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. 6, No. 2 -- November 2005

Many thanks Daryl and Carolyn LeFevre
for providing free photocopying of this newsletter for those who receive it by mail.


Chapter Builds Strong Monitoring Program

The Importance of Citizen Science
-- by Charles R. Preston, Ph.D.

Autumn 2005 marks an important milestone for Wyoming ornithology and wildlife conservation: establishment of the Beck Lake Complex Bird Monitoring Program. The Beck Lake Complex (BLC), located on the eastern edge of Cody, Wyoming, includes five distinct aquatic and wetland units, i.e., Beck Lake, Alkali Lake, Buchanan Wildlife Sanctuary, Markham Reservoir, and New Cody Reservoir. The Complex has long been recognized as a breeding, overwintering, and migratory stopover site for a variety of bird species, especially waterfowl and wading birds.

The BLC has been named by Audubon Wyoming as an Important Bird Area, and was publicly dedicated as such in October 2005. Important Bird Areas, or IBAs, are sites that provide essential habitat for one or more species of bird. IBAs include sites for breeding, wintering, and/or migrating birds. The BLC Bird Monitoring Program focuses on spring and fall migrants.

Bird monitoring programs are important tools for responsible wildlife management. Our world is in a constant state of change, and birds are among the first observed indicators of environmental change. Data from monitoring programs provide a reference library of past bird populations as a context for evaluating current populations and identifying significant trends in species diversity and abundance. When data are shared and compared over large geographic areas, researchers can recognize broad regional and even continental trends in bird movements and populations and identify potential causes of population changes. Armed with this information, wildlife managers are better able to make intelligent decisions on habitat preservation and management strategies.

Bird monitoring efforts such as the BLC program are examples of citizen science at its best. Data are collected systematically by volunteer observers following a simple and well-designed protocol that can easily be repeated year after year. These data collected in consistently the same way at the same site are invaluable when they are made available to scientists and managers and subjected to statistical analyses. The information amassed by citizen-science projects is collected on a time scale spanning multiple lifetimes and thus would be impossible for a single person or group of researchers to collect alone.

Data collected by Meadowlark Audubon Society citizen-scientists will be compiled and archived at the Draper Museum of Natural History and shared with Wyoming Audubon's Conservation Coordinator. The data will also be accessible to other researchers and managers on request. This is an important program, and the value of the BLC data will grow with each year.

Charles R. Preston is Chief Curator of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center and
Founding Curator of the Draper Museum of Natural History, Cody, Wyoming.

 

Solid Finish Follows Shaky Start
-- by Nancy Ryan

Fall IBA monitoring swung into action September 15 on the Beck Lake Complex. Every Thursday morning through November 10, the public saw our Meadowlark Audubon volunteers at work along the highway, moving from west to east in order to avoid most traffic crossings.

Our first formal monitoring day left the participants a bit discouraged and very tired. We had trouble "setting up" in a timely fashion and couldn't really see the ducks for the glare of the eastern sun. Identifying the LBDs and BBDs (little brown ducks and big brown ducks) was a lot harder than we anticipated.

Susan Ahalt and Joyce Cicco to the rescue! They conducted a field practice for us the following Saturday morning and obtained waterfowl identification booklets for us from the Wyoming Game and Fish. Jen and Neil Miller gave us solace and guidance, pointing out that even experienced birders have trouble under these sun and fall bird conditions. Chuck Neal advised we would see a difference very soon as the waterfowl plumage changes rapidly each day during the migration.

The support of these mentors was exactly what the volunteer group hoped for, since we are all dedicated to learning more about the birds.

Jo Cook spent the intervening week reviewing identification points and set the pace for the rest of us. Meadowlark directors purchased of a weather gauge to assist us. Dorothy Bunn housed the instrument for easy accessibility.

The monitors included Jo Cook, who never missed a session, along with Jackie Anthony, Joyce Harkness, Donna Haman, Gilbert Hatcher and myself. Gilbert and I co-chair the program. Learning the birds is our payback for our volunteer time and working with the compatible group was indeed a pleasure.

