Field Notes

A pine grosbeak along Spring Gulch Road.

Though Bert Raynes’ Far Afield column has been temporarily suspended, bird and wildlife watchers are still calling and emailing in with their sightings. — Eds.

The Teton Raptor Center has seven patients in its rehabilitation clinic. They include four species: American kestrels, ospreys, great horned owls, and a great gray owl. The Raptor Center is hoping to transfer the two remaining juvenile osprey patients to a rehabilitation facility in their wintering grounds so they can complete their flight conditioning and be released.

Between the deer in the feeders and the Clark’s nutcrackers and Steller’s jays on the suet bricks, Joe Bohne is running a modest feeding station in Star Valley. He has all the other usual suspects (birds) in the feeders. The red squirrel is absent lately. The sharp-shinned hawk or maybe the goshawk may have picked him off. Both work over the feeders occasionally.

Many of the regulars at John Hebberger Jr.’s feeder this week: red-breasted nuthatches, both kinds of chickadees, house finches and pine siskins, though the latter have been very abundant, flocks of more than here at the feeders. Is this an irruption of them??

Perhaps more interestingly, in skiing along the Snake River below the dam John saw various ducks (Barrow’s goldeneyes, mallards, ring-necked, common mergansers), also a busy beaver, trumpeter swans and an immature bald eagle flying above the river. Plenty of activity along the Snake River in winter.

Kathy McCurdy, Aly Jones and Bev Boynton skied up to Death Canyon Trailhead on Saturday and heard and saw no forest birds. They did see a soaring red-tailed hawk. The wetlands along Moose-Wilson Road and the Snake River fortunately had more: mallards, Canada geese, common and Barrow’s goldeneyes, bald eagles, ravens, crows, magpies (let’s hear it for the corvids!) and 30 red crossbills. A very good ski.

On Wednesday Joan Lucas had an extremely rare bird for her: a gray-crowned rosy finch, Hepburn’s type. Just one, a short visit. On Friday, and other days too, there have been crowds of cedar waxwings, feeding on the still abundant hawthorn berries on Joan’s bushes.

Marian and Dennis Butcher made their Christmas Bird Count rounds on Friday (better weather and no college football conflicts). They identified only six species but had a nice encounter with a flock of 28 pine grosbeaks, many of which were very focused on the remaining hawthorn berries.

Kay Modi’s bird count was lower than previous years in Karns Meadow and along Flat Creek. The creek was flowing at a high rate, with very little ponding for calm spots. She saw one American dipper, three Barrow’s goldeneye, and one muskrat swimming in the creek. The high winds and snow moved out all chickadees that frequent the shrubs and willows along the creek. The ravens and magpies were the only flying birds and made their usual calls while flying over the meadow.

Sarah Dewey and Deb Patla saw and heard over 100 red crossbills in the Murie Ranch area during the Christmas count on Saturday. Very cheerful. A dipper popped out in a shallow riffle edge of the Snake River just after one of them said, “This would be a good place for a dipper.” They tried that again, but it did not work as well for other longed-for species, except for the northern shrike that appeared in the last minutes of their survey. Much more bird activity than last year: The birds as well as Sarah and Deb appreciated the shelter from the wind that the riparian forest provided. Many active red squirrels, too. On Friday (the day before the count), there were at least 13 bald eagles and many ravens south of the Gros Ventre River east of the highway, on the National Elk Refuge. Merry solstice!

Meg Gilbert and Julie Holding reflect, “It is so nice to be nearing the solstice.” They counted birds around the Nelson Circle trailhead and saw flocks of magpies, red crossbills and pine grosbeaks perching in the tops of the tallest conifers at the site, as well as a large flock of evening grosbeaks in an aspen grove. They also saw a flicker, hairy woodpecker, Clark’s nutcracker, bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, ravens, chickadees, red-breasted nuthatch and, of course, Townsend’s solitaires.

Bernie McHugh, Frances Clark and Susan and John Ewan surveyed the National Elk Refuge for the Christmas Bird Count. Highlights in open water included the more unusual common goldeneye as well as Barrow’s goldeneyes, 40 greenwing teals, five northern pintails and late migrants: gadwalls, buffleheads among mallards and trumpeter swans. Seven ravens were harassing a golden eagle soaring over Miller Butte while bighorn sheep romped below.

Five rams were pursuing one indifferent ewe. A dominant ram butting off a younger, losing his place to yet another ram of less formidable curl, then another full-curl sneaking in, more ramming of heads. While the five males were running and jousting the female continued to move along seemingly unperturbed by the X-rated antics.

At the fish hatchery the group spied an American dipper along with other waterfowl and 51 ravens soaring, swooping, twisting having fun along the hillside above. A northern shrike, belted kingfisher and Townsend’s solitaire were also added to the list.

Prettaaay prettaaay prettaaay quiet down in Hoback, reported Ron Gessler. His full feeder is lasting two weeks versus two days earlier this year. Chickadees, nuthatches, floor chickens (aka collared doves) and the occasional house finch. A flock of about two-dozen house finches did alight in the close aspens. They all started to twitter for about a minute, then decided to leave. Never came to the feeder. Also, the treat of a red fox crossing in front of Ron while he drove down Henrys Road. Frequent bald eagle sightings in the trees by the Swinging Bridge.

Happy Solstice!

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