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. 7, No. 2 -- November 2006


America’s Michelangelo Adorned Capitol With Birds -- by Joyce Cicco

Paintings of birds and other American wildlife in the Brumidi Corridors of the United States Capitol are coming back to life through a complex restoration project that is uncovering the 150-year-old art.

Constantino Brumidi (1805-1880), a classically trained Italian artist with experience painting in the Vatican, left his country for political reasons in 1852 and immigrated to the United States. Five years later he became a U.S. citizen. About that same time, the Capitol building was expanding. Brumidi, a master of the difficult medium of true fresco painting, was hired to create designs for the new Senate corridors, based on a style of painting by Raphael in the Vatican. Visit <http://tinyurl.com/y4rb2j> for the life story of Constantine Brumidi.

The corridors bear his name because Brumidi developed the overall design, beginning in 1856, as well as painting the major elements and supervising the work of many artist assistants. He continued with the project for most of the next 25 years until his death.

Brumidi’s creations included over 350 individual birds, representing at least 100 species, along with hundreds of species of flowers and fruit and various fauna of America. The symmetrical designs included a variety of scrolling vines, vases, classical gods and goddesses, and portraits of famous early Americans.

Most of the wall and ceiling murals in the main corridors were painted between 1857 and 1859. A water-soluble tempera was the ceiling medium and a lime-wash fresco went on the walls. During the 1870s, the semicircular lunettes arching over the committee room doorways were painted in the true fresco technique. In this medium, the artist quickly paints a mixture of mineral colors and water onto a moist mortar surface. As the mortar cures, it absorbs the colors and the painting becomes a permanent part of the wall.

Over the years, the paintings became obscured by dirt and grime, protective varnishes, repairs, and numerous retouchings and overpaintings. Between 1985 and 1995, conservators cleaned Brumidi’s frescos, revealing the original paintings. Restoration of the walls and ceilings of the corridors began in 1996 and continues today. Restoration of the art in one of the five hallways, the Patent corridor, has been completed, revealing the beauty of the original decorations. For information on the Brumidi Corridors, visit <http://tinyurl.com/4z9vw>.

A Capitol guide published in 1874 says Brumidi used bird specimens from the Smithsonian Institution, founded in 1846, as models for the paintings of birds. But it must be noted that Brumidi took artistic liberties in his designs and the birds are not necessarily portrayed in realistic poses or proportions. A Senate web site found at <http://tinyurl.com/wuyyw> contains photographs of many of Brumidi’s birds, displayed in categories of Game Birds, Land Birds, Birds of Prey, Wetland Birds, Beyond Our Borders, and Flights of Fancy.

A segment on National Public Radio about the corridor restoration caught my attention. While the NPR story is no longer posted, the other web sites are available. I hope you might find them as interesting as I did.

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Featured Bird

American Dipper, Cinclus mexicanus --by Neil Miller

American Dipper While hiking tiny Wallrock Creek in the Bighorn Mountains this fall, we heard strident birdsong behind us. We turned to look in time to see a robin-sized, dark, chunky bird flying up the stream low over the water. It trumpeted its call as it proceeded up the little creek to land on a small rock in the three-foot wide streamlet. It promptly hopped into the stream and walked boldly along, pecking here and there as it found tasty morsels, often fully submerged in the water. It teetered up and down vigorously as it perched on the rocks.

One of nature’s true anomalies, the dipper is a land bird that spends its life in, on, and under the water! Its long toes, neither lobed nor webbed, were meant for perching, so the dipper propels itself under water with its short wings, in effect “flying” while it swims. Although it can catch insects on the surface, it spends most of its time walking the bottom, snagging small fish and probing for flatworms and snails. It is kept warm and dry by an undercoating of down.

Dippers range from central Arizona and New Mexico to northwestern Alaska and down the Aleutian Chain. In our area we have seen them on the Wood River in the dead of winter, hopping from the ice into the frigid stream to feed, and on the Yellowstone River at Le Hardy rapids where they nested on the cliffs across the river only a few feet above the roaring rapids.

We watched a dipper land on a rock in the middle of the rapids and adroitly hop into the boiling rapids. It would then pop back up on the rock and teeter for a few seconds before popping back. Then it flew downstream and landed near a Harlequin Duck pair that were preening themselves.