On our last day, November 10, the jolly crew finished the eighth week of monitoring. We finished on the most beautiful and warmest day we had experienced, with 60-degree F. temperature and clear and calm weather by 11:30 a.m.

We all agree it was a wonderful experience. We can't believe it has been completed so quickly and we even wish it were not over.

Thanks are in order. Joyce Cicco developed the protocol and all the forms we needed. Gilbert Hatcher was so supportive, warm and kind with his suggestions; identifying the birds without his experience and knowledge would have been a difficult task. Our mainstay and kingpin birder was Jo Cook. Gil named her "Hawkeye" and she was great fun to work with. Joyce Harkness and Donna Haman did the recording and took accurate wind and temperature readings. They lashed us forward when we were running overtime and had to "negotiate" the identifications, as Jackie Anthony would say. She came every time her busy schedule allowed and became a great favorite with everyone. Thanks to Dorothy Bunn, keeper of the equipment, for being so hospitable and handy.

I want to remind everyone that this is an ongoing project that will start again on March 20, 2006 and run through May 20. Any member who wants to learn about waterfowl may join us even if for only a morning or so. It isn't mandatory to participate directly. You can follow along and see what we are doing and listen to the discussions and field mark arguments.

We all learned a lot, starting with the preliminary field lesson provided by Susan Ahalt and Joyce Cicco. On March 31 we will attend a formal class, geared toward waterfowl recognition, taught by Dr. Charles Preston of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.

If you are interested in the class or in the monitoring, please contact Nancy Ryan at nanci_ryan@yahoo.com or 307-754-0114 or 307-202-1334.

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Christmas Bird Counts Coming Soon -- Go on one or all

Kane CBC

The Kane Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, December 17 opens the 2005-2006 CBC season in the Big Horn Basin. Glen Olsen is taking over the reins from Terry Peters, who originated the count in 1990.

To participate, meet at Glen's house at 7 a.m. at 712 Nevada Ave. in Lovell for the briefing and route assignments. To find his house, go to the only stoplight in Lovell, on Main Street, then turn south on Nevada and proceed three blocks. Counters will return to the Olsen house at 4:30 p.m. for the tally and a chili dinner. The Olsens will provide the chili. Participants are asked to check with them before the 17th about bringing other dishes.

Contact Glen at 307-548-7987 or gso@tctwest.net. He will be away from his phone November 22-30 but will have access to e-mail and can respond.

Meadowlark Audubon truly appreciates Terry's dedication to keep this Lovell-area CBC alive and successful. The tradition will continue in Glen's capable hands.
 

Clark CBC

Next is the Clark count, headed by Mary (Lefty) Klein, on Tuesday, December 20. Counters will meet Mary at 7:30 a.m. at Edelweiss to get a route map. Return for lunch at Edelweiss then go out on an afternoon route.

At 4:30 p.m. everyone goes back to Edelweiss for a lasagna potluck supper and tally. Mary will provide the lasagna. Those planning to participate should contact Mary ahead of time to tell her what they can bring for the dinner and to aid in the route planning. Mary can be reached at 307-645-3223 or eweiss@nemontel.net.
 

Cody CBC

The Cody CBC will be Saturday, December 31. In the event of a blizzard, the count will be reset to the following Monday, January 2.

Counts will be tallied at 6:00 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church, 825 Simpson Ave., Cody. Afterwards, all field participants and their spouses are invited to a potluck supper, including chicken with wild rice soup and beverages, which will be provided. Those staying for supper are asked to bring a side dish, chips and dip, cookies or dessert.

Organizers Joyce Cicco and Susan Ahalt will contact participants to determine route assignments and to deliver maps, checklists, and other information. Interested participants should contact Joyce, 527-5030, or Susan, 527-7027 well in advance of the count.

