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. 8, No. 1 -- August 2007


Thank You Dee! by Lisa Marks

Dee Oudin, who has spent many painstaking hours writing, editing, and perfecting The Meadowlark Newsletter, has relinquished her duties as the editor. Over the years she has done such a good job, it is hard to think of The Meadowlark without her. Perhaps the biggest dee-saster though, is that she has left me, Lisa Marks, in charge. Luckily, she enlightened me in the ways of the newsletter before she set me loose. So, here's a big thanks to all of the work Dee has done! Hopefully after a few volumes, I will get the hang of this. If anyone has any articles, stories, poems, or even ideas for articles that they don't feel like writing themselves that they would like to include in The Meadowlark, please e-mail them to me at <lisa_marks@blm.gov>

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Hummer Banding; Little Birds in a Big Study, by Johnny Hanna

On July 10, 2007, Dorenda Hanna had the pleasure of having Bob and Martha Sargent of Clay, AL, and Ned and Gigi Batchelder of Hamilton, MT, visit her home in Wapiti to band hummingbirds. Dorenda met the Sargents over 20 years ago when she was a member of the Tennessee Ornithological Society and has been trying to get them to come to Wyoming ever since she moved to Wapiti.

The Sargents started the Hummingbird Study Group, an organization devoted to gathering information about the birds in order to understand their nesting and migration habits, over 20 years ago and have banded over 100,000 hummers during that time. The Batchelders studied under Bob and Martha Sargent and have banded birds in the Montana, Wyoming and Idaho area. Both the Sargents and Batchelders are licensed by the federal government to band hummingbirds.

During the three hour visit, the Sargents and Batchelders banded 41 hummers, which included 3 different species. The banded birds include the following:

      1    Juvenile Female Rufous
    10    Adult Male Rufous
      3    Adult Female Rufous
      6    Adult Male Broad-tailed
      5    Adult Female Broad-tailed
      3    Adult Male Calliope
    13    Adult Female Calliope
    41    Total

The banding process doesn't seem to bother the birds and the band that is used weighs about 1/5,000 of an ounce. According to Bob, it takes 5,000 bands to weigh 1 ounce.

Approximately 40 people attended this event this year. Dorenda is hoping that she can get the Batchelders to come back next year to possibly recapture some of the birds that were banded this year in order to determine what other species of hummingbirds, other than the Calliope, nest in this area.

If you want more information about hummingbirds, go to <www.hummingbirdsplus.org> where you will find detailed information regarding attracting hummingbirds and how you can join the organization. Dorenda has been a member for years and says that reading Bob's newsletters is worth the price of the membership.

Dorenda wants to thank all of the Audubon members who attended this event and wants to remind everyone that she is also the Wyoming area coordinator for the Mountain Bluebird Trails organization. If you want more information about this organization, you can visit <www.mountainbluebirdtrails.com>

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Meadowlark Field Trips Have Much to Offer

McCullough Peaks Spring Birding

On May 12, a group of Audubon members attended a sagebrush ecosystem tour near McCullough Peaks. We focused on recognizing and identifying song birds, since many of these birds are small and brown, their unique features are left unnoticed. Their song is extraordinary, varied and unmistakable in a landscape where beauty is often measured by the ear of the beholder. As the morning air awaits the rising sun, each bird expresses its unique identity to potential mates and competing males. Each bird species occupies a different niche in this environment. There are ground nesters, sagebrush nesters and diets that preen vegetation or insects and distribute forb seeds.

Brewer’s sparrow (Spizella breweri), sage sparrow (Amphispiza belli), vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) and sage thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus) are highly dependent on sagebrush, while horned lark (Eremophila alpestris), lark bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys), and western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) are present but are less specifically associated with sagebrush. They are the middle man for energy flow in an ecosystem where health may be measured by species diversity.

