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. 5, No. 3 -- November 2003


Crafty People Needed

Meadowlark Audubon will be participating in two Christmas craft fairs this November, and your help is needed to produce crafts for us. We do focus on bird-related items, but if you have something in mind that doesn't quite fit, call KaCey Ross at 307/587-5282.

The fairs will be held on November 22 in Cody, and November 29 in Powell. KaCey needs to know ahead of time who will be participating so she can produce signs and figure out display space.

Two Christmas trees will flank our booths to display homemade ornaments and to catch people's eyes. So, bird ornaments are a good craft idea. Lefty Klein is also looking for small colored bottles and glass beads for a project -- you can bring these supplies to our November meeting, or drop them off at Edelweiss.

These fairs are a good source of funds for Meadowlark, as well as a means to get our name out in public. Please start thinking craftily, and give KaCey a call.

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Christmas Bird Counts Fly in December

Oh my! The holidays are right around the corner, so it is time to mark your calendars for Meadowlark's three annual Christmas Bird Counts.

The 4th Annual Clark Count will fledge first, on Tuesday, December 16th. Birders should meet at Edelweiss (2900 Highway 120) at 7:30 a.m. to receive route maps. Plan on leaving by 8:00, and returning to Edelweiss about noon for lunch. Following an afternoon of birding, meet back at Edelweiss at 5:00 for a potluck lasagna supper. Contact Mary Klein at 307/645-3223 to volunteer.

The Kane (Lovell) Count is scheduled for Saturday, December 20th. Meet at Terry Peters' house (247 Highway 32) at 6:45 a.m. for doughnuts, fruit and coffee, and be prepared for a full day of bird counting. Return to Terry's place about 4:30 for a light supper. To register, contact Terry at 307/548-6814.

The Cody Count will take place on Saturday, December 27th. You will need to contact Joyce Cicco at 307/527-5030 before that date to receive your route assignment. Return to Christ Episcopal Church (825 Simpson Ave., across from the Sunset House Restaurant) at 6:00 for compiling of lists and snacks. An alternate date of Saturday, January 3rd, is set in case of bad weather on the 27th.

The fee for each count is $5.00 per person, which goes to Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for processing paperwork. Children under 18 do not have to pay. Bring them along for a great introduction to birding!

Those who are unable to be outside all day can also submit sightings from their bird feeders.

Each bird count covers a 15-mile diameter circle, and the data gathered is used by Audubon and Cornell to track winter bird movements. Please plan on participating in at least one Christmas Bird Count; contact Mary, Terry or Joyce so they can plan for your attendance.

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Beck Lake IBA Sign Okayed by State Highway Department

Beck and Alkali Lakes just east of Cody have been designated Important Bird Areas (IBA's) by the IBA Technical Committee. This committee is comprised of ornithological experts from around Wyoming, who review IBA site nominations for their importance.

We all know that you can view a lot of species at Beck and Alkali. But the general public does not know of the importance of these lakes. To address this problem, Meadowlark plans on erecting a sign at the Beck Lake turnout which will note that the lakes are IBA's, as well as the importance of IBA's world-wide.

The State Highway Department has given us their approval to proceed; the Meadowlark Board is now designing the sign and getting cost estimates. The initial ballpark figure seems to be around $700.

We will also be installing protective fencing over the swallow nests at the Back Lake underpass and will need money and materials for this project. Fund raising ideas, anyone?

In April and May, then again in September and October, Meadowlark will do weekly monitoring of the birds migrating through Beck and Alkali Lakes. Dr. Chuck Preston is working with State IBA Coordinator Alison Lyon-Holloran to set up protocols for this project. If you would like to help with either the spring or fall migration counts, contact Conservation Committee Chair John Ross.

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Calendar of Upcoming Events
(Please see "Calendar of Events" Web page for up-to-date listings)

November 8, 2003 (Thursday) -- Project FeederWatch begins.

November 13, 2003 (Thursday) -- Public Meeting on the Black-footed Ferret, by Martin Grenier, Non-game Mammal Biologist, at Big Horn Federal Savings & Loan, Cody, 7:00 p.m.

November 22, 2003 (Saturday) -- Craft Fair in Cody.

November 29, 2003 (Saturday) -- Craft Fair in Powell.

December 16, 2003 (Tuesday) -- Clark Christmas Bird Count.

December 20, 2003 (Saturday) -- Kane Christmas Bird Count.

December 27, 2003 (Saturday) -- Cody Christmas Bird Count.

January 8, 2003 (Thursday) -- Public Meeting on Raptors, by Dr. Chuck Preston, at the DeWitt Student Center, NW College, Powell at 7:00 p.m.

February 12, 2003 (Thursday) -- Public Meeting on "An Overview of West Nile Virus," by Terry Creekmore, M.S., at Big Horn Federal Savings & Loan, Cody, 7:00 p.m.