We have filmed the dipper feeding its young in a nest in the cliffs just above Medicine Lodge Creek in the Medicine Lodge Archaeological Site State Park near Hyattville, and high up in the Cloud Peak Wilderness on tiny Paintrock Creek. Dippers usually build their bulky, moss-covered nests on the underside of rock overhangs, sometimes even beneath waterfalls. Here they enter their homes by flying through the fall’s cascading current - a daredevil maneuver that not only foils would-be predators but also evokes applause from anyone lucky enough to witness it.

Get out into nature this fall and winter and enjoy this denizen of our rivers and creeks. You can find it almost anywhere along a creek or river...in Shell Creek along the Cattle Trail, in the north and south forks of the Shoshone River, along the Greybull River right in Meeteetse, in the Wood River near the Wood River Forest Campground, in the Clark’s Fork, in Little Rock Creek, in Bennett Creek and in the Midway Geyser Basin in Yellowstone along the Firehole River. Go find your special spot.

(Some material taken from Book of North American Birds, Reader’s Digest)

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Wetlands Cooperative Project Plans for the Long Term --by KaCey Ross

Over a year ago, Daphne Grimes approached the board of Meadowlark Audubon to suggest that we might undertake a joint conservation project enhancing and protecting a wetlands area on her property. To this end a Meadowlark board member was appointed to serve on the board of Thomas the Apostle Center (TAC), which was founded by Mrs. Grimes. Then an advisory committee was formed of three Meadowlark people and three TAC people specifically to address conservation issues for the wetlands.

To orient you as to the wetlands location, this is the little pond on your left as you turn toward Meeteetse on Wyoming 120, after leaving Cody on U. S. 14-16-20. A small sign names the project area the Buchanan Wildlife Sanctuary. The wetlands gets drainage water from the irrigation ditch and seems to have a year round source of water, although minimal in winter. The area extends over to the next road east, 3CX, and from the Greybull Highway back toward the large buildings on the hill.

Meadowlark has removed lots of old fencing no longer in use for pasturage. Last winter we had a backhoe out there and dug some trenches to increase the water area, the piled up dirt to be used as berms and protection for the area. When conditions are right, the piles will be smoothed out and appropriate native grasses, reeds and shrubs will be planted.

Long range planning calls for more pools, walkways and observation areas. This is going to take quite a few years and the next step will depend upon the success of the last one and the lessons learned as we go along.

The sanctuary has been a summer home to many species, not only for birds but also fox, prairie dogs, deer, coyotes and antelope. It is a migratory stopoff for lots of different birds as our spring and fall migratory counts document. Although much of the work that we do is "sweat labor", there are inevitably dollar costs to be met. To this end, our current raffle earnings are dedicated to this and future conservation projects. We would like your participation in this and, if possible, a pledge of volunteer time for upcoming physical work.

This certainly isn't a BIG, WORLD CHANGING project, but little things add up and—with each of us doing our meager bit—it counts.

Raffle Committee Note: [11/21/09-We're sorry, the photos are no longer available.] To see photos of the prizes offered in the Wetlands Project Fundraising Raffle, see the What's New page of this Web site. Tickets are available for $10 each, or 3 for $25.

Make your check out to Meadowlark Audubon and send to:

Joyce Cicco, Raffle Co-Chairman
26 North Ridge Drive
Cody, WY 82414
 
or call Joyce at: (307) 527-5030

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Christmas Bird Counts Sample the Basin in December

Clark

The Clark Bird Count will be on Thursday, December 14th. We will meet at Edelweiss (2900 Hwy. 120) at 7:30 a.m. to get assigned routes. We will return there at noon for lunch (bring a bag lunch, or buy lunch at the bar), then head out for the afternoon. At 4:30, we will return for a pot luck lasagna supper. I will supply the lasagna, and everyone else should bring a dish (salad, bread, dessert, etc.). Contact Mary "Lefty" Klein, at 307/645-3223, or <eweiss@nemont.net>.
 

Kane

Saturday, December 16 is the date for the Kane Christmas Bird Count in Lovell. The task of compiling and organizing has been passed on to me (Suzanne Morstad) and I would appreciate any suggestions. Plan to meet around 6:30 a.m. to pick up packets and instructions at the Lovell Fire Hall, 314 Nevada, one block north of Main Street. Hot drinks and breakfast goodies will be available. Counting will begin around sunrise.

After the count, there will be a potluck supper as usual, at about 4 p.m. For more information, contact Suzanne Morstad, at 307-568-2128, or <smorstad @tctwest.net>.
 

Cody

Cody’s Christmas Bird Count will be Saturday, December 30. All who participated in last year’s count will be contacted by organizers Joyce Cicco and Susan Ahalt. If you were not part of the group last year and would like to join us this year, call Joyce at 307-527-5030, or Susan at 307-527-7027.

