It may be all those daylight minutes we’ve gained since the solstice: earlier sunrises and a few lingering moments in the evening before night slams down. It may be this odd winter, although every season in the northern Rockies is, well, different. It could be cabin fever, but this hasn’t been one of those winters, either.
It probably has nothing to do with anything above. “It” is likely just coincidence, that of a sudden, a day ahead of Groundhog Day, some striking bird sightings have been reported.
How’s about a male mountain bluebird spotted Friday from the Casper lift on Rendezvous Mountain? (Skiers, snowboarders and mountaineers seldom report animals or birds. Too bad.) That little guy is too early by a month. Or too late by a whole bunch.
Suddenly pine siskins have shown up in recent days, after weeks of absence. And they’re hungry. The siskins and goldfinches liven up a feeding station. Winter finches in general are active little chaps.
Also new at at least one feeder in recent days are common redpolls.
Comes now, too, snow buntings on the National Elk Refuge Road. Another place to look for snow buntings is the Antelope Flats-Kelly area. Also keep an eye out for horned larks.
At least one robin is popping around in the Hole. In Star Valley one observer finds Steller’s jays absent from her yard and calls it unusual and predictive of an easy winter. I don’t predict.
A goshawk that had developed a taste for Eurasian collared doves was found dead in South Park, probably the victim of a crash while hunting. It’s puzzling that more avian predators don’t key in on those plump-looking doves.
A recent small snowstorm has covered tracks on the valley floor, but that hasn’t discouraged rough-legged hawks. These large raptors are still here in unusual number, hunting in open areas.
A loggerhead shrike, here in winter, was seen well Saturday along Flat Creek at the north end of Jackson. A pine-billed grebe was spotted last week in a west bank pond.
As noted in this space often before, I don’t like to try to predict weather or animal and bird behavior. But I do speculate sometimes and, more often, simply wonder. I kind of wonder about this sudden arrival of wintering birds.
As I write this the entire electronic and thus “civilized” world is awaiting word on two events: security surrounding an incidental football game and security surrounding the Sushi Olympics. The focus seems to be on security, not the games so much. Sure sounds like civilization.
Field Notes: Some interesting bird sightings on the first of February: A mountain bluebird (Kathy Luciano), pine siskins (Frances Clark), goldfinches (many observers), snow buntings (Louise Lasley) goshawk (Richard and Francesca Rice), rough-legged hawks (many reports), loggerhead shrike (Louise Lasley), pine-billed grebe (Heinz and Trudy Walter).
Good observations and additions to the Nature Mapping database.
It’s not Marmot Day quite yet as I write this, but I’m guessing there’s a lot more winter to come in Jackson Hole and environs. Do not stress animals that are trying to survive.
The Jackson Hole Bird and Nature Club will meet 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Teton County Library. Everyone is welcome to attend and share observations of nature history in and around Jackson Hole. Casual and informative.
At this meeting Joe Bohne, retired Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologist, will present. He will give an overview of the Upper Snake River Basin Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan revision — threats and management issues facing the Jackson Hole sage-grouse population.
© Bert Raynes 2014