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. 5 -- April 2005

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: Joyce Cicco; 26 North Ridge Drive; Cody, WY 82414.

Vol. 5, No. 5 -- April 2005


Kane CBC Best Ever
-- by Terry Peters

Mild weather, a late fall, and plenty of able counters made the 2004 Kane Christmas Bird Count the best ever. Seventeen bird counters participated in the count this year. As faithful bird counters return year after year, they get to know the lay of the land and where to look for birds. That reflects positively in both the number of species observed and total numbers of birds seen on count day.

Fifteen years ago, in 1990, I first delineated and described this count area centered at the Old Kane Cemetery. To the north is the Historic Landmark Kane Cemetery.

Sandhill Cranes, Wood Ducks, a Common Redpoll and a Red-breasted Nuthatch were new additions to the Kane Christmas count. The raptor species were again well represented with 14 Northern Harriers and 18 Red-tailed Hawks tallied. Rough-legged Hawks were low as might be expected in a warmer than normal season with only 11 counted. Total individuals for all species ended up at almost 13,000 birds.

Neil and Jennifer Miller surprised the group with a rag doll crow donated by Wyoming Classics of Greybull. The group decided to make a "traveling trophy" of the crow for the team that counted the most American Crows. The award will be passed around to be enjoyed by the lucky recipient each count year. The Millers ended up winning the crow. Their American Crow numbers topped the group.

Next year the Kane count will be held Saturday, December 17, the first Saturday of the count period as has been a tradition since its inception.

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105th Annual Cody Christmas Bird Count
-- by Joyce Cicco

The Cody Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, December 19, 2004. Thirty-five birders took to the field on a relatively warm winter day, with temperatures ranging from 38º to 51º F. Wind velocity varied from none in the early morning in low-lying areas, to 50 mph in the late afternoon in the canyon and on exposed bench land.

Total miles covered on foot was 43.8 miles, while driving accounted for 250.9 miles. Hours logged by feeder watchers totaled 11.

The first Cody CBC began 21 years ago under the leadership of Ursula Kepler, and coincided with the 85th anniversary of the Annual Christmas Bird Count, founded on Christmas day in 1900. Mrs. Kepler organized the count for 16 years, ending with the 100th Annual CBC. In 2000, Mrs. Kepler turned the Cody CBC over to Susan Ahalt and Joyce Cicco who have organized and compiled the annual event, beginning with the 101st and continuing through the current 105th.

This year's Cody CBC species count was 69, a record high for Cody, beating the previous year's record high count of 64. Total individual birds added up to 7,636, another record for the Cody count, bettering the previous high individual bird total of 7,110 reported on the 100th count. One Blue-winged Teal was spotted, a first for the Cody CBC. Second-timers were the White-throated Sparrow, Spotted Sandpiper, and Peregrine Falcon. The Common Raven was the only bird reported by each team on every route. Its numbers have been increasing over the life of the Cody count, with an average of 58, 117, 124, and 153 ravens in each five-year interval from the 85th through the 104th counts. This year the ravens numbered 243 individual birds.

The number of European Starlings has also been increasing, and quite rapidly, with averages of 127, 157, 754, and 1,895 birds recorded in each five-year interval from the 85th through the 104th counts. This year their number remained high at 1,404 individual birds. Another species which has shown a steady increase on the Cody CBC is the Black-billed Magpie. The magpie averages for the four five-year intervals are 100, 158, 182, and 251, with 303 individual birds seen this year.

Other bird species numbers have fluctuated widely over the years, without displaying a noticeable trend. The Pine Siskin falls into this category, having been reported every year of the count, and ranging from a high of 164 on the 90th count to a low of two on the following year's count, and numbering 65 this year. The American Tree Sparrow has seen its numbers range from one lone bird on the 89th count, to a high of 146 on the 90th count, with 28 being reported this year. However, the generic "sparrow, species" has been reported on eight annual counts, with an unusually high 154 "sparrows" showing up on the 101st count. Improved bird identification skills would provide greater accuracy on future counts.

