Wyoming: Spring 2017

Spring 2017: 1 Mar–31 May

Matthew Fraker

Recommended citation:

Fraker, M. 2021. Spring 2017: Wyoming. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-9QI> North American Birds.

March 2017 in Wyoming was the fourth warmest in 123 years while April and May’s temps were near the normal 123 year average. Precipitation in March was above normal, in April was much above normal, and then returned to near normal in May. All 10 of Wyoming’s climate divisions stood at zero drought conditions.


Laurel Armstrong, Janice Backstrom (JB), Jason Beason (JBe), Nathaniel Behl, Elizabeth Boehm, Rebecca Bracken, Thomas Brantley, Kurt Countryman, Kendra David, Claylene Fitz, Ted Floyd, Braden Godwin (BG), Barb Gorges (BGo), Mark Gorges, Bob Hargis, Aaron Holschbach, Zach Hutchinson, Kyle Kittelberger, Tom Koerner, Alex Lamoreaux, Jazmyn McDonald, Libby Megna, Kayla Michal, Robert Miller, Del Nelson, Julie Polasik, Cody Porter, Sarah Ramirez, Kenneth Stinchcomb, Wyoming Bird Records Committee, Howard Weinberg, Jason Whitmore, Sandy Winkler.


YNP (Yellowstone National Park); EKW S.P. =  Edna Kimball Wilkins State Park; WHR (Wyoming Hereford Ranch); WHMA (Wildlife Habitat Management Area).

Providing Wyoming’s eighth seasonal report for spring, and only the second to stay longer than a day, was a single Greater White-fronted Goose that lingered unusually west near Jackson, Teton from 3 Apr until the rather late date of 8 May (SR). Wood Ducks, considered rare in SW Wyoming, continue to prove annual in Seedskadee NWR, Sweetwater for the fifth spring in a row with two found there on 16 May (TK), while a single found in the Green River area, Sweetwater, on 15 Mar (KS ph.) was an exceedingly rare report for that area. A Cinnamon Teal photographed at Slate Creek Campground, Lincoln 10 Mar (KS) provided Wyoming with a record early date by three days. Wyoming’s Greater Scaup spring passage was more subdued than in recent years with up to only nine birds being reported from three different counties, including one that stayed at Hutton Lake NWR, Albany until 15 May (CP, NB), a month that they are rarely reported in the state. Wyoming’s second seasonal report of Black Scoter and about 14th ever was of a bird that frequented St. Stephens, Fremont from 29 Apr–23 May (m.obs). Rare but annual in the SE Wyoming Laramie Plains Lakes complex over the last several years was a single first-year male Barrow’s Goldeneye at Lake Hattie Reservoir, Albany 1 Mar (NB). Infrequently reported in spring from Wyoming and usually as singles and/or pairs, a tally of 19 Hooded Mergansers at Seedskadee NWR, Sweetwater 16 Mar (TK) made for an unusually large gathering.

Easily setting a record Horned Grebe high count/eBird count for Wyoming was a carefully estimated 100 birds at Boysen Reservoir, Fremont 3 May (JM). Wyoming’s seventh spring record of Red-necked Grebe was of a photographed bird at Colter Bay, Teton on 23 May (AH). Providing a record early date for Wyoming by three days was a Clark’s Grebe photographed at Flaming Gorge NRA, Sweetwater 30 Mar (KS).

Maybe not a “Braggin’ Rights” record but a record Wyoming eBird tally none the less was an estimated total of 400 Rock Pigeons over the Killdeer Wetlands in Green River, Sweetwater 23 Mar (KS). For four out of the last six springs, White-winged Doves have made it to Wyoming, this year with two singles, one for the third year in a row in a yard in Rock Springs, Sweetwater 15–17 Apr (KS) and one at EKW S.P., Natrona 23 May (ZH).

Record early for Wyoming by 20 days was a well-seen/described Common Poorwill just north of Pathfinder Reservoir, Natrona 12 Apr (ZH). Of three Black-chinned Hummingbirds reported for spring in Wyoming, one was in the SW where expected, while one was on Fish Creek Road, Teton 30 May (KM), and another was at WHR, Laramie 13 May (TF) where unexpected. A well-described Broad-tailed Hummingbird seen 23 Apr near Laramie, Albany (BG) was record early for the state by one day. For the second year in a row, a Virginia Rail was found very early near Pinedale, Sublette on 1 Apr (EB) suggesting a possible overwintering location. For a season that typically sees counts of migrating Sandhill Cranes no higher than 100, this spring in Wyoming saw two exceptional counts in Goshen with an estimated 1000 being present at Table Mt. WHMA 18 Mar–3 Apr (BGo, MGo, KS) and an estimated 1200 passing over Torrington 6 Apr (CF). An American Avocet photographed at Scotts Bottom Nature Area near Green River, Sweetwater on 19 Mar (KS) was record early for Wyoming by five days. Rare but expected annually in spring, Wyoming had two Whimbrel reports this season with one photographed east of Cheyenne, Laramie 2 May (JB) and two at Ocean Lake, Fremont 13 May (BH) where extremely rare. Record early for Wyoming by 12 days was a flyover Long-billed Curlew north of Bear River Uinta 22 Mar (JW) while an Intermountain Bird Observatory breeding/nesting survey set a record high eBird count for Wyoming with 102 tallied in the vicinity of 354 Pond, Sublette 7 May (RB).

Lesser Black-backed Gulls, now expected annually in spring in Wyoming, had a record season with seven and maybe up to nine total birds being reported statewide (m.obs.) adding to about 43 total reports for the state, with around 13 of those reports having been from previous springs. Black Terns had a better spring passage than 2016’s dismal single bird season but it was still disturbingly skinny with only five reports of six birds statewide (m.obs). It was a big spring for Great Egrets in Wyoming with eight reports involving eight birds, adding to about 40 previous spring reports and about 63 statewide (m.obs.). The Wyoming spring Snowy Egret passage was again nicely widespread as it was in 2016, with nine birds being reported from five counties outside of their Uinta stronghold which had five reports of at least seven birds (m.obs.). Wyoming’s third ever—second for spring—Tricolored Heron was photographed at Goldeneye Reservoir, Natrona 20 May (DN, ZH, JP). Continuing a trend over the last few years, Black-crowned Night-Herons may have had their worst spring on recent record in Wyoming with eBird reporting only 42 total birds, compared to 165 in 2015 and 122 in 2016 (eBird data). It was a big spring for Glossy Ibis in Wyoming with four reports of three to four birds adding to eight previous spring reports and 11 total reports statewide. All birds were photographed: Gelatt Lake, Albany 15 Apr (NB) which represents the earliest spring report; possibly the same bird or another at Hutton lake NWR, Albany 18 Apr (KS); Milford, Fremont 6 May (JM); and Bump Sullivan WHMA, Goshen 13 May (LM).

A count of 35 Golden Eagles along the Green River within the Seedskadee NWR, Sweetwater 2 Mar (KS) set a record high eBird count for Wyoming. For the second spring in a row, Wyoming’s Broad-winged Hawk migration was exceptional with about 24 reports from nine counties involving around 28 birds (m.obs) with the one non-eastern half of the state report coming from Park with a photographed dark morph bird there on 28 April (HW) providing the county with its sixth record, three of those coming in the last four years. A well-documented report of five Rough-legged Hawks northwest of Daniel, Sublette 7 May (RB) provided a very late report of this species in Wyoming. Widely distributed but ghostlike in their lack of seasonal reports for Wyoming, four Barn Owls were reported in two reports with one being two birds reported from Campbell 23 May (WBRC) and the other report being a breeding pair photographed near Pavilion, Fremont 27 May (DN, JM).

A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker photographed at Alcova Reservoir, Natrona 17 Mar (KD) added to only a handful of sightings for Wyoming. An Eastern Phoebe heard near Lander, Fremont 30 Apr (JM) was the second farthest west this species has been reported in WY. A Say’s Phoebe  reported from east of Cheyenne, Laramie 17 Mar (TB) set a record early arrival date for Wyoming by two days. Five Bank Swallows reported at Hutton Lake NWR, Albany on 15 Apr (NB) were record early for Wyoming by two days. Seven Cliff Swallows seen on 9 Apr at Luckey Pond, Fremont (JM) were record early for Wyoming by nine days.

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet reported at Glenrock Cemetery, Converse 24 Mar (JBe) was record early for Wyoming by two days. A Bewick’s Wren photographed at 14 Mile Reservoir, Sweetwater 25 Mar (KS) was record early for Wyoming by 27 days. A Brown Thrasher photographed 26 Mar in Casper, Natrona (KD) provided a very rare March report for Wyoming. A Sage Thrasher photographed at Seedskadee NWR, Sweetwater 10 Mar (KS) was record early for Wyoming by five days. Wyoming’s spring Eastern Bluebird reports were few with just four birds reported from three locations, all in the SE where now expected (m.obs.). A Sprague’s Pipit photographed near Lake De Smet, Johnson 28 Apr (AL) provided only about the ninth non-“historical” report for Wyoming and the first spring report since 1982.

After several decent springs in Wyoming, this spring saw only two reports of Common Redpolls totaling seven birds. Adding to only about nine total spring reports from the state, there were two reports of Field Sparrows involving three birds in Crook, with a single 25 May and two birds seen and heard on 31 May (both KK). Although Fox Sparrows have traditionally been very rarely reported from Wyoming in spring, the last several years have shown that they are present and expected in the NW portion of the state after mid-April (m.obs.). One report of eight near Alpine, Lincoln 9 May (RM) set a record high eBird count for the state. The one outlier report involved two males singing in the Medicine Bow N.F., Carbon 12 May (NB, CP). The Wyoming spring Harris’s Sparrow movement was very typical with four reports involving five birds spanning 14 Apr–7 May (m.obs.) Rarely found in Wyoming in spring, there were three reports of single White-throated Sparrows spanning 6–13 May (m.obs.)

Adding to 18 spring reports and 37 statewide for Wyoming were two photographed Baltimore Orioles, one at a residence in Riverton, Fremont 18 May (BH), and the other at a residence in Crook 19–29 May (KC). A Great-tailed Grackle photographed at Warren AFB, Laramie 2 Mar (MG) tied Wyoming’s record early date while five other March reports involving at least 20 birds (m.obs) showed that this continually increasing population is now expected in March.

A Northern Waterthrush found on 6 May in Laramie, Albany (CP, NB) was record early for Wyoming by one day. Three different Orange-crowned Warbler reports in Wyoming on 19 Apr all set record early arrival dates by two days for the state: EKW S.P., Natrona (JBe); Laramie, Albany (CP, NB, LM); and WHR, Laramie (MG). An American Redstart found in Laramie, Albany on 19 Apr (CP, NB) was record early by 11 days. A Western Tanager convincingly reported from the Pebble Creek Campground, YNP, Park 21 Apr (SW) was record early for Wyoming by 10 days. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks had their most subdued year in the last five years in Wyoming with only five reports involving six birds (m.obs.). Rare but regular in spring, Wyoming hosted two Indigo Buntings with one in Laramie, Albany 17–22 May (LA) and another in Cheyenne, Laramie, 23 May (BGo).

Report processed by Eric DeFonso, 10 Feb 2021.