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. 3 -- March 2006

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


Election of Officers at April 13 Annual Meeting

At the chapter's annual meeting April 13, members in good standing will vote on a slate of officers and directors for 2006-2007. Nominating Committee members Gretchen Hurley, Sue Hatcher, Joyce Cicco and Dennis Saville present the following nominations:

Dennis Saville, President
Joyce Cicco, Vice-president
KaCey Ross, Secretary
Dee Oudin, Treasurer

Directors: Dave Goswick
Donna Haman
Destin Harrell
Gilbert and Sue Hatcher (one board position)
Julia Smith Lewis
Daryl and Carolyn LeFevre (one board position)
Sean Sheehan
Don Smith and Kris Jondall (one board position)

All terms are for one year except for the president, who serves two years. Nominations from the floor will be accepted at the meeting.

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Financial Support

Dominick Delivers Dollars

In an extraordinary gesture of support for Meadowlark Audubon, chapter member David Dominick this winter single-handedly carried out a significant fund raiser for our benefit.

David devised a one-man birdathon and sought pledges for the number of species he counted. He contacted his own list of potential supporters. Some of those on his list happen to be Meadowlark members, but not all of them. No one asked David to do this; it was his idea and he took care of the details and expenses himself.

As this newsletter is being wrapped, David's project had sent an impressive $1,100 to the bank. Some more checks are on their way.

The Board of Directors is deeply appreciative of David's work. Thanks very much to all who contributed.

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Spring migration counts

Monitoring Team Goes Back to Work

Dedicated Meadowlark volunteers begin spring monitoring at the Beck Lake complex, an official Important Bird Area, on March 20. Each Thursday morning around sunrise these tough, tenacious volunteers, led by Nancy Ryan and Gilbert Hatcher, count birds according to a protocol that varies only by the time the sun comes up.

This is an important, ongoing project to collect data that will tell, over the course of years, what the trends are out there on those lakes. Dr. Charles Preston preserves the database at the Draper Museum of Natural History, so it can be available for future scientific reference.

Nancy reminds members, who want to learn about waterfowl, that they may join the monitors at any session. You can follow along and see what they are doing and listen to the discussions (even arguements!) about field marks. Or, volunteer to become an actual monitor. The spring monitoring season extends through May 20.

To sharpen their skills, the monitors will have a training session on waterfowl recognition with Dr. Preston. Nancy coordinates the monitors and will contact those eligible for the training class, as the number of participants is limited.

Those interested in observing or volunteering should get in touch with Nancy at <> or 307-754-0114 or 307-202-1334.

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Take some pictures

Proposed Photo Show Needs Images

As part of Meadowlark's conservation/education work at Buchannan Wildlife Sanctuary and the Beck Lake complex, the directors would like to produce a picture show of the birds and wildlife that can be seen there. At this point the project isn't much more than an idea, with no format determined and no captain to guide it. For example, it could be a slide program, CD/DVD, Power Point show, or video.

But regardless of how it evolves, nothing can be done without images. The directors encourage you to visit the areas and take along your favorite film or digital or video medium and grab some shots. Let any director know if you have images to offer. Full credit will be given to all image providers.

In addition, a volunteer to take charge of such a project - especially one who has more skill at this type of endeavor than the directors - is hugely needed. Step forward, please!

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Chapter Meetings:

March 9 - Program: Grizzly bear pilot program at Wapiti
April 13 - Annual meeting. Program to be announced
May 11 - Program to be announced

See the Meeting Information page or the Calendar of Events page of this Web site for more current information on upcoming meetings and field trips.

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With a little help from their friends...

Ospreys Gain More Housing Options in the Basin

Osprey, Osprey, where will you go?
You can't nest on the power pole...

Right! But some concerned folks from Meadowlark Audubon Society are scrambling to keep you in the breeding business.

Because of the patient and savvy guidance of John Ross, the Big Horn Basin now sports three next platforms, on three different river systems, designed as alternate nest sites for Ospreys. In one case, the pole is mitigation for the loss of a nest on a power company pole, and the other two, the substitutes are intended to supply sites where apparently no suitable trees were available.

In 2001, Ross and crew, with help from Pacific Power, set up a platform-topped pole on the Clark's Fork River at the Beartooth Ranch. Last year, an Osprey pair accepted the offer and hatched three chicks there.

John's proven design involves attaching the large round end piece of a cable reel to the top of a wooden power pole, using cross arms to stabilize it. He adds some very large bolts around the platform perimeter that stick up about five inches to provide anchors for the sticks the Ospreys use to build nests. Then the pole is set, raising the platform about 50 feet above the ground.

This winter, the second and third poles went up. John, Neil and Jennifer Miller, Martin Ross, and a crew from Basin Rural Electric Company, prepared and raised a next pole at Harrington Reservoir, near the Greybull River south of Otto. A year ago, the electric company tore down an Osprey next near Otto for safety reasons. In early February, Ross and crew, using company-provided materials, installed the platform on the pole, then stood by while a Basin Rural Electric Company crew provided the machinery and manpower to dig the hole and set the pole.