Each team covers only its own route within the 15?mile diameter count circle. Team members are responsible for contacting each other to plan where to meet for the count and how they will cover their route. If a rare bird is seen, observers will be asked to fill out a CBC Rare Bird Documentation Form. Observers should make detailed field notes about the sighting and are urged to make a sketch and/or take a photo if a camera is handy.

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A tiny one and a mighty one sweep the poll

Meadowlarkers Like a Variety of Birds

What makes your day? Twenty-five chapter members answered our poll that asked you to name a bird that especially brightens a winter day. Thank you to all who responded.

Chickadees, as a general classification, pulled the most votes, followed by Bald Eagles and woodpeckers, also as a class. Here's the breakdown:

Chickadee, 4. Gretchen Hurley opted for both Black-capped and Mountain, and Esther Murray gave the nod to the Black-capped. Linda Raynolds and Kris Jondall just love them all.

Bald Eagle, 3. It was tops for Penny Preston, Ed Martin and KaCey Ross. Woodpecker, 3. Kate Neal likes both the Hairy and Downy. A Hairy's bobbing head entertains Mary Klein. A Red-bellied Woodpecker she saw recently in Alabama enchanted Julia Lewis.

Black-billed Magpie, 2, was favored by Lolly Jolley and Sue Hatcher.

Sharp-shinned Hawk, 2, was the pick for Jennifer Miller and Chuck Neal. Chuck said the sight of a sharpie "killing a House Sparrow in the yard" would highlight any day.

Each of the following species got a single nod. Cedar Waxwing, Susan Ahalt; Pinyon Jay, Meg and Jim Sommers; Northern Cardinal, Jan Hoar; House Finch, anonymous; Dark-eyed Junco, Joyce Cicco; Bohemian Waxwing, Dave Henry; Townsend's Solitaire, Neil Miller; and Song Sparrow, Dee Oudin.

In addition, because a Northern Harrier "flying low over the surrounding fields" brings her joy, Diane Orme made it her choice. Harriet Corbett named the American Tree Sparrow "because they are around all winter and they sing."

Two of you wanted to share stories about your winter birds. Sue Hatcher likes the magpie because, "Not only is he beautiful, but he is beautiful in flight, dependable, not too aggressive, and can usually be seen when NOTHING else is in sight for miles. I must say his beauty betrays his cumbersome walk, but his take-offs and landings make up for that. We also have life-long friends from Russia and Poland (husband and wife, both dead now, but three children remain) whose last name (married) was Soroka, meaning Magpie. I always think of those two spiritually beautiful people when I see a Magpie and sigh longingly, but joyfully, also."

"One of my biggest thrills with an eagle was on a cold, foggy February morning as our school bus was taking a group of students to the Showalter Music Festival at NWC in Powell," Ed Martin wrote. "The bus was warmed but the speed was slow as we approached the Corbett Bridge to cross the foggy Shoshone River. Just as we did the little bump that happens when you're finally on the bridge deck, an ascending Bald Eagle appeared out of the fog, changing its flight plan within inches of our large snub-nosed windshield. Ahhhhh! What a glorious sight."

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How to Become a Member of Meadowlark Audubon...
or Keep on Being One:

(Meadowlark Chapter-Only Memberships Expired at the end of August !! If you receive a hard copy of the newsletter, check your mailing label for your expiration date.)

Chapter-Only members pay $12 annual dues and all that money stays within the chapter to help with costs of programs, projects and expenses. Make a check to Meadowlark Audubon and send to

    Joyce Cicco, Meadowlark Membership Chairman
    26 North Ridge Drive
    Cody, WY 82414
This type membership does not include the Audubon magazine

Joint National audubon and Meadowlark memberships are regularly $35 annually and include the Audubon magazine. However, various discounts are available to those who qualify, and we won't get any credit for your membership without certain coding, so please contact Joyce for help before sending your money. Contact Joyce Cicco, membership chair, at 307-527-5030 or jcicco00@tritel.net.

