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. 4 -- March 2004

Elections - Members Asked to Vote at April Annual Meeting

Meadowlark Audubon's Annual Meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 8th, at Big Horn Federal Savings & Loan in Cody, WY. All members are urged to attend as the election will be held to vote for a new slate of directors and officers.

The evening's presentation will be on Black Rosy-Finches by Dr. Dave McDonald of the University of Wyoming. (He gave a fascinating talk on Costa Rica's Long-tailed Mannakins a few years ago.) Please plan on attending this interesting and important meeting.

The nominated slate of officers:
President - Dennis Saville (not up for reelection this year, as he will be serving the second year of a two-year term)
Vice-president - Mary Klein
Secretary - KaCey Ross
Treasurer - (open)

The nominated slate of directors:
Dave Henry
Julia Smith Lewis
Dee Oudin
Chuck Preston
John Ross
Sean Sheehan
Cheryl Wright

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

March 11, 2004 (Thursday) -- Public Meeting at 7:00 p.m. at the DeWitt Student Center at Northwest College in Powell. Presentation by Kevin Hurley on Big Horn Sheep.

April 3, 2004 (Saturday) -- Field Trip to a Greater Sage-Grouse lek and the pond at Paint Creek Ranch in Clark. Meet Leader Dennis Saville at Mentock Park (Cody) at 5:00 a.m. to carpool to the lek (on some 2-track roads.) When the grouse have finished dancing, we will meet Harriet "Roxy" Corbett at Paint Creek Ranch to view migrating waterfowl. Those who are not up for the early bird special can join the group at 8:00 a.m. at the Edelweiss store in Clark.

April 8, 2004 (Thursday) -- Annual Meeting 7:00 p.m. at Big Horn Federal Savings & Loan in Cody. Voting on the annual slate of directors and officers, followed by a presentation on Black Rosy-Finches by Dr. Dave McDonald.

April 24, 2004 (Saturday) -- Field Trip in urban Cody. Meet Dennis Saville at 6:00 a.m. at the Cody Auditorium. The group will begin the walk at the Belfry Bridge on the Shoshone River, and will walk along the Paul Stock trail on the south side of the river to view birds and their habitat. The group will return to the Cody Auditorium before 9:00 a.m. in time for the Cody Arbor Day/Earth Day Fesitval activities.

May 8, 2004 (Saturday) -- Field Trip to the TE Ranch with leader Sean Sheehan. Meet at the Twin Creeks Trailhead (on the Southfork Road) at 8:00 a.m. The group will explore the trail, then drive to the TE Ranch for an easy one-mile birding hike on the bottomlands. Bring a lunch.

May 13, 2004 (Thursday) -- Public Meeting at 7:00 p.m. at the DeWitt Student Center, Northwest College, in Powell. Presentation subject to be announced.

May 22, 2004 (Saturday) -- Field Trip to view migrants and early nesting birds. Meet leader Suzanne Morstad at the Overland Express (Conoco Station) in Basin, WY, at 7:00 a.m. On the way to Medicine Lodge State Park, the group will stop at Goose Island, the Nowood River, and any other sites that look promising.

At the park, they will explore the creek bottom woodlands prior to lunch. In the afternoon, options include longer hikes along the creek, or camping in one of the prettiest parks in Wyoming. Bring lunch and overnight supplies if you plan on camping.

Summer plans are in the works for more field trips. Watch the newspapers or your e-mail. For up-to-date field trip information, go to the menu on this web site and click on "Field Trip Information." To be placed on the field trip/meeting e-mail list, send your e-mail address to Mary Klein at <>.

There will be no public meetings over the summer (June, July, and August.) The next scheduled public meeting will be on Thursday, September 9, 2004. Tentative fall presentations will be on geology and habitat, the lynx, and the Greater Sage-Grouse.

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Casper Announces Its First Birding Festival

Birders of all levels of experience are invited to the first Birding Festival in Casper, WY, on June 4th and 5th, 2004. Enjoy a reception Friday evening, a BBQ Saturday night, and lots of birding in between!

