Jackson Hole is famous across the planet as one of the best locations for wildlife and landscape photography. Our naturalist programs make the most of this by offering photo safaris twice per week throughout the year. This week, we explored Grand Teton National Park with cameras, tripods and lenses to find historic barns, abundant wildlife and expansive mountain views. Taking advantage of our Spring wildflowers, we took a 20-minute walk to find this meadow of daisys with the majestic Teton range providing the perfect photographic backdrop (seen in the image below).
This month is outstanding for wildlife watching in general, but one of the highlights is the unique courtship behavior by our local sage grouse. Males and females gather in specific areas called leks, and the males work very hard to impress the female grouse by prancing around, raising their sharp tail feathers, beating their wings and inflating their yellow air sacs on their neck. Throughout this entire display they are vocalizing loudly with a voice that is unlike anything else in nature. We have seen this behavior several times on recent safaris and this image was taken earlier this week.
I’m also happy to report that the bald eagle nest on Spring Creek Ranch’s property remains active and the female was observed today laying low on her nest, likely incubating eggs. This nest has had varying success in fledgling eaglets in recent years, so we remain hopeful that it will be successful this year.
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.
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.
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.
On a typical Yellowstone National Park excursion we are able to see several geysers erupt throughout the day, but on this week’s trip we were able to observe a total of five. During our day, we watched Old Faithful, Beehive, Lion, Great Fountain and Clepsydra erupt.
Our wildlife sightings have also been consistently strong during our safaris and moose have been especially cooperative lately. There were several moose laying along the Snake River the other day, but this female proved to be the most photogenic.