Field Notes

A unique and rare visitor to Jackson, a Harris’ sparrow.

A Harris’ sparrow was eating sunflower seed dropped in the grass at Steve Poole’s feeder Nov. 12. Harris’ is listed as a rare visiter on “Birds of Jackson Hole” checklist; it is mostly found east and north of Jackson. Steve read that surveys from 1970-2014 indicate a cumulative decline of 63% and the species is listed by some as a species at risk of extinction without conservation action to reverse declines and reverse threats (“All About Birds,” The Cornell Lab).

Frances Clark had a wonderful week of wildlife watching with friends. On Nov. 8 she and Susan Marsh viewed 45 pronghorn on the National Elk Refuge. On Nov. 9 Frances saw a dipper on Fish Creek in Wilson.

At 10 a.m. Nov. 12 she heard an irregular honking not like Canada geese; looking up high to the clouds she spotted loose “V”s of large shimmering white (not gray and black) birds with black wing-tips: 75 or more snow geese were flying south over Wilson, followed by two smaller groups over the next hour.

From West Gros Ventre Butte, at 2 p.m. she and Mary Lohuis spied another 40 snow geese swirling above then settling down somewhere in Wilson as well as four trumpeter swans flying nearby. An American robin was feeding in a thicket of juniper on the butte.

On Nov. 13 Clark and Bernie McHugh took a four-hour drive in the park, observing a total of 16 moose, including five bulls and four females on Antelope Flats, and 45 pronghorn in Elk Ranch Flats with some bison scattered in the hills beyond. The Oxbow was busy with 34 American wigeon, 4 coot, 30 Canada geese, a solo great blue heron, an American gadwall, and one muskrat. Forty-four trumpeter swans were also loafing and feeding on the shoals of the bend. On the road to the dam a northern shrike popped up in a willow shrub. At Teton Point Turnout they spotted 500 or more elk in groups in the sagebrush east of Timbered Island.

Beverly Boynton, Ray White and Katherine Gura saw a flock of pine grosbeaks as well as a rough-legged hawk in Moran this week. Bev Boynton found a rough-legged hawk near Togwotee Pass and also one on Spring Gulch Road.

McHugh suggests people should be keeping an eye out for rough-legged hawks. He had several Nov. 8 on the Ashton-Tetonia road out of Teton Valley. He also found a golden eagle on the A-T Road.

Quiet feeder in the Hoback save for some chickadees at Gessler’s. On Nov. 12, while working on the roof of The Center for the Arts, Ron heard sandhill cranes above, looked up to see more than 50 heading west in chevron flight.

During the past two weeks Richard Rice has noticed deer scat in his South Park Ranches yard. On Nov. 11 he was rewarded with a sighting of a mature mule deer doe and what appeared to be her yearling. For several years it has been a common occurrence for mule deer to visit the yard almost daily during the winter. They are attracted to the many bushes as well as the seeds that fall from the bird feeders.

K.O. Strohbehn observed a bald eagle Nov. 12 squatting on the osprey pole nest on Highway 22. She also saw a red-tailed hawk on an osprey pole nest on Highway 22 close to HHR Ranch Road.

Susan Marsh counted 48 pronghorns on the National Elk Refuge; on their way to the Gros Ventre, let’s hope. She also found two red-tailed hawks on the Kelly Road. Quite a few trumpeter swans on the Flat Creek ponds, along with coots and mallards. The bunches of Canada geese that were hanging around Flat Creek seem to have left. On Nov. 13 seven trumpeter swans flew over her head in town.

Eric Cole reports 103 elk moved to the National Elk Refuge Nov. 12. This was the first movement of more the 100 elk to the refuge this fall. As of early the afternoon of Nov. 12 the elk were still on the Poverty Flats area of the refuge about a mile north of Miller Butte.

Wes and Shirley Timmerman on Nov. 11 watched a flock of about 100 starlings fly into their South Park yard, land on the half inch of snow that was covering the lawn and poke down through the snow to find things to eat. The next day they observed a flock of about 25 sandhill cranes flying low, with considerable bugling among them. At the feeder, which is only up during daylight hours, are house finches, white-breasted nuthatch, magpies, and both species of chickadees.

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