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. 9, No. 3 -- March 2009


The Vote 2009

Calling All Members! Election of Officers at the April 9th Annual Meeting!

It’s time to cast your vote! All current members of the Meadowlark Audubon Chapter will vote on nominated officers and directors for 2009-2010. The nominating committee was made up of Donna Haman, KaCey Ross, Lisa Marks, Destin Harrell, Sean Sheehan, and John Osgood. Additional directors may be nominated by members attending the meeting.

President: Destin Harrell
Vice-president: Donna Haman
Secretary: KaCey Ross
Treasurer: Lisa Marks

Directors: Sean Sheehan, John Osgood, John Rumm, and Dudley Woodbridge

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2008-2009 Clark Christmas Bird Count

The 9th Clark Christmas Bird Count was to be held on December 20, 2008, but was called off due to lack of birders. A big thanks is in order to Ken and Kathleen Lichtendahl who spent their time organizing the event!!!

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2008-2009 Cody Christmas Bird Count

The Cody Christmas Bird Count, held on Saturday, December 27, 2008, provided challenges for many of the 35 participants in the form of wind and low temperatures. Although some birders in more protected areas were unaffected, many others in more open areas experienced wind speeds up to 40 mph, with frequent gusts reported at 50 to 60 mph. Temperatures ranged from a low of 15º F to 36º F.

The combined effort for the 17 routes, calculated per route group, totaled 40.5 miles by foot and 269.5 miles by vehicle. In the end, a total of 5521 individual birds were spotted, comprised of 56 species.

European Starlings accounted for the highest number of birds of one species at 993, followed by Mallards at 740, and Canada Geese at 714. The Common Raven, seen on all but one of the routes, showed up at 351, while American Crows accounted for a mere 17 birds seen on only four of the routes.

The 82 Greater Sage Grouse were counted on a single route in the north-eastern portion of our 15-mile diameter count circle. Other upland game birds on the count were 59 Chukar, 5 Gray Partridge, and 23 Ring-necked Pheasant.

Golden and Bald Eagles were logged in at 19 and 13 respectively. Rough-legged Hawks made a strong showing at 57, Northern Harriers at 21, Red-tailed Hawks at 12, American Kestrels at 6, and Sharp-shinned Hawks and Prairie Falcons at 3 each.

With all of the still water frozen over, the Shoshone River routes, along with the Sulfur Creek and Sage Creek routes, accounted for most of the waterfowl spotted. Gadwall and Common Goldeneye both appeared at 47 each, with Barrow's Goldeneye at 35. Green-winged Teal were counted at 18, American Wigeon at 17, Northern Pintail at 6, and Common Merganser at only 4.v

Species represented by one lone bird included Great Blue Heron, Killdeer, American Coot, Steller's Jay, and Harris' Sparrow.

Pine Siskin showed up in greater numbers this year at 224. There were 190 American Robins and 339 House Sparrows. Other sparrow species seen were American Tree at 42, Song at 12, and White-crowned at 4. One route accounted for the 4 Snow Buntings seen.

The Eurasian Collared-Dove is showing up in more neighborhoods, accounting for 21 birds this year.

The tally and supper following the day's counting was well-attended, with participants enjoying having a chance to compare experiences and learn more about where interesting sightings were made.

Susan Ahalt and Joyce Cicco, Cody CBC organizers, thank everyone who took part in the count, as well as the Sunset House Restaurant for donating the soup, and the Christ Episcopal Church and the Rev. Mary Caucutt for allowing our group to use its kitchen and meeting room. A special thank you to Chuck Neal for conducting the tally and sharing his knowledge of local birds with the group.

