Meadowlark Masthead

The Official Newsletter of the Meadowlark Audubon Society of the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming

Non-member subscriptions of printed copies of this newsletter are available for an annual fee of $6.00 to cover postage and printing.
Make your check out to Meadowlark Audubon and send to: Meadowlark Audubon Newsletter; P.O. Box 2126.; Cody, WY 82414.


Vol. 3, No. 3 -- January 2002

Membership Meetings

January 10, 2002 - Tim Eicher of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will speak on Apprehending Poachers in Alaska. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the E.O.C. room in the basement of the courthouse in Cody.

February 14, 2002 - 7 p.m. in Greybull at the Bighorn Federal Savings & Loan. Game Warden Craig Sax will speak on major game violation cases in Cody and how they affect wildlife resources. He will also update us on the Wildlife Legacy Trust.

March 14, 2002 - 7 p.m. in the E.O.C. Room at the Cody Courthouse. Wildlife Biologist Andrea Cerovski will speak on owl habitats, feeding, lifestyle and special characteristics.

April 11, 2002 - 7 p.m. in the E.O.C. Room of the Cody Courthouse. ANNUAL MEETING; election of officers and directors; speaker TBA.

May 9, 2002 - 7:00 p.m. at Northwest College in Powell. Room and speaker TBA. (Last regular meeting until September.)

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Upcoming Field Trips

Saturday, January 26, 2002 - View the eagles along the Clark's Fork River with Dennis Saville of the B.L.M. Dennis will meet all early birders at 8:00 a.m. at the Edelweiss store in Clark, then car pool to the Beartooth Ranch, watching for raptors along the way. At the Ranch, we will hike the river and the pastures in search of eagles, hawks, songbirds, and the elusive dipper. After lunch, we'll lend Dennis a hand to burn up the brush piles raked by industrious Meadowlarkers in the fall. Dress warmly; bring your binoculars, a lunch, and rakes and shovels. Contact Dennis at 587-2216 for more details.

February 23, 2002 - Dave Henry, retired from the Forest Service, will lead us on a jaunt up the Southfork of the Shoshone. We'll be watching for eagles along the river, and hope to find the big horned sheep herds at the end of the road. Check your e-mail and local newspaper for details.

Do you have a special birding spot? Then offer to lead a field trip for Meadowlark. Don't worry about guaranteeing birds: we'll find them. Pick a date and time, and contact Field Trip Chair Dorothy Bunn, <fillinger2@hotmail.com>.

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Field Trip Reports by Mary Klein

"Paint Creek Ranch Produces Palette of Birds"

Friday was cold and windy; Sunday dawned gray and overcast. But on Saturday, October 13th, 2001, Mother Nature treated us with watercolor-blue skies, and a wash of golden grasses across the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains.

Meeting at the Edelweiss in Clark that morning were Ron and Nova Young, John and KaCey Ross, Pat and Nancy Ryan, Dick and Jo Cook, Jim and Marion Laffin, Joyce Cicco, Susan Ahalt, Bryla (Kit) Carson, Mary Munsell, Andy Rose, Kerri Harkin, Ken Lichtendahl, and Thom and Mary Klein. The goal: to brush up on identifying migrating waterfowl.

We couldn't leave the parking lot, however, without focusing our scopes on a Red-tailed Hawk perching obligingly on a power pole. A crowing Ring-necked Pheasant skimmed over the guardrail, unseen by most with their eyes trained to the sky. Once underway on graveled road 7RP, we realized that there is no shortage of Black-billed Magpies or Common Ravens this year! Northern Flickers also abounded throughout the trip, flashing their salmon red wings as they swooped away.

We pulled over at a small pond, heralded by an ascent of emerald Mallards. Buffleheads, American Coots, American Wigeons and a brace of Pied-billed Grebes were kind enough to stay put so we could glass them. Traveling on, we watched a Northern Harrier hunting over the pasture while White-crowned and Vesper Sparrows flitted through silver-gray sage and willow.

A welcome sight when we reached Paint Creek Lake: ranch owner Roxie Corbett seated outside her antique cabin, a chimaera radiating heat, a coffee pot warming on the Coleman, and gooey chocolate brownies to soothe our hunger pangs. All field trips should be so luxurious! After being refreshed, we honed our spotting skills on more American Coots, Gadwalls, Lesser Scaups and Eared Grebes. Chipping Sparrows in the Russian olives; a murmuration of American Crows overhead; and -- what's that -- an immature Golden Eagle watching us from above. Many thanks, Roxie: you made our day.