In the third procedure, which started and stopped from August to January, John supervised the pole project on property owned by Jim and Dee Oudin near the Shoshone River. A third company provided materials, machinery and manpower for this installation. John, Harold Perry, Martin Ross, and the Oudins did the on-the-ground work. Ospreys had been seen in the area in early spring in years past, but no breeding Ospreys ever were found in the vicinity. Everyone hopes the new platform will bring them back.

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

(Meadowlark Chapter-Only Memberships Expire 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, but 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 <>.

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Weather Influences Winter Bird Surveys

Kane CBC
-- by Glen Olsen

The 17th annual Kane Christmas Bird Count was held Saturday, December 17. There were 19 participants on a quite cold day (2 degrees to 14 degrees F). It turned out to be a very productive count with 10,789 individual birds sighted in 43 different species. Crows have arrived in the North Big Horn Basin with a vengeance, 5,000 being reported, a record high. Other record high counts were: Rough-legged Hawk, 69; Northern Flicker, 87; Horned Lark, 989; and White-crowned Sparrow, 37. There were three species that were sighted for the first time in the history of the Kane Count: a rare Gyrfalcon, Field Sparrows, and Chukars. All in all it was a very successful count and a great big "Thank You!" to all who participated in this important Citizen Science Project.

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Clark's Sixth Count a Flying Success -- by Mary "Lefty" Klein

The Sixth Annual Clark Christmas Bird Count took place on Tuesday, December 20th, on another crisp winter Wyoming day. Although the temperature started out at a cool 6 degrees, the afternoon saw us basking in nearly 60 degree weather.

Compiler Mary Klein logged in 14 avid birders for the count: Harriet Corbett, Carol and Eric Genz-Mould, Stacy Huston, Kristi Jondall, Dave Karnos, Connie King, Thom Klein, Ken and Kathy Lichtendahl, Pat and Nancy Ryan, Dennis Saville and Don Smith. The group departed in five vehicles for the morning count, and four in the afternoon, logging in an impressive 321 miles of covered territory.

Forty-six species were spotted, with a total of 2,533 birds. Although no really unusual species for the area were seen one Killdeer and one Red-winged Blackbird probably should have headed south long ago!

The Clark birders warmed up at Edelweiss after the count, and enjoyed a delicious potluck dinner. Priceless moments for the day: Nancy Ryan losing her clipboard, and having it returned to her, but only after it was run over; and Dave Karnos falling through the ice of a beaver pond, followed by Thom Klein as he tried to help! The warm-up at Edelweiss was definitely necessary!

See you all next year for our 7th Clark Count.

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Cody CBC Part of 106th National Count -- by Joyce Cicco

For 22 years during the Christmas holidays, birders have searched the area within Cody's present count circle for any bird life they could find. This year, on the last day of 2005, 38 birders were able to find 8,210 individual birds, the highest annual count for all the Cody Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs), but the species total at 61 was eight less than last year's record of 69.

Rough-legged Hawks have been tallied on every Cody count since its inception, but this year's total of 49 far surpassed the previous high count of 30 which was taken five years ago. American Robins were numerous at 304, while Bohemian and Cedar Waxwings seemed quite low at only 13 and 77 respectively. Eleven Bufflehead were spotted this year, only the fourth time the species has shown up during the CBC. And for the third year in a row, two Great Blue Heron were seen. (Due to space constraints, the full count totals were not printed in the hard copy of the newsletter, but are included at the bottom of the article in this Web version.)

Even though it was New Year's Eve, many of the day's birders attended the evening tally and potluck supper. Chuck Neal led the count tally, and Susan Ahalt and Joyce Cicco hosted the supper. Thanks are extended to Mr. Neal for his continuing support of the CBC, to Sunset House Restaurant for donation of soup and crackers, to Christ Episcopal Church for use of the meeting room and kitchen facilities, and to the participants for their birding efforts, potluck dishes and financial contributions.

Next winter's Cody CBC will be held on Saturday, December 30. If you missed this winter's count but would like to join us for the next one, call Joyce Cicco, 527-5030, or Susan ahalt, 527-7027, and we will put your name on the list. We're also looking for people in the Cody area who can't get out for the count, but who would like to submit feeder reports from their home feeders. If you are interested, please call Joyce or Susan.

Following are the Cody CBC's totals:

Species Count Species Count
Canada Goose 873    Trumpeter Swan 5   
Gadwall 32    American Wigeon 217   
Mallard 1,212    Northern Pintail 19   
Am. Green-winged Teal 100    duck, sp. 15   
Lesser Scaup 4    Bufflehead 11   
Common Goldeneye 126    Barrow's Goldeneye 15   
Common Merganser 50    Gray Partridge 2   
Ring-necked Pheasant 18    Great Blue Heron 2   
Bald Eagle 7    Northern Harrier 13   
Sharp-shinned Hawk 3    Cooper's Hawk 3   
Northern Goshawk 1    Red-tailed Hawk 10   
Rough-legged Hawk 49    Golden Eagle 12   
eagle, sp. 1    American Kestrel 3   
Prairie Falcon 1    American Coot 10   
Killdeer 10    Rock Pigeon 322   
Great Horned Owl 7    Downy Woodpecker 7   
Hairy Woodpecker 1    Northern Flicker 59   
Northern Shrike 1    Gray Jay 2   
Steller's Jay 1    Clark's Nutcracker 2   
Black-billed Magpie 308    American Crow 21   
Common Raven 414    Horned Lark 410   
Black-capped Chickadee 60    Mountain Chickadee 7   
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1    White-breasted Nuthatch 3   
American Dipper 8    Townsend's Solitaire 22   
American Robin 304    European Starling 2,139   
Bohemian Waxwing 13    Cedar Waxwing 77   
Am. Tree Sparrow 58    Song Sparrow 17   
sparrow, sp. 16    Dark-eyed Junco 49   
Red-winged Blackbird 7    Brewer's Blackbird 47   
Cassin's Finch 21    House Finch 427   
Pine Siskin 52    American Goldfinch 61   
House Sparrow 404        
    Total individual birds 8,210   
    Total species 61   

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Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey -- by Dennis Saville

January 14, 2006 presented extremely mild weather and was preceded by many days of strong winds, factors that may very well have had a strong influence on the survey counts. Distribution of eagles usually is correlated with our local winter weather conditions and this has been a weird year in trying to estimate how it has influenced the distribution of eagles. Many volunteer surveyors found few eagles along routes that have been productive for finding eagles in past years. Eleven routes had no recorded observations of Bald Eagles and 18 routes had no Golden Eagle observations. Hopefully this is just an anomaly because of the abnormal weather.

The 2006 count totaled 154 Bald Eagles with 111 adults and 43 immatures (less than 4 years in age). This count is below average for recent years but within the normal range and still is consistent with the past decade of surveys. The immature to adult ratio of approximately 1:2.6 was slightly lower than average but still within normal ranges.

Golden Eagles totaled 81 with 66 adults and only 15 immature (also less than 4 years old).

Golden Eagles are yearlong residents here in the Bighorn Basin. The decreasing immature to adult ratio of 1:4.4 may reflect either abnormal climatic conditions or something (perhaps West Nile Virus?) that affects the survival of younger birds. It's also possible this was just an unusual count in which fewer young Golden Eagles were seen.

Eleven unknown eagles were observed and, based on terrain, most of these were probably Golden Eagles. If even 50% of the unknown birds were young goldens, then the ratio would have been in the normal range. In summary, this year's overall Golden Eagle count was within the normal range for recent surveys, but the number of immature Golden Eagles was the lowest since 1989.

Other raptors logged included: 97 Rough-legged Hawks, four Prairie Falcons, one Peregrine Falcon, 16 Red-tailed Hawks, 6 Northern Harriers, 6 American Kestrels, 2 Ospreys, 1 Swainson's Hawk, and 5 owls.

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Great Backyard Bird Count

A joint effort of Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Great Backyard Bird Count invites anyone in the United States and Canada to count birds and send in the results. A citizen science project, the GBBC is compiling a massive database. This year's event took place February 17-20.

All the current tallies and many other details may be seen at <>. Just to pique your interest, the total number of birds submitted by midday February 27 was 7.33 million. That includes hardy sould on the Arctic Ocean in Nunavut Province who logged 124 Common Ravens.

You can check participation from any state by clicking on Explore the Results. Checklists submitted from around the Big Horn Basin came to 13 from Cody, 9 from Powell and one from Torrington.

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New Field Trip Policy

The Board of Directors has decided that participants must sign a waiver form for every field trip, rather than just once per year. This practice means sounder field trip management. Thanks for your cooperation.

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Field Trips Coming Up

Field trips planned for spring and summer head to spots of varied interests. At present, dates of the later trips may change and new trips may be added. Please check frequently for added details and updates on this Web site, watch for notices in the media, and read the monthly e-mail messages sent by Meadowlark Audubon.

March 18 and 25:

    A tour of Spirit Mountain Cave west of Cody, led by Dennis Saville. Originally set for February 18, this trip was cancelled due to cold weather. The trip has some stretches of strenuous walking. Group size is limited to eight persons. Anyone interested must contact Dennis beforehand at 307-578-5926 or 304-527-4622. The groups will meet at 10 a.m. at the BLM office in Cody.

April 1:

    Visit a Sage Grouse lek on the YU Bench early in the morning to hear the male birds call and see them dance. Dennis Saville is the leader. Contact him at the numbers above. Further details about the meeting point are forthcoming.

April 15:

    Explore a vision quest site and an antelope drive site on Sheep Mountain west of Cody, with Sean Sheehan. This trip involves a steep and rather strenuous three-mile walk. Participants will meet at 8:30 a.m. at the Wal-Mart parking lot at the southwest corner. Further details are forthcoming. Contact Sean at 307-250-0251.

May 13:

    Look at points of high interest, birds and plants in Bighorn Canyon with the canyon expert, Suzanne Morstad. Further details are forthcoming. Contact Suzanne at 307-568-2128.


    A birding trip into Bear Canyon, north of Deaver. Walking is easy. Details will be announced later.


    Take a trip to Natural Corral northwest of Cody with biologist Destin Harrell. Walking is easy to moderate on this trip. Details will be announced later.

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