Friday evening, check into the Radisson Hotel and meet your fellow festival attendees. The birding starts at 6:00 a.m. Saturday at the Edness Kimball Wilkins State Park, followed by a ceremony dedicating the park as an Audubon Important Bird Area. Then mosey on up to Casper College for some presentations on birds. Feel free to explore the sites around Casper, or just relax at the hotel until the Saturday evening Spiritrider Chuckwagon Jamboree at the Audubon Center at Garden Creek. Take a ride with Cattle Kate in a horse-drawn wagon; have a guided interpretive bird walk; or explore the Center's multiple birding trails on your own. Afterwards, enjoy a BBW with all the fixings, and some real western entertainment.

Cost: Adults - $10.00; children 17 and under - $5.00; family - $25.00.

Friday, June 4 - Registration and reception 4:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Saturday, June 5 - Birdwalks at Edness Kimball Wilkins State Park, 6:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

Important Bird Area decication ceremony, 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon.

Live birds with presentation at the Audubon Center at Garden Creek, 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Interpretive bird walks at Garden Creek, 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Chuckwagon Jamboree at Garden Creek, 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

A block of rooms has been reserved at the Radisson Hotel under the name "Audubon Society." Reservations must be made at the hotel by May 15 to receive the block rate. Call 307/266-6000, or go online at <>.

Reservations are required for the Chuckwagon Jamboree by May 21. Get your registration forms by calling Audubon Wyoming at 307/235-3485, or e-mailing Diana Walter at <>.

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Beck Lake Signage Nears Completion

Two signs announcing that Beck and Alkali Lakes are National Audubon Important Bird Areas (IBAs), and explaining their importance, will soon be in production, thanks to the Graphic Arts students at Northwest College. The students will have three final designs ready for judging by the Meadowlark Board by early April. The winning design will be featured on signs that will be placed at the Alkali Lake turnout and at the picnic area in Beck Lake Park.

The student creating the winning design will receive a certificate and a $100 check from Meadowlark. The award money, plus the production costs for the signs, has been raised through donations and a birdathon.

The signs will be erected at a dedication ceremony in late spring. Watch the newspapers, your e-mail, and this Web site for details.

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Kane Christmas Bird Count Held Near Lovell
-- by Terry Peters

Birders from around the Big Horn Basin gathered before daylight Saturday, December 20th, for the Fourteenth Annual Kane CBC. Anticipations were high due to the exceptionally mild weather, which hopefully would produce high numbers of species, or individuals, or both. There was plenty of open water, waterfowl, dippers and kingfishers.

As predicted, the 2004 count did break its old record of 48 species set in 1991, but only by one. Although 49 species set a new record for the Kane count, numbers of individuals were low at 4,811. Species usually reported in large numbers did not appear this year. Examples include 8 American Crows, compared to the previous year when 1,053 showed up. Even Black-billed Magpies (American Magpies), normally totaling near 100 on this count, were low at 59. European Starlings are known to number in the high thousands near Lovell, but counters tallied just over 1,000. Only 45 Cedar Waxwings (and no Bohemian Waxwings) were sighted. Rock Pigeons were low at 540. American Robins, usually numbering in the low thousands, only produced 765 this year.

Are these low numbers the result of a warm fall which failed to concentrate them in the usual numbers encountered in late December, or has West Nile also played a role? If so, how much? More probably, a combination of many factors, including those mentioned above, has contributed to the low numbers.

Other noteworthy sightings include one Great Blue Heron, 778 Canada Geese, 493 Mallards, 12 Bald Eagles, 3 Mourning Doves, 7 Mountain Bluebirds, 13 Ring-necked Pheasants, 6 Harris' Sparrows, 4 Western Meadowlarks, one each of Sharpshin Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, and Goshawk. And lastly, a single Killdeer stayed on to experience the mild winter.

The Kane count circle extends from roughly Moncur Springs on the west side to Sand Draw near Lovell. Anyone living within the count circle is eligible to participate as a feeder watcher (which involves documenting species and numbers of birds observed at their own bird feeders) on the count day. If anyone is interested, contact Terry Peters at 307/548-6814. Next year, the Kane Count will be held Saturday, December 18th. A special thanks is offered to those landowners who granted permission to access their lands.