Back on the gravel, heading towards Hogan and Luce Reservoirs, we spied dusky female Mountain Bluebirds perched on the barbed wire. Another immature Golden Eagle accompanied us. At Hogan, the wind gusted, nearly toppling our scopes; but that didn't stop us from counting over two dozen Canada Geese, and nine glistening Tundra Swans. A short hike to Luce rewarded us with a few Western Grebes.

Driving back to Edelweiss for lunch, we chased flocks of Brewer's Blackbirds along the utility wires. Since there was little wind on our bend of the Clarks Fork, most of us elected to eat under the elms, where chickadees, American Robins, Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Dark-eyed Junco announced our arrival. Our Red-tailed Hawk perched on the bluffs across the river. A majestic Bald Eagle held court with Black-billed Magpies in attendance on the bluff above the coulee. As we watched the Red-tailed Hawk take flight above us, we discovered that a Great Horned Owl was shrouded in the fading greenery right above us! Once scoped, his eyes gleamed fiery yellow as he scoped us right back.

Parting for our homes, we were all thankful for the spectrum of birds we had seen on our picture-perfect fall day.

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Clark CBC Now Qualifies as "Annual"
by Mary Klein

Last year people asked: "How can you have an 'annual' Christmas Bird Count when this is your first one?" Skeptics can now rest assured, because on Thursday, December 27 we completed the SECOND Annual Clark Christmas Bird Count.

The weather smiled on us again (there is always a little bit of heaven out in Clark) with a clear, relatively calm day. A 7-degree temperature was a bit frosty at 8:00 a.m., but the sun warmed us to a balmy 30-degrees around noon. Post-Christmas holiday lag possibly accounted for a low number of counters -- only 10 birders turned out, but are to be congratulated for their extensive coverage of our 15-mile circle. We (Thom and Mary Klein, organizers) want to thank our crew: Pat and Nancy Ryan, Leslie Tribble and her father Neil Colin (all the way from Arvada, CO), Roxie Corbett, and Dennis Saville with his daughters Bonnie and Amy.

We passed the morning in the "urban" half of our circle by counting in the settled western half (along the Clarks Fork). Our first birds were a pair of great-horned owls hooting on the Edelweiss property. Morning highlights included a wild turkey, northern shovelers, a snipe, American dippers, a yellow-shafted flicker, one cold killdeer, and a lone lost western Meadowlark; nice of him to make an appearance!

A walk along the Edelweiss riverfront at noon netted us 7 chukars, plus scores of goldfinches, house finches and common redpolls at the feeders. The afternoon trek across the eastern badlands was not highly productive for counting species, but we did manage to see many eagles. Dennis went to his secret spot to log in his 17 sage grouse.

The ten of us counted 40 species: down by three from last year with five more people counting. Wouldn't you know, a gray jay showed up at my feeder the next morning -- one day earlier, and we would have added a species. We still did manage to identify 867 birds. I'd say that our small crew was really eagle-eyed!

See you next year for the THIRD Annual...

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Cody's Christmas Bird Count (CBC)
by Joyce Cicco

Greeted by early morning temperatures ranging from a single digit to the tens, forty-two adult birders and two youngsters took to the field on Saturday, December 29, to count all the birds within their assigned routes which lie inside a 15-mile-diameter count circle. The Cody count, one of about 1,800 nationwide which take place on a chosen date between December 14 and January 5, is part of the National Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count, now in its 102nd year. Cody's circle, containing a little over 176 square miles, includes the city of Cody and the surrounding countryside, from Newton Lakes to the north, Half Moon Oil Field on the south, Oregon Basin on the eastern boundary, and a portion of Buffalo Bill State Park to the west.

Since a large percentage of the more productive habitat is found along the Shoshone River and the creeks and draws that lead to it, most of the birders bundled up and spent a good part of their time on foot surveying these areas. Open water on the Shoshone, resulting from our mild fall and early winter, attracted a variety of waterfowl. A Cody CBC record of 57 Common Mergansers were logged, along with five Pied-billed Grebes, a first sighting for this species during the Cody count.

Another first, a Hoary Redpoll, was spotted by a sharp-eyed veteran birder. The Audubon Society Master Guide to Birding says that the Hoary Redpoll "barely reaches the northern United States in winter...", but that it "Winters irregularly south to southern British Columbia and northern states..."

