March 2016 Audubon Rockies Newsletter
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March 2016 Newsletter

Working to protect birds and their habitat in Wyoming and Colorado.

What's In This Issue?


Western Rivers Action Network Check out the monthly webinar series event details.
Community Naturalists 
From field trips with the Bighorn Chapter to winter ecology around the region!
Habitat HeroA 2015 Habitat Hero awardee featured in High Country Gardens and our latest blog on how to be successful from sowing from seed and the latest and greatest upcoming events.

Sagebrush EcosystemLooking Back to 1971: Wyoming eagle killings get national attention.

Upcoming EventsFind community events coming near you!
Bird Bits - Going WYld's latest feature, the success of condors and and research on cowbirds!
Spring Giving - Consider a gift membership or donation for the conservationist or citizen scientist in your life. 
Chapter Happenings - Local Chapters provide excellent birding, education, and conservation opportunities for the public.  
National News National Audubon Society, Great Backyard Bird Count in the spotlight and their February newsletter and policy advisory.



 Bird Bits


GOING WYld - Yellowstone Wolves!
Zach has begun a fun weekly TV news segment on Casper's K2, called "Going WYld". This week Zach looks at Yellowstone Wolves- check it out!  Each segment airs on Thursday at 6:30 am!  For other great episodes, including segments on elk, rabbits, and bald eagles, visit Audubon Rockies' Going WYld page!


California Condors Achieve a Happy New Milestone
Read the article HERE


For the first time in decades, the odds are looking more in the condors’ favor.




How does a Cowbird learn to be a Cowbird?
Read the article HERE


New research explains how these brood parasites—who are raised by other species—still manage to become cowbirds.

Support Audubon Rockies
 Spring Giving

Photo by Timothy Rockhold


As the Spring birding season approaches, please consider a gift membership or donation for the conservationist or citizen scientist in your life.

This can be an especially inspiring gift for children who are interested in learning about the way birds and their habitat matter to us all. Participating with and supporting Audubon Rockies can be an excellent family activity that all will remember for years to come. Children are our future environmental stewards and can benefit from the legacy of your donation.

Visit the Audubon Rockies Kids Page!
Where Birds Thrive, People Prosper.
Please make your credit/debit card donation on our
Audubon Rockies Secure Website


The Roost - Chapter News

Nic Korte, President of Grand Valley Chapter receives Richard G. Levad Award!  "...Nic has served as a conscience for the birding community as he persistently gives voice to environmental and conservation challenges.."  Read the story HERE

Chapter Websites & Newsletters

Colorado Chapters:
Wyoming Chapters:
Each Chapter is an independent organization of Audubon members that is chartered and annually re-certified by National Audubon Society. 

They provide excellent birding, education, and conservation opportunities for members at the local level. They also often advocate on behalf of conservation at the local, state, and national level.

National News





Congratulations, you've been published! Your Great Backyard Bird Count and eBird data contributed to this amazing study that used citizen science data to track the seasonal migration routes of 118 different bird species. Check out the article

Happy birding from all of us!


Alison Holloran, Executive Director
John Kloster-Prew, Deputy Director
Daly Edmunds, Director Policy & Outreach
Dusty Downey, Sr. Regional Community Naturalist
Jacelyn Downey, Sr. Regional Community Naturalist
Becky Gillette, Senior Educator
Abby Burk, Western Rivers Outreach Specialist 
Jamie Weiss, Habitat Hero Coordinator
Zach Hutchinson, Community Naturalist
Sandy McIntyre, Office Assistant

Support Audubon Rockies

Western Rivers Action Network

Gross Reservoir by Abby Burk. What will the warm temperatures do to the melt this spring?  Is it too early tell? 

Webinar Season Wrap Up - Join us March 8th and 16th

March 8th 12:00-1:00pm.  Colorado River Management in Drought: Opportunities for Progress on River Health?
Presented by Jennifer Pitt, National Audubon Society


The Colorado River, which provides water for more than 36 million people and millions of acres of farm and ranchland across 7 states in the US and 2 states in Mexico, has been in drought for 16 years.  As water managers mount unprecedented initiatives to respond to the growing risk of water shortages, what will happen to the rivers?  This talk will review the Colorado River Basin legal framework that creates winners and losers and drives management decisions, and identify a number of opportunities the conservation community has identified to make progress on improving water availability for freshwater habitats across the basin.  Register here.

