Here’s a section of my 1995 book, “Valley So Sweet,” that I titled “The Cusp.”

“It’s Sept. 8 ... maybe the 9th.

“Trees are touched with yellow along the river.

“The willows. The narrowleaf cottonwoods. Sweet clover in bloom. Knapweed, an undesirable weed that everyone wants to eradicate, is thriving. Seems to me “they” oughta come down here and wipe it out. I’ve pulled at it, whacked away at it, cursed at it. It’s more tenacious than I. So is houndstooth, which I’ve had a tiny bit better luck with. Not much, though.

“Little rain shower this morning. I don’t think there was lightning. Maybe it will help put out a few fires ... that’d be nice. Being threatened by a forest fire rivets a guy’s attention. A recent scare was, well, alerting.

“Slightly fall-looking clouds. A little hatch of bugs ... but I can’t see a swallow anywhere. I’m sure there are still some in the valley. Yesterday, a bald eagle cruised down the river. Today, Canada geese are along the bank, as is a female common merganser. She’s swimming actively, poking her bill rapidly in and out of the water. A yellow warbler, a few chickadees, a little family group of goldfinches fly by; they nest in late summer.

“The sunshine is diluted this morning. I can’t see the top of the Grand Teton ... it’s obscured by clouds. Big swirling clouds: some white, some gray, some ominous, some puffy cumulus. Looking south, the Snake River Range stands out, sharply, defined by snow.

“The day teeters, on the cusp between summer and fall.


Field Notes: On the Teton Crest Trail, Benji Sinclair, Nancy Shea and Zach Friedhof reported seeing three black rosy finches, one peregrine, two winter wrens and five mountain goats. In the Paintbrush Divide area they saw two American pipits, one bighorn sheep, one marten, 10 black rosy finches and seven little brown bats.

Bernie McHugh observed two adult and one (not yet fledged) juvenile eared grebe at the Elk Ranch Reservoir and wondered if the Hole is a breeding location for this species. The “Birds of Jackson Hole” list notes only “circumstantial evidence of breeding” for eared grebes. Eared grebes have also been seen in the South Park wetlands during the summer and may breed there as well.

Bernie also reported six bluebirds, five juncos, two very quiet Savannah sparrows and at least 50 pronghorn and 200 bison.

Susan Marsh watched four to five young evening grosbeaks in wild plumage, three young flickers eating ant queens as they took flight, a single juvenile Swainson’s thrush and about a dozen cedar waxwings, half of which looked like young eating mountain ash berries in her yard.

Connie Linn Leavell reported that the two heron nests on the Linn Ranch have fledged at least six young. The noisy chicks still return to the nesting area for the night but show up in the daytime in very unexpected locations.

During a Snake River float on Sept. 1, Jon Mobeck noticed a general decline in total birds observed, as expected. It was a fairly mild morning, but birds were largely quiet in the chilly dawn hours, except for 13 bald eagles.

Mobeck saw four juvenile eagles and an adult pair perched side by side on an exposed cottonwood branch. Two other adults provided a nice aerial show with flyovers at about 20 feet above the boat. Lots of fun little groups of mergansers. Spotted sandpipers were also still around, but just 14 individual observations seemed to indicate that they are on their way out shortly, while the nine killdeer made sure the float crew knew they were still around. Mobeck reported that a few small bunches of cedar waxwings whistled at them.

The total sightings were five cliff swallows, 13 bald eagles, three American goldfinches, 39 Canada geese, 26 common mergansers, one American crow, 14 spotted sandpipers, nine killdeer, 13 black-capped chickadees, 18 cedar waxwings, four yellow warblers, three American robins, two western wood-pewees, one red-naped sapsucker, two northern flickers, one American kestrel, one common raven, one Cooper’s hawk, one black-billed magpie, one tree swallow and one mallard.

That adds up to 21 bird species on the river and 159 individuals on the river.

Susan Patla reported that in Teton Valley, Idaho, things seemed pretty quiet the morning of Sept. 7, but she observed some flocks of white-crowned sparrows (adult and immatures) and one large flock of juncos. There were robins still around and one catbird at least. And, driving north from Arizona the past few days, she saw migrating flocks of yellow-rumped warblers and white-throated swifts at Mormon Lake, Arizona, where she also found a common crane that had been hanging out. Quite a magnificent crane with lots of energy.

Aspen leaves are beginning to rustle, as Ron Gessler has mentioned, and some leaves are drying up and falling off already. Look hard for any color. Locate your snow shovel.

Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature. Contact him at

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