The preliminary data, not including bird counts made by people at feeders, show a total of 6,051 birds reported, representing 57 species, fairly typical of the results for Cody Christmas Bird Counts in recent years. Mallard ducks ranked highest in numbers of individual birds at 1,372 with European Starlings coming in second at 1,328. Next in descending order were Rock Doves at 586, House Sparrows at 441, and American Robins setting a record at a surprising 384. Cedar Waxwings accounted for 239 birds, (Bohemian Waxwings weighed in at 87), and Black-billed Magpies totaled 218. Canada Geese numbers were quite low at only 175, Common Ravens at 167, Common Redpolls at 125, and House Finches at 106. American Green-winged Teal were next at 104, an astonishing number as the only other record of this species during the Cody Christmas count was in 1986 with only 10 seen at that time.

Dropping below 100 were Bohemian Waxwings at 87, followed by 80 Red-shafted Northern Flickers, 57 Common Mergansers, 55 Common Goldeneye, 39 Gadwall, 36 Pine Siskin, 34 Black-capped Chickadee, 33 American Tree Sparrows, 33 Dark-eyed Juncos, and 28 American Wigeon. Rough-legged Hawks accounted for 25 birds, Greater Sage-Grouse 22, Townsend's Solitaire 20, Horned Lark 19, Golden Eagles 12, and 11 each of the Ring-necked Pheasant, Song Sparrow, and Cassin's Finch. Ten of each the Northern Pintail and American Goldfinch were seen, 9 American Coots, 8 each of Bald Eagles, Harris' Sparrows, and Red-winged Blackbirds, and 7 each of Killdeer and Evening Grosbeak and 5 Great Horned Owls.

Six each of Red-tailed Hawks and Brewer's Blackbirds were counted, and 5 Sharp-shinned Hawks, Mountain Chickadees, and Pied-billed Grebes were seen. At 4 each were American Dippers, Northern Harriers, American Crows, and Downy Woodpeckers. Only 3 Chukars were spotted, and 2 each o f Northern Goshawks, Common Snipe, and White-breasted Nuthatches. And finally, only 1 of the following species were seen: Cooper's Hawk, American Kestrel, Mourning Dove, Marsh Wren, and Hoary Redpoll. In addition, some birds were identified generally as 25 duck species, 25 Finch species, and 12 Sparrow species.

Information from these Christmas Bird Counts are entered into the BirdSource database, a cooperative project of the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Scientists, researchers and interested birders may access count data from 1900 to the present from the BirdSource Web site located at <www.birdsource.org>.

The Christ Episcopal Church was the evening gathering spot where 22 of the field participants tallied the numbers of the day's count and enjoyed a homemade chili supper prepared by Joyce Cicco, rolls courtesy of Susan Ahalt and the Sunset House Restaurant, and a variety of salads, vegetable trays, chips, dips, cake and cookies provided by the Cody CBC participants. The meal was enjoyed by all, and there was a lot of friendly discussion about who saw what, and where.

Thanks to all those who participated in the count, brought food for the supper, and donated money to help defray expenses for postage, copying, food, and disposable dishes and tableware. Thank you to Chuck Neal who has presided over the tally for a number of years and who provides a wealth of knowledge, experience, and historical information about birds found in this area. We appreciate Chuck's help in making our count as accurate as possible. A special thank-you to Rev. Warren Murphy who allowed us to use the Christ Episcopal Church's kitchen and meeting room for the tally of the count and the chili supper.

If you have wanted to participate in a Christmas count but just haven't gotten around to it, why not contact Susan Ahalt or Joyce Cicco about next year's Cody count, Mary Klein regarding the Clark count, or Terry Peters to take part in the Kane (Lovell) count. It's lots of fun. Just ask one of this year's Cody participants: Susan Ahalt, Judi & Mike Blymer, David & Germaine Bragonier, Dave Burke, Pat Chapman, Dick & Jo Cook, Marshall Dominick, Kay Flora, Gwen Fordham, Donna & Kirk Haman, Dave Henry, Lee & Jan Hermann, John Housel, Lolly Jolley, Roy Jordan, Martha Kinkade, Rita & Mac Lewis, Jerry Longobardi, Suzanne Morstad, Ester & Sara Murray, Chuck Neal, Joe Neal, Grace Nutting, Dee Oudin, Edie Phillips, John Roland, Larry Roop, Dennis Saville and his daughters, Amy and Bonnie, Jean Shanor, Sean Sheehan, David Smith, Stan Strike, Joe Vukelich, B.D. Wehrfritz, and Cheryl Wright.

