Weather

Rendezvous Mountain peeks through the clouds as seen from the Gros Ventre River.

There’s always time to admire the clouds, even if you don’t know their names. I wrote this “Far Afield” column in August of 2007 all about the clouds — maybe it will inspire you to take the time to look up.

“Among the many statistics not readily to my hand is the average number of days each year that are cloud-free over Jackson Hole. They’re nice. Although: The Tetons appear smaller, your photos suggest a lack of something you-just-can’t-put-your-finger-on, and addicted cloudwatchers are out of luck.

“Maybe kids are taught today about clouds and sky and related subjects. Not in my day, but I’d read about such. And so one day long ago, this kid ran home and said it looked as if a hurricane was coming. Hurricanes didn’t come to that part of the East Coast (in those days), and there weren’t TV personalities standing in front of the very part of the map you’re interested in. (No TV at all.)

“Everybody pooh-poohed the notion. But it was a rare hurricane in the Northeast. You could look it up, if I mentioned the year.

“For a while I got all excited about weather forecasting. A decade later, when learning to blow laboratory glassware, I even made a mouth barometer. Very inconvenient to use, and insensitive. (Depends on your body temperature being quite constant, you see.) I have digressed, but then I rather planned to do it.

“Meteorology faded, but a liking for clouds remains. Jackson Hole is a pretty nifty place to admire them. One kind that occurs here, but not everywhere, are lenticular clouds. These are cloud formations that resemble in shape a double convex lens. Rather suggestive of, um, “spaceships.” They form, when conditions permit, above or downwind of a mountain (or hill) when strong winds produce waves in the air. Jet stream winds can also produce lenticular clouds.

“These attractive clouds were being formed on the windy afternoon of Aug. 20, rather distant from the Tetons and quite actively forming, disappearing and reforming. Sometimes lenticular clouds seem simply to stand in one limited spot for lengthy periods. And sometimes a quite small cloud hangs just to the lee of the Grand Teton, hinting at wind conditions on that peak.

“Lenticular clouds are, basically, altocumulus clouds. Middle-level clouds in the atmosphere. That may be enough to know, for otherwise you may stop simply admiring (or bemoaning) clouds and start to classify them instead: stratus, nimbo stratus, cumulus, cirrus, etc. It’s a slippery slope, knowledge.”

Field notes: On Veterans Day Frank Ewing spotted several eastern blue jays at his house in East Jackson.

Blue jays also continue to be seen at wide ranging locations in the valley, including Kelly and Cottonwood Park in Jackson, as reported in the Nov. 12 Bird and Nature Club meeting.

Two white throated sparrows were also seen on Veterans Day in South Park by Dennis Butcher.

Earle Layser noted he “had a Stellar’s jay at my bird feeder” at his home in Alta. “Usually I think of them being up in the mountains in the forest.”

Also noted at the Bird and Nature Club: Pine grosbeaks were found in Wilson. Thirty-five to 40 were also seen at Bert Raynes’ feeders on Saturday, a surprising number, even for a bird-watching columnist.

Finally, Deb Patla reported from Buffalo Valley: “Three or four mountain chickadees often hop around inches from my feet and hands when I fill the suet feeder, and even perch on the suet block as I hold it.

“I thought it was only the food they focused on, but walking in the woods a quarter-mile or more from my yard, on several occasions a mountain chickadee has landed on a branch within a couple feet of my face, calling softly and making eye contact. What a sweet thing, to feel personally recognized by a wild bird.”

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

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