The Great Horned Owl has been reported every year of the Cody count, with seven being seen this year. This was the only owl species recorded this year, but in previous years there have been two sightings each of the Short-eared Owl and Western Screech-Owl, two reports of the Northern Pygmy-Owl, of which one was during the count week, and one report of the Long-eared Owl, also during the count week. The Bohemian Waxwing arrived in record numbers, with 1,487 seen this year, more than doubling the previous record of 617 recorded on the 98th count.

Duck and geese counts show great fluctuations, with various explanations such as very little open water, poor light conditions for identifying the species, and open duck and goose hunting season. This year 555 Canada Geese were counted, with historical results showing a high of 1,557 on the 98th count, and zero geese reported on the 86th, 87th, 88th, and 94th counts. Mallard numbers have been quite healthy, with a high of 2,186 on the 88th count, a low of 271 on the 85th count, and this year's number recorded at 1,000. Green-winged Teal have shown up on every year's count, except the first one, and 95 of them appear on this year's count. Other duck species including Northern Pintail, Gadwall and Redhead show up in limited numbers, but a total of 600 birds have been reported as the generic "duck, species" on 12 of the 21 counts and make any meaningful trend comparisons impossible.

A number of other species are reported in very limited numbers, and birders are encouraged to familiarize themselves with field marks which will help them make positive identifications for these species. It may be that some species are underreported due to a lack of identification expertise or inability to get a good enough look at a bird before it moves on. This year, one grebe was reported as "grebe, species" due to getting only a quick glimpse of the bird, nine seagulls were reported as "gull, species" due to inability to make a positive identification, and 64 "duck, species" were likewise reported. On the 102nd count, 5 Pied-billed Grebe were sighted, a first, thanks to a spotting scope and a careful birder.

Other birds, such as the secretive Brown Creeper, may be found by birders who are familiar with their habits. One Brown Creeper was reported this year, and the species has only been reported on four other counts. This also goes for the Marsh Wren, three of which were reported this year, with one individual of the species showing up on only three other counts.

The pigeon we had learned to call a Rock Dove has had its name changed to Rock Pigeon, and the Common Snipe has now become a Wilson's Snipe. There were 190 of the former, and four of the latter on this year's count.

This year's count tally, as well as previous years' records, can be found on the National Audubon Web site at <http://www.audubon.org/bird/cbc>

Twenty birders met at the Christ Episcopal Church in Cody following the count to tally the results and enjoy hot soup and pot luck. The Cody CBC is grateful to Chuck Neal for leading the tally, to the Christ Episcopal Church for allowing us to use their meeting room and kitchen, and to all the participants for their dedicated birding, financial support, and tasty treats for the pot luck supper. We look forward to having our faithful crew of birders join us for next year's Cody CBC, scheduled for Saturday, December 31, 2005, with a backup date in case of storm of Jan. 2, 2006. If you would be interested in joining the count, or perhaps helping out in the kitchen, give Joyce Cicco a call at 527-5030.

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Bald Eagle Count Soars

In spite of very cold temperatures, the 2005 Big Horn Basin Mid-winter Eagle Survey was once again very successful. On January 15, 102 Volunteers joined in conducting the winter survey for Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles and other winter raptors.

This year everyone collectively counted the most Bald Eagles recorded in the 20 years this survey has been done: 170 adult and 61 juvenile Bald Eagles. Golden Eagle numbers were also good, but not an all time high: 63 adults and 28 juveniles. The survey tries to avoid any duplication of counts of individual eagles and is always a very conservative estimate.

Other raptors included 135 Rough-legged hawks, 18 Red-tailed hawks, 15 Northern harriers, 3 Ferruginous hawks, a Swainson's hawk and a Northern goshawk.

