Field Notes

A northern flicker makes use of a birdbath.

Susan Marsh startled a white-tailed deer on a forest trail east of the National Elk Refuge. Both were surprised; it was in a place Susan would have expected mule deer. Susan also reports a pair of sandhill cranes calling near Whitegrass Meadows in the park. Numerous western tanagers, including young, are moving around. Bear scat full of serviceberries can be seen on various trails in the valley. Ruffed grouse with mostly grown young, but still considerably smaller than adults, are secretive but observed on various trails.

Kay Modi is enjoying her mornings near the local rivers and creeks listening to the many calls of osprey, young and adult. She finds that they are the most prevalent raptor or bird calls these days and their circling flights are easy to follow.

Kiki and Karen Skaggs enjoyed watching two river otters playing in the Snake on Aug. 27.

Wildlife has been pretty abundant in town this week reports John Hebberger Jr. Mammals: red squirrels gathering cones, chipmunks and mule deer (big bucks in velvet, does with fawns). Birds: The usual magpies, lots of robins, flickers, chickadees (both kinds), juncos, and lots of western tanagers (mostly female) feeding on serviceberries. Hummingbirds, mostly broad-tailed (and mostly female or immature males), very occasional rufous.

Certainly a pleasure to watch.

Dennis and Marian Butcher report that hummingbird activity at their feeder is clearly down, and most of those still around appear to be young and/or female broad-tailed hummers. A yellow-rumped warbler in their yard is an unusual bird for them. Young flickers and robins are feeding actively. Swallows are in very short supply.

Many black-headed grosbeaks and evening grosbeaks, including young, are showing up in the Hoback Nation at the Gesslers’. It is comical to watch them land on the birdbath and other things, reports Ron. Green-tailed towhees are also in abundance along with chickadees, yellow warblers, vireos, house finches, a young hairy woodpecker and pine siskins. A couple of sandhill cranes were spotted on the Snake River at the gravel bar just north of Ross Knob.

Hummingbird numbers are dropping, valleywide, but they will be around for two to three more weeks. Keep your feeders filled to a minimum this time of year to refresh often. The chilly nights can cause the bottom of the liquid to become syrupy. Some advocate pulling your feeder when temperatures drop below 32 degrees. As we don’t get up as early as the hummers do, we leave them out and replace the sugar water if it has become slushy or cloudy. Best to have some on hand and ready when the nights grow cold. The mixture does appear to have a slightly lower freezing point than plain water. Don’t pull your feeders to “make the hummers leave.” If you have been feeding for some years you will also get travelers that found your feeder upon their incoming trips. They may need your “nectar” to help with their long trip south. Thanks to Ron, Jen and Kai Gessler.

A few late summer surprises have kept life interesting in The Aspens for Pamela Periconi. After seeing and hearing a number of them in the neighborhood for weeks, an immature Cooper’s hawk landed on Pamela’s deck one recent morning, its talons wrapping around the top of a metal chair (no doubt eyeing the nearby wood pile for a possible snack).

The biggest bull moose Pamela has ever seen in her 28 years in the valley wandered by her deck one morning. He, and his rack, were stunning. A red fox with a kit deftly hidden behind her took a long nap under a tree near Pamela’s deck. Mom’s ears were on alert during the entire two-hour afternoon respite. Fur barely noticeable, she had found the perfect spot to stay out of sight and blend in among the trees and bushes.

The last of the year’s broad-tailed hummingbirds are shooing away mountain and black-capped chickadees, leaving the chickadees looking a bit stunned and perturbed since they have no interest in the cinnamon-colored petunias the hummingbirds continue to covet for nectar.

One particularly ornery juvenile male rufous hummingbird that has gone from green/orange to mostly orange has taken over the three feeders in Pamela’s garden, fighting off any attempts by the broad-tails to come in for a drink. To him, three feeders shrouded beneath a serviceberry tree is indeed prime property and worth guarding.

Finally, the sound of ospreys (and the sight of them circling the sky) never gets old for Pamela. Each eerie call draws her to her deck and elicits the same level of joy as the first time she heard the calls many years ago.

On Aug. 28, Bernie McHugh found about 150 ducks at the Flat Creek overlook on North Cache. Mostly mallards with a good number of wigeons, some ring-necked ducks, and a few American coots.

On Aug. 29, there were what appeared to be three or four migrating Wilson’s warblers in the aspens around the Wilson neighborhood. It looks as though songbird migration is underway, pretty much right on time. The hummingbirds have completely vanished, save for one male broad-tailed.

Wes and Shirley Timmerman report that hummingbirds have left their yard, so the feeders have been put away. Wes captured an image of a northern flicker bathing in their bird bath. A family of white-crowned sparrows, still bound around the yard and search the branches of bushes and trees for insects, as do yellow warblers, yellow-rumped warblers and a pair of red-breasted nuthatches. Brown-headed cowbirds, magpies, red-winged blackbirds and Brewer’s blackbirds graze on lawn grubs and insects, in addition to picking up sunflower seeds from under the feeder.

Bears, both black and grizzly, singles and families, are being sighted all around the valley, in and out of the park. Please remember, keep your garbage cans, bird feeders, dog food and stock food away from these touring Ursidae. While they are in hyperphasia, they are moving unpredictably and continually in search of food. And yes, they can and do climb fences.

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