Field Notes

Munger Mountain is resplendent in fall gold, as the season settles in for good.

Though Bert Raynes’ Far Afield column has been temporarily suspended, bird and wildlife watchers are still calling and emailing in with their sightings. — Eds.

Migration is on, as evidenced by observations this week.

Since April, Teton Raptor Center’s enthusiastic volunteers have monitored 70 osprey platforms and nests, often going out every week to observe the birds, noting their behaviors, nesting attempts, failures and successes. So far, we have counted 11 successful osprey fledglings. These important data are collected each year as part of a longterm study to monitor osprey productivity, informing us of changes over time so that we can help conserve osprey in the Jackson Hole valley and beyond.

Beverly Boynton saw a black rosy finch flitting around at 11,400 feet off Doubletop Peak in the Gros Ventre. A couple hundred feet lower, there were a number of butterflies flying on the ridgeline. It was windy enough that Bev had to brace herself. The butterflies would head into the wind about 10 feet up, then drop down to maybe one foot high, and fly nicely in multi-directions. Topographical flying. But why were they up so high? To get on the other side?

Susan Marsh is still having Wilson’s warblers and ruby-crowned kinglets hitting the aspens for aphid feasts. Evening grosbeaks in a juvie group come by every couple of days. Young nuthatches are getting the hang of picking peanut butter off the feeder. And a big flock of Brewer’s blackbirds spent a few days in her area. East of the National Elk Refuge on Thursday, Susan found a sharp-shinned hawk, otherwise wind kept the birds down. A coyote crossed the inside refuge road on the way home.

Many bluebirds gathered on the Kelly Road, as observed by Bette Caesar.

Two belted kingfishers, flying and chattering, were spotted by Kay Modi in the Snake River floodplain, south of Hoback Junction around a group of cottonwood trees, in the Snake River Sporting Club area.

‘Tis the season to gather!

Friday morning, Franz Camenzind witnessed a multi-species cavorting along Flat Creek. It began with three red-naped sapsuckers scrambling around the thick branches of Franz’s creekside golden willow. They seemed playful — siblings? Then a splashing along the shallows of a gravel bar beyond the willow caught his eye. At least 10 or 12 American robins were indulging in a very vigorous group bathing session. It seemed that the commotion was enough to attract three gray-headed juncos, several black-capped chickadees, a couple song sparrows, several pine siskins and one very curious gray catbird. The last in particular seemed very intrigued by all the commotion. When the robins left for the willows and a thorough shaking and grooming, the other voyeurs dispersed. Only the robins seemed in need of a morning bathing. Interesting avian gathering.

Franz has seven Canada geese routinely doing lawn grooming and fertilizing. A family of five mallards are frequent visitors to his stretch of the creek. And one Clark’s nutcracker was on the gravel bar getting its fill of water the other mid-day.

When returning from an “eye candy” drive in the Snake River canyon, Franz saw two cabals of American crows: one in the Prichard Landing parking area and the other a block east of the late Kmart lot. At least 50 to 60 in each group. And, last, while walking along the trail to Big Kahuna, Franz spotted a great gathering of another sort — land snails. He counted at least 30, but couldn’t get a good count because they were moving too fast!

Not too much going on at Dennis and Marian Butcher’s feeders in South Park, but a dozen or more white-crowned sparrows hanging around in the back yard. It seemed we saw fewer than usual of them this summer. And, today, Sunday, very unusual for their back yard: five Wilson’s warblers, Dennis reports.

A couple of lost hummingbird travelers were spotted taking a bath in the water dripper at Bert Raynes yard, Caroline McPhee reported.

While in Teton Valley, Idaho, Susan Patla says it “feels like fall is here.” Sandhill crane numbers are decreasing in Teton Valley, but there were still many small groups flying and calling Saturday near South Bates Bridge. This weather front brought in many ruby-crowned kinglets and yellow-rumped warblers. Susan saw ”butter butts” all over the west side of the valley today, feeding along roads and in agricultural fields. Other warblers Susan found Friday included Wilson’s, orange-crowned and a Townsend’s, all foraging in aspens along with the kinglets. Raptors of note the last two days included many red-tailed hawks and American kestrels foraging in agricultural fields, a few ferruginous hawks, a merlin, an immature peregrine, some juvenile northern harriers and one last Swainson’s hawk. Still a few mountain bluebirds in the valley, and one lone yellow-headed blackbird foraging in a huge flock of Brewer’s blackbirds and European starlings. A murder of 75 crows was seen near her home on Sept. 25. Perhaps a better name would be a jabber of crows?

Lee and Mary Cutler report a McGillivray’s warbler in Skyline on Sept. 22.

With fall color really coming on, the shrubs that line the side of Wes and Shirley Timmerman’s house in South Park, must look like store fronts on Main Street to the least flycatchers, Cassin’s vireos and numerous white-crowned sparrows that hastily shop for the offerings in red-stemmed dogwood, mountain ash, cotoneaster and honeysuckle frameworks. A red-naped sapsucker was heard. A red-tailed hawk glided through the yard very low, and without a wingbeat, as Wes was pruning in the yard. Around mid-week, kinglets were browsing the hawthorn leaves as robins, in good numbers, were and still are taking advantage of the hawthorn fruit. A large flock (at least 100) os common grackle grazed the lawn this Sunday morning.

The local magpie clan has returned to the Buffalo Valley neighborhood of Deb Patla after a few weeks’ absence, similar to the pattern of other years. Where do they go on their vacation?

On a hike in the southern Jed Smith Wilderness, Deb saw a turkey vulture, a prairie falcon, a Northern harrier and a variety of songbirds, including ruby-crowned kinglets, yellow-rumped warblers, robins, pine grosbeak and Townsend’s solitaire.

On Friday, Frances Clark and Bernie McHugh witnessed a huge flock of over 100 crows feeding on both sides of Mormon Row in the dry fields and road edges — grasshoppers were their likely victims. Over 150 bison loafed and fed nearby, unperturbed.

Jena Quackenbush, Franz Camenzind and Wally Ulrich all report the presence of skunks.

Aspen clones on the hills east and south of the valley and towering cottonwoods along the Snake River floodplain glow from yellow to orange. Shrubs are displaying deep maroons, oranges, yellows and purples along streams and up canyons: Huckleberries, mountain ash, false huckleberry, chokecherry, thimbleberry and red-stemmed dogwood stand out. Check out the Teton Plants blog for pictures and descriptions: TetonPlants.org/2020/09/26/shrubs-in-fall-fruits-and-color-lots/.

Animal youngsters of the year are crossing the roadways for the first time. Don’t make it their last.

Got sightings? Email them to columnists@jhnewsandguide.com.

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