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Big Bluestem Flyer

Newsletter of the Big Bluestem Audubon Society

Volume 43, Number 2 November-December 2007

Programs Field Trips

November 15, 2007 November 3, 2007
Thursday, 7:30 pm Bauer Slough and Gordon’s Marsh
Extension & 4-H Building, I S U, Ames (Hamilton Co.)
Twenty-five Years of Red-Shouldered Meet at 8:00 a.m. in the public parking lot west of
Hawk Nesting Success (behind) the Ames Wild Birds Unlimited, located
south of the railroad tracks at 213 Duff Ave. Please
Along the Mississippi River arrive before the departure time to arrange
Jon Stravers carpooling. Contact Jeff Nichols (515-795-4176,
Jon will describe his observations of Red-shouldered or for more
Hawk nesting success and additional information on a information.
new population of Cerulean Warblers. Included will be
updates on Audubon's Mississippi River Initiative and Christmas Bird Counts
birds of interest that currently nest and migrate along More information inside on page 3
the Mississippi River. (See a brief bio of Jon on page 5.) December 15, 2006 Saturday
Dinner: India Palace, 120 Hayward Avenue, Ames Ames Christmas Bird Count.
Contact Leader: Shane/Katy Patterson:
December 13, 2007 232-4682.
“BBAS Holiday for the Birds E-mail:
and BBAS Member Picture Show” December 16, 2006 Sunday
(Note these changes from our usual meetings Saylorville Christmas Bird Count.
Time: 7 pm Second Tuesday of the month Contact Leader: Steve Dinsmore: 233-2796.
Place: Story County Conservation Building,
McFarland Park)
Bring:(1) bird feed for the park (cash January 5, 2007 Saturday
accepted); (2) a modest number of slides or Boone Christmas Bird Count.
electronic media pictures to share of your Note: Date is subject to change if Iowa
year’s activities, (3) party treats! Extra goodies political caucuses are held that day.
will be used at the dinner after the Ames Contact Leader: Mark Widrlechner: 233-1532.
Christmas Bird Count, and (4) please bring one E-mail:
non-perishable food item to be forwarded to
Mark your calendars! The winter meeting of the
the MICA food panty for distribution to area Iowa Prairie Network central region has been
residents less fortunate than ourselves. scheduled for January 26, 2008 at the conference
center at DMACC. The program and other details
are in the works.
Page 2 Page 5
Officers and Committees Two Towhees
President’s Corner Jon Stravers
Page 3 Page 6
Have You Read? Backyard Habitat Tour
Teacher Treasure Collections Bird Name Puzzles
Page 4 Page 7
Christmas Bird Counts New Members
Boone County Classes Membership Form
Nature Magazines Coupons
Page 8
Photo Quiz
President’s Corner
Leaves are falling so fast this autumn that it seems they are forgetting to color up! On the other hand,
it’s making it easier to spot all those birds moving around in preparation for the winter to come.
Each day I find it fascinating to see which groups of birds are on the move South and which are
coming down from the North to occupy the modified niches just vacated. Barn swallows and Eastern
Kingbirds have left and European Starlings, Blue Jays, and traveling Common Grackles are eating cold
ground bound insects. Chipping Sparrows are off to warmer climes and Dark-eyed Juncos are moving
into vacated haunts. Catbirds and Brown Thrashers have headed toward Margaritaville and berry
loving American Robins are seeking out maturing fall fruit to “chase down” rain soaked worms.
Winter seasonal movement makes me think too of a great time honored BBAS migration—over to the
Story County Conservation Center at McFarland Park – to celebrate the annual “Holiday for the
Birds and BBAS Member Picture Show.” This feast-- both the edible treats and visual snacks for the
eye—will begin at 7 pm on the SECOND THURSDAY night, December 13th. Mark your calendar now
and join in the fun! Those bringing favorite electronic media images or slides must exhibit self-control
and limit your presentation to a few minutes. Don’t forget seed/donation $$ for the SCCC birds and
maybe think “more healthy” and less “sweet” for the pot luck. Remember, all goodies remaining will go
to the Christmas bird counters, so, cook away!
On another note, I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank both Jon and Joyce
Bahrenfus for the excellent jobs they have done as Membership Chair (Jon) and Publications and
Electronic Media Co-chair (Joyce). Together they helped keep us organized and “in the know.” As Jon
and Joyce retire from their important positions, I am pleased to announce that Katy Patterson has
volunteered to become our new Membership Chair. Thanks to the efforts of these three BBAS leaders we
will continue to welcome new members to our group and support membership locally and nationally as
Jon and Joyce pass the reins on into Katy’s capable hands.

