Diane Hazen had visiting migrant hummingbirds this week, including two calliope, on Sept. 16.
After a summer hiatus, Eric K. Cole, senior wildlife biologist at the National Elk Refuge, reports five bighorn sheep have returned to the Miller Butte area on the National Elk Refuge.
On a trip to Yellowstone this past week, Bernie McHugh and Frances Clark noted the following highlights: cormorants were loafing in Indian Pond and also seen flying overhead another time. On Mount Washburn, just as the fog was burning off up high but still settled cold below, they witnessed over 40 Clark’s nutcrackers cruising over the remaining live white-bark pine trees, while several were gathering pine nuts and planting them on the open slopes. Several dozen mountain bluebirds were perching on bare branches, then swooping in the air and onto the ground catching insects. They then flew in brilliant blue flocks heading south. Many yellow-rumped warblers and chipping sparrows were foraging in the dry grasses; two American pipits bounced from rock to rock; and an American kestrel and northern flicker were in vociferous dispute while the little birds disappeared (kestrels prey upon small birds). After about 20 minutes when the fog evaporated in the valleys below, all became quiet and still.
Slough Creek also hosted many yellow-rumped warblers along the creek and in nearby sagebrush. To the delight of all human spectators, a herd of about 75 bison walking steadily down slope all of a sudden erupted: Calves, yearlings and adults started running and dashing about, going in circles, chasing each other, bucking, stotting, butting, while a few adult cows and a bull or two kept walking. After a few minutes all got back into procession to ford the creek, stopping to drink and stand, as if to cool off, before they continued to a new patch of green. One can only interpret these antics as play?
In the past week, Wes Timmerman has noticed increasing numbers of migrating robins and Brewer’s blackbirds. Wes heard sandhill cranes that were circling above his place and the fields to the north on the evening of Sept. 15 as rain clouds and thunder approached from the west. An occasional, low-level approach by a sharp-shinned hawk has kept the robins, cedar waxwings, blackbirds and magpies alert for this agile accipiter, a predator of other birds. A pair of juvenile great-horned owls (now in their fifth month) continue to use the Timmerman house as various perches for catching voles.
Steve Poole reports that it was fun to see a female northern harrier flying and hunting the sage tops on Antelope Flats this week. He has noticed an abundance of spotted tussock caterpillars in the Wilson area.
On a trip to Jackson this past week Tom Hahn, a professor in the department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior at UC Davi, was accompanied by Ph.D. student Konshau Duman, Helen Chmura, a biologist with the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula and three students of Jamie Cornelius at Oregon State University — Jayln and Jessie and Ai Ana. The group reports a good cone crop this year on blue spruce (places like along Snake River near Murie Center, Cache Creek) and red crossbills common in that forest type. Two “vocal types” were detected. Both types are “large” red crossbills, and both had been breeding. Cone crops are poor in some places, such as Phillips Pass Trail and Mosquito Creek Road, where budworms had damaged most new growth on Engelmann spruce, Douglas fir and subalpine fir (the crossbills don’t use subalpine fir cones). The only other form of crossbill observed was a single white-winged crossbill near the Murie Center. White-wings are sometimes abundant in Jackson Hole, especially when cone crop is really good on Engelmann spruce, but this summer they seem to be present but scarce, consistent with the Engelmann spruce cone crop being patchy and not spectacularly good. Also, lots of pine siskins around, many groups with recently fledged young in them.
Overall, there are lots of good places to see red crossbills right now in the valley: Whitegrass Ranch (end of the paved road to the Death Canyon trailhead), Moose boat launch in Grand Teton, Murie Center and Cache Creek trail system.
Two beautiful bull moose were seen on Bar Y Sept. 18 by Karen Skaggs.
Susan Patla was surprised to see a rufous hummingbird visit her feeders early Sept. 18. Other sightings of note last week in Teton Valley included peregrine falcon, ferruginous hawk, red-eyed vireo, American pipit, plus many migrating groups of Wilson and yellow-rumped warblers, warbling vireos, chipping and white-crowned sparrows. Anything is possible this month!