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The Clark CBC and the Blustery Day
-- by Mary Klein

The sun rose thinly in a mostly clear sky on December 16, 2003, for the beginning of the Fourth Annual Clark CBC. However, blistering winds that we estimated at up to 65 miles per hour kept many of our small birds under cover during that windy morning. Those that we did see were difficult to identify: a little brown bird, blowing sideways at highway speed, can prove impossible to name by even the most experienced birders!

And years of experience we had! Meeting at Edelweiss that chilly morning were: Neil and Jennifer Miller, Pat and Nancy Ryan, Thom and Mary Klein, John Ross, Ron Young and Nova Brown-Young, Harriet Corbett, Dave Karnos, and Brenda Fox. These intrepid birders, in four vehicles, covered approximately 287 miles by car and 10 miles on foot, scoping the 15-mile diameter circle centered at Elelweiss.

Thirty-eight species were sighted (plus a few unidentified wind-blown little brown birds and buteos) for a total of 1,160 birds. The highest counts were for Canada Geese (213), Rock Pigeons (124), European Starlings (102), and Black-billed Magpies (American Magpies) (101). Species of interest included Chukars (78), Common Goldeneyes (47), and Horned Larks (82), as well as one Merlin, one Harris' Sparrow, two Black Rosy-Finches and two Common Redpolls. Eagles were well represented with 15 Bald Eagles (up from a high of 13 in 2002) and 22 Golden Eagles (up from a high of 10 in 2003.)

After a blustery day counting birds in the Clarks Fork riparian areas, the sagebrush steppes and the Badger Basin Badlands, all were eager for the potluck lasagna supper - and felt that it was well deserved.

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Cody's Christmas Bird Count
-- by Joyce Cicco, Compiler

Thirty-five participants, one from as far away as Sitka, Alaska, took to the field in Cody's 20th year of Christmas Bird Counts, and the nation's 104th Annual CBC, on Saturday, January 3, 2004. Originally scheduled for December 27, organizers Joyce Cicco and Susan Ahalt postponed the count for one week due to wind, snow and very cold temperatures on that date. Birders took to the field in 16 parties, covering over 41 miles by foot and 288 miles by vehicle. Five reports from feeders covered an additional 27 hours of bird watching, with the combined effort producing sightings of 6,195 individual birds representing 64 different species.

Although the weather was better on the day of the count than that of the original scheduled date, birders still faced temperatures ranging from a low of -5 F. to a high of 18 F, with those surveying low-lying areas being engulfed in localized fog. Lakes which had open stretches of water with large concentrations of waterfowl just a week earlier were now frozen over, providing less suitable conditions for those birds to remain in the area. Yet under these adverse conditions, Cody's birders sighted a greater number of species than in the previous 8 years, bettering the high of 63 species seen on the 102nd CBC. During those years, the lowest count was 49 species on the 96th CBC.

For the most recent nine years, this year's count of Common Goldeneye were high at 147 birds, the 49 Chukar surpassed their previous high of 44, and Greater Sage-Grouse made a good showing at 27. American Crows at 12 were near their 8-year average, but the Common Raven at 262 exceeded their high count of 249 five years ago. Seldom reported birds at this time of year included two Osprey by Beck Lake, 2 Western Screech-Owls spotted north of Cody, and a Lincoln's Sparrow along the Shoshone River. Two flocks of Cedar Waxwings totaling 310 birds were counted along Sulfur Creek and near the Riverside Cemetery, and 3 Western Meadowlarks were seen in the Sage Creek area. Pine Siskins made a nice comeback at 73 after not being reported at all on last year's count.

A supper of hot soup, donated by Sunset House Restaurant, and potluck items brought by the participants were enjoyed by those who attended the tally of the reports, conducted by Chuck Neal. The gathering was held at Reverend Warren Murphy's Christ Episcopal Church.

Field and feeder participants of the Cody CBC were: Susan Ahalt, Dave and Germaine Bragonier, Dave Burke, Pat Chapman, Joyce Cicco, Jim and Shirley Covert, David Dominick, Marshall Dominick, Jerry Hogg Hager, Kirk and Donna Haman, Lee and Jan Hermann, John Housel, Lolly Jolley, Martha Kinkade, Mac and Rita Lewis, Deb Marmon, Neil and Jennifer Miller, Ester Murray, Chuck Neal, Joe Neal, Dee Oudin, Edie Phillips, Jack Russell, Nancy Ryan, Dennis Saville and his daughter Bonnie, Sean Sheehan, David Smith, Joe Vukelich, Linda Waller, B. D. Wehrfritz, and Cheryl Wright.

