Though Bert Raynes’ Far Afield column has been temporarily suspended, bird and wildlife watchers are still calling and emailing in with their sightings. — Eds.
It’s an all-bird report this week from The Aspens: An osprey was sitting in a tree right off Pamela Periconi’s back deck last week. According to Pamela, its calls were incredibly loud, and seeing it close up made its huge size more obvious than when viewing it in flight. Cedar waxwings, a hairy woodpecker, northern flickers, yellow warblers and Wilson’s warblers are all around the trees in her neighborhood. “So much bird activity and buzz right now,” she said.
Ron Gessler reports that this appears to be a banner year for what he thinks are pocket gophers. With all the apparent excavating and dirt piles, Ron expects his yard to collapse in upon itself anytime now. Hummingbird numbers appear to have dropped precipitously. Lots of siskin and evening grosbeak babies at the Hoback.
Birding at the South Park Wildlife Habitat Management Area on Friday morning, Bernie McHugh and a group of others found an assortment of waterfowl: gadwalls, shovelers, mallards, American widgeons and coots, a single male canvasback and a single female wood duck. The bird of the morning was definitely a great egret sitting in a tree. Bernie has a bunch of cedar waxwings in the Wilson neighborhood, gorging on the chokecherries.
Susan Marsh reports a small flock of sandhill cranes flew over town a few days ago, the first she has heard, that appeared to be migrating. Broad-tailed and calliope hummingbirds are still around, but only one each in the last week. Squirrels are gathering cones from tops of spruces. Susan was visited by a red-breasted nuthatch family with two young on Sept. 2; she heard flickers and evening grosbeaks and one little brown myotis (a bat) Friday evening.
This week there is still what appears to be a family of black-headed grosbeaks at Joan Lucas’ feeder, with at least three juveniles. She also saw a sphinx month sharing flowers with the hummingbirds. An extremely friendly young bull moose with only one paddle stopped by, too. And on Saturday morning, on top of West Gros Ventre Butte, a female harrier made off with a large vole.
Dennis and Marian Butcher noted on Aug. 31 an interesting pose by a hummingbird, splaying its tail feathers in the rain, they guess to take a bath. They are guessing it was a young or female calliope. On Saturday morning at the South Park Wildlife Management Area they found four great blue herons perched on a dead cottonwood limb and a fair number — six or more — of what Dennis believes are young cedar waxwings. The birds were nondescript, with lightly streaked breasts but fairly bright yellow terminal tail bands. They were snatching bugs from the air, returning to the same perch.
Susan Patla agrees that pocket gophers have had a banner year. Her yard has been overturned. Susan reports that this week saw a real shift, with most hummingbirds gone from the Packsaddle neighborhood. No black-headed grosbeaks, but flocks of migrants showing up, including: American robin, juveniles with all different levels of spotting; adult and immature dark-eyed juncos; chipping sparrows; green-tailed towhees; white-crowned sparrows; and yellow-rumped warblers in a diverse array of plumage. Pine siskins and red-breasted nuthatches are still very vocal and active in family groups. This is the first week since June that Susan did not hear a western wood pewee by Packsaddle Creek.
On an always interesting bike ride from town to Teton Village, Kay Modi found a lazuli bunting near the village in the grass and bushy areas (beautiful blue color), an osprey carrying a fish and looking for a post without a plastic owl guard, and a large red-tailed hawk circling repeatedly over a huge gathering of Canada geese in a ranch area. Kay’s son, biking up the Phillips Ridge Trail, saw two bald eagles flying around at eye level.
Yard bird notes from Wes and Shirley Timmerman: “This week we saw a dramatic reduction of hummingbird numbers. We are now down to two rufous — one female and one juvenile. Increasing numbers of migrating robins and blackbirds are stopping by to graze the lawn for invertebrates. Robins and cedar waxwings are searching the hawthorn bushes for plentiful and ripening fruit. One yellow warbler and one white-breasted nuthatch work the still-green aspen, caragana and arctic willow leaves by day, while a juvenile great-horned owl screeches most nights. A magpie family is spending more time close by. Canada geese fly overhead in the evenings and mornings, as they come and go from a staging ground on ranch land just north of us. Except for a spell of smoke, it has been a beautiful summer in South Park.
General agreement that fall cannot be far. If you are out and about and become surrounded by migrating animals or birds, take a moment to admire. Winter is in the wings.