Long-billed Curlew and Much More

long-billed curlew - Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole, WY
In the past few days we have literally seen thousands of animals on our safaris. Many of these were elk and bison migrating North, but we also were able to see many moose, deer, bighorn sheep and bison. This morning we had a nice view of a newborn bison which looked absolutely tiny next to its mother.

This close-up image of a long-billed curlew shows this bird’s unique bill which allows it to forage for invertebrates in open meadows and wetlands.  Shorebirds like this are typically associated with coastal areas but this species thrives in mountain valleys such as Jackson Hole. Another exciting bit of local wildlife news is that today’s observation confirmed that Spring Creek Ranch’s bald eagle nest remains active with the female dutifully incubating egg(s) in preparation for our upcoming 2010 mother’s day.

Winter Wildlife

hairy woodpecker - Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole, WY
The vast majority of our breeding birds here in Jackson Hole migrate to warmer regions, but a select few are tough enough to endure our long winters.

Recently, our wildlife safaris have witnessed several of these species including a few species of waterfowl, rough-legged hawks, bald eagles, shrikes and this hairy woodpecker who visited a feeder today.

Goldeneye (Nothing to do with James Bond, 007)

Common Goldeneye - Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole, WY
The word “common” can be misleading when it comes to wildlife names. This vibrant duck seen on yesterday’s safari is a good example of this, as its name is “Common Goldeneye,” but is fairly unusual here in Jackson Hole.

The Barrow’s Goldeneye is much more typically seen, so this was a fun addition to our day’s species list. Currently, we have lots of great behaviors to observe and on yesterday’s trip we watched coyotes hunting, bighorn sheep chasing one another, moose foraging, an eagle scavenging and bison grazing.

Wildlife Safaris in Jackson Hole

An American Kestrel Spotted on A Spring Creek Wildlife Safari

An American Kestrel That Was Spotted on a Spring Creek Ranch Wildlife Safari


Looking out the window today the snow is falling and I found myself thinking of spring. One thought that stuck in my head was last April when I went with our Naturalist, Kurt Johnson on a Dawn Wildlife Safari. We went out past the National Elk Refuge, to Kelly and around the loop to the National Museum of Wildlife Art, then back to Spring Creek Ranch.

The wildlife were out in numbers and we photographed Bison, Elk, Moose, Mule Deer and Bighorn Sheep. The birds were also returning to Jackson Hole. We saw thirteen varieties of birds including: Trumpeter Swans, Red Tailed Hawks, Mallard Ducks, Bald Eagles, Canada Geese, and an American Kestrel.

My favorite bird was the little American Kestrel. Not much bigger than a Robin, this bird inhabits our valley between April and September. We saw it at the art museum perched on one of the rock ledges eating a mouse. These birds don’t usually eat anything bigger than a grasshopper, so this was a major score. We tried not to scare it away, so this picture was taken with a telephoto lens. What a magnificent little bird! These animals and birds are all out there just waiting to be seen and photographed.

Naked Bull Moose

Naked Bull Moose - Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole, WY
Once bull moose shed their antlers, they always look a little like they aren’t wearing clothes anymore (or like a female moose.) Almost all of the bull moose have shed their antlers, but there are one or two small bulls that are still carrying their mini-antlers around proudly.

This image was taken on yesterday’s safari and if you look closely on the skull in between the ears and the eyes, you can see the pedicle which is where the antlers had attached to the head. This bull will likely remain “naked” for another couple of months before beginning to grow new antlers.

Winter Wildlife Escape

Winter Wildlife Escape at Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole, WY
Each of our wildlife safari excursions offers unique wildlife sightings and today’s full-day trip was no exception. The vast majority of raptors (birds of prey) have migrated South of Jackson Hole, but we were able to view four species of raptors throughout the day.

Northern Harriers and Red-tailed hawks are unusual to view in winter months here, but we had great sightings of both earlier this morning. Rough-legged hawks and bald eagles were also seen including this eagle who had recently scavenged on the National Elk Refuge. Other interesting sightings from the trip included close views of elk, moose, bighorn sheep and mule deer.

National Elk Refuge Provides Bighorn Habitat, Too

Big Horn Sheep - Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson, WY
Our wildlife safaris are offered year-round and I keep a log of sightings from every trip that we have ever done with an approximate count for each species.

On one of last week’s safaris we counted one of the highest number of bighorn sheep ever recorded on the National Elk Refuge: 61! As the snow keeps falling more and more animals are moving on to the Refuge including thousands of elk, bison, coyote, bald eagles and bighorns.

Photography Safari Highlights

mule deer - Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole, WY
Our photo safaris are designed to enhance every nature photographer’s technique and opportunity. Jackson Hole is a playground for wildlife photographers and today’s snowy safari provided opportunities for great shots of bighorn sheep, moose, bald eagles and this small herd of mule deer bucks.

Photographers thinking about a visit to Jackson Hole should consider Spring Creek Ranch as THE destination for their base-camp for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks photography.

UPDATE:
Whenever we can, we like to post comments from our guests. Click here to view comments from today’s trip.

Never a Dull Moment!

Porcupine - Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole, WY
Every wildlife safari offers both expected and surprising sightings. Today we were fortunate to watch a golden eagle perched near a group of rocky mountain bighorn sheep. After scowling at us for 20 minutes, this enormous predator flew off demonstrating its impressive agility and majestic presence. After sightings of coyote, elk, moose and mule deer we traveled to an area where a porcupine has been spending time.

This porcupine appears to be young and very cooperative for observation and photography. These medium-sized rodents have a very low reproductive rate which is compensated with a low mortality rate, since very few predators are willing to risk confrontation with their thousands of specialized quills.