These species are declining throughout much of their range, which is one of the most threatened ecosystems in the United States due to development and range deterioration from poor grazing strategies. It is a bizarre ecosystem where things are not always what you are used to. Pronghorns crawl under fences, spade foot toads metamorphose in under two weeks, prairie dogs drink almost no water and sage-grouse are scared to death of anything at all. Certain projects might improve nesting habitat and increase species diversity. By creating islands of late seral sagebrush surrounded by early and mid seral states we may be able to increase the avian carrying capacity in a landscape. Burning and sagebrush mowing have produced these results and were visited during this trip to look at the vegetation response and avian diversity identified by song. We all walked away with personal first species sightings from birds very difficult to see.
--by trip leader Destin Harrell

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Sheep Mountain

In June, Sean Sheehan led a trip to visit archeological sites on Sheep Mountian above Buffalo Bill Reservoir. There were 9 people on the trip, which lasted about 3 hours, covering about 3.5 miles and climbing about 400 feet in elevation; a moderate hike for people in walking shape. This year no interesting birds were seen, but viewing an ancient Sheepeater driveline and a vision quest site with an eagle trap kept everyone's imagination occupied. The driveline dates back thousands of years, while the vision quest site is still in use by the Crow Indians.
--by trip leader Sean Sheehan

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Caving

Through his work with the BLM, Dennis Saville was able to arrange trips to view Spirit Mountain Cave located on Cedar Mountain just west of Cody. The cave is managed by the BLM and requires a permit for entry. It was originally discovered by Ned Frost of Cody and has had an interesting history in association with the town of Cody. Our November 2005 meeting program on caving was very well received and stimulated the 2006 summer field trips as well as a continued interest by members. Two additional trips into the cave with Meadowlark Audubon and other community members were held in March of 2007. The trips provided a good opportunity for people with little caving experience to behold a cave interior. Eight people went on the first trip on March 17th and another 7 people went on the March 31st trip. Although the hike to the cave entry is strenuous, the inner exploration of the cave did not involve arduous spelunking. We observed the Totem Pole Column and the climber pits from a safe vantage point, but even with several of us being “senior” people, we did some tough scrambling on hands and knees down to the guano room level to check out some bats. No one was lost or got stuck in tight crawls; we were even able to sign the cave register documenting our visit of the cave. Both trips allowed local people to see first hand the cave that had once been a tourist attraction for the town of Cody. The cave no longer has lights or brochures as in former days but is currently managed as a primitive cave by the BLM. Watch for information about future caving trips, perhaps even in the interesting caves in the Bighorn Mountains, with the Meadowlark Audubon in 2008.
--by trip leader Dennis Saville

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Meeteetse Rim Lek

On a pleasant, clear April 7th morning, Dennis Saville, who is the Meadowlark Audubon chapter president and BLM biologist, lead a surprisingly large group of Meadowlark members and some Greater Yellowstone Coalition guests on an early morning outing to watch the spring ritual of the Greater Sage-Grouse. The group went south of Cody to the Dry Creek and Meeteetse Rim area to observe male grouse showing off for females in their courtship displays. About 35 people left from Cody at “0’dark thirty” (about 0500 AM); it was quite a caravan of vehicles leaving in the pre-dawn light. This group met up with others from Burlington and Basin to watch the early morning dances. Leader Saville nearly panicked with such a large group, but decided that so many people would not bother the sage-grouse if the group was split up to view two different lek sites. The grouse-gazers were very understanding and crowded together into vehicles so there were fewer going to each lek site. One group watched a lek along Dry Creek where they saw not only 47 males strutting, but also several elk along the route to the lek. The other half of the group went to a lek site west of the Meeteetse Highway on the Meeteetse Rim and observed about 25 male grouse. They also saw antelope and elk in the area.

Each spring the male sage grouse gather in an open area in the sagebrush where the females can see them engaging in their ritual mating strutting behavior. The males inflate air sacs on their throats to produce a booming “kerploop” sound, spread their feathers so their white throat feathers are conspicuous, and spread their tail feathers in a wide arc to attract females. They are quite impressive!! On a clear, calm, early morning like the group experienced, the sounds can carry a long distance.

When the morning sun finally reached the male grouse it provided some wonderful lighting for photographs. The snow-covered backdrop of Carter Mountain and the upper Greybull River mountains near Franc’s Peak behind the grouse produced a spectacular sight that everyone greatly enjoyed. It was certainly worth the effort of getting out before the sunrise.

After watching the grouse for an hour or more, some of the group continued south to the Greybull River valley for some additional birding. We saw sandhill cranes, wild turkeys, mountain bluebirds, ducks and geese and even viewed some golden eagle and redtail hawk nest sites from long distance. It was a grand morning which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. We returned to Cody before noon and even enjoyed one last stop at the Beck Lake bird area to view waterfowl and shorebirds.
--by trip leader Dennis Saville

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