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Kane CBC
by Terry Peters

Summary of Kane, Wyoming "2002" Christmas Bird Count
Canada Goose744 Black-billed Magpie71
Green-winged Teal6 American Crow931
Mallard3104 Common Raven203
Common Goldeneye5 Black-capped Chickadee16
Common Merganser2 White-breasted Nuthatch2
Bald Eagle13 Townsend's Solitaire1
Northern Harrier30 American Robin760
Sharp-shinned Hawk2 Bohemian Waxwing318
Red-tailed Hawk3 Cedar Waxwing1
Rough-legged Hawk23 Northern Shrike4
Golden Eagle5 European Starling327
American Kestrel8 American Tree Sparrow175
Merlin1 Song Sparrow32
Prairie Falcon1 Dark-eyed Junco (form)40
Ring-necked Pheasant16 Red-winged Blackbird602
Rock Dove1419 Cassin's Finch17
Mourning Dove5 House Finch13
Great Horned Owl3 Pine Siskin8
Belted Kingfisher1 American Goldfinch90
Downey Woodpecker1 Evening Grosbeak22
Northern Flicker52 House Sparrow100
Horned Lark358 wren spp.1

  43 (wren spp. could not be included as there was no category for it)
  Total species = 44
  Total Individuals = 9,534

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Redpoll Alert by Mary Klein

Watch your thistle and sunflower feeders for common redpolls because they are not normally common down here. I've had them at my feeders since the 6th of December, and also saw a few flocks on the Clark CBC.

The redpoll breeds in the Arctic, and normally winters in Canada. Rough winters drive them further south. This is only the third time that I have seen them in the past 12 winters!

The common redpoll looks almost identical to a pine siskin (which looks almost identical to a winter goldfinch...). Note two narrow white stripes on the back from the nape to the tail, if viewing them from above. The most striking field mark is a bright red cap on the forehead, and a black chin (similar to a male house sparrow's). The male redpoll also has a pink breast. The redpolls are delightful visitors, and a welcome addition to any winter feeder watch.

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A Little Tidbit from Wayne Tree

I find this hard to believe but apparently the 2 Anna's Hummingbirds in Missoula made it through the following temperatures for December. They are still feeding at outdoor sugar water feeders.

HIGHS 42 42 40 35 32 32 39 36 41 31 27 28 41 40 34 46 42 31 30 33 30 33 24 22 18 16 14 20 28 27 30 HIGHS

LOWS 30 31 26 24 26 24 24 20 20 21 22 19 25 24 25 27 21 15 14 14 26 13 13 18 13 12 8 10 13 13 23 LOWS

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Trivia From Mary Klein

Male and female great-horned owls sound different. Female great-horned owls are larger than the males, and have a smaller voice box, or syrinx. Thus their calls are higher pitched. Mated pairs often sing duets to defend their territory. In general, the male's vocalizations are more complex, with notes that are richer and deeper than those of his mate. Not only does each gender sound different, but individual males have their own repertoires and can often be identified by their unique voiceprint.

The species is an early nester, and territorial nesting can begin in late fall or early winter, depending on your location." -- From "Birder's World" Magazine

Did you know:
* that hummingbirds' feathers are short so they'll lose heat at night?
* that the eyelash viper can catch Amazon hummingbirds on the wing?
* that the small wings of the rufous hummingbird give it the agility to compete with larger species?
-- From "The World of the Hummingbird" by Robert Burton

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Mark Your Calendars for the Great Backyard Bird Count

This year's Great Backyard Bird Count will take place February 15 - 18, 2002. Count the birds you see at your backyard feeder, local park, or other area and log them into the BirdSource database, managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, at <www.birdsource.org/gbbc>. You'll find maps, graphs, bird bios and songs, materials for teachers, and past Great Backyard Bird Count results. It's fun, and your help really adds up!
 
