Every now and then in Jackson Hole a small number of gray partridge (Perdix perdix) nee Hungarian partridge nee European partridge show up and are seen locally for a while.

“Attempts to introduce the European gray partridge into North America have met with market success in certain favorable localities and with many dismal failures in other places less congenial to it.” — Arthur Cleveland Bent, 1932

The most common name now is Hungarian partridge. They are rarely seen in the Hole, but have adapted in the West from southern British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan south to northern California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

The Hungarian partridge is a rotund, scratching, chicken-like grayish bird, smaller than a grouse and with a dark U-shaped splotch on its belly, a rusty face and chestnut bars on its sides. Not all birds are so well marked.

Introduced as a game bird, they are supposed to be good to eat.

On Wednesday, Feb. 6, Chip Marvin spotted a flock of at least 14 Hungarian partridge just where Game Creek comes into Highway 89 south of Jackson, between 100 and 200 feet from the road. There have been no reports in recent years.

It’s interesting that they’ve shown up after a heavy snow.

Look for “Huns” around buildings, windswept areas, generally open country. But if you find yourself near open, flowing water look for the dipper bird, aka the water ouzel.

Found on all the small, fast creeks in the region during summer. In winter the American dipper will forage along the Snake and Gros Ventre rivers, on Cascade Creek near Hidden Falls, on Fish Creek near Wilson.

The American dipper is an admirable little bird, a plump package of only eight inches, one of whose chief charms is that is sings all year, even on those blustery midwinter days when you will not even want to think about the wind-chill factor. The song is cheerful, melodious, trilly and repetitious, and it carries well over rushing water. The note is a single “zreet.”

The dipper will be found along the water and, in fact, in it. It plunges into the water and walks on the bottom in search of aquatic insects, invertebrates and even small fish. On emerging, it often pauses momentarily on a rock and bobs up and down. As it does so it flashes its white eyelid. Against the dark gray body, this white flash is easily discernible in field glasses. The dipper’s body is uniformly dark and wren-shaped, and the legs are sturdy. The dipper reminds one of a short, tailless, colorless robin determined to go for a swim.

Field Notes: In Buffalo Valley, Feb. 2, Deb Patla says, “Not much bird stuff to report ... same ol’ birds at the feeder: magpies, both chickadees, Stellar’s jay, hairy and downy woodpeckers, RB nuthatch. A brown creeper comes along but just for the company, I never see him on the suet. There is often one, rarely two, Clark’s nutcrackers. Big change from last year when we had over a dozen nutcrackers every day. Yesterday, the nutcracker started pecking at his own reflection in a window ... courtship season already? I hope he finds a better candidate for a mate! And, a lone slate-colored junco showed up in our yard this past week.”

Dan and MJ Forman were privileged to watch bald eagles in mating flight over South Park. Connie Owen was surprised to see 35 robins in one tree on the Pioneer Homestead property, on Feb. 8.

Observations from Susan Patla on Feb. 9: “I did get a new bird for my yard list this week: Six sharp-tailed grouse waddled through deep snow around the shrubs in our backyard for a while on Thursday, and one even perched in a small lodgepole before they flew off. I often see them in winter near the bottom of our hill in shrub habitat, or down near the river. It was a treat to have them visit the yard.

“Had one Cassin’s finch today along with the regular pine grosbeaks and American goldfinches. Heard a Townsend’s solitaire singing today in the cold. Also black-capped chickadees have started to sing this past week. Days are getting longer.

“Also I took photos of a subadult bald eagle at the Teton River and then found a porcupine sleeping in a willow near the road.”

Feb. 9, Joe Bohne reports an unusual happening south of Horse Creek, 63 robins “piled into the juniper bush, eating berries. I’ve never seen this before.” Joe has also had 10 Bohemian waxwings overwintering, another first for him.

A pretty hefty dump of snow, deep, especially for recent winters, came on top of a modest snow cover on the 3rd and 4th, making for a hard winter for ungulates. Mule deer are up to their shoulders. Take extra care of our wildlife.

Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways thrown in.

Jennifer Dorsey is chief copy editor for the News&Guide and one of the editors for local articles printed in the Jackson Hole Daily.

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