We look forward to the next CBC and hope to see all this year's participants there. Mark the date on your calendar: Saturday, December 26, 2009, with a backup date on the following Saturday in case of postponement due to weather. For complete results, check out the Audubon Web site at
–by Joyce Cicco

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2008-2009 Kane Christmas Bird Count

The 2008/2009 Kane Christmas Bird Count was held on Saturday, January 3 with the Lovell Visitor Center for Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area as the center of operations. The day was again cold, but calm and sunny making for great viewing. The rivers and ponds were frozen except for open patches on the Bighorn and there was 0-20 inches of snow on the ground, the remnant of the Dec. 26 blizzard. After the count everyone (10 participants plus NPS staff) met at the Visitor Center for a pot luck and chili supper with the compilation of the day’s counts.

There was a total of 36 bird species seen and 5102 birds. The numbers were below average. The high numbers came from Rock Doves, Canadian Geese and Starlings. With the cold, most of the crows appear to have moved out of the area. The large concentrations of birds were where cattle were being fed over the winter. There were no new species. There were none of the summer residents previously seen on this count, probably related to the unremitting cold of the last month. Magpie numbers were at an all-time low of 14. Nine species of raptors were seen, again including a Goshawk dining on a fresh kill in a tree.
–by Suzanne Morstad

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2009 Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey Results

The 2009 survey was conducted on a nice but sometimes windy Saturday, January 10, 2009. There were approximately 80 Volunteers who braved the weather to participate in the 23rd consecutive Bighorn Basin version of the National Wildlife Federation's Mid-winter Eagle survey. If you look at the results table below, this survey was very successful and recorded a near record number of bald and golden eagles. Our Volunteers surveyed the established routes that cover principal stream and river systems, roosts and foraging areas from Thermopolis and Tensleep, east along the West slope of the Bighorn mountains north into Montana along 30 miles of the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River up to Laurel MT, the Shoshone River west along the Absaroka mountains and the Greybull River, a total area of more than 5,500 square miles.

Volunteer surveyors intensively searched for eagles by visually scanning along routes covering approximately 222,000 acres. Conditions for observing eagles were excellent and the survey appears to have coincided with a peak of migrating bald eagles that had moved southward from Canada and Alaska. Many of these eagles nest up north and spend the winter here. The Bighorn Basin is a very important winter range for these eagles. Each survey route count represents an estimate of distinct individual eagles with overlaps and potential duplicate observations not included. Our methods result in a very conservative estimate of eagles found in the area and do not accurately count the entire population of eagles in the Bighorn Basin. However, our survey methods are consistent and provide minimum observations which can be compared between years when accounting for routes conducted.

The 2009 survey summary results counted a total of 236 bald eagles with 170 adults and 66 immature (< 4 years in age) bald eagles along the various routes. This year’s count was close to the all time high total for bald eagles in 2007 and was higher than the past decades of surveys and continues to show a slight increasing trend for bald eagles. The observed immature to adult ratio was 1: 2.57, which was slightly lower than recent averages but still within normal ranges. The total golden eagle observations were a record high. A total of 130 golden eagles were observed with 90 adults and 40 immature (also < 4 years in age) located along the routes. The golden eagles are yearlong residents here in our area. We were pleased to see the number of immature golden eagles bounce back after a low count in 2006. The immature to adult ratio of 1: 2.25 also indicated that 2006 was not a declining trend and the golden eagle population is being maintained and may have bounced back.

Volunteer surveyors as usual, did an outstanding job of covering designated routes, observing eagles and other wildlife, and reporting their observations. 2009 conditions allowed a wide distribution of surveys throughout the Bighorn Basin. Distribution of eagles usually is correlated with our local winter weather conditions and this winter had started out cold which may have brought more eagles into the basin sooner. It is likely that the extreme cold just prior to the survey caused many more bald eagles to move south in search of prey after more northern areas became frozen and snow covered. Bald Eagles were found in many different habitat types and elevations and were likely using varied prey sources. Golden eagles were again widely distributed throughout the basin but were more visible from roadways and observed on perches at long distance. Long distance observation makes identification of younger birds much harder and resulted in more unknown age golden eagles.

