Published October 31, 2002, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “Local park receives IBA designation.”
2014 Update: The Cheyenne-High Plains Audubon Society members continue to monitor both the Lions Park and Wyoming Hereford Ranch IBAs. Alison Lyon Holloran is now executive director of Audubon Rockies (Colorado and Wyoming). Check this link for more about Wyoming Important Bird Areas: http://rockies.audubon.org/wyoming-ibas.
By Barb Gorges
Lions Park is finally an official state Important Bird Area. Those of us who start our annual spring bird count there thought it deserved recognition as soon as we heard the definition of an IBA.
However, it was not easy to convince the technical review committee.
The idea of identifying places important to birds, publicly or privately owned, was started in Europe in the mid-1980s by Birdlife International. The National Audubon Society translated it for the U.S. in 1995.
Audubon Wyoming began soliciting for nominations a few years later and hired an IBA director, Alison Lyon, in 2001 with help from Partners in Flight and other grantors.
Alison, who earned her Master’s at the University of Wyoming studying sage grouse, is developing a program that can directly improve the welfare of birds in Wyoming.
When Alison asked Cheyenne – High Plains Audubon Society members if we had a site to nominate, we immediately thought of Lions Park.
Art Anderson, chapter president and retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, took charge of the nomination, setting up a meeting in the spring of 2001 with Dave Romero, head of the park and recreation department, now retired.
Dave and his staff were very enthusiastic about the nomination and provided maps. IBA designations can be touted in civic and tourism advertising and funding may be available for conservation improvements. There is no regulatory component.
An IBA must meet at least one of four criteria and Lions Park meets numbers one, two and four.
The first criterion includes importance for a species of concern in Wyoming, which in this case would be the western grebe that nests at the lake.
The second criterion, a site important to species of high conservation priority, is met by several of the species on that list that have been seen at the park.
The fourth is the park’s strongest suit: a site where significant numbers of birds concentrate for breeding, during migration or in the winter.
Lions Park has a reputation during spring migration for diversity and numbers of birds. I once recorded 60 species in two hours. Migration was also Gloria Lawrence’s arguing point in getting the nomination accepted.
Gloria and her husband Jim drive down from Casper every spring to join our chapter in birding the park. She is one of the seven members of the Wyoming IBA technical review group made up of a cross-section of our state’s ornithological experts.
The members are Stan Anderson, University of Wyoming, Laramie; Tim Byer, Thunder Basin National Grasslands, Douglas; Andrea Cerovski, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Lander; John Dahlke, consultant and raptor expert, Pinedale; the Lawrences, Murie Audubon Society, Casper; and Terry McEneaney, Yellowstone National Park.
The nomination originally included all Cheyenne’s city parks and the Greenway. However, some technical review group members argued that a city park’s intense human use couldn’t possibly be compatible with bird use. Maybe, they suggested, Lions Park is more important to bird watchers than to birds.
In reality, the parks are microcosms of the city. Cheyenne is an oasis for migrating birds that funnel along the Front Range.
While Lions Park has gotten a close inspection every year for one day mid-May, turning up all sorts of warblers thought to be unusual for this area, undoubtedly these same warblers can be found in any neighborhood with large trees and many bushes. That was true this spring when a chestnut-sided warbler visited my backyard and a magnolia warbler visited the neighbors’.
Lions Park does have one characteristic that our backyards don’t have—a lake. So in addition to neotropical migrants like warblers, it gets a variety of shorebirds and waterbirds.
Funding from Partners in Flight, passed through Audubon Wyoming, has become available to our local Audubon chapter for monitoring work.
Many of the previous records are from Christmas Bird Counts and spring Big Day Counts which lump observations from around the city.
Now the chapter needs to plan for making more detailed surveys, training volunteers in survey protocol and compiling databases useful to science. Then we can figure out what conservation projects might be of benefit to both birds and the park.
While Lions Park will never achieve global IBA status like Yellowstone National Park may, the information we collect at least gives us more understanding about where we live.