Hiking Granite Canyon in Grand Teton National Park on June 5, Francesca Paolucci-Rice reported larkspur, balsamroot and elderberry, among others all in bloom, silky phacelia just about to bloom, and, the best surprise, fairyslipper orchids (Calypso bulbosa) along the sides of sections of the trail.
On June 6, Marian and Dennis Butcher enjoyed a morning walk around the South Park Wildlife Habitat Management Area and saw several of their first-of-the-year observations, including a Wilson’s warbler, a western kingbird, a western wood-pewee, and a flock of a dozen cedar waxwings. Two river otters were patrolling the Snake River side channel to the south.
On June 6, Kay Modi was walking along the Snake River north of Emily’s Pond and saw a female common merganser with seven ducklings navigating the rushing waters (with one on mom’s back). A sighting of three pairs of trumpeter swans on Boyle’s Hill Road ponds is a pleasant routine with nesting in far shorelines.
Frances Clark salutes the bursting bloom. Yellow flowers dominate the valley floor with bold arrowleaf balsamroot surrounded by delicate sprays of Wyeth biscuitroot and dashes of western groundsel. The eastern slope of Signal Mountain is aglow with balsamroot. Antelope bitterbrush, with its multitude of fragrant yellow flowers, mingles with sagebrush on Antelope Flats. Festoons of white hawthorn, serviceberry and chokecherry, as well as lace-like yampah line the north end of Moose-Wilson Road, while blue silky lupine and yellow heart-leaf arnica lie in the shadows of lodgepole pines. Sun-loving lupines waft their perfume along the inner park road and pathways.
Peter McNulty asks a question about doves and pigeons: “It seems the aforementioned birds have disappeared after treating Jackson as if it were any large metropolis! Some say they’ve flown the coop after incessant attacks by the ‘locals,’ i.e., falcons, hawks, ravens, eagles, magpies and others. Any chance you can flap your wings and share some insight? Appreciate your time.”
At home, in town, John Hebberger Jr. summarizes the weeks sightings: much of the usual — brilliant western tanagers, scads of pine siskins, quite a few black-headed grosbeaks, flickers, as well as crows and magpies chasing each other about the area. The most unusual sighting has been a pair of Clark’s nutcrackers, which are supposed to be up at higher elevations this time of year.
Elsewhere, down in the Snake River canyon, John noted lots of osprey on nests, busily incubating eggs. Enjoy the heat. Looks like it is coming back after a lovely, cool respite.
Franz Camenzind is pleased to report that the golden eagle nest he has been watching holds at least one young, downy-white eaglet, estimated to be between 3 and four weeks of age. A group of about half a dozen male and two to four female western tanagers suddenly appeared at his suet feeder this week, joining the regulars — a couple of magpies and a pair of gray catbirds. Both species of chickadees and a pair of black-headed grosbeaks along with the resident song sparrows and an occasional lazuli bunting continue to feast at his feeder. And he is sad to conclude that the resident pair of mallards apparently lost their nest, as both adults are now together again without young in tow. Sad. The good news is that long-billed curlews are back on the Kelly meadows. And it appears that the mule deer are bringing their next generation into the world, as at least one doe is now nursing an as-yet unseen fawn(s) and another doe is very heavy with what is likely to be twins. When habitat conditions are at their best, upward of 70% of does will bear twins, while about 25% will have singles and a very, very few will birth triplets. The numbers are nearly opposite, with no triplets being born, when habitat conditions are at their poorest.
The National Elk Refuge’s environmental education specialist, Kari Cieszkiewicz, heard sora rails vocalizing and observed a pair of sandhill cranes with a tiny baby swimming in the ponds on the north end of the refuge. She also observed a peregrine falcon on the refuge south of Kelly, and ruffed grouse and western tanagers using aspen stands on the north end of the refuge.
Refuge biologist Eric Cole noted that trumpeter swans have initiated nesting on the same artificial floating nest platform in the Flat Creek marsh as last year. The nesting platform was provided by the Wyoming Wetlands Society, and it seems to do a very good job of preventing nest failure due to rising marsh water levels. Unfortunately, this appears to be the only pair of swans nesting on the National Elk Refuge this season, and the total number of swans using the refuge is only five. This is the lowest number of adult swans using the refuge during the breeding season since 1994. The cause of low swan numbers on the refuge is unknown, and it would be interesting to know if swan numbers are also down in other parts of Jackson Hole.
Jennifer Dorsey saw a rabbit hop across Maple Way (through traffic) toward the post office on Tuesday. She is wondering if it’s an escaped or abandoned pet.
Wes and Shirley Timmerman started the past week with a visit to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, where they observed 30 species. The majority of sightings were of American white pelicans, great blue herons, western kingbirds, snowy egrets, cliff swallows, Canada geese, cinnamon teal, yellow-headed blackbirds, mallards, American avocets, black-necked stilts, white faced ibis, both Clark’s and western grebes, and California gulls. At home, in South Park, they have plenty of house finches now that the first nestlings are fledging; a half dozen Cassin’s finches; several American goldfinches; a dozen or so pine siskins; a northern flicker; broad-tailed; black-chinned and calliope hummingbirds; and about a dozen cedar waxwings.
Nesting, there are black-capped chickadees, tree swallows, white-crowned sparrows, ruby-crowned kinglets and a pair of yellow warblers. That a pair of black-headed grosbeaks and two pairs of evening grosbeaks still frequent the feeder raises the odds that they are nesting in the yard or close by. An interesting note is that this season Wes and Shirley have not seen red-naped sapsuckers pass through, nor have they seen violet-green swallows, which for many years have taken at least one of their five nest boxes.