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. 2 -- November 2007

Yellowtail Tales:
A Beautiful Day and a Plethora of Birds

by trip participant Deb Woodbridge

Suzanne Morstad led ten birders on an exploration of the Yellowtail Habitat east of Lovell on Saturday, September15, 2007. The weather was perfect and the group recorded more than 50 species of birds. The variety of habitats at Yellowtail includes ponds, riparian areas and open woodlands. While the greatest numbers of individuals and species in one location were recorded at Lovell Lakes at the beginning of the trip, the variety of habitats and species at Yellowtail thrilled the participants and provided the overall greatest number and variety of species.

A key ingredient of a healthy ecosystem is habitat diversity. Yellowtail exemplifies the best diversity for a remarkable variety of wildlife species, especially birds. More than 155 species of birds have been recorded in the habitat area, and there are ample overlooks and rails that encourage wildlife viewing.

Of particular note during our trip were a late-departing Swainson’s Hawk at Lovell Lakes and a Harlan’s Hawk (dark morph Red-tailed Hawk) giving the group a fly-by at Yellowtail. Also heard at Yellowtail was a Sora Rail, another late-departing migrant. Capping the day’s activities was a Baird’s Sandpiper seen by a few of the group who took a detour at the end of the trip to the area near the 14A bridge at the Big Horn Reservoir.

The Yellowtail Habitat is a perfect day trip for birders of all levels of experience. There is much to observe in the area, demonstrating the importance of the reclamation of vital habitat area for both migrant and resident birds. Several participants picked up Yellowtail Habitat maps at the visitor center and are already planning their next trip to the area.

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And the List is in!

by trip leader Suzanne Morstad

The tremendous edge effect of the Yellowtail Habitat again produced a lovely assortment of birds, this time just before duck hunting season. It was a lovely warm fall day and the numbers steadily decreased as the temperatures rose. At the last stop at the causeway, the only birds found were a Loggerhead Shrike hiding in the shade of a rabbitbrush and a lame Baird’s Sparrow. About 10 birders tromped through the ponds and open woodlands of the Yellowtail Habitat and Lovell Lakes to find over 50 species of birds.

The list includes:

1. Sandhill Cranes 14. Pintail Ducks 27. Swainson's Hawk 40. Black-billed Magpies
2. CanadaGeese 15. Canvasback 28. TurkeyVulture 41. Western Meadowlarks
3. Double-crested Cormorants 16. Wood Ducks 29. Kestrel 42. Brown-headed Cowbirds
4. White Pelicans 17. Mallard Ducks 30. Loggerhead Shrike 43. White-breasted Nuthatch
5. Great Blue Herons 18. Gadwall Ducks 31. Ring-neck Pheasant 44. Audubon's Warbler
6. Western Grebes 19. Sora Rail 32. Mourning Dove 45. Wilson's Warbler
7. Pied-billed Grebes 20. Kingfisher 33. Rock Dove 46. Horned Larks
8. Common Coots 21. Wilson's Phalaropes 34. Northern Flicker 47. Cedar Waxwing
9. Red-winged Blackbirds 22. Kildeer 35. Hairy Woodpecker 48. English Sparrows
10. Yellow-headed Blackbirds 23. Baird's Sandpiper 36. Bank Swallows 49. Song Sparrows
11. American Widgeon 24. Northern Harrier 37. Barn Swallows 50. White-crowned Sparrows
12. Redhead Ducks 25. Red-tailed Hawk 38. Common Starlings 51. Vesper Sparrows
13. Cinnamon Teal 26. Harlan's Hawk 39. Common Raven 52. Chipping Sparrow
      53. American Goldfinch

The condition of the grasses and shrubs on the habitat suggests that adequate rain (for this desert area) fell this summer, which bodes well for the Kane Christmas Bird Count this December.

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Beck and Alkali Lake Monitoring: Meadowlark members go birding with the Cub Scouts

--by Deb Woodbridge

On Monday, October 8, 2007, our Meadowlark group was doing our weekly seasonal monitoring and bird count on Beck and Alkali Lakes. A passer-by, Lisa Richardson, stopped across from the Cody airport to visit with the birding group. She expressed interest in our activities and asked several questions. It turned out that she is the leader of a group of five Cub Scouts and wanted to know if anyone would be interested in giving a short presentation the following afternoon, Tuesday, there at Alkali Lake. Gilbert and Sue Hatcher and Deb Woodbridge volunteered.

On Tuesday afternoon at about 5:00 PM, Lisa arrived to join them with four Scouts in tow. They were armed with literature from the Game and Fish Department and each with his own binoculars, though the two binoculars brought by Gilbert and Sue received a lot of use.

Deb started by asking the Scouts to put down their binoculars and to look at the ducks in the water with their unaided eyes, pointing out that they should use their eyes first and then their binoculars only after they had looked around.