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Bird Quiz -- Questions
--Courtesy of Project FeederWatch

1. What aggressive and noisy feeder bird was introduced in North America in the late 1800's as part of one man's plan to have all of the birds in Shakespeare's works living in Central Park in New York City?

a. European Starling
b. House Sparrow
c. Rock Dove
d. Ring-necked Pheasant

2. These birds have a black cap and a white underside. They creep up and down tree trunks hiding their food in crevices.
 
a. Black-capped Chickadee
b. White-breasted Nuthatch
c. Brown Creeper
d. Hairy Woodpecker
 
Quiz answers follow the Chinese Grain Consumption... article.

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Project FeederWatch Begins November 8
-- Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Last winter was a season of extremes for birds across North America. In West Nile virus-afflicted parts of the country, American Crow counts dropped to a 15-year low. Counts of Black-capped and Carolina Chickadees were also at record lows range-wide. Meanwhile, other species such as Downy Woodpeckers, Mourning Doves, and Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks, appeared in record-high numbers. We know this because more than 16,000 people counted the birds that visit their feeders and sent this information to scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Project FeederWatch, where it was collated and analyzed to determine the status of North America's feeder birds.

"FeederWatchers" represent a range of ages and backgrounds, but all of them share a passion and concern for birds. The more volunteers submitting bird counts to Project FeederWatch, the more scientists can learn about feeder bird populations. Participants receive a research kit that includes instructions, bird-feeding tips, a colorful poster of common feeder birds, a bird-counting days calendar, and more. A $15 fee helps defray the costs of operating the study. To learn how you can become a FeederWatcher, call 800/843-2473, or log on at <www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw>.

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Chinese Grain Consumption and North American Waterfowl
--Sean Sheehan

China is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Its economy expanded by 56% in one four-year period in the 1990's; individual income rose by half. The Chinese people are making gains in ten year's time that took other parts of Asia 50 years to accomplish. This is welcome news for the Chinese people, but when combined with the projected population growth of China by 2030 of an additional 5 billion people, it is going to have an awesome impact on the world's commodity markets. Food production and consumption patterns throughout the world will be altered significantly.

Historically, the first thing poor people do as their income increases is to move up the food chain. That is, people begin switching their source of calorie intake from grains (which supply 70% of their calories) to more diverse foods, including eggs, milk, butter, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream. Roughly, it takes six times as much grain to produce a pound of pork, say, as it takes to produce a pound of person; similar comparisons apply to eggs and milk. Since 1980, China's use of grains for animal feed have tripled, and the increase shows no signs of slowing down.

One of the first expressions of an increase in affluence in developing countries is an increase in beer consumption. In 1981, beer production in China was 1 billion liters; by 1994, it had risen to 13 billion liters, and is currently around 25 billion liters. To raise beer consumption for each adult in China by just one bottle per year takes an additional 370,000 tons of grain. Beer consumption in China is parallel to that of Japan after WWII. Japan now has the highest per capita beer consumption in the world. The addition of three bottles of beer per person would take the entire grain harvest of Norway.

China's ability to produce grain is expected to fall short of its current grain production by over 350 million tons by the year 2030. This 350 million ton shortfall is the equivalent of all the world's current exportable grain production. Global warming and population growth is the rest of the world are likely to act to reduce the surplus grain available to the world export market in the coming years. China will have a similar effect on all food commodities. If the Chinese were today to consume fish at the same per capita rate as Japan, it would require the entire world harvest of fish to supply them. This change in the world economy of food is not a distant reality, but may begin to cascade within the next four years ("Who Will Feed China," by Lester Brown.) Grain will go from a buyer's market to a seller's within a season or two.

This is good news for grain farmers, but what does this have to do with waterfowl? Last year, the Bush administration had the Corps of Engineers remove prairie potholes and seasonal wetlands of the northern prairies from wetland classification. At present, farmers still have a program that compensates them for land lost to production that is kept as seasonal wetlands. It isn't a lot, and the program is voluntary. The program is set to expire next year. These ponds interfere with grain production by interfering with tillage, and reducing acreage in the fields they occupy. These small, shallow, seasonal wetlands have very high biological productivity, and have long been identified as the cradle of North American waterfowl. The period from the 1920's to the early 1950's saw the northern prairies lose a significant percentage of these potholes to farming. The fear of waterfowl biologists was that we were about to lose most of the waterfowl in the Central Flyway, and action was taken to abate the loss of habitat. The Corps of Engineers had been subsidizing the filling of wetlands until then.

If farms convert potholes to tilled acres at the rate expected when the set-aside program ends next year, it is predicted that the Central Flyway will lose 50% of its waterfowl production in one year.

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Bird Quiz -- Answers:

1. a. -- European Starling
2. b. -- White-breasted Nuthatch

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Observation in Yellowstone
--by Mary Klein

Last spring, I watched a male Ruddy Duck trying to impress some females at Floating Island Lake between Mammoth and Roosevelt. He slapped his neck and head against the water about four times, lifted himself up to his full height, then threw himself forward about four feet to land with a splash!