For more information on Christmas Bird Counts, visit the Audubon web site at, where you can find a wealth of historical CBC data. If you would like to participate in next year's count, please contact Joyce Cicco at 527-5030, or Susan Ahalt at 527-7027. Next year's Cody CBC will be held on Sunday, December 19, 2004.

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Bird Quiz -- Questions

1. These are the smaller (typically) of the two most common birds of prey to be seen at feeders:

a. Sharp-shinned Hawk
b. Red-tailed Hawk
c. Cooper's Hawk
d. Northern Harrier

2. You should use this kind of seed to best attract small finches to your feeder:
a. striped sunflower
b. niger (thistle)
c. millet
d. whole corn
Quiz answers follow the "Eagle Count Numbers Remain Healthy" article.

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Veterinary Drug Linked to Vulture Deaths
--USA Today, February 6, 2004

A common painkiller used to relieve the aches of arthritis is threatening three types of vultures in Asia with extinction, a report says. Humans have been taking diclofenac for two decades, but the report says its use in veterinary medicine is killing birds of prey, which ingest it by eating carcasses of livestock treated with it. "This is the first time a pharmaceutical drug has been implicated in the decline of large-vertebrate wildlife," says Rick Watson of the Boise-based Peregrine Fund and an author of the study in today's Nature. Over the decade that the drug has been used to treat animals in India, Pakistan and Nepal, populations of the Oriental White-backed Vulture, Long-billed Vulture and Slender-billed Vulture have fallen drastically. Dead birds in Pakistan were found to contain residues of the drug at levels high enough to cause kidney failure and death.

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Untitled Haiku
--by Cheryl Wright

If only I knew
The songs of birds, then I would
Know who came to call.

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Eagle Count Numbers Remain Healthy
--by Dennis Saville

On January 17, 2004, 89 volunteers participated in the National Wildlife Federation's mid-winter eagle survey in the Bighorn Basin. Volunteers surveyed principal stream and river systems, roosts and foraging areas along 44 routes, covering more than 5,700 square miles.

The 2004 survey counted 168 Bald Eagles, with 122 adults and 46 immatures. This was a near duplication of the 2003 count, and remained consistent with recent years. The adult-to-young ratio of 2.7:1 continued to be very good and indicates good reproduction success and survival of juveniles. It also reflects a stable and healthy Bald Eagle population wintering in the Bighorn Basin.

Ninety-three Golden Eagles were observed, with 72 adults and 21 juveniles. The Golden Eagles (mostly year-long residents in the Basin) had an adult-to-young ratio of approximately 3.4:1, also indicative of a healthy Golden Eagle population.

As usual, volunteer surveyors did an outstanding job of covering designated routes. Once again, their enthusiasm and throughness allowed this mid-winter survey to cover most of the Bighorn Basin. We would like to thank everyone involved, and look forward to next year's survey.

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Bird Quiz -- Answers:

1. a. -- Sharp-shinned Hawk
2. b. -- niger (thistle)

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

The Chapter-Only membership year runs from September 1st of one year to August 31st of the following year, and is $12 per year, with dues prorated at $1 per month for the initial partial year.

For example, if you choose to join as a Chapter-Only member in April 2004, your dues would be $5 for the 5 months of the partial year from April 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 $17. The Chapter-Only membership does not include the Audubon magazine.

Chapter-Only Membership............................................$12.00/year
(does not include Audubon magazine, but your dues stay in the local Chapter)

Joint National Audubon/Meadowlark Audubon Memberships:
(includes Audubon magazine):
Introductory Individual or Family Membership............$20.00/year
Sr. Citizen Membership (62 or older)............................$15.00/year
Full-time Student Membership......................................$15.00/year

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 membership, or to Meadowlark Audubon for Chapter-Only membership, and send it to:

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

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