Having determined that there were some diving ducks and some ducks tipped up, feeding with their tails in the air, we got into a discussion of what different foods the ducks might be eating. Then we talked about why there were so many ducks there at this time of year, eating so much. This in turn led to a discussion of how much energy migrating takes, how far the various birds would travel, and where they might winter.

We had some nice looks at a flock of feeding widgeon; some eared grebes, one with his golden “ears” flashing in the sun; a female shoveler passing through was used to demonstrate the diverse bill sizes and shapes; and some Wilson’s phalaropes, which thrilled Lisa by being not only the smallest birds we saw but also the birds that traveled the farthest in migration, going all the way to central Brazil.

Lisa and the Cub Scouts seemed to learn a lot and to thoroughly enjoy the outing. I know that Deb, Sue and Gilbert did as well. It was a lovely afternoon with lots to see.

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Beck and Alkali Lake Fall Bird Count 2007

Several members of Meadowlark Audubon have been hard at it every Monday morning for the last many weeks on a bird count during the fall migration period. The counts began in early October and go through mid-November, the last one being on Monday, November 12. Designed to provide baseline data and information on bird and migration numbers, the counts have been happening both spring and fall for the last several years. The data is available if you would like to view it. We feel the ultimate value of the counts may be in the future when we are able to spot trends from year to year in certain species’ numbers. In the meantime, it’s a fun and educational activity to engage in.

The counts begin one hour after sunrise and center around the lakes just south of the Cody airport. Waterfowl are the most prominent types of birds we see, with gulls, American Wigeons, Gadwalls, Mallards, mergansers, American Coots, grebes, and Canada Geese frequently showing up in large numbers. But we have also seen less common species like loons, Buffleheads, Northern Shovelers, and Green-winged Teal. Group members saw a Sabine’s Gull in early October (the Sabine’s is unusual in this area), and were excited to see a Loggerhead Shrike in late October. In early November they saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk. You never know what species may be migrating through until you go out and look. It is exciting birding. Weather can be challenging on some days and divine on others.

If you want to hear more, just ask Nancy Ryan, Joyce Harkness, Fran Wells or Deb Woodbridge about it at our next Audubon Meadowlark meeting.

--by fall bird counter John Osgood

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Sabine’s Gull Sighted at Alkali Lake

Sabine’s Gulls are very rare around the area, but on October 3rd, one showed up at Alkali Lake. This gull probably just spent its summer along the coast of Alaska or northern Canada where it may have nested on arctic or subarctic tundra near a wonderful expanse of freshwater in ponds, marshes, and lakes. With winter approaching, the gull needed to migrate south toward the coast of western South America. Sabine’s Gulls from the western side of North America follow the west coast down to South America, where they may end up as far south as Chile; the Alkali Lake gull must have been an adventurous one to have ended up in the Big Horn Basin.

Adult Sabine’s Gulls can be recognized by their yellow-tipped black bill, their well-forked tail, and their upper wing which has alternating triangles of black, white, and gray. What a gorgeous gull!

Source: The Birds of North America Online. <>, Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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Harrington Osprey Nest Update

What goes up must come down. Or so was the case at the osprey nest on Harrington Reservoir near Otto. The partial nest perched atop the nesting structure blew off this year, and it appears that the local Osprey pair may have moved in with their neighbors, the cormorants, for the season.

Luckily for the osprey, Harold Perry, Johnny Ross, and Neil Miller found some time to visit the nest structure on Thursday, October 25 and do a bit of stick work. The osprey nest wasn’t reestablished with any ordinary local shrubbery, though; this year the basic structure of the nest was rebuilt with some fine clippings of an ornamental crab tree. Johnny Ross gracefully braved the heights of the nest and stacked the clippings while Harold and Neil helped scatter a few branches around the base of the structure. Thanks to these gentlemen, the Osprey will be nesting in style next season! After seeing the excellent job done on the osprey nest, the cormorants are now trying to hire Harold, Johnny, and Neil to remodel their nests next year.

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Are You Counting Birds this Christmas???

Give a gift to yourself and to the historic records of the Meadowlark Audubon Chapter this Christmas...come join in the Christmas Bird Counts! With three different counts in the Cody, Clark, and Kane areas, it’s easy to pick a day that works. You can practice your birding and even learn some new species! These counts help to create a historic record of the bird species and their numbers in the area. Plus, participants get to share their birding adventures from the day over a fun, delicious, warm meal with friends afterwards. What more could you ask for? So, put on your binoculars, grab your bird book, fill a thermos with hot chocolate and come join the fun! Just give Susan, Joyce, or Mary a call to let them know you’re coming, and we’ll see you there! (Their numbers are listed above on the Articles Menu, or click here to go to the Calendar page

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Enormous thanks to all who contributed to this month's newsletter! If anyoe has articles they would like to include in the March newsletter, please e-mail them to Lisa Marks at <>

--John Rumm

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