boxes to also, possibly, attract owls. Beth’s collaborator, Jeff Wilcox, just shipped her a set of her old kestrel nest boxes. The result of this change has made kestrel nest boxes available to Wyoming residents.

Beth would love to get them up around the local area, with land owners who wouldn't mind someone visiting with a ladder to service, check on them and to allow Beth to band the chicks and possibly the adults.  The boxes need to be placed in some open habitat, with short grass, shrub or prairie. Beth had them in a wide variety of areas though (high mountain meadows, oak woodlands, agricultural fields), but generally not urban, within the boundaries of most of Laramie proper.  Boxes placed in the center of town might be a greater attractant to House Sparrows and squirrels. Presently boxes have attracted Kestrels in West Laramie along Riverside Drive and outside of Laramie. 

In California, this design worked well with placing the boxes from 6ft to 9ft off the ground. Beth put them higher up when they might be disturbed by animals (like humans). Generally a north or eastern facing pole, structure, or tree was where they were attached with screws.

If you or anyone you know might like a box please contact Beth at

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Upcoming talk: Tony Hoch of the LRCD

Fish survey. Photo courtesy Tony Hoch.
Join us this Wednesday, 28 March, for a talk by Tony Hoch of the Laramie Rivers Conservation District.

The Laramie Rivers Conservation District (LRCD) has been serving the community for over 77 years.  Originally dedicated to curbing soil erosion in agriculture, LRCD’s mission has expanded to include projects that range from enhancing wildlife habitat and conserving endangered species (Wyoming Toad Safe Harbor Program) to school gardens and xeriscaping in the City limits.  Tony Hoch, Director, will talk about LRCD’s recent 3-mile-long Laramie River habitat restoration project along the greenbelt, and the EPA-supported reclamation/cleanup of the old Midwest Refinery Property (a public nuisance for over 40 years) on the Laramie’s West Side. Hoch will also preview a few major projects on the horizon including the Pilot Hill Land Purchase and watershed planning for listed streams in Albany County.

Tony Hoch received his PhD in geology from the University of Wyoming and worked as a water quality researcher at the USGS in Boulder, and was an assistant professor at Lawrence University, where he helped launch the Environmental Studies Program.  He has been the director at LRCD for over 15 years – and is a long-time Friend of the Laramie Audubon Society.

The meeting will be held in the Berry Center auditorium on the University of Wyoming campus at the corner of 10th and Lewis Streets. Bird chat with refreshments begins at 6:30 pm; the program begins at 7:00 pm.

Refinery cleanup. Photo courtesy Tony Hoch.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Report from Second Annual Bird Hop

Thirteen people gathered at Coal Creek Coffee at 8am on Saturday, March 10, for the Second Annual LAS Bird Hop. We had planned to visit Centennial first, then Albany, with breakfast at the Lodge, but co-leader Brian suggested we start in Albany, since The Beartree doesn’t open until 11am. Next year we will probably do the same.

The group enjoyed breakfast and bird watching at Albany Lodge, then moved on to Centennial, where three others joined the walk. The weather deviated from spitting snow to partial sunshine. While the feeder on the deck in Albany yielded little (a flock of rosy finches was spied flying over, and a single mountain chickadee visited the feeder during our breakfast), overall the trip was a success, with many other birds spotted along the way and on the walk around Centennial, for a total of:

60 Canada Goose
5   Canvasback
1   Lesser Scaup
5   Bufflehead
9   Common Merganser
1   Golden Eagle
1   Bald Eagle
1   Rough-legged Hawk, Light morph adult
3   Steller's Jay
11 Black-billed Magpie
10 Common Raven
3   Horned Lark
1   Black-capped Chickadee
2   Mountain Chickadee
5   Dark-eyed Junco
X   Red-winged Blackbird
50 Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch
1    Bald Eagle
X   Mountain Blue Bird

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Upcoming trip: Plains Lakes

This coming Saturday, March 24, we will check the Plains Lakes for migrant waterfowl and marsh birds. This trip will take place after the sage-grouse lek trip earlier in the morning; to allow time to get back from that trip, we will meet at 9 am at Coal Creek to caffeinate and carpool. Join us for one or both trips!

We will get back from this trip by 1 pm, but feel free to drive your own vehicle if you need to get back earlier. Bring binoculars, a scope if you have one, and field guides. The lakes are often windswept, so dress accordingly.

Last year on this trip we found a Great Horned Owl. Photo by Libby Megna.

Upcoming trip: Sage-grouse lek

This coming Saturday, March 24, we will head out to a Greater Sage-Grouse lek north of Laramie. Come and watch these iconic birds strut their stuff on their display ground.

Meet at 6 am at the Eppson Senior Center parking lot, at Curtis St. and 3rd St. We will carpool to the lek 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.

In case of inclement weather or poor road conditions, we will reschedule. This post will be updated in case of cancellation, and we will send out an update email. If you have any questions, contact us via email.

Dawn over lek watchers, March 2017. Photo by Libby Megna.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Event announcement: Owling Trip Rescheduled

We've decided to move the owling trip from March 10 to Saturday, April 14. That should give us a better chance at finding actively singing owls.

We will go ahead and meet at Coal Creek downtown at 7:00 pm (not 6:00 pm).

Finally, instead of going to the Laramie Range, we will venture out to the Snowies and go for owl gold -- Boreal Owls! Northern Saw-whet Owls and Long-eared Owls are also possibilities. Depending on snow pack, this could mean up to a ~3 mile hike, ski, or snowshoe. As the trip gets closer, we will let folks know what conditions in the Snowies are like.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Upcoming trip: 2nd Annual Birdhop

We will meet at Coal Creek Coffee at 8 am this Saturday, March 10, to caffeinate and carpool out to Centennial. We'll do the same route as last year, unless something crazy strikes us, beginning in the Beartree yard, checking out the scene across the street, and then walking behind the tavern through the neighborhood, doing some feeder watching. From there we will drive to the Albany Lodge for breakfast, where we will be able to look out over the deck to see what birds may have returned after another year without the cats around.

Originally billed as a feeder-watching trip to look for rosy finches, last year's trip yielded none of the finches, but we did see a number of others, including evening grosbeak, black-billed magpie, Stellar's jay, mountain and black-capped chickadee, downy woodpecker, Oregon dark-eyed junco, Clark's nutcracker, Canada geese, bald eagle, common raven, horned lark and a couple of unidentified raptors. We hope to see at least a few of all these, along with those rosy finches and others this year.

This is a laid back trip, including a chance to eat breakfast together and chat.
Red-breasted Nuthatch