-- From "Birdsource", newsletter from the Cornell Lab

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Unusual Sighting  by Wayne Tree

We [Dan Browder and I] found the Le Conte's Sparrow at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge which is just north of Stevensville, MT [12-29-01]. We were participating in the 37th Stevensville CBC. This sparrow is a new bird not only for the Stevensville CBC but also for the entire state of Montana Christmas Counts. We chased this sparrow through the grass and weed cover for about an hour before I obtained a clear photo of this bird. We absolutely knew that nobody would believe us if we did not succeed in getting a good sharp photo of this new Christmas Count record sparrow. The Le Conte's Sparrow appeared very reluctant to fly, instead preferring to walk very slowly through the grass and weed cover. This habit made following it very difficult. When this sparrow would fly, it did not fly very strongly like Song Sparrows and other birds do; its flight was very weak. The LCSP was very small with a short tail. I think there may be more than one of these birds present. We actually found this bird by pure luck. We could have easily missed seeing it if we had just decided to take another route. The Le Conte's Sparrow got in front of our truck and refused to fly because it was feeding in the road. So we had to get out of the truck to see who this was. The rest is now bird history.

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Thanks, Birds, For Getting Me Out of the House by Edie Phillips

The sound of dueling flickers greeted me as I left the house early Sunday in spring. One flicker furiously hammered his beak against a tree, to be answered momentarily by another not far in the distance. Which would reign?

The tree drillers were joined by smaller chirpers in a boisterous symphony of birds in the 'hood. I couldn't help but notice the chickadees' refrain sounded my name. Before ascending the steep pedestrian trail off Skyline Drive, I spied an old nest perched precariously on a tree branch overhanging the street. A robin's loud peep drew my eye to the top of a nearby fir. It was proof enough for me that spring had arrived, despite what the calendar showed.

As I walked slowly up the heart-pounder trail, I heard the honking of two Canada geese -- another sure sign of spring, but winter could get a last laugh. As I looked upwards, I lost my footing on a thin glaze of ice still clinging to the sidewalk. I landed squarely on my round behind.

At the top of the hill, I continued southward along 11th Street. At the corner of Stampede Ave., I saw four nervous deer bounding from the safety of a thick, tall hedge. They disappeared so quickly, I thought I'd imagined them.

The chain link fence of the Livingston School grounds fluttered the sunlight into my left eye and created an illusion of an old-time movie. It kept me entertained as I approached the golf course, where the greens still looked brown.

A magpie in flamboyant tuxedo crossed my path then zipped ahead, cruising for carrion. I paid no heed to signs prohibiting unauthorized vehicles and crossed a rough planked bridge over a mostly dry canal containing patches of thickly drifted snow tinged with dirt. I savored the rushing wind through the conifer boughs.

A brush and scrap lumber heap were the end of my civilized trail, so I hiked into the sagebrush and over bumpy terrain of earth gaping with cracks that would thirstily guzzle any trickle of moisture. A fence temporarily daunted my passage, but I found another dirt road to follow. Its deep ruts were still firm in the cool morning but promised quick thaw to slippery mud. A silver oil drum pierced with large holes from target practice sat awkwardly next to a "caution, gas pipeline" sign.

A less traveled fork beckoned me to the ridge top. Human footprints in the fine soft brown dirt showed only faint treads. Deer prints and scat overlaid them. The trail up the ridge became gravel, and my eyes cast downward to scan for fossils or other stone treasures. Patches of a lichen-like ground cover prevailed.

I heard the soft twittering of a bird, less frantic than those in town. I knelt to clumsily retrieve my binoculars from my backpack as the bird perched on a sagebrush. Because I was looking into the sun, I couldn't easily identify it. I guessed it was some kind of lark, though its song was nothing like a meadowlark's. I tried to glass it as it struggled to fly into the wind.

I wandered dreamily along the ridge top, looking at the seascape of rock outcroppings lapping the expanse like wind-whipped rock waves. The waves were guarded by distant circumference of mountain sentry, their snow caps snug.

The rim was a box seat in a stadium feast for the eyes, but the raw, chilly wind challenged my comfort. It was time to head home. I tweaked some brittle sage and held it to my nose for an aromatic spur.

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Barred Owls

The barred owls identify each other by voice. They recognize a friendly inflection in the dark. Perhaps it's a certain lilt in the female's hoot that tells the male there is no need to ride to the defense of his territory. This owl call, at least, is friend rather than foe. Hoo hoo hoo-hoo, hoo hoo hoo hoooo-aw-w-w-w -- a familiar voice in the darkness.

From: The Nocturnal Naturalist by Cathy Johnson

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