Finally, little eyes peering at me from all around and Dave Edwards’ monthly “Bird Quizzes” have
inspired me to ask you a few questions-- for fun-- and “a chance to win fabulous prizes from the top of my

Continued on next page

Big Bluestem Audubon Society
Officers and Committees
Officers Committee Chairs
President: Lynne Brookes 434-2028 Archivist: Hank Zaletel 382-427
Vice-President: Royce Bitzer 233-6741 Bird-a-thon Co-chairs: Karl and Carmen Jungbluth, 432-5057
Secretary: Shane Patterson 232-4682
Treasurer: Michael Meetz 382-2534, Conservation Chair: Bruce Ehresman 296-2995
Board Members
Mary Doud 515-795-4176, Education Chair: Amy Yoakum, 232-2516
Kelly Weichers 319-231-6999,
Larry Dau - 515-275-4963, Field Trip Chair: Jeff Nichols 795-4176
Tim Grotheer - 515-233-9873, Membership Chair: Katy Patterson 232-4682
Lloyd Crim - 515-5026, Program Chair: Royce Bitzer (See Officers)
Publicity Chair: Mary Doud (See Board Members)
Publications & Electronic Media Chair: David Edwards 292-3790
The mission of the Big Bluestem Audubon Society is to enjoy the
observation and study of birds and natural ecosystems, contribute
to their conservation and restoration, engage in educational BBAS Web Site:
activities to benefit humanity, and gain a broader understanding
and deeper appreciation of the world we live in.

2 Big Bluestem Flyer November-December 2007

What zips all around branches and trunks yelling an unconcerned “ack-ack, ack-ack” at us land bound
two-legs? Does grey, white and a maybe a touch of black help?
What teeny little guy from up in the branches will boldly come down fairly close to stare, wondering,
what the heck you are? He may even flash his lovely little yellow pate.
What small brownish bird foraging for seeds may look up and show you a patchy reminder of the snow
to come?
Which is the bird that may remind you of a House Sparrow on steroids that fell face forward into some
black ink, wiping clean only its pinkish beak?
Well! Come to our next BBAS meeting on Thursday, November 15th and find out the answers!
Lynne Brookes


There are many good books, nature guides, videos, websites, natural history museums to visit, etc.
relating to birds and other wildlife. We look forward to you sharing YOUR favorites with other BBAS
America’s Neighborhood Bats. Merlin D. Tuttle. 1988. ISBN 0-292-78148-2 University of Texas
Press, Austin, Texas.
For those who would like to do some follow-up reading related to Vera Blevens’ fall 2007 program on
bats, this is a great little paperback book packed with information and excellent color photography.
Included are chapters on the world of bats, misconceptions, living in harmony with bats—including both
how to attract bats to your yard and bat safe “eviction” practices, and a description of America’s most
common bats. Also included is a handy key for bat identification.
Wild Neighbors: The Humane Approach to Living with Wildlife. Hadidian, John, Guy R.
Hodge, and John W. Grandy. 1997. ISBN 1-55591-309-1 (The Humane Society of the United States)
Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing.
When cold weather hits, critters start moving around looking for warm
housing—maybe yours! This illustrated very readable and handy paperback
book presents background information on various animal “neighbors” then
provides “conflict resolution strategies” to make living near or with them
tolerable to both. Topics such as health issues and “relational “tactics are
covered. (Humans are supposed to be smarter, right?) The critters covered
range from woodpeckers to snakes and skunks to pocket gophers: 32 common
species in all. Enjoy and… good luck!
Lynne Brookes

Teacher “Treasure’ Collections

Our first load of teachers treasures was delivered to Sawyer Elementary (Ames) in September, and
what a load it was! Thank you all for thinking of the teachers and students, and collecting over the
summer months. Several teachers thanked me in the hallway as I made the delivery, and I was told that
much of it was put to use. We did, also, receive some feed back on items they no longer need at this time.
Unless new requests are made, please discontinue collection of: coffee cans, medicine/pill containers, egg
cartons, and paper board (like cereal boxes, etc.). Please limit your collection of plastic containers with
lids and paper tubing (both of these items must be clean, no milk containers, no paper on the tubing
Items still much in demand are: paper (clean and unused; white, colored, prints and stationary), yarn,
felt, ribbon, fabric, wood cut-outs, cotton balls, wrapping and tissue paper, colored pencils and other art
supplies, calendars (any year, with appropriate pictures for re-use such as nature scenes, landscapes,
people, animals, plants, etc.), and other craft supplies. All must be clean and in good condition. I will
continue to pick items up at our monthly meetings. Thanks again!
Mary Doud

November-December 2007 Big Bluestem Flyer 3

Christmas Bird Count Overview and Invitation
More than 50,000 observers participate each year in this international, all-day census of early-winter
bird populations. The results of their efforts are compiled into the longest running database in
ornithology, representing over a century of unbroken data on trends of early-winter bird populations
across the Americas. Simply put, the Christmas Bird Count, or "CBC", is citizen science in action.
From beginning birder to seasoned ornithologist, all are welcome to participate on any Christmas Bird
Count. Participants must do their counting within a designated 15-mile CBC circle on the given count
day. The inclusive dates of the Official Count period are always December 14th through January 5th of
each season. Historically, the Ames count is held the first Saturday of the period, December 15th this
year. The Saylorville count will be on the following Sunday the 16th. The Boone count is scheduled
for Saturday, January 5, unless Iowa political caucuses are held that day..
Count circles are divided into specific areas in which a group of 4 or more birders plan their method of
search. Experienced leaders are responsible for each area, and this is a good place for those unsure of
their skills to learn. Most but not all participants spend the whole day. Feeder counts are also made on
the same day in each count circle. At day’s end, participants meet for supper and share stories and bird
You may sign-up for a count at the November BBAS meeting or call the respective count leaders
indicated on the first page of this newsletter. Past participants will likely be contacted directly by the
count leaders. Participants 18 years of age and under can participate for free. All others are asked to pay
$5.00 to help Audubon cover CBC program costs (including database/web development costs, and the
publication of the CBC results summary).
David Edwards & National Audubon Society

Annual Boone County 4th Grade Outdoors Day at The Ledges

Big Bluestem members once again gave short sessions on birding to 4th grade classes from Boone
County during their annual Outdoors Field Day. Though the five classes scheduled for Tuesday, October
2 were canceled due to rain, Jon Bahrenfus and I worked with eight classes on Thursday. Using
questions, we showed them what they already know about many of 19 birds and then what they might
see in that part of the park. After an introduction to using binoculars, they spent the remaining 10 to 15
minutes looking for birds (and whatever else reached their 10-year-old fancies). The birds available are
always limited, but many classes saw low flying
Turkey Vultures. Other birds making brief
appearances were American Robin, White-breasted
Nuthatch, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-
rumped Warbler, and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. To
fill their time and add a little interest during bird
droughts, Jon positioned paper cut-outs on woods trees
earlier and asked the kids to find them with their
binoculars. There were only 25 minutes to spend on
birding in their schedule of seven activities. Note that
the binoculars were a gift from BBAS to Boone County
Conservation, and a very-much-appreciated component
of the experience.
David Edwards


Thanks to the donation of over one hundred nature magazines by BBAS members last winter and
spring, the residents of four local nursing homes got to see more of the out-of-doors wonders than they
may have otherwise. Thanks to each of you who contributed your past magazines for their pleasure.
Everyone who wants to can bring more to the meetings and I’ll be glad to distribute them where
they’ll be appreciated-- again. Recycling at its best!
Lynne Brookes

4 Big Bluestem Flyer November-December 2007

Two Towhee Species in an Ames Yard
On October 18th, 2006, a male Spotted Towhee visited our yard in northeast Ames. In addition to
consuming white millet seed, this colorful migrant scratched for supplementary food in natural mulch
along a row of shrubs. At least twice, a White-throated Sparrow raced in and tried to "steal" bits of food
that had been unearthed during the towhee's double-scratching bouts. These attempts were not
successful on the towhee's watch.
I initially was alone in my observations of this bird in the late morning. However, shortly after the
noon hour, the towhee returned to pose in a small apple tree near where he had foraged earlier. This
enabled my wife (Katy) to also get satisfactory views. After first making an appearance on the 18th, he
then returned two days later, briefly partaking in the same food and habitat. During his reappearance,
a female Eastern Towhee graced the yard for about 45 seconds, hopping through grassy habitat in front
of the feeders. Even though they were making use of the same surroundings, I noted no apparent
interaction between the two towhee representatives. For sure, seeing either of these towhees in our yard
would have been nice, but having extended looks at both within the same interval was especially
agreeable. To add to a photo log I had created for the Spotted Towhee, I quickly clicked a few
identifiable pictures of the Eastern Towhee before she headed out as well.
Attracting wildlife was a big part of why we landscaped and maintained our yard the way we did. A
combination of mature trees, dense shrubs, healthy ground layer (native grasses and mulched leaves),
plenty of millet, and no cats or dogs in the yard may have set the stage for sizeable gatherings of
migrant birds. For instance, on the second day the towhees stopped by, I counted 62 White-throated
Sparrows feeding at once in our backyard. This highlighted an eight-day stretch where we consistently
noted 30-60 white-throateds at a time during peak feeding hours. Moreover, because we distribute
millet directly on the ground – and don’t include any cracked corn – we seem to have lessened the House
Sparrow scourge. Sure, these feisty little beasts are still present, but they’re rarely in the massive
groups that commercial seed mixes often attract. I presume that you could achieve this sort of result in
other local yards.
Finally, as of the writing of this article (10/15/07), White-throated Sparrow numbers were again
climbing back up into the 25-35 range in our backyard, possibly setting the stage for bigger
concentrations in the approaching days. Perhaps another Spotted Towhee (a rare but regular migrant
through central Iowa) will make an appearance some day. Likewise, stay on the lookout in your own
neighborhood. A Spotted Towhee would make for a welcome addition to any birder’s yard list.
Shane S. Patterson

Our November Speaker—Jon Stravers

Jon Stravers has been tracking raptor migrations along the Upper Mississippi River 30 years and has
maintained nesting data on Red-shouldered hawks on the river for 25 consecutive years. Jon came to
Audubon in 1999 and has been instrumental in not only doing research on the river but providing
educational programs and field trips on the river aboard the “Audubon Ark and by small boats in the
Upper Mississippi River states. His current research is concentrating on the Mississippi River and the
Effigy Mounds-Yellow River Important Bird Area in Northeast Iowa, near his home. He is Field Trip
and Research Coordinator of Audubon’s Mississippi River Initiative.
Prior to coming to Audubon, Jon was the Director of the Midwest Raptor Research beginning in 1990
and also served as the Principal Investigator on inventory and monitoring of Ferruginous Hawks and
Golden Eagles in New Mexico as part of the Hawks Aloft program in 1998.
Jon received his B.A. in Science and Communications from Central College in Pella, Iowa in 1987 and
was an Adjunct instructor in Ornithology at William Penn College in Oskaloosa, Iowa from 1995-1997.
Jon is also a regular musician on the Mississippi River and has written and performed music about his
love for the river and for birds to thousands of people during his work for Audubon. He has released 4
CDs of original music with a variety of musicians using the name “Big Blue Sky.” Jon continues to
perform his music on regular cruises on board the Mississippi Explorer Excursion boats.

November-December 2007 Big Bluestem Flyer 5

BBAS’s First Backyard Habitat Tour Held in Summer 2007
On June 24, Big Bluestem Audubon Society (BBAS) hosted its first Backyard Habitat Tour. Several
BBAS members opened their yards for public viewing to share ideas about landscaping for wildlife.
These seven sites ranged from small urban yards to larger, rural acreages with habitats including native
perennial plantings, berries, fruit trees, shrubs, trees, timber, wetlands, and prairie. Most of the yards
also featured bird-feeding stations with various feeders and water sources. One unique attraction was a
set-up for Purple Martin nesting boxes, designed and built by Tim Grotheer. Another highlight was the
Meetz’s 40 acres wetland and prairie reconstruction. At the end of the day, participants shared a picnic
supper at the Lynne Brooks farm and enjoyed a tour of the barn and surrounding grounds. Reference
materials on landscaping for wildlife were available at the picnic.
We hope to hold future tours and would like to improve on the logistics and preparation of this event.
Please feel free to contact any board member with your comments and suggestions.
Thank you to the following members who offered their yards for the tour: Jon and Joyce Bahrenfus,
Royce Bitzer, Lynne Brooks and Derrick Grimmer, Mary Doud and Jeff Nichols, Dave and Jeanne
Edwards, Tim and Kris Grotheer, and Mike and Linda Meetz.
We would like to thank and recognize the following businesses and organizations for helping to
publicize this event and/or providing reference materials:
Ames Tribune, Nevada Journal, Ames Life & Times (Des Moines Register), Boone News Republican,
Iowa Native Plant Society, Iowa Prairie Network, Practical Farmers of Iowa,, Ames Public Library, Lowe Berry Garden Center, Wild Birds Unlimited (Ames), Holubs
Gardens and Green houses, Country Landscapes, Earl May Nursery and Garden Center (Ames and
Ankeny), Wheatsfield, Boone Public Library, HyVee (Boone and West Ames), Café Diem, Stomping
Grounds, Brueggers Bagels, Borders Book Store (Ames), Brekke‘s Town and Country Store, Orscheln
Farm and Home Supply, Northwest Greenhouse and Floral Inc. (Boone), Central Iowa Lawn and
Landscape, Dutch Oven Bakery (Ames and Boone), Ames Greenhouse and Floral, Jax Outdoor Gear,
ISU Alumni Hall, Mary Greeley West Clinic, Ames Middle School, Collegiate Presbyterian Church,
Unitarian Universalist Church, Memorial Union – ISU, Ames Nursery, Fareway (Boone), Story County
Mary Doud