Participants will receive a packet in the mail with route maps, checklists, and other information, and each group will be responsible for canvassing its assigned route. In the evening, participants will meet at Christ Episcopal Church for the tally of the day’s birding, to be led again this year by Chuck Neal. A pot luck supper follows the tally, with soup and beverages provided by the organizers, and appetizers, casseroles or desserts brought in by the participants.

The National Audubon participant fee is still only $5, while those 18 and younger may join the group without paying the fee. Donations are accepted to help pay for the count expenses. If you would like to join the Cody count, please call Joyce or Susan.

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Spotting Skills Soar As Meadowlark Monitors Gain Experience

Seasonal bird monitoring at the Beck Lake Complex Important Bird Area progressed well this fall, thanks to the loyal counters who reach the lakeshores before sunrise each week, optics, books and notepads at the ready.

Quite possibly Meadowlark’s hardiest members, Nancy Ryan, Jo Cook, Joyce Harkness and Fran Wells were present every count day, according to Ryan, who co-chairs the monitoring program with Gilbert Hatcher. Also working nearly every time were Donna Haman and Jackie Anthony.

Because of the team’s growing experience, more and more birds can be identified even under the difficult conditions of fall plumage, Ryan said. By early November, they had logged about 7,000 birds and still had a few weeks of counting to go. Exciting finds included a Hooded Merganser, loons, and many Tundra Swans.

Meadowlark intends for the IBA spring and fall monitoring to continue indefinitely. The data are stored in a permanent database, which will contribute to scientific knowledge as it grows over the years.

A great need has developed, however. Ryan explained that while the current team has become quite skilled, the project cannot depend on them alone and an additional counting team needs to be formed and trained. Anyone who would volunteer should contact Nancy Ryan at 307-754-0114.

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Chapter Donates Top Notch Screen

Anyone who has been in the Big Horn Federal Savings and Loan meeting room in Cody over the last nine months or so, and has seen a presentation with projected images, has surely noticed what a terrific screen that room now boasts.

Meadowlark Audubon donated the projection screen to the bank and to the community for use in the public meeting room. Here’s the story.

Before last March, showing images in the meeting room meant projecting them onto a yellow wall or onto a pretty small, wavy screen. Board member Dave Goswick saw enough of those programs to make him cringe—the yellow wall destroyed image quality and the small screen was just too, well, little. We’ve had many programs where the presenter had some great images to show, but the screen options left everyone a bit disappointed.

Dave asked the board to consider purchasing a decent screen. Other board members picked up on the idea as a way to show our appreciation to the bank for its years of providing Meadowlark Audubon with free meeting space. So Dave went to work, devoting lots of time to aptly and thoroughly researching all types and sources of projection screens.

On Dave’s recommendation, the board purchased a top-of-the-line Da-Lite 8x8 foot heavy-duty screen. The matte white screen has a wide viewing angle, so people at the outside edges of the seating rows can see just as well as those in the middle.

Bank president Ken Stockwell welcomed the contribution but asked for professional installation. Dave came up with the plan to have sets of ceiling-mounted hanging brackets placed on each of two walls so the screen could be moved about to accommodate different types of presentations.

Dave got a discounted price for the screen, shipping, and two sets of hanging brackets at $516. Filener Construction of Cody donated the professional installation at no charge, a $150 value.

The board is very pleased about this use of Meadowlark resources.

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Chapter Notes

Wetland Sanctuary Habitat Improvement Raffle

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to Meadowlark Audubon’s wetland habitat improvement project at the Buchanan Wildlife Sanctuary by purchasing one or more tickets in the raffle. As of November 1st, we’ve had four lucky winners, but there are still 21 excellent prizes to be given away at monthly meetings between now and the grand prize drawing on May 10, 2007.

Check out photos and descriptions of the raffle prizes on the What's New page of this Web site. Tickets are $10 each, or three for $25.

Winners thus far have all been from Wyoming:
Book, Hope is a Thing with Feathers, won by John Good, Jackson;
Collector Plate, American Robin pair, won by Kristi Jondall, Clark;
Book, A Field Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Adjacent Areas, won by Jo Cook, Powell;
Glass Cutting Board, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, won by Sue and Gilbert Hatcher, Cody.

