Almost all of our birds, whether resident or migratory, have completed their nesting chores. Some have begun to flock together before departing in the fall, while others just slip away.
Here’s something from the files:
We parked up at the Flat Creek look-out for an hour or so last week. A hatch of, er, wonderfully interesting and useful bugs was on hand, and cliff and barn swallows were after them. So were cedar waxwings. Barn swallows were especially busy; they had babies just fledged and were feeding them on the wing. One baby barn swallow had made it to the top of a buckrail fence post overlooking the creek. And that was where he meant to stay. After a bit it was possible to pick his parents out of the parade of other swallows; they never flew too far from their baby and would bring him (it) food for a lightning-fast exchange. Talk about fast food! And delivery service!
Between feedings the little swallow simply hunkered down and pretended he wasn’t out there but, rather, back in that secure nest in the protection of the bridge structure. Barn swallow nests are open bowls made of mud pellets mixed with plant fibers and pieces, lined with feathers. They are stuck against a vertical surface, ordinarily, but need to have some sort of horizontal support as well. Man’s bridges, barn rafters and culverts have been adopted by this species. This little grayish youngster had been in his nest for two weeks after hatching, fed by both parents and not too certain about having got out. Darn sure he didn’t want to leave that fence.
The parent birds were frustrated. They brought food to their baby but they wanted him to fly. They coaxed him, hovering just out of reach, holding food to tempt. They sat with him for a few moments, offering comfort and moral support. They slow-motioned to show him how easy flying actually is, how much fun. At length they buffeted him with their wings and bodies, trying to shove him into flight. No way. He hunkered down and hung tight.
And then, without hesitation and in response to whatever stimulus it took, he flew off, joining his parents and all the others skimming the creek and circling out over the cattails. Fledged. Flying.
— Jackson Hole News, Aug. 14, 1985
A cliff swallow was in a fix a couple of weeks ago. Just how it got itself into the situation isn’t known, perhaps even to the swallow. It got into and onto a big pond, and could not fly off. I don’t believe this happens often, so it’s interesting to speculate. Maybe it caught a wing while taking a drink or an insect just emerging from the surface of the water. Perhaps it was forced down by a falcon. Mebbe it ate a couple of juiced up bugs and freaked out.
In any event, it was trapped in and by the water, unable to extricate itself. In its desperate attempts to fly, it was lunging, with mighty breast strokes, almost getting free, falling back, trying once more to take to the air. To the observer, it appeared at a distacne to be a small mammal thrasing about. It was perhaps 150 yards or more from the water’s edge. The struggle attracted his eye and had already captured the curiousity of an American wigeon, which were following closely behind.
The struggle for life continued for all that distance ... just imagine. Eventually, this tiny convoy made it to landfall. But that land was a vertical bank too steep for the brave little bird to pull itself up on.(Exhaustion aside, swallows just aren’t equipped for heavy-duty walking, let alone clambering.) All that way and a blank wall.
Lifted from its watery prison, the little creature was quiet in the hand, escept for its heaving heart, pumping, pumping, pumping. Even 10 mintues later, as it sat where placed on a willow branch to dry out in the sun, its chest could be seen still rising and falling, expanding and contracting, pumping.
Oh, you know. Can’t ever tell what happened next. “rescue” is an interesting concept with respect to life in the wild. But a person must try and we all have to celebrate courage.
— From Fieldnotes, Aug. 8, 1990Field notes: Deb Patla reports a recent onslaught of hummingbirds this past week, in the evenings in particular at the feeders in Buffalo Valley. Mostly rufous immature or females but some males too, and also broad-tailed, and the occasional Calliope.
She also said warbling vireos are making their harsh raspy call from high up in aspen trees, and the Buffalo Valley osprey produced two beautiful youngsters that fledged last week.
Earle Layser reported a sighting of two subadult snowshoe hares on a roadside in Teton Valley.
Deb Patla and Frances Clark offered more information regarding Bert’s column last week mentioning aspen and cottonwood leaves turning brown and falling off. Yes, Deb said, this is quite intense in the Moran area. Aspen trees are thinning out fast and won’t have many leaves left to turn golden next month. The leaves are spotted. The cottonwoods near Moran also look brown, especially along the roads, and that started weeks ago. Buffalo Fork willows turned yellow a couple of weeks ago.
What’s going on with Salicaceae? And Frances responds: My general sense is that aspens (Populus tremuloides) are a very popular plant (excuse the pun) with a variety of insects and fungal diseases — any plant that is so plentiful has many “enemies.” Spring was a great growing time, so leaves were large and many. The moisture would have also fostered fungus. As the season has dried, plants have a hard time sustaining all their leaves and maintaining their chemical defense systems to protect the plants. The plants are reacting to this. Willows are yellowing probably because as the water table drops (they are yellowing here in Wilson) they are stressed by drought. They cut back on photosynthesis, and the chlorophyll that covers the yellow pigment is revealed, or they just drop their leaves to reserve water. They have had a good season, so I am not worried.
On the aspens it is maybe caused by a common fungus. Apparently it shows up particularly at this time of the year. Most trees do fine, unless they have severe defoliation two years in a row.
Bernie McHugh and Frances Clark sent in an Aug. 25 report from Camas National Wildlife Refuge: Nothing of particular note at Camas today. Low water equals low numbers of birds. There was a good representation of avocets, stilts, greater and lesser yellowlegs, the usual assortment of confusing fall ducks, etc. There was a great assortment of grasshoppers and butterflies, however. The water levels were really low, but the vegetation was quite lush. The sighting of the day had to be a female moose in the middle of Camas. We’re still trying to figure out where the hell she came from. But she was very healthy and looked perfectly happy there. An unusually low number of harriers, four adult females.
Sightings from across the valley Aug. 24 revealed mixed summer and fall birds as migration gears up: yellow warblers, black-headed grosbeaks, Wilson warbler, flickers, western tanager and Canada geese flocking up and practicing flying.
A batch of about 50 crows flying west over Skyline Ranch the morning of Aug. 24 was reported by Mary Lohuis.
Cow moose with calves have been noted in several locations, including Skyline Ranch, Wilson, Bar Y and Lake Creek.
A big wildlife week at Lake Creek as Mike Sellett reported a river flowing down Teewinot Road. The new water feature was due to beavers plugging the Hardeman Ditch. Much to his painful sense of adventure, Jake Sellett inadvertently discovered a hive of ground bees; there are always new investigations available for a doggie.