March 16th 12:00-1:00pm.  Water-wise landscaping - good for people, birds and rivers!
Presented by Jamie Weiss, Audubon Rockies


Learn from Jamie Weiss, Audubon Rockies Habitat Hero Coordinator, as she describes from a birds-eye view how you can create gardens that are designed to minimize water consumption and provide essential habitat for birds, pollinators and other wildlife, large and small.  Water is the lifeblood for both birds and people and the Habitat Hero program seeks to grow a network of engaged citizens taking on-the-ground action in their own yards. Register here for this webinar to become inspired on creating your own water-wise wildscape!   *To learn more about the Habitat Hero program 


Upcoming Action Alerts

As the state legislative session grinds on, we have several water bills that we are following closely. Keep watching your emails for alerts – we will need you to take action soon!  Click on the Join WRAN button below to receive these action alerts!

Join WRAN Now

Community Naturalist Program

Joining Forces for Fun!


As part of the Community Naturalist Program, Audubon Rockies has been striving to connect more of our Audubon Chapter network together. One of the ways we have been able to accomplish this is through the field trip program. Thanks to a grant from the Natrona County Rec Board, we provided a field trip for Murie Audubon members (& non-members) to meet with Big Horn Audubon members and bird some of their favorite winter “hot-spots.”

The Murie group traveled by van to the town of Big Horn on the morning of February 13th and met the Big Horn group at The Brinton Museum. The Brinton graciously allowed the groups to bird the area, where we experienced a large flock of Bohemian Waxwings passing overhead. The waxwings soon departed, as a Sharp-shinned Hawk moved over the creek.


The two chapters then proceeded up to the base of the mountain to try for Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches and Common Redpolls. At two private residences, we were quite successful as the rosy-finches showed in droves, and the redpolls gave optimal views. It was quite the moment when the rosy-finches appeared, for they were life-birds for several in the group. The day finished as heavy snow/rains rushed over the mountain, and we were able to find a small flock of Sharp-tailed Grouse hiding from the impending storm.

A big thank you goes to The Brinton Museum and the Bighorn Audubon Society members who let us into their homes to see some great birds and for providing refreshments.

Community Naturalists are using the winter weather to teach about winter ecology around the region!

“Its so warm! “, said a 1st grader from Highland Park Elementary in Sheridan while visiting the Game and Fish Office during a presentation organized by the Community Naturalists. The student was referring to the insulative properties of the feathers and furs that the Community Naturalists brought to show the students some of the amazing adaptations that our winter animals have to withstand the cold.  Talking about insulation, tracking, and snow science has become a winter staple for many of the schools around Wyoming and Colorado.  Students love to get outside during these cold months and learn more about the winter ecology that makes the Rocky Mountain animals so amazing.  Since December, over 800 students have participated in Community Naturalist led winter programs.


“Migrate, Adapt, or Die,” says Education Programs Manager Jacelyn Downey during another class.  “Animals must find a way to survive the winter months and these are a few of the strategies.”  Using some of the Educational Trunks, the Community Naturalists invite chapter and community members to help run stations and disseminate winter programs to K-8 students.  The trunks, tracking, hiking, and bird watching are just a few of the ways that the Community Naturalists get kids outdoors in order to continue to learn about the importance of Winter Ecology in the Rockies.  Soon it will be spring, but for now, the Community Naturalist Program continues to work hard to get kids outdoors at a time when maybe they may not have been so inclined.  

Habitat Hero Program

Photo by Louise Heern


2015 Habitat Hero featured on the Cover of High Country Gardens


Evergreen, CO - Heern 2015 Outstanding Habitat Hero Residential Garden

Our new home started in a 4.5 acre, barren clearing - nothing but weeds, rocks and dust, without even a bird in sight.  Over the course of five short and challenging high altitude growing seasons, and the completion of CSU Master Gardener program, the backyard has been transformed into an oasis, full of birds, bees, hawk moths and even a mud puddle for the butterflies.

I call it combat gardening: short growing seasons, frosts in June and September, snow in May, cold summer nights, drying winds, little precipitation and every rodent imaginable under the hot sun.  I now understand the importance of planting natives and xeric selections where possible.  This garden has been and continues to be a labor of love!


