Field notes - young sheep

Bighorn sheep are out and about on the east side of Miller Butte on the National Elk Refuge. Are there more yearlings this winter? Dennis Butcher thinks so.

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 121st annual Christmas Bird Count is Dec. 19. If you haven’t signed up, there are a few places in the count circle not yet covered. And if your yard and bird feeder are within the count circle, feel free to stay home with a mug of hot chocolate and see what comes and goes.

Although Dec. 19 is Count Day when we tally numbers, Count Week goes from 12:01 a.m. Dec. 19 through midnight Dec. 25. Any species seen during the week can be included in our list. We usually pick up a few additional species during Count Week.

Contact coordinator Susan Marsh at 733-5744. This year, because of the coronavirus, we ask people to count in family groups or alone. If that doesn’t work Susan will keep your contact info for next year.

A family of white-tailed deer — two young with two adults — crept by Pamela Periconi’s back deck in the Aspens this week at sunrise. All healthy looking. A few days before, two moose that had been hanging around this fall returned to bed down in the snow and nap the entire afternoon. “It was a real Sunday treat,” Pamela said. “Way more exciting than an NFL game.” A northern flicker has been poking around Pamela’s deck on numerous occasions. Red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches and a brown creeper have been seen scaling nearby trees. Mountain and black-capped chickadees that were fledglings this summer are now grown and living large. Two American goldfinches have made an appearance. A few cedar waxwings were spotted eating the last few berries off the trees when it first dipped below zero last week. “Despite the frigid temps, there has been a lot of activity around The Aspens,” Pamela said.

Mo O’Leary reports lots of bald eagles on the National Elk Refuge. She counted at least 12, with six in one tree.

Amazingly, disturbingly, few black-capped chickadees and house finches at the feeder, and only one magpie in the yard, report Wes and Shirley Timmerman. They saw a great-horned owl Thursday, close by South Park Loop Road. A red-breasted nuthatch was working the suet feeder on Saturday afternoon. Novembers seem to be shifting colder, and spring shifting earlier, changing behavior. Perhaps birds are staying close to the river or just above the inversions, or perhaps there are better vittles being served elsewhere.

Patty Ewing reports that in addition to the regulars (Steller’s jays, Clark’s nutcrackers, chickadees, magpies, and a raven pair) she had a male hairy woodpecker and a nuthatch earlier this week in East Jackson.

A pair of flickers, a pair of downy woodpeckers, a male hairy woodpecker, a hermit thrush, a group of mountain chickadees and a single black-capped, a pair of house finches, a pair of white-breasted nuthatches and several red-breasted: all seen in Jackson by Susan Marsh. She thinks the young of the year are still distinctive due to paler coloring. The streetlight pole across from her was cut down yesterday. Susan and Don will love having that light out of their face, but the ravens will wonder where their perch went. They can use the house, Susan offered.

The Teton Raptor Center has nine patients of five species in its rehabilitation clinic, the most common being great horned owls. The Raptor Center hopes to release one of its great horned owl patients in a week or two. The bird was admitted weak and with a heavy internal parasite load.

A pair of white-breasted nuthatches are back at Tipi Camp, south of Wilson, reports AJ DeRosa. The horses are sloppy eating their oats, but nothing goes to waste with these guys around. AJ never tires of watching the nuthatches walking upside down on the trees.

Dennis and Marian Butcher saw a beautiful rough-legged hawk along Spring Gulch Road. Of course lots of bighorn sheep and elk moving around puffing clouds of steam, and a handful of pronghorns on the Elk Refuge. Around home, chickadees of both species predominate. Male house finches almost seem to be showing more color than a month ago. A downy woodpecker, a pair of red-breasted nuthatches and an American goldfinch round out what they’ve seen.

Sunday at the north end of Grand Teton Park, Deb Patla found green-winged teals, mallards, one common goldeneye, a snipe and a northern shrike. In this recent clear, cold weather, ice crystals in the aspens catch the moonlight and look like stars coming to Earth. Deb says it is magical.

Bruce Hayse reports a pine marten and evening grosbeaks in East Jackson.

On the way out to hang bird feeders the other morning, Joan Lucas noticed a large bird high up in a tree, After retrieving her binocs from the house she returned to total bedlam from the chickadees, complaining loudly about the Cooper’s hawk, now 15 feet away in a bush. It was outnumbered and left. A few days later a sharp-shinned hawk landed on a sunny branch and basked there for a while. A fox with a bum leg also visited, not at all shy, most interested in the bowl Joan was carrying until she set it down to reveal it contained only sunflower seeds. Sunday morning produced a brief visit from a northern flicker. Lots of ungulates: moose, several deer and even an elk. Otherwise, all the usual suspects.

It was an eagle day for Kay Modi, who recently had a great day sightseeing around the area, starting with the backside of Miller Butte where she viewed two pairs of bald eagles above the butte and large herds of bighorn sheep (seems to be more yearlings than previous years). Continuing on her way to Kelly Warm Springs, she noted pair of eagles near the bridge over the Gros Ventre River and another pair atop the electric poles north of the warm springs. Other sightings included five moose just north of the springs in the sage flats. A great day!

The “creek is a-rising” at Franz Camenzind’s home on Flat Creek — about 15 inches due to anchor ice buildup. But still a long way from threatening any property. (Waiting for penguins to arrive.) A pair of Barrow’s goldeneyes are almost daily visitors, but because access to the creek bottom is limited, they don’t spend much time, just a few short dives. He had three blue jays visit his feeder twice this past week, and once all three were on the feeder together. Nearly wing to wing, with lots of posturing. Chickadees were common visitors along with the occasional small groups (four to seven) of house finches.

A quiet, cold week.

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