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Keep the Wonderland in Winter for Birds at Your Place

Winter Feeding Tips
-- by Kathy Haigh

In winter, many birds change some of their eating habits. Birds that usually eat insects may eat berries to supplement their diets. Birds look for reliable sources of food for wintertime survival. And, many birds form flocks. Flocks of birds are better able to find food and protect themselves from predators.

The life of a bird in the winter may not be as stress-free as many people think. In much of North America, winter can be a difficult time for birds. The days are short, and nights are often cold and long. The natural food supply has been consumed or is hidden by snow. Most insects are dead or dormant. Food needed to provide the energy to keep birds warm might be scarce. Finding shelter may not be easy. If there are limited natural evergreens or shelter, birds may seek manmade housed or habitats that can provide refuge from the winds, rains, ice or snow of winter.

To keep up their high metabolic rate, most backyard birds eat rich, energy foods such as seeds, insects and suet. There are some times, however, when birds are not prepared to deal with sudden drops in temperature or sudden winter storms. At times like these, it is especially helpful to have feeders full so that birds can find food easily.

As winter descends across much of North America, birds start to seek winter feeding grounds and places to take shelter from the cold. Birds generally use more energy to keep warm in winter months so consider offering feed with a high fat content. Suet, peanuts and a seed blend high in black oil and striped sunflower seeds can provide the extra calories birds need. Clean out nesting boxes and create brush piles with tree limbs, twigs and other debris for birds to use to escape the winds, snow and rain.

And don't forget that birds need a clean source of water all year long. Consider adding a birdbath heater to an existing birdbath or installing a heated birdbath. Now is the time to "winterize" your backyard for your birds to lend a helping hand to our feathered friends.

Kathy Haigh is president of the Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society and
secretary for the Billings Conservation Education Center Steering Committee.
She and her husband, John, own the Wild Birds Unlimited store in Billings, MT.

 

Peanut Butter Feeder
-- by KaCey and John Ross

This attracts nuthatches, woodpeckers and chickadees in the winter. It is easy to make and cheap to keep filled.

The first one we saw was made from the base of a large Christmas tree, but lacking that you can do as we did and use a 4x4 about 10" long. We cut three 3/4" holes in each side at about a 10 degree slant and about 3/4" deep. Score the outside a bit to give better toehold.

The birds seem to like to be near the trunk of the tree and it is more stable there than swinging in the wind. Fill with the cheapest peanut butter you can find, adding sunflower kernels if you wish.

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My Little Chickadee

Bird feeders across much of American are mobbed with black-capped chickadees at this time of year. Can you tell them apart, one by one? Probably not; it's hard enough to distinguish male from female in this species, let alone recognize individuals in a flock. But scientists are starting to suggest that if we look closely enough, we can distinguish birds of a single species by personality. A team of Dutch scientists, testing a European relative of the chickadee, has found that some birds are shy and others are bold, broad personality differences that have a genetic foundation. This finding doesn't erode the basic differences between Homo sapiens and Poecile atricapillus (the black-capped chickadee). But it substantially enlarges the similarities.

We take the range of personalities among individuals in our species for granted, yet it seems surprising to think of similar diversity in other species. Many people find the implications of that genuinely shocking. If bird personalities have a strong genetic and evolutionary basis, there is good reason to suspect that human personalities do, too.

Humans do not like to think of themselves as animals. Nor do they like to think that their behavior may have genetic or evolutionary roots. But the richer perspective—morally and intellectually—lies in examining and coming to terms with the kinship of all life. There's a certain tragic isolation in believing that humans stand apart in every way from the creatures that surround them, that the rest of creation was shaped exclusively for our use. The real fruit of that perspective is, in fact, tragic isolation on an earth that has been eroded by our moral assumptions. Science has something much wiser to tell us about who we are. So do the birds around us.

This editorial appeared March 3, 2005, in the Opinion section
of the New York Times. The author's name was not available.
Anne Young submitted it for inclusion in this newsletter.