Many Meadowlark chapter members participate in this survey regularly. Because of the efforts of volunteer birders, this is one of the best winter count databases of eagles in the U.S. The success of our Big Horn Basin winter eagle survey gets national news coverage and this year Paul Harvey mentioned it on his news program!

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Legislation Sets Up a Break for Wildlife
-- by Terry Peters

Wildlife in Wyoming will benefit from a newly created Wildlife Trust Fund. Senate File 41, The Wildlife and Natural Resources Funding Act, will fund wildlife-related habitat projects into the future.

The $15 million fund is not a new idea in Wyoming, but it was not until the state's mineral tax-generated budget surpluses made it politically feasible to actually set the money aside. The bill, as originally passed by the Senate, would have provided twice the amount, or $30 million.

Governor Freudenthal signed the bill but vetoed a portion of the act that would have placed a cap of $200,000 on annual spending without legislative approval. The Governor viewed the language as too restrictive. The veto applies only to an overall annual spending cap. Individual projects totaling more than $200,000 still will require approval by the Legislature.

Governor Freudenthal appointed nine board members who will oversee disbursing the fund. The nine represent an array of special interests from across the state and include two who have backgrounds in biology. Once it starts generating income, and after the original allocation of $300,000 is spent the first year, only the interest will be available for project funding. The money will be used not only to fund wildlife-related projects by government entities and private groups, but can also be used to protect open spaces that will benefit wildlife.

We need to remember legislators who helped push this important piece of legislation through, especially those senators who worked so hard to keep this bill moving. Hats off to Governor Freudenthal and Senators Mike Massie and Bruce Burns for their persistent efforts on behalf of the Wildlife Trust Fund.

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President's Message

I want to extend my special thanks to everyone for supporting and participating in our chapter activities over the past several years. We had a very enthusiastic beginning for our Meadowlark Chapter with over 200 members and I am proud to say that we have been able to maintain our chapter membership at that level. We have wonderful field trips, excellent and diverse programs at monthly meetings, and have continued to be involved in conservation and habitat improvement activities that make a difference here in our Big Horn Basin area, not only for birds, but other wildlife as well.

We have been blessed with many hard working members who have volunteered their time, skills and special efforts to keep the Meadowlark chapter a vibrant and active organization. I hope all members will express their thanks to those who have been the leaders of our Audubon chapter, and to outgoing board members and officers – John Ross, Dave Henry, Chuck Preston, Mary and Thom Klein. But also take notice of everyone who will continue to handle the responsibilities of keeping our chapter alive. Each year in April we have elections for officers and board members. Please participate in this process.

I also encourage more people to get involved with Meadowlark activities. For many people, a big commitment is difficult and overwhelming. So, I would ask everyone to help our chapter by starting with only short term and simple things to benefit our chapter. Bring a treat to a meeting, go on a field trip, come up with ideas for programs or provide a contact for a program speaker, fold newsletters, help with an educational program for schools, put together a bird quiz or a bird list for some area, make phone calls or build a birdhouse.

We have several important committees that could use help at times—field trips, conservation, IBAs, newsletter, educational activities, programs, and membership. Most things that would be helpful to Meadowlark can be done from home without travel, without committing much time, and without extensive skills or knowledge.

If the same people always have to carry the load and keep Meadowlark functioning, they will run out of energy and so will our chapter. We really need members who are willing to get just a little more involved.
 
---Dennis Saville, Chapter President

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Field Trips Range Widely

Meadowlark Audubon's field trip roster offers a variety of experiences to both bird the Big Horn Basin and to explore some of its outstanding natural areas.

An April 9 trip to Heart Mountain provided a chance to witness the elaborate courtship rituals that sage grouse display at a favored spot, called a lek. Following that quiet observation of the birds' early morning ritual, energetic birders hiked the lower slopes of Heart Mountain. That trip occurred just as this newsletter was going to press.