Read the FULL Article in High Country Gardens here!

Photo by Allan Ivy


Our friends at BBB Seed share how to be successful in creating a wildflower haven from seed!


Planting a Wildflower Meadow

One of the most natural and delightful habitats for pollinators is a wildflower meadow. With a wide variety of flowers blooming at different times, there's always something for bees and other insects to eat.  An established wildflower meadow doesn't require weekly mowing or nearly as much water as a traditional monoculture lawn.


So how do you set up something like a wildflower meadow that took nature hundreds of years to nurture in your own backyard ..something that will look beautiful preferably this year?
Read the full article to find out!   

Upcoming Habitat Hero Events


March 16, 12pm: Webinar, Water-wise landscaping - good for people, birds, and rivers!  Details & Registration

March 17, 6:30pm:   Family Science Nights are offered throughout the year at the Science Center (C.C.S.D. Adventurarium in Gillette, WY) and are free to the public!  These nights are devoted to families learning about science.  Educators from Audubon Rockies will be presenting and unveiling the new Habitat Hero Educational Traveling Trunk!

April 9, 9am: LCCC, Cheyenne, WY.  Habitat Hero Gardening for Beauty, Birds and Bees - 2nd Annual Workshop. Details & Registration

Habitat Ambassador Events - The Journey to your Habitat Hero Haven, by Don Ireland

March 5, 11am: Tagagwa Gardens, Centennial, CO
March 12, 11am: Flower Bin, Longmont, CO
March 26, 1pm: Wilmore Outdoor Living Center, Littleton, CO

For all Habitat Events - visit our webpage HERE

Sagebrush Ecosystem Initiative


 Looking Back: Audubon Rockies Board Member Plays Important Role in Stopping Eagle Killings

Portions reprinted from Jan-Feb 2008 Audubon Magazine article, "Unfair Game," by Dennis Drabelle

The story began as a simple spring outing. On May 1, 1971, two 18-year-old high school students, Gordon Krause and Bruce Wampler, were hiking in Jackson Canyon, about 10 miles southwest of Casper, Wyoming. High, deep, and remote, the canyon was prime eagle habitat, but this would be no ordinary day of birdwatching. In a dry streambed the boys came upon an eagle carcass. It was “wrapped around a tree,” Krause recalled, “washed there by running water earlier,” recognizable as a bald eagle from its white head and tail. “We walked on a few more yards, and found another. We thought it was kind of strange.” In all, Krause and Wampler discovered seven dead eagles that afternoon.

Word of the find reached the Murie Audubon Society (see "The Eagle Killings" for chronology of events), which led additional searches in and around the canyon. More carcasses turned up, a total of 22. Half were bald eagles—the national emblem, with its own law to protect it, as well as an endangered species whose population had dwindled to 400 to 500 breeding pairs. To preserve their evidentiary value, more than a dozen carcasses were stored in a secret location: a locking freezer chest at the Casper house of Bart Rea, a geologist and Audubon member (and an Audubon Rockies Board Member).



Audubon’s executive vice-president, Charles Callison, brought the matter to the attention of his old friend Nathaniel Reed, the newly confirmed Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks under President Richard Nixon. One of his duties was enforcing a precursor to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which forbade harming species certified to be in danger of extinction, among them the American bald eagle. Reed remembers “having my hands full trying to assemble a staff,” but he made the eagle killings his top priority, with full support from his boss, Interior Secretary Rogers Morton.
The dead birds bore no wounds, but conservationists could make an educated guess as to what had happened: The eagles had ingested poison meant for animals—coyotes, above all—that preyed on sheep. Rea turned the frozen carcasses over to Charles H. Lawrence, chief of the law-enforcement division of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who had flown to Wyoming to investigate. Lawrence had the birds packed in dry ice, placed in cartons, and sent air express to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center near Washington, D.C. Necropsies bore out the suspicion: The eagles had died after swallowing large amounts of thallium sulfate, a virulent poison.
Lawrence learned that a number of local ranchers had treated antelope carcasses with thallium sulfate—enough of it, by one official’s estimate, “to kill every animal in the state” of Wyoming—and had put out the doctored meat as bait. The prime offender was Van Irvine, a rancher who had once headed the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. In the end the feds declined to prosecute Irvine because the deaths seemed incidental to the purpose of controlling predators. A justice of the peace fined Irvine $675 for violating various state laws, such as one banning the use of game animals as bait. Fines for other offenders were similarly low, but the point had been made.
In the meantime, however, a more alarming crime wave was coming to light. Eagles typically eat fish, waterfowl, small mammals, and carrion, but some ranchers insisted they were also busy taking lambs. Acting on that conviction, ranchers had once hunted the birds from planes. The Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940 had banned all forms of intentional killing, and a 1962 amendment to the law had granted a lesser degree of protection to golden eagles: They could be “taken” in order to protect livestock, but only with Interior’s permission, and no such permission had been given to anyone in two years.
After the first eagle-killing case, however, rumors were circulating in Wyoming that an air taxi company headquartered in the town of Buffalo was making itself available for eagle extermination, and that one of its biggest customers was a prominent rancher named Herman Werner.
Back in Washington, Reed worked closely with Lawrence, the Fish and Wildlife law-enforcement chief, who was famous for always carrying a gun, even during meetings in Reed’s office. At Lawrence’s urging, Reed arranged for an FBI-trained undercover agent to go to Wyoming and impersonate a cowboy. “The guy was a westerner,” Reed recalls, “and he fit right in.” So much so that Herman Werner had no idea his new hired hand was a mole. The agent’s bunkmates told him that dozens of dead eagles lay in a heap nearby, but a federal judge refused to issue a search warrant, presumably because the evidence presented by the secret agent was hearsay.
At this point, however, conservationists caught a break. While Bart Rea and one of his Audubon colleagues were at the Casper airport, taking custody of yet another dead eagle, they noticed a man working on a helicopter in which they could see a shotgun and spent shells. Rea’s colleague took a snapshot. The man, perhaps aware that he had been photographed, apparently began to worry. “Somebody was going to get hung from a tree,” he later explained to a Senate subcommittee. “And they would have thrown the whole blame on me.” His anxiety mounted over the summer. One day at Interior headquarters in Washington, Reed’s secretary announced that a nervous man had just shown up, wanting very much to see him. Reed agreed to give him a few minutes. “I’m the man you’re looking for,” he said, and he began to cry. His name was James O. Vogan, he flew helicopters, and, fearing for his livelihood, he was willing to talk if granted immunity.
On August 1 Vogan went public, testifying over two days before a Senate subcommittee. Between the fall of 1970 and the spring of 1971, he explained, Buffalo Flying Service owner Doyle Vaughn had employed him to fly a chopper from which sharpshooters fired 12-gauge shotguns, bringing down more than 500 bald and golden eagles over Wyoming and Colorado. Vogan added that some eagles fell to earth still alive, so that on the ground “you’d better kick them . . . and have a gun to protect yourself.” Ranchers were paying a bounty of between $10 and $25 per bird, and Vogan confirmed that Werner was a major client.
Werner, who owned what was then the largest herd of sheep in Wyoming, was Van Irvine’s father-in-law. “I think that helps to reinforce how inbred the culture of eagle hatred was among sheep ranchers at the time,” says Rea. “These were systematic, orchestrated killings.” Vogan corroborated the pseudo ranch hand’s report by testifying that on Werner’s ranch he had seen a cache of 65 dead eagles, “piled high as a haystack.”
The story made The New York Times and The Washington Post, along with Time, Life, and Newsweek; CBS devoted a segment to it on Walter Cronkite’s nightly newscast; environmental writer Michael Frome referred to the bad guys as “The Wyoming Helicopter Monsters”; and Pat Oliphant drew topical cartoons. In the meantime, federal officials had been wrestling with a challenge: how to get the goods on Werner, who was not about to let outsiders inspect his land.
Enter the U.S. Air Force, which was interested, says Reed, in seeing whether its new military surveillance system was adaptable to domestic use. In an effort to pin down the number of grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem, an aircraft had recently flown over the park taking pictures. 
Unfortunately, the camera couldn’t distinguish grizzlies from other bears. But it occurred to Reed that a cache of dead eagles might be a less ambiguous target. The Air Force was willing, and the flights were made. Within days, Reed says, two brigadier generals came to his office with photographs and map coordinates. An infrared camera had captured a hot spot indicating a mass of decomposing bodies. “There are your eagles,” one of them said. This was enough, Reed recalls, to generate a search warrant. The day after Vogan finished testifying in Washington, federal agents came to Werner’s ranch, where they used a power shovel to uncover a pile of eagle carcasses, buried under the bones of other animals.
There was still a hitch. The U.S. attorney for Wyoming balked at bringing a case against the rancher because he was sure that Herman Werner would never be convicted by a Wyoming jury. Werner, like Vogan before him, made a surprise visit to Reed’s office. “He simply bolted in,” Reed remembers, “a wiry man wearing a Stetson hat. He said he was going to get me. I said quietly, ‘Before you get me, please tell me who you are.’ He said, ‘I am Herman Werner, the man who protects his sheep by killing eagles. And you don’t know anything about eagles.’” Reed refused to discuss the case with the rancher.
After returning to Wyoming, Werner began to feel the heat. One incident in particular captured the changing mood. The chimney of his house happened to be decorated with a pair of concrete eagles, and someone climbed up and draped black cloth over them. Still, the U.S. attorney refused to act, and Werner may have thought he could tough it out. Late in 1972 the publisher of the alternative newspaper High Country News complained about justice not being served as long as “the central figure in the whole matter, Herman Werner, jokingly (and smugly) walks the streets of Casper unprosecuted and unruffled.”
A few months later Werner’s luck ran out. Reed appealed personally to U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson, who ordered that the prosecution go forward. On August 6, 1973, a few months before the trial was to start, Werner died from injuries sustained in a two-car collision in Rawlins, Wyoming.
While the case against Werner was pending, a federal judge had fined Doyle Vaughn of the Buffalo Flying Service a paltry $500 after he pleaded guilty to 75 counts of killing eagles. Pilot James Vogan had received immunity from prosecution, but not from ill will. He complained of being unable to get work, and a former president of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association took a swing at him in the association’s magazine: “He is a prime candidate for the Liar of the Year Award.” Vogan sued for libel, asking for $1.2 million in actual damages and another $1 million in punitive damages. In 1974 a jury found for Vogan, awarding him $55,000, but the judge declared the amount excessive and directed Vogan to accept $10,000 or face a new trial. He held out for another trial but eventually settled for an undisclosed amount. Later, however, he seems to have reverted to his old ways. At the end of 1971, Congress had passed a law banning the shooting of any animal from an aircraft. Ten years later, the Casper Star-Tribune reported that Vogan’s son had pleaded guilty to a federal charge of shooting coyotes from a helicopter and that a warrant was out to arrest the elder Vogan for the same crime.
The 1970–71 events in Wyoming and Washington essentially brought an end to the purposeful killing of eagles. Careless killings declined, too, after the Nixon administration banned the use of DDT and restricted the use of predacides (chemical compounds that kill predators), including thallium sulfate.

Upcoming Community Events


Training Session for Bird Tales

March 7, Sheridan, WY | 6:30-8pm       
Engaging people with dementia through the natural world of birds.  Learn about Bird Tales, a therapeutic program for people with dementia, developed by Ken Elkins & Randy Griffin. 

More details


Wyoming Bee College

March 19-20, Cheyenne, WY        
The Wyoming Bee College is open to everyone interested in the health, welfare and conservation of pollinator insects.  

Registration & more details   

Plight of the Grassland Bird

March 31, Fort Collins Museum of Discovery     
Join host Will Lange as he follows the migratory path of these birds across the Americas to explore why these species are declining faster than any other group of birds, and what’s being done to reverse the trend.

Registration & more details    



June 10-12, Belvoir Ranch - Cheyenne, WY  

Audubon Rockies hosted the first BioBlitz in 2009.  Since then more than 700 people have attended this amazing event, and we have added to additional partners to help us out.  The BioBlitz is a  24-hour event in which teams of scientists, teachers, volunteers, environmental educators, and community members join forces to find, identify, and learn about as many local plant, insect and animal species as possible. More details coming soon!

This month we would like to acknowledge valued sponsors and partners




Through science, education, policy, and on-the-ground conservation, we protect birds and their habitat in Wyoming and Colorado. Where birds thrive, people prosper.

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