Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk - Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole, WY
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.

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!

Bison Puppies

Bison Puppies - Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole, WY
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.

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.