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Chapter News and More
 
Nominating Committee

Committee members Dennis Saville, Joyce Cicco, Gretchen Hurley and Sue Hatcher are preparing a slate of candidates for the 2006-2007 year. Members in good standing will vote on the candidates at the April 13, 2006, annual meeting. a few positions remain open on the board of directors. If you are interested in helping this organization, step up and volunteer to take on a one-year director job. Call anyone on the committee (see directory below).

Buchanan Wildlife Sanctuary

On October 19, 2005, John Stafford and Johnny Ross "stepped into the harnesses" and dragged out the posts and wire of the old fence and transported them to the dump. Neither John Stafford nor Johnny Ross have been seen or heard from since. I'm told they are both recuperating. John Stafford reports that this completes the first phase of this project. A report has been sent to Ms. Daphne Grimes.

Forwarded from the missing J. Stafford via Julia Smith Lewis.

Bald Eagle Count

The Big Horn Basin Midwinter Bald Eagle Count is set for January 14, 2006. Meadowlark president Dennis Saville heads up this annual project for the BLM. Contact him about routes or information. See directory below to reach Dennis.

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Meadowlark Audubon Society Officers and Directors

Dennis Saville, President, dtsaville@wyoming.com, dennis_saville@blm.gov, 527-4622 or 578-5900
Joyce Cicco, Vice-President, jcicco00@tritel.net, 527-5030
KaCey Ross, Secretary, johnross@wtp.net, 587-5282
Dee Oudin, Treasurer, oudin@directairnet.com, 587-2451
Dave Goswick dgoswick@tritel.net
Gilbert and Sue Hatcher grshatch@tritel.net
Daryl and Carolyn LeFevre dctfever@wavecom.net
Sean Sheehan ssheehan@tritel.net
Julia Smith Lewis juliasmithlewis@yahoo.com
John Stafford, 527-4607
Cheryl Wright, 587-4119

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November

-- by Neil Miller
Wind whips across barren ground.
Ground bereft of color by Autumn's stinging frosts.
Wind reshuffles leaves into new drifts along fence-lines and ditch-banks.
Autumn colors of scarlet and gold are gone, leaving umbers and browns, dull as dirt.

Trees stand like skeletons stark against burnished blue of sky, dried, wrinkled.
They strain against raging, howling, angry wind, struggling to survive Nature's onslaught.
They creak and moan crying as if to say "We have nothing left to give.
You have taken all; leaves and moisture alike...
Even the myriad songbirds have left our welcoming shelter and fled before your evil tirade. Leave us in Peace, we pray."

Wisps of cotton-ball clouds scuttle across teal-blue sky, as on a Journey of great consequence.
Sun drops below horizon line, peeking through gold-plated clouds huddling close to jagged peaks as if for warmth and comfort.
Night approaches subtly like black panther's sinewy stealth.
Venus appears timidly as if in fear of mighty Sun,
But slowly gains in brightness to assume her rightful dominance between Sun and Moon.
Taurus the Mighty Bull and delicate Pleiades appear faint but firm, as lovely Capella adds its golden glow to the darkening night.

White-tailed rabbit appears from the leafless bushes, stark white against the dull brown of Earth.
She huddles in fear at loss of cover, as if aware of her contrast.
Sinister Coyote or sly Red Fox may lurk just beyond.
But where is the snow?
Yet, November's whining winds portend better times for White- tailed Jack. There will soon be snow...

Snowflakes filter down diagonally behind gentle wind, silent as wraiths from ancient past.
They shift and slide along thirsty ground, mixing with dust stirred by wind.
Slowly collecting in clumps together to cover ground.
White-tailed jack has disappeared, yet she is there nibbling twigs from sagebrush as it flutters in storm.
Her camouflage is complete, Mother Nature has provided well.

This is November in Northern Wyoming, violent and beautiful, threatening yet demurring, harsh and rewarding at once.

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