We headed to Yellowstone last week which is why there wasn’t a Friday Phenology report. So there’s lots to talk about this week…
White Breasted Nuthatches: On the day we left last week, the baby White Breasted Nuthatches sounded stronger almost on an hourly basis. It seemed possible that we would return to find an empty nest, but they’re still there, obviously growing like crazy. The adults bring as many moths as fast as they possibly can. I need to watch to see if there are still three adults around or if it’s down to the breeding pair now. I wouldn’t be surprised if they fledge this weekend. I’ve seen a few heads poking out to look at the world beyond the box, but I still have yet to hear the beating of wings inside there.
Hummingbirds: We mainly have Broad Tailed Hummingbirds up here – and they’re increasing in numbers on almost a daily basis now.
Downy Woodpeckers: They are deep into courtship now. The morning we left, two of them were flirting, checking out various trees and giving their “Queeka Queeka Queeka” call. Mike observed another pair in another part of the county the day before while he was out doing some field work. The books I have say they’ll usually nest successfully if they can agree on a tree in which to excavate a nest. So now is the time to get out and start looking for wood chips around the base of trees.
Mountain Chickadees: A few days before we left, we saw the pairs flirting like crazy and chasing each other through the trees. While taking photos of the tiny insects on the new aspen leaves, I watched a pair scour the leaves, obviously eating these tiny things. They would land on the thin branches and pick away at the leaves, move to the end of another branch and dine almost upside down. In the past, I’ve watched them build their nest using bits of moss from the garden, but I’ve yet to see them with any nest material. We brought back a couple more bird houses from my parents – they were hoping for bluebirds, but only get tree swallows, so gave us a couple of the boxes to add to the trees around here.
Immature Bald Eagles: While driving through North Park – around the Walden area – we saw more immature bald eagles hanging out near the road. That sparked a question for us. Are we seeing all these immature baldies near the roads because there are so many successful nests in that area, or do the immature ones hang out for easier meals – looking for roadkill? We haven’t seen an adult yet this spring in that area. Maybe it’s also just a coincidence.
Redwing Blackbