2021 Cheyenne Big Day Bird Count

The 2021 Cheyenne Big Day Bird Count was held May 15. Early morning fog at Lions Park obscured the views of birds. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Published June 4, 2021, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “2021 Big Day brings in birds and birders”

By Barb Gorges

            It’s a chicken or the egg conundrum. Which comes first, lots of birds or lots of birders?

            It’s true that the more birders there are out looking, the more birds are seen. But the way to get more birders out to look for them is for there to be more bird reports coming in. That piques interest and more birders go out looking instead of doing mundane household chores.

            Mark, my husband, was out nearly every morning the first two weeks in May to one of several of his favorite hotspots: Wyoming Hereford Ranch, Lions Park (both are Wyoming Important Bird Areas), Laramie County Community College (the pond areas) or F.E. Warren Air Force Base (ponds there too).

            When he came home, he’d give me a report on what interesting migrants he’d seen and show me photos he’d taken before adding them to the checklists of birds he’d seen and entered through the eBird.org phone app. He’d tell me too, who else he’d met, mostly birding friends, but sometimes visitors.

            In the evening he liked to check eBird to see what sightings local birders had entered for the day. And he’d check birdcast.info to see if birds were going to be making a strong migratory push through our area overnight—and coming to earth here to rest and refuel in the morning.

            Every year, for 60-plus years, the Cheyenne – High Plains Audubon Society designates a date for its Big Day Bird Count and hopes to hit the biggest migratory push. It’s usually the third Saturday in May. Sometimes we’ve had icy storms and wonder if we should pick a later date. Sometimes eBird reports show that there just isn’t a peak to the migration. We wonder too if climate change means we should move it up a week.

            This year we had a good lead-up that encouraged more people to be out on our Big Day, May 15. We had a couple of sharper than average birders joining us too, Nathan Pieplow, author of the “Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Western North America,” and his friend, Will Anderson.

Nathan signed books the evening before. It was going to be an outdoor event but thank goodness the Hales family lent us one of the WHR barns as backup since a good gully washer blew in.

            Saturday morning was chilly and foggy, but the birds and birders were out. We weren’t all in one big group, but we would get the scoop on cool birds from each other when we met up.

            The next day, Mark started compiling the list of birds, looking at checklists on eBird for sightings in the Cheyenne vicinity.

            At least 30 people submitted, or were included on, 74 checklists. I submitted a couple just for our bird feeders when we took a break at home.

            It was one of the best Big Days in Cheyenne in a while: 136 species. And the warbler count was very good: 12 species.

            Sunday, there were still a lot of migratory birds in town including 50 pine siskins under our thistle feeder for an hour.

            But the show was over by Monday—both out in the field and at our now deserted feeder.

            This year, migration seems to have peaked on the Saturday we picked, making it like Christmas in May.   

May 16, 50-plus Pine Siskins and one American Goldfinch pick at thistle seed that spilled from the feeder overhead. While some birds attempt to use the dog’s water dish, there is a birdbath to the left, out of view. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Cheyenne Big Day Bird Count, May 15, 2021

Compiled from 74 (51 unique) eBird lists. At least 30 people participated.

136 Species

Snow Goose

Canada Goose

Wood Duck

Blue-winged Teal

Cinnamon Teal

Northern Shoveler

Gadwall

Mallard

Northern Pintail

Green-winged Teal

Redhead

Lesser Scaup

Bufflehead

Ruddy Duck

Pied-billed Grebe

Horned Grebe

Eared Grebe

Western Grebe

Rock Pigeon

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Mourning Dove

American Coot

Black-necked Stilt

American Avocet

Semipalmated Plover

Killdeer

Marbled Godwit

Least Sandpiper

Long-billed Dowitcher

Wilson’s Phalarope

Red-necked Phalarope

Spotted Sandpiper

Willet

Ring-billed Gull

California Gull

Double-crested Cormorant

American White Pelican

Great Blue Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron

White-faced Ibis

Turkey Vulture

Northern Harrier

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Great-horned Owl

Burrowing Owl

Belted Kingfisher

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

American Kestrel

Peregrine Falcon

Western Wood-Pewee

Willow Flycatcher

Least Flycatcher

Gray Flycatcher

Dusky Flycatcher

Say’s Phoebe

Cassin’s Kingbird

Western Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

Plumbeous Vireo

Warbling Vireo

Loggerhead Shrike

Blue Jay

Black-billed Magpie

American Crow

Common Raven

Mountain Chickadee

Horned Lark

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Tree Swallow

Violet-green Swallow

Bank Swallow

Barn Swallow

Cliff Swallow

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Rock Wren

House Wren

European Starling

Gray Catbird

Brown Thrasher

Northern Mockingbird

Townsend’s Solitaire

Veery

Swainson’s Thrush

Hermit Thrush

American Robin

House Sparrow

House Finch

Pine Siskin

Lesser Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinches like thistle seed (treated to not sprout). Photo by Mark Gorges.

Chipping Sparrow

Clay-colored Sparrow

Brewer’s Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Green-tailed Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Western Meadowlark

Orchard Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

Bullock’s Orioles like orange pulp. Photo by Mark Gorges.

Red-winged Blackbird

Brown-headed Cowbird

Brewer’s Blackbird

Common Grackle

Great-tailed Grackle

Northern Waterthrush

Common Yellowthroat

Orange-crowned Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Virginia’s Warbler

MacGillivray’s Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Blackpoll Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Townsend’s Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

Western Tanager

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

Lazuli Bunting

Indigo Bunting

Lazuli Buntings are seed eaters. Photo by Mark Gorges.

One thought on “2021 Cheyenne Big Day Bird Count

  1. Pingback: Cheyenne-High Plains Audubon Society

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