On Saturday, May 21, Dennis Saville will lead an all-day exploration of Devil's Canyon and nearby places in the Big Horn Mountains. Participants will view overlooks at John Blue Canyon, Natural Trap and Horse Thief Caves, and Big Horn Cavern. Cultural sites and wildlife sightings also are on the agenda. Driving often will be on very rough roads and will require high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles with good tires, but the short hikes will be easy. Participants will convene at 8 a.m. at the Big Horn Canyon Visitor's Center east of Lovell for carpooling.

Birders will search for spring migrants on Wednesday, May 25, in Bear Canyon in the Pryor Mountain Range and at Deaver Reservoir. Trip leaders Neil and Jennifer Miller will meet participants at 8 a.m. at Warren, Montana for the drive to the canyon entrance. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are necessary to get to the canyon but hiking in the canyon is easy. A carpooling rendezvous for people coming from points west of Deaver will be announced later. Plan to spend all day on this outing.

For further information, contact Saville at 307-527-4622 or the Millers at 307-568-9346. Also check Meadowlark Audubon's website, www.meadowlarkwyo.org, for updated information about field trips and other activities.

A June trip will explore Bald Ridge and the upper area of the Natural Corral north of Cody. The Millers will lead a Beartooth Mountains outing in July.

Anyone taking part in a field trip should wear suitable clothing for the weather and should bring binoculars. Participants must provide their own water and a lunch for all-day trips. Cameras are optional but sunscreen and insect repellent are strongly recommended.

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Forest Plans Change Radically
-- by Sean Sheehan

The Shoshone National Forest is one of two forests nominated to be pilots for developing their management plans under completely new forest planning regulations. The Shoshone's last revision was 18 years ago.

I attended a meeting March 21-22, when 15 conservation groups (the Wyoming Wilderness Coalition) met with U. S. Forest Service personnel to review plan revisions on the Shoshone and the Bighorn National Forests.

In the past individual forests have generated very specific goals, and objectives. At each stage of the process the goals and objectives were subject to scrutiny, comment, and challenges. Citizens groups or industry could mount the challenges in appeals to the USFS, or in court. Because the process gets so bogged down in challenges, some forests have been without management plans for as long as 20 years.

The USFS says it would like to fix this problem by eliminating challenges and public participation from the planning process at the Forest level. The only public involvement at this level in the future would be through elected representatives, town mayors, county commissioners, etc. In place of a complex forest plan full of data, rules, and objectives, the planning document will be a conceptual document, an abstract on the Desired Future Condition for the forest. No EIS, EA, or NEPA at this point.

The USFS assures us the ESA and NEPA rules and guidelines will still be followed, and that public participation will be an even more important part of the planning process, but NEPA would come into play only at the point when individual projects or management actions are planned and implemented. That means the public will have input only on specific management actions, but not on the policy from which they evolve.

The Shoshone Forest revision is highly important and the general public is much too unaware of what the revision is or the impacts it will have. The Forest Service will be looking for groups to help do different data monitoring projects on the forest, and I see a real place for Meadowlark Audubon to become involved.

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Library Given to Meadowlark

Judy Lane has given Meadowlark Audubon the gift of bird books and recordings from the collection of Roy Jordan, a former Charter Member of Meadowlark. Roy passed away in 2002, and those who enjoyed birding with him will recall his ability to name birds by their songs. It is Judy's wish is that these books and recordings be used by Meadowlark members and students to learn more about birds and to become familiar with their vocalizations.

