The recent weather reminded me of something I once wrote about April in Jackson Hole.
Winter, the Sequel
“Last night on our return home after a rollicking evening of dinner, conversation and acrostics puzzle-solving in a cozy cabin before a warming fireplace, snow squalls came in waves. Big flakes, kind of attractive. So I wasn’t surprised on this April morning to find everything white outside.
“Four inches of April- covered trees, roads, fences, automobiles, bird feeders, ranch land and roofs. It was either really pretty, or one more damn winter wonderland scene, depending on one’s morning mood. To me? Pretty.
“Spring snowstorms are informative. Migrant birds often are forced to earth in storms.
“Many forage along road edges, snow-free sooner than most places. Thousands of birds can be seen at the edge of pavement, pecking at weed seeds, gravel, insects and salt. Too much salt. I continue to be astonished at the popularity of road salt — especially here, where it gets so cold and salt either doesn’t work to melt snow or, when it does, creates a slush guaranteed to freeze come nightfall. And the damage to roads, bridges, fisheries, automobiles: Ah, old boy, you’ve fought this fight and always lost; get back to your journal.
“Last night’s snow reminded me spring is a tug-of-war. Winter is so long, soooo very long here, it rules everything, living or inanimate, year-round. We hung Christmas lights on our deck to celebrate a 6-inch snowfall one Father’s Day. We’ve tried to grow beans, only to have them freeze on July nights. It can snow in the mountains any day of the year. Ephemeral snowfalls, sure, but real snow with well below-freezing temperatures.
“I decided, of course, that this wet snow was too sticky to remove with a snowblower and shallow enough to keep out of my boots. I ignored it. Standing there — checking out the boot top/snow interface — I heard flickers calling. A pair of Canada geese flew by, honking loudly. A robin clucked from its perch of bare ground next to the house, then reluctantly flew off. Evening grosbeak and Cassin’s finches ate together, not always amicably, at the feeder. The mountain bluebirds of yesterday were gone. American goldfinch appeared; they’re getting yellower by the day but won’t nest until thistles bloom in August.
“Canada geese that were foraging in fields flocked this morning in open standing water. The osprey nest which supported its newly arrived owner yesterday was empty but for snow. Teton Pass looked marvelous; if I still skied I’d enjoy darn good snow there. The mountains looked great, snow where snow ought to be, the way one expects them to look in winter-spring.
“Killdeer, starlings and robins all foraged a thin strip of cobble lining the Snake River. Interesting. Barrow’s goldeneye and mallards kept in separate flocks. Deer tracks and what I took to be muskrat tracks graffitied the landscape.
“On a wallowed bar in the river, a cow and calf moose munched away.
“The sun came out, bringing instant warmth to me and the puppy. To the snow, too, which balled up on her feet. Cockers’ feet do that trick with great creativity. Nobody enjoys walking on tennis balls stuck to his soles ... well, nobody I know.
“I picked her up and we headed back to breakfast.”
— An excerpt from
“Valley So Sweet”
Field notes: George and Sheila Poore reported a ferruginous hawk on Friday over Melody Ranch. That same day Carl Brown observed red-breasted and common mergansers in South Park.
Bruce Hayse has an abundance of pine grosbeaks.
Eared grebes were hanging out on Flat Creek, near the North Cache visitors center, on Sunday.
Sightings from the April meeting of the Jackson Hole Bird and Nature Club meeting included the following:
Osprey have returned to the valley. Many bald eagles, trumpeter swans, white pelicans, buffleheads and common mergansers have been seen at the Oxbow. Sandhill cranes have been seen on the Lockhart Ranch, on the National Elk Refuge and at Skyline Ranch; pintails and shovelers on the refuge pond; a blue jay close to Flat Creek in town; and cormorants in South Park.
Other sightings: a great horned owl, red crossbills, meadowlarks, killdeer, mountain bluebirds, snow buntings, hooded mergansers, turkey vultures and an American kestrel.
Recent mammal sightings include a number of mule deer near South Highway 89, Uinta ground squirrels and a badger.