Kurt has been working and studying in the field of wildlife conservation and natural history interpretation for sixteen years. Aside from wildlife biology, specific interests that he enjoys sharing with others include astronomy and wildlife photography. Kurt has been living in Jackson for eight years sharing his passion for the natural world with others.
The vast majority of breeding birds have left Jackson Hole in search of warmer climates, but several birds including this Steller’s Jay will remain throughout the Winter. This image taken this morning shows the vibrant blue coloration of this jay’s wing and tail feathers and (simply by good luck) has a six-sided snow crystal which recently landed on this bird.
This lightweight brand of snowflake has landed in abundance during the past week, accumulating to over three feet of snow in the mountains and allowing Jackson Hole Mountain Resort to open all of its ski lifts this weekend.
One of the most unique animals within this ecosystem is the pronghorn (frequently called antelope) so it is appropriate that these animals engage in one of the most unique migrations in the entire continent. Jackson Hole’s population of pronghorn leave our valley each Fall moving south in the general direction of Pinedale, WY.
Their migration corridor is very narrow as it is constrained by their habitat preferences, highways, residential development and oil & gas development. As a result, we were able to watch hundreds of these speedy animals migrate during an outing yesterday to observe this phenomena. It was an amazing event to witness. The pronghorn doe in this image was one of about 140 which sprinted across a small county road bisecting their migration corridor. She was running at about 30 MPH so to capture her motion in this photograph, the shutter speed was set slow (1/50 sec) while the lens followed her from right to left.
This month’s multi-day safaris have been excellent in terms of cooperative weather and cooperative wildlife. Our primary objective on these safaris is to see predators and we were able to watch several species of predators on each of these including gray wolves, grizzly bears, eagles, coyotes, weasels and black bears.
During one evening, we witnessed a pack of gray wolves and a grizzly bear chasing one another as they all worked to establish dominance over the remnants of a kill. This sow grizzly bear and two cubs were seen in Hayden Valley and eventually swam across the Yellowstone River.
Both species of local bears are becoming more visible these days as they anticipate their upcoming hibernation. Black bears, such as this one, have been particularly active feeding on service berries and hawthorn berries in Grand Teton National Park.
Along with large mammals, birds of prey seem to be a group of animals that most wildlife enthusiasts are strongly interested in. During Summer months, we often see five to six different species of raptors (birds of prey) and occasionally more on each safari.
This Swainson’s Hawk allowed our safari vehicle to approach very closely today so we all took advantage of its cooperative nature by studying its details closely with binoculars and taking some close-up photographs.
Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks aren’t the best place to live for amphibians and reptiles, but we still see snakes occasionally and the garter snake is by far the most common snake here.
This garter was spotted this morning near Wilson, Wyoming and can be seen “smelling” the surroundings with its tongue. The forked tongue allows it to smell in stereo which is an asset when hunting prey.
It is definitely more correct to refer to young bison as calves, but they give such an impression of little, red dogs that they are sometimes referred to as puppies. Newborn bison have been a highlight of safaris lately along with excellent sightings of many other birds and mammals. Our recent Wolf and Bear Safari was amazing and, as always, I was impressed with our catalog of sightings by the end of the trip.
Highlights of the safari included: several wolves including newborn puppies, two sow grizzlies with a total of five cubs, coyotes carrying away carrion, enormous bull elk in velvet, a peregrine falcon on its cliffy nest, a great-horned owl nest with chicks and a bighorn sheep ram with a full-curled set of horns.
Today’s safari observed a very unusual combination of sightings which included four species within the Cervidae (deer) family here in Jackson Hole. The rarest deer found here is the white-tailed deer (seen commonly in the east) so after spotting this large ungulate along the eastern border of Grand Teton National Park, we were especially excited to view elk, moose and mule deer throughout the evening’s outing.
This is a rare compilation of mammal sightings and the addition of bighorn sheep, bison and ground squirrels only added to our impressive species list for the day. Interesting bird sightings of the safari included horned larks, mountain bluebirds, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks and green-winged teals.
Clear skies last night aided perfect viewing of the full moon as well as winter constellations, Mars and Saturn. Tonight’s moon is waning but will be along side Saturn to the east in early evening hours.
Wildlife sightings have been exceptional during recent safaris and have included wolves, a mink, river otters and several raptors. During yesterday’s snowshoe hike on Spring Creek Ranch, we had the year’s first sighting of a bald eagle perched on our resident eagle nest. We will keep our fingers crossed that our eagle pair successfully raise chicks this year.