Bird Name Puzzles

Each of these short phrases describes the name of a bird. For example, the answer to Highway
sprinter would be Roadrunner.

Drunken angler Party Game

Pale Robert Lunch time
Extended sidetrack Woodcutter’s spin
Sorrowing distaff relative Robert playing golf
Has a glass jaw Slow mover
Traveling rube Sycamore stoop
Party on a prairie Chinese Boat, Inc.

Newsletter Material Deadlines

Because we would like to have the newsletter to each member before the first day of its coverage, the
editor needs to have material at least two weeks before that. Hence the deadline for the next issue
will be the 17th of December.

6 Big Bluestem Flyer November-December 2007

Welcome New members Clip and Join
Ames Don’t forget gift memberships!
Maurice Klatt Sheila Lundt
Miriam Stevenson Membership Application forms
Heather Berglund New member of the National Audubon Society. You will
Blairsburg receive the Audubon magazine, the Big Bluestem Flyer,
Barb Randal membership card. — $20
Boone Please make your check payable to National Audubon
Dorothea Hendricks Society and include “Chapter Code H-57” on the check
David Woodward
Webster City OR
7-B Ranch Subscribe to the Big Bluestem Flyer for one year and
participate in some Big Bluestem Society Activities — $10
Restrictions are that you will not be a National Audubon Society
member or have voting privileges, and you cannot be an officer or
committee chair. Please make your check payable to Big Bluestem
Audubon Society.

Send your check and this coupon to

Katy Patterson, Membership Chair
201 E Oneil Dr, Ames, IA 50010

Name _______________________________________________
Address _____________________________________________
City_____________________ State____ ZIP_______________
Phone ________________ E-mail _______________________
Please do not use this form for renewals to the National Audubon Soc.

Present the coupons below at the time of your purchase and a donation
will be given to BBAS.

Brekke's Town & Country Store, Inc.

Donate $5 of Your Next Purchase to
Big Bluestem Audubon Society 1 1/2 miles east of I-35 on new U.S. 30 and 1/4 mile north

November 2007 December 2007 Hours: 8-6 M-F, 8-4 Sat. (515) 232-7906

Donate $5 from your Donate $5 from your Purchase Donation

purchase of purchase of Up tp $15 $1.50

5 5
$25 or more $25 or more $15 and over $3.00
$ Specially-priced $ Specially-priced $35 and over $5.00
merchandise merchandise Over $70 $7.50
BIRD excluded BIRD excluded
BUCK BUCK Brekke’s offers Big Bluestem Audubon Society a donation
Valid 9/1 - 9/30/07 Valid 10/1 - 10/31/07
when bird seed or other bird products are purchased.
Present this coupon with your purchase and a donation will be
given to BBAS.

213 Duff Ave Ames, IA 50010

(515) 956-3145 Offer good until December 31, 2007

November-December 2007 Big Bluestem Flyer 7

Non-Profit Org.
Big Bluestem Flyer U. S. Postage Paid
David C. Edwards, Editor Permit No. 131
Big Bluestem Audubon Society Ames, Iowa
PO Box 543
Ames, IA 50010-0543
We welcome new members!
If you have an “X”
after your name on
your mailing label,
this will be your last
issue of the Flyer
unless you renew.
November-December 2007 Printed on Recycled paper Vol 43 No.
Answers at the November BBAS Meeting, or look at our web site after the meeting.