Our Most Common Reptile

Snake - Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole, WY
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.

Great Gray Owl Chicks

Great Gray Owl Chicks - Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole, WY
This photograph pretty much tells the whole story of what we observed early this morning. Great gray owls are the biggest owl on the continent and are rare in most places.

We in Jackson Hole are fortunate to see them often in this region, but this morning’s sighting of an adult owl landing next to one of its chicks and then soaring off moments later was unforgettable.

Red Foxes Make Excellent Parents!

Red Fox - Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole, WY
A family of red foxes has denned just outside Grand Teton National Park and consists of two parents and five kits. The parents are working full time to feed their hungry offspring and this image shows how one of today’s hunting expeditions was very successful.

The young kits went crazy when this adult returned to the den with a mouthful of small mammals for dinner!

Returning Migrants

Osprey - Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole, WY
Ospreys are back in Jackson Hole and almost every osprey nest along the Snake River is occupied with a pair. The bald eagle nest on Spring Creek Ranch had a late start but our local eagles are on the nest and we’ll remain hopeful that they have a successful nest this year.

Other birds to have returned recently include sandhill cranes, several different species of waterfowl and loons.

Snipe Hunt

Snipe - Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole, WY
The “snipe hunt” has been a traditional practical joke on inexperienced campers and consequently has led to many thinking that a snipe is a fictional animal. It is very real but heard more often than seen so this snipe out in broad daylight was exciting to observe on today's safari.

April is a wonderful month for wildlife watching as the national parks are quiet, animals are in motion and each day seems to bring a new species out of hibernation or returning from warmer climates.

Sage Grouse

Sage Grouse - Spring Creek Ranch, Jacks
This large species of sage grouse had been in the headlines a bit lately as it has been up for consideration for increased protection under the Endangered Species Act. Grouse are often good subjects for photography as they are relatively tame, but this individual posed for our photo safari participants especially well.

During the month of April we’ll be able to observe the elaborate courtship displays that these birds exhibit on their leks (breeding grounds).

Photographer’s Paradise

coyote - Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole, WY
We left Spring Creek Ranch at dawn this morning to take advantage of nice lighting for this morning’s photo safari.

These excursions differ from our wildlife safaris in that we work to put ourselves in the best possible photogenic locations while discussing camera equipment and useful techniques for nature photography. We ended up with excellent opportunities to photograph the Teton Mountains, this coyote stalking prey, and Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep.

The Sound of Pine Forests

squirrel - Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole, WY
In the evergreen forests of North America the chattering of a red squirrel is a frequent presence to any outing. Our squirrels are active year-round, but have shown increased enthusiasm in the past couple weeks as Spring quickly approaches. Interesting sightings lately have included a porcupine, mountain goats and my first sighting of a 2010 butterfly (likely a Milbert’s tortoiseshell).