Books
The World of the Shorebirds, Harry Thurston
Orioles, Blackbirds, & Their Kin, Alexander F. Skutch
The Wind Birds: Shorebirds of North America, Peter Matthiessen
Lifebirds, George Levine
Birds of Jove, David Bruce
Yellowstone Trails: A Hiking Guide, Mark C. Marschall, 1978
Finding the Birds of Jackson Hole, Bert Raynes and Darwin Wile
Birds of Grand Teton National Park and the Surrounding Area, Bert Raynes
A Birder's Guide to Wyoming, Oliver Scott
The Visitor's Guide to the Central National Parks, U.S. and Canada, Ronald H. Wauer
The Birder's Guide to Bed and Breakfasts, U.S. and Canada, Peggy van Hulsteyn, 1995
Birds of North-Central Wyoming and the Bighorn National Forest, Helen Downing, Ed., 1990
New Mexico Bird Finding Guide, Dale A. Zimmerman, Marian A. Zimmerman and John Durrie, Editors
Ducks at a Glance, A Waterfowl Identification Guide, Bob Hines
National Geographic Guide to Birdwatching Sites, Western U.S., Mel White
Birds of Yellowstone, Terry McEneaney
Birnbaum's Santa Fe and Taos, a travel guide, 1994
Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds, Scott Weidensaul
Atlas of Birds, Mammals, Reptiles and Amphibians in Wyoming, Wyoming Game & Fish Dept.

Recordings
A Field Guide to Western Bird Songs, Peterson Field Guides, 3 cassette tapes
Western Bird Songs, Peterson Field Guides, 3 CDs
Birding by Ear: Western, Peterson Field Guides, 3 cassette tapes
Birding by Ear: Western, Peterson Field Guides, 3 CDs
A Guide to Night Sounds, A NorthWord Nature Guide, 1 CD
Backyard Bird Walk, Vol. I, A NorthWord Nature Guide, 1 CD
Know Your Bird Sounds, Vol. I, A NorthWord Nature Guide, 1 CD
Know Your Bird Sounds, Vol. II, A NorthWord Nature Guide, 1 CD
Bird Songs of Southeastern Arizona and Southern Texas, recordings by Geoffrey A. Keller, 1 cassette tape
Songbirds of the Southwest Canyon Country, recordings by Kevin J. Colver and Geoffrey A. Keller, 1 CD
Songbirds of the Rocky Mountain Foothills, recordings by Kevin J. Colver, 1 CD
Songbirds of Yellowstone and the High Rockies, recordings by Kevin J. Colver
101 North American Bird Songs, J.C. Entertainment Co., 1 CD

Two others books were donated by Susan Ahalt, who rescued them from the Bargain Box Store in Cody:
Identification Guide to North American Passerines, Peter Pyle, Steve N.G. Howell, Robert P. Yunick and David F. DeSanto
The Birder's Catalogue: The Sourcebook for Birding Paraphernalia, Sheila Buff, 1989

If you would like to borrow an item from the collection, please contact Joyce Cicco, 527-5030.

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Great Grays Venture Southward

The Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) is a year-round inhabitant of the northern boreal forest. It breeds sparsely across this region from central Alaska to central Ontario, and in the West south through the northern Rocky Mountains, the Cascades, and the Sierra Nevada. Northerly populations are nomadic and sporadically undergo large movements during winter when this species can be found well south and east of its typical range.

These invasions occur roughly every 10 years, and vary in intensity from just a few individuals to hundreds of birds. Large numbers were noted during the recent winters of 1978-1979, 1983-1984 and 1991-1992, with a smaller invasion occurring in 1995-1996.

Evidence of this winter's movement was first noted during mid-October when unusually large numbers were reported around Hearst, Ontario. By late November and throughout December the invasion continued southeastward and increased in intensity.

Large numbers were reported from northeast Minnesota and areas stretching eastward in a relatively thin band along the United States/Canadian border to the St. Lawrence River region of Quebec. Currently there are large numbers of Great Gray Owls being seen in the areas around northeastern Minnesota, Toronto, Kingston, Ottawa and southern Quebec.

Concentrations of Great Gray Owls are often encountered during these invasions, presumably due to the abundance of rodent prey. One might travel for hundreds of miles and see none in seemingly suitable habitat, and then come upon 10-20 individuals using a relatively small area. Occasionally larger numbers are reported together.

