Though Bert Raynes’ Far Afield column has been temporarily suspended, bird and wildlife watchers are still calling and emailing in with their sightings. — Eds.
Down in Hoback the usual fall suspects. Jen, Kai, and Ron Gessler, report chickadees, goldfinches, green-tailed towhees, house finches, pine siskins, evening grosbeaks and red-breasted nuthatches, and it does appear that the Eastern blue jay has taken up residence in the hood.
“Maybe with the warming planet we’ll be lucky enough someday to see a cardinal?” Ron Gessler wrote. “Or maybe that won’t be so lucky.”
Franz Camenzind reports that he is consistently seeing two Eastern blue jays at his feeder, along with the occasional Northern flicker and of course, both members of the chickadee clan. Two days this past week he had a single slate-colored junco and a single late visiting song sparrow at the feeder. A single American dipper is seen feeding in Flat Creek nearly every day, as is a family(?) of seven Canada geese. He is pleased to report that the neighborhood mule deer doe and her twins — a buck and doe — are enjoying his yard and eating the newly fallen golden willow leaves. Also, raccoons are leaving their tracks in the skiffs of snow around his home. The transition to winter’s cast of characters is well underway.
Susan Patla also has a blue jay coming to her feeder every day and stashing sunflower seeds all over the yard. She also saw a juvenile Northern shrike again, and one late Western meadowlark on Oct. 22.
Patla had her first sighting of the season of a rough-legged hawk Oct. 20. It flew when she parked below the tall transmission pole it was perched on and moved to the next pole. A vehicle coming the other direction caused it to take off and circle high to the east. She clearly saw the white band on the tail, black belly band and black wrist patches on the underwing. Appeared to be an adult light morph female. She found the bird from her view on Poleline Road/Packsaddle Road in Teton Valley, Idaho.
Up on Bar Y, Bernie McHugh had a prairie falcon chasing pine siskins. Very cool.
The Teton Plein Air Painters’ group was painting near String Lake’s southern bridge, and a group of five common mergansers played among the rocks and logs for the morning, even catching one small fish, which set up a game of chase. They appeared to be immature since their crowns (hoods) were very sparse and mixed with white tops, Kay Modi said.
Richard Rice, on the first snow day, Oct. 22, he noted two V’s of snow geese over South Park.
Vance Carruth on that day said maybe 500 starlings, back again on West Gros Ventre Butte.
Bruce Hayse on Oct. 23 reports a nutcracker, evening grosbeak and nuthatches.
Susan Marsh has sighted a ruby-crowned kinglet or two in the aspens, yellow-rumps likely moved on, but a few remain at South Park feedground. Evening grosbeaks, Northern flickers, red- and white-breasted nuthatches, mountain chickadees. More deer stopping by. Two youngish bighorn rams hanging around Miller Butte. Geese and mallards flying overhead between refuge wetlands and feeding areas.
Friday afternoon, Oct. 23, Richard Hardy and Diane Birdsall walked Henry’s Road and watched an active flock of 20-plus mountain bluebirds feeding along both sides in shrub and meadow habitat along the Snake River. An unidentified grouse emerged from the woods and narrowly escaped collision when it ran under the wheels of a car. A ground squirrel stuffed its cheek pouches with sunflower seeds under their feeder, “and we wondered where it might stash these for winter,” Birdsall said.
Bert thinks perhaps there’s some squirrel stash happening in his own attic in Skyline Ranch.
Jon Hunt and Annie Band called in some excitement on Oct. 25: Annie heard scratching at the kitchen door and saw a porcupine on its hind legs trying to get in. Jon saw a group of mergansers that pushed fish up into the shallows of Fish Creek and ate them, just like they were a pack of wolves. Bert says pelicans also do that.
Goldfinches, house finches and black-capped chickadees also visited the feeder. A Northern flicker came to the fountain. On Oct. 18, above Game Creek trail, several Clark’s nutcrackers gathered seeds from ripe cones hanging from the tops of trees and flew in small groups of 3 or 4 across the forest canopy. Red squirrels were chattering loudly and defending their caches in the thickets overhanging the creek.
Wes Timmerman started the week with numerous cedar waxwings and a small flock of red-breasted nuthatches. By the end of the week, things went quiet. “Our bird feeders are up, filled and ready,” he said.
Teton Raptor center has 15 patients in its rehab clinic of eight different species: great horned owls, American kestrels, osprey and a Northern saw-whet owl. One of the newer patients is a great horned owl found weak, emaciated, and with internal parasites. It is being treated with fluids, a good diet, and an anti-parasite medication called FenBen in hopes of a full recovery.
One small correction from last week’s edition: Before the storm on the evening of Oct. 11, Dr. Alice Richter saw two little black-throated sparrows, not house sparrows, in her big yellow rose bushes at her dental office in Rafter J. They were so cute, they seemed to be just resting.