If you haven’t yet purchased your lucky ticket, see Kristi Jondall, Dee Oudin, or Joyce Cicco at our next Meadowlark meeting, or send your check made out to Meadowlark Audubon for $10 for one ticket, or $25 for three tickets, to Joyce Cicco, 26 North Ridge Drive, Cody, WY 82414.

Membership Dues Past Due

If you receive a hard copy of this newsletter, please check the mailing label on your newsletter for your membership expiration date. If your membership renewal is past due, please send in your check for $12 as soon as possible. All of our members are important to us and we need your financial support to help pay the Chapter’s expenses for programs, projects, newsletters, web site expenses, etc. Won’t you take a minute to make sure you have paid your dues?

If you read this newsletter online, you have most likely received an e-mail or phone call reminding you that your dues are past due. If you are unsure, give Joyce Cicco a call at 307-527-5030.

Just send your check for $12, made out to Meadowlark Audubon, to Joyce Cicco, Membership Chairman, 26 North Ridge Drive, Cody, WY 82414. Thanks for supporting Meadowlark Audubon.

Nominations Committee Begins Search

Nominations committee members are Dennis Saville, Joyce Cicco and KaCey Ross. They start working in December to find candidates for officers and directors for the 2007-2008 term. Meadowlark needs persons to fill some vacancies. Officers are elected for one-year terms, except the president, whose term is two years. Director terms are one year. If you are interested, contact any of the current officers or directors. Meadowlark needs you.

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Meadowlark Audubon Officers and Directors

Dennis Saville, President, 307-527-4622
Joyce Cicco, Vice-President, 307-527-5030
KaCey Ross, Secretary, 307-587-5282
Dee Oudin, Treasurer, 307-587-2451
Dave Goswick, 307-587-3219
Donna Haman, 307-587-4190
Destin Harrell, 899-0147
Gilbert and Sue Hatcher, 307-527-6387
Don Smith and Kristi Jondall, 307-645-3085
Daryl and Carolyn LeFevre, 307-587-5136
Julia Smith Lewis, 307-527-6595
Sean Sheehan, 250-0251

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Big Horn October --by Neil Miller

Tree Sky the color of Mountain Bluebird.
Bright yellow Cottonwood leaves sparkle and tremble
In slanting autumn sun along river bottom.

Yellow leaves relax tenacious grip,
Like golden snowflakes float to barren ground
Awaiting winter’s gales; to twist and turn,
Whirl and writhe in magic dance across the whitened land.

Other leaves float on autumn wind, rising and falling feather-like.
Russet leaves of Squawbush, rich red Mountain Maple,
Brownish-orange Buffaloberry, dark-red Sumac, flaming red Burningbush
Lie together in cozy, pillowy piles.

Flocks of blackbirds five thousand strong wheel and turn in tight formation
Now a helix, now ellipse, now a narrow disk turned edgewise,
Nearly invisible. Whirling, climbing, curling, in kaleidoscopic patterns,
They fly so close they seem to brush each other in fantastic frenetic flight.

They swoop down low near ground then sweep up to gigantic
Cottonwood, itself aglow with autumn’s splendid gold, now lost in blackbirds.
Red-wings, Starlings, Brewers, Grackles all intertwined,
Oblivious to constraints of speciation. They sing and chatter in joyous din,
Exuberant, expectant of coming migration.

I raise my eyes above October’s scene to see far mountains’ whitened peaks
Thrust up to lupine sky.
Voluminous clouds silhouette peaks like gray wraiths …
An ill omen for bright and sunny autumn days.

October, brief but glorious respite from summer’s roaring scalding clamor
And winter’s stillness, white…serene.

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Things to read and do:

Have you seen House Finches with red, swollen eyelids? Cornell University studies this disease for many reasons. One reason is that it is zoonotic, meaning that it has jumped from one species (domestic chickens) to another, thus resembling behavior of diseases such as hantavirus and AIDS. See this article in Cornell’s “Online Chronicle” at <http://tinyurl.com/wauez>. You can report sightings of infected House Finches to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Brian Rutledge, Wyoming Audubon Executive Director, mentions a read-worthy article about development impacts on wildlife in “Field and Stream”. It’s at <http://tinyurl.com/yketbt>.

Wyoming Game and Fish non-game biologist Susan Patla at 307-733-2383 in Jackson wants your swan sightings. Please report to her any swans marked with neck or leg bands, and try to note the band color, location and lettering if possible. She would also like to hear about any unmarked swans east of the Continental Divide.

For a single site from which to get the current news about avian flu and also find links to all the other pertinent sites, go to <www.birds.cornell.edu/birdflu/>.

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