The females were not impressed! Maybe he should have asked their signs, and showed them his gold chains...

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Birding Hot Spot: The Superintendent's Trail, Yellowstone National Park
--by Mary Klein

Thom and I have camped at Indian Creek in Yellowstone for years, but only recently became aware of the "Superintendent's Trail." It is a one-mile spur trail off of the Big Horn Trail, across level terrain that crosses several different habitats.

To access the trail, drive south from Mammoth about six miles, and turn into the Indian Creek campground area. Park just after crossing the bridge by the Big Horn Trail sign. Take the trail about a quarter mile west until you come to a big rock; the trail splits here, and you can either take the mile loop, or continue west all the way to Montana.

Turning left (south), you travel through burned timber for about a half mile until you reach a hidden picnic area, complete with porta-potties. Watch closely for Spruce Grouse! A covey of five hens sat so quietly that we nearly missed them.

We took this hike in early September. When we reached the picnic area, the trees were thronged with flocks of migrating Mountain Bluebirds and migratory warblers; they reminded me of pieces of stained glass falling from the sky -- an incredible sight.

From the picnic area, the trail loops back east along a small creek. There is also a swath through the grass heading south along a power line. We headed south towards the swarming birds, when suddenly, all movement stopped and the birds went silent. Thom suggested that we stop to see what was happening. Thank goodness for his combat senses, because a huge grizzly came ambling up our trail a few minutes later!

Discretion being the better part of valor, we quietly backtracked and followed the creek to a series of duck ponds chock full of dabbling ducks. The trail then turns back north along the creek and through mature pines (lots of flickers, sparrows and juncos) to bring you back to your vehicle.

Check out the Superintendent's Trail. Bring a picnic lunch, but just don't feed the bears.

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Meadowlark Officers & Directors

President: Dennis Saville, 587-2216
Vice-President: Mary Klein, 645-3223 (Newsletter Editor)
Secretary: Joyce Cicco, 527-5030 (Membership Chair)
Treasurer: Susan Ahalt, 527-7027 (Program Chair)
 
Directors:
 
Dorothy Bunn, 587-3012 (Field Trip Chair)
Dave Burke, 587-6702
Dave Henry, 587-3040
Terry Peters, 548-6814
Chuck Preston, 578-4078
Nancy Ryan, 754-0114 (Publicity Chair)
John Ross, 587-5282 (Conservation Chair)
Sean Sheehan, 527-6306
Cheryl Wright, 587- 4119

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Bird Factoids

According to the National Geographic September 2003 issue, a Peregrine Falcon was clocked at a diving speed of more than 200 miles per hour. However: "Peregrines may be the fastest divers, but at their level flapping speed of 30 to 60 miles an hour, they'd be eating the dust of a few other birds... Racing pigeons and Dunlin Sandpipers can hit speeds of 110 mph, with Red-breasted Merganser ducks (100 mph) close behind."

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Skyscraper Lights, Windows Take Toll
-- National Geographic, September 2003

Tall buildings stop migrating birds cold. In Toronto last fall, over 2,000 birds were killed; at night, artificial light draws the birds. During daylight, birds see reflections such as trees in windows and fly into them.

One remedy: "Turn off the lights at night," says Michael Mesure, executive director of the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP)... More than a hundred skyscraper owners in the Toronto area have agreed to minimize their lights.

Still, Mesure said, "Fatal strikes during the day far exceed those at night." Non reflective glass in tree-level windows would help.

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Meadowlark Audubon Society Membership
Click here for more  <Membership Information>

Note:  The Chapter-Only membership year runs from September 1st of one year to August 31st of the following year, not April, as printed in the newsletter. The dues are $12 per year. The dues for the first partial year are prorated at $1 per month, and after that your dues will be $12 per year.

For example, if you choose to join as a Chapter-Only member in November 2003, your dues would be $10 for the 10 months of the partial year from November to the end of August 2004, plus $12 for the full year from the first of September 2004 to the end of August 2005, for a total of $22. The Chapter-Only membership does not include the Audubon magazine.

Joint National Audubon/Meadowlark Audubon Memberships
(includes Audubon magazine):
Individual or Family Membership..........................$20.00/year
Sr. Citizen Membership (62 or older).....................$15.00/year
Full-time Student Membership...............................$15.00/year
 
Chapter-Only Membership.....................................$12.00/year
(does not include Audubon magazine

If you would be interested in joining as a joint National Audubon/Meadowlark Audubon member, a Chapter-Only member, or perhaps just making a donation to our Chapter, please contact Joyce Cicco, Membership Chairman, for details, or you can simply make out your check to National Audubon for joint National Audubon/Meadowlark Audubon memberships, or to Meadowlark Audubon for Chapter-Only memberships, and send it to:

Joyce Cicco,
Membership Chairman
26 North Ridge Drive
Cody, WY 82414

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