This year amazing concentrations have been reported in the Sax-Zim Bog area outside Duluth, Minnesota. Indeed, reports of some 700 Great Gray Owls had been sent to the Minnesota Rare Bird Alert by mid-December 2004!

--from eBird, a project developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, <http://www.ebird.org/>

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Chapter Business

Donations Welcomed

Consider contributing to the chapter. Meadowlark Audubon is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Donations may be made in memory of or in honor of someone, if you choose. Please tell us if you wish someone to be notified of such a gift.

Make a check out to Meadowlark Audubon and send it to:
 

Dee Oudin, Treasurer
P.O. Box 186, Cody, WY 82414

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Questions???

Meadowlark's Mission Statement and Strategic Plan can be found on this Web site on the left-hand side menu under Home Page

For membership, call Joyce Cicco, 527-5030. For general information, call Dennis Saville, president, 527-4622; KaCey Ross, secretary, 587-5282; or Dee Oudin, treasurer, 587-2451.

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April and May Programs

On April 14, naturalist/photographer Meg Sommers shows her Arctic Circle adventures in pictures and music. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. with annual business and election of officers. The location is the Big Horn Federal Savings and Loan basement meeting room in Cody, 1701 Stampede Avenue, (at the corner of 17th Street and Stampede Avenue.)

On May 12, archaeologist Chris Finley will speak about local cultural sites. Finley is the Cultural Resources Manager for the Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area. The 7 p.m. meeting is at the Big Horn Federal Savings and Loan basement meeting room in Cody.

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Many thanks -- to Rodney Hayes, owner of Custom Delivery Service in Cody, for reduced rates to copy this newsletter for those who receive it by mail.


A Bird Came Down the Walk

by Emily Dickinson

A bird came down the walk: He did not know I saw;
He bit an angle-worm in halves and ate the fellow, raw.
And then he drank a dew from a convenient grass,
And then hopped sidewise to the wall to let a beetle pass.
He glanced with rapid eyes that hurried all abroad,
They looked like frightened beads, I thought.
He stirred his velvet head like one in danger; cautious,
I offered him a crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers and rowed him softer home
Than oars divide the ocean, too silver for a seam,
Or butterflies, off banks of noon, leap, plashless, as they swim.

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Whispers of Spring

Contributed by Meadowlark Member, Neil Miller

Again morning temperature hovers at ten degrees Fahrenheit,
But something is different.
Daylight worms itself into sky earlier.

Lazy Sun yawns and stretches,
Then indolently climbs above Cloud Peak earlier.

Once silent sunrise is now greeted by chatter of chickadee,
Airy song of goldfinch,
And twitter of house finch, too.
Something is different!

There is excitement, a feeling of change,
A suggestion of urgency.
The air is not warm, but smoother, almost mellow, not biting.

Chickadee now changes his tune from winter song
To long low chick--a--dee.
It's a little rusty for lack of use.
He sings furtively, testing its sound.
He seems unsure of himself.

House finch tries out his lusty call.
He likes it
And repeats it several times
Before perching on feeder to eat,
Squabbling busily with his neighbors.

Goldfinches drop from sky like falling leaves,
Slipping and floating to alight on barren plum tree,
Piping their flight song tee tee tee, tee tee tee as they arrive.
Their song changes to up-sweeping sooo--eeep
As they bask in first warm rays of Sun.

I stand quietly watching, listening.
I take in deep breaths of crisp air
As brilliant reds and pinks
Dissolve into orange and radiant yellow,
And first light spills around cold white peaks of far-away mountains.
It stabs my eyes with blazing skeins of sunlight.
I feel the heat of that distant star, insistent, throbbing.

I hear the cry of wild geese
Somewhere along ice shrouded river.
I feel that call on my skin, in my heart, in my soul.
The call is unmistakable.
Spring!

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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 2005, your dues would be $5 for the 5 months of the partial year from April to the end of August 2005, plus $12 for the full year from the first of September 2005 to the end of August 2006, 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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