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 14 patients in its rehab clinic representing seven species, including great horned owls, American kestrels and a northern goshawk. The northern goshawk is a pretty rare species for the center to admit into its clinic. This week the Raptor Center released two patients back into the wild: a sharp-shinned hawk that was a window-strike victim and a bald eagle injured in a car strike.
Susan Marsh reports nuthatches, woodpeckers and two nutcrackers enjoying her suet feeder. A hermit thrush is still hanging around, as is the usual chickadee gang, and the resident squirrel has now filled a larger wooden tray feeder with cones. Susan’s next-door neighbor reports the same kind of squirrel-cone activity. In Atherton Creek on Friday, Susan was excited to encounter a big flock of crossbills in the Douglas fir trees — maybe 30 to 40 of them — as well as a Steller’s jay and one red-tailed hawk soaring high above.
As Tim Griffith returned from a quick survey of local birding hot spots Friday, he reported a lot of waterfowl with the highlight being six long-billed dowitchers, seven hooded mergansers and a single red-breasted merganser at the National Elk Refuge observation deck along Flat Creek north of town. There were also three American river otters playing around next to the deck. He counted 28 swans along Flat Creek and several more flying around the refuge. Sunday morning in the snow, a lone blue jay visited Tim’s feeder in East Jackson.
Bev Boynton and RW (Whitey) were on a bike ride in Grand Teton National Park when they saw eight horned larks flitting ahead, as they do.
Ron Gessler reports his Hoback feeder is getting quieter. He was filling it every other day up until this past week, and now he is down to every fourth day. Blue jays and Steller’s jays are still showing up, as well as a few evening grosbeaks, goldfinches, house finches, siskins, a nuthatch, a Clark’s nutcracker and, of course, the ubiquitous chickadees. Ron has noted a bald eagle perching frequently by Swinging Bridge. Deer carcasses are showing up on the side of the highway between town and Hoback. Pay attention!
Early Friday morning Diane Birdsall noticed branches from a blue spruce and a dogwood lying on the ground in Riverfront, south of town. A moment later a large mule deer buck, tossing his head and rack about, walked by the windows. Beautiful to see that animal expression of health and strength. Guess it’s that time of year. While Diane understands that people living here in Jackson Hole frequently see wildlife in their yards, sometimes we all need a wake-up to remember just how very fortunate we are to live here, side by side with other species.
At noon Friday, Richard Hardy noticed a swarm of honeybees, probably at least 100, apparently attracted to his compost heap.
John Hebberger Jr. spent two afternoons late this week watching and photographing from the overlook on Flat Creek at the edge of the National Elk Refuge. What he saw included 25-plus trumpeter swans visible on that near piece of water. There were quite a few more farther up the creek, just occasionally apparent in flight or with a peak through the vegetation. There also were perhaps 300 or so other waterfowl of various sorts: mallards, ring-necked ducks, buffleheads, northern shovelers, a few widgeons, a couple of teals, coots, Barrow’s goldeneyes, Canada geese and a northern harrier hunting out in the refuge over the grasses. A single muskrat paddled about. Right in John’s yard he has had multiple mule deer does with their fawns, a smallish buck and big one — either 4x4 or 5x 5 — hanging around eating crab apples off the ground.
The yard birds up Buffalo Valley at Deb Patla’s seem to have settled in for early winter, with daily presence at the suet feeders: three Steller’s jays, two Clark’s nutcrackers (‘We call them “wisecrackers,” she said), both kinds of chickadees, at least two red-breasted nuthatches, a female downy woodpecker and eight or so magpies (seems fewer than previous years). And Deb caught a glimpse of a northern shrike last week near Buffalo Valley Road.
Joan Lucas reported a few delights during this last week. On Wednesday an ermine ran across the road on West Gros Ventre Butte, partly changed into its winter coat. The same day she saw two Bohemian waxwings, the first of that species for her this winter. Many cedar waxwings continue to visit. Tuesday (and thereafter) there were 12 trumpeter swans on the new Skyline pond, most of which have now moved to the old pond. On Saturday two adult bald eagles perched side by side on the osprey platform above Skyline pond.
A Wilson report from Keith Benefiel includes a sudden influx of birds returning to his feeders after the neighbors moved out and took their cats along with them. Keith now reports both kinds of chickadees, chipping sparrows, red-breasted nuthatch, white-breasted nuthatch, brown creeper, hairy woodpecker and collared doves, all within two days. “It’s fun to watch all the birds coming back in their little groups,” he said.
On Friday, Benj Sinclair observed 14 moose, including at least 12 bulls, congregating between Kelly Warm Springs and the Teton Science Schools road north of Kelly. Lots of sparring between mature and juvenile bulls.
On Sunday, Joseph Piccoli reported two bald eagles on the power poles between Pratt Road and the Snake River.