Volunteer surveyors also recorded and reported detailed observations of other raptors. These observations included: There were many more hawks observed including Rough Legged, Red Tail, Northern Harrier, and American kestrel. There were lots of carcasses seen with concentrations of eagles, there was also one dead eagle reported near the side of the highway.

Once again the enthusiasm and thoroughness of Volunteer surveyors allowed the mid-winter eagle survey to thoroughly cover the Bighorn Basin area. The number of Volunteers participating was again very. We coordinators are continually impressed with the eager and willing volunteers that dedicate their time and resources to participate in this mid-winter eagle survey. The continuing success of our Bighorn Basin survey is possible only through the efforts of local people who generously respond to volunteer their time and resources to conduct the eagle counts. We would like to extend a grateful thanks to everyone involved and we look forward to next year!

2009 Eagle survey results with comparative summary from previous years: (Number of routes: 46)
 
Bald Eagles
Golden Eagles
Unknown
Acres
# of
 
Adult
Immature
Adult
Immature
Eagles
Surveyed
Volunteers
2009 170 66 90 40 0 222,072 80
2008 107 43 91 34 9 222,072 96
2007 174 63 79 38 9 210,000 85
2006 111 43 66 15 11 198,000 92
2005 170 61 63 28 5 202,000 102
2004 122 46 72 21 11 197,000 89
2003 122 48 70 21 9 205,000 105
2002 138 49 75 45 12 189,000 118
2001 120 71 81 34 15 167,000 86
2000 98 44 64 27 16 186,000 105
1999 114 44 59 25 13 169,000 97
1998 122 45 45 23 6 135,000 79
1997 118 42 75 33 7 165,000 101
1996 114 39 48 32 13 162,000 121
1995 115 78 78 21 11 154,000 97
1994 93 58 67 32 12 125,700 102
1993 89 67 43 39 6 111,200 95
1992 78 40 36 40 4 119,000 101
1991 95 51 58 49 10 115,900 100
1990 71 3 51 25 14 97,100 113
1989 50 16 35 16 2 65,000 51
1988 61 11 38 10 13 62,400 39
1987 40 4 29 8 7 62,400 32

For additional information or questions about specific routes or the survey, please contact Destin Harrell at the Cody BLM office Ph 307-578-5933 or Ted Igleheart at the Worland BLM office Ph 307-347-5172.
–by Destin Harrell

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2009 Spring Bird Counts at Beck and Alkali Lakes are Taking Flight

March 16th, and every Monday thereafter for the duration of the count period, we will start monitoring one hour AFTER sunrise, which changes slightly every week. On the 16th, we will start at 8:27 a.m. at Station 1, which is the parking lot behind Kentucky Fried Chicken. Those wanting coffee, etc. will meet earlier, at McDonald's at 8:00 a.m. on the 16th. Obviously, these times will vary slightly from week to week also. Those in doubt can call Nancy Ryan at 07-202-1334. This is a great opportunity to work on bird identification skills with our team of seasoned counters.

[Note: The original newsletter article has been replaced due to errors and to avoid any confusion.]

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A Worthy Conservation Project on Sheep Mountain is Hatching!

The Meadowlark Audubon Society is formulating a plan to put up an exclosure fence around a spring on Sheep Mountain. The fence will keep cattle out of the spring area, which will keep vegetation that important to riparian avian species healthy and lush. To continue providing water for the cattle, a stock tank will be erected nearby. The BLM and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department may also coordinate to help preserve this excellent habitat for many local birds! Hopefully, we can get a few members from our chapter to help set up the fence as we enjoy the views from the east side of Sheep Mountain! As this plan develops, more information will be available.

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Thanks to All Newsletter Contributors!

Enormous thanks to all who contributed to this month’s newsletter! If anyone has articles they would like to include in the August newsletter, please e-mail them to Lisa Marks at <arithon_7@yahoo.com> Articles are difficult to come by during the busy summer months, so any contribution would be greatly appreciated!

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