Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Volunteer Opportunity - Nest Box Monitoring

The Laramie Audubon Society (LAS), is seeking a group of volunteers to monitor nest boxes at the Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge located southwest of Laramie. We will be looking to form at least three crews to monitor a group of the boxes once weekly from mid-May through mid- to late July.  The weekly time commitment to check a group of 12 to 16 nest boxes is about an hour or so depending on the rate of walking. Last year, we conducted the nest box checks on Sunday, mid-morning and followed the CDC Covid-19 safety guidelines to social distance.  We do not expect a weekly commitment of each volunteer, however we would prefer that volunteers rotate with other members in their crew in an effort to share observations and data between crew members. All new volunteers would be trained by returning volunteers. 

In past years, the nest boxes were primarily used by tree swallows. Data for each nest box will be collected on forms to include: the date, nest status and condition (if nesting material is present, and if an obvious nest central cup is present, if the nest is damaged or gone); number of eggs, number of live or dead hatchlings and fledglings; adult bird activity and behavior; and status of the young (if nestlings are naked and pink, date when presence of wing feathers emerged, and when body feathers completely cover the skin), and dates when the young have fledged. 

The data collected will be entered into Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch database. NestWatch is a nationwide monitoring program developed by Cornell to track status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds, including when nesting occurs, number of eggs laid, how many eggs hatch, and how many hatchlings survive.  Their database is intended to be used to study the current condition of breeding bird populations and how they may be changing over tine as a result of climate change, habitat degradation and loss, expansion of urban areas, and the introduction of non-native plants and animals.  This being said, as a volunteer and community scientist, you will be contributing to the collection of additional data and aid in the future conservation of bird species.  It would be ideal if one person from each of the three monitoring crews would enter the data into the online database.  Again, training will be provided.

LAS thanks all 2020 volunteers and future 2021 volunteers!  Please contact Jan Hart, LAS via email at janhart22@hotmail.com if you are interested in helping with the 2021 nest box monitoring efforts.  Please respond by April 20 if interested so that training and crews' weekly schedules can be arranged.  Also, feel free to contact Jan with any questions at (307) 760-9693 as well.

Flock of Sandhill Cranes observed flying over Hutton Lake NWR by 2020 LAS/NestBox volunteers.
(Photo courtesy of Laurel Armstrong)

Monday, April 19, 2021

In-Town Field Trip - Saturday, April 24th

Join us on the Spring edition of our Laramie Hotspots field trip.  We will meet at 8 a.m. at the southeast corner of Lake LaBonte (a.k.a. Stink Lake) in LaBonte Park, near the corner of North 8th and Canby Streets.  After viewing the waterfowl and surveying the surrounding park areas for song birds, we'll decide where to go next.  Plan on two to four hotspots within the City limits, depending on how the birding is at each stop.  This is a bike-friendly outing, since the potential stops are within a mile or two (or less) of each other.   

Please remember that we continue to require masks on our trips.  We also encourage attendees to bring warm clothes, sturdy shoes, sun protection, water, and snacks, as well as binoculars and other birding equipment.  Most of the walking on this trip will be on level surfaces (e.g., the grass in the park, gravel roads at the cemetery, paved Greenbelt trail).  

We also continue to request that people register for LAS trips by sending a quick message to us at laramie.audubon@gmail.com.  The primary purpose of registration is to facilitate contact tracing in case of potential Covid-19 exposure.  However, if you include your phone number, we'll be able to call if the trip is cancelled at the last minute (apologies to those who didn't get the message about the cancellation of the lek trip!!).  

Friday, April 9, 2021

April 10th Lek Trip Cancelled

The trip leader checked out the access to the lek late this afternoon (April 9) and the road is impassable due to muddy conditions and snow drifts.  Therefore, the LAS lek trip tomorrow (April 10) is cancelled.  We apologize for the late notice - we were hoping that today's wind and partly sunny weather would dry things out.   

Note that the trip to Hutton Lake NWR will go on as planned.  If the access is muddy, we will just park farther from the water and enjoy the walk and the additional opportunity to observe grassland birds. 

Great Sage-Grouse Lek plus Hutton Lake NWR


Saturday, April 10th will be a "double header" for LAS!  We'll head to the Greater Sage-grouse lek early and then reconvene later in the morning at Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge.  Attend either or both trips!  But bundle up - the current forecast looks cold!  Please email us if you plan to attend (laramie.audubon@gmail.com).  And please remember your mask - we continue to abide by National Audubon Society guidelines for covid-safe field trips.  

Lek Trip - Meet at the Eppson Center for Seniors (1560 North 3rd Street) at 5:30 a.m. - we won't wait for stragglers, because timing is important for this event.  From the Eppson Center we will caravan to the lek.  After watching and listening while the males boom and strut, we'll return to Laramie by approximately 8 a.m.  

Hutton Lake NWR Trip - At 9 a.m. we will gather at the observation platform at the far end of the Refuge.  The stars of this trip are the large numbers of migrating ducks that the Refuge typically hosts each Spring.   Directions:  From Laramie, head south on 3rd Street/ US-287, turn right onto County Road 22 (as if entering the cement plant), then turn left onto Sand Creek Road (parallel to railroad tracks - many people have missed this turn and mistakenly entered the cement plant parking lot). Stay on Sand Creek Road for about 8 miles, then turn right at the National Wildlife Refuge sign.  To reach the viewing platform, continue west from the sign for approximately 0.75 miles, and then turn left (south) and follow the two-track until it ends (approximately 0.4 miles).  

American Avocet adult and juvenile at Hutton Lake NWR, July 2020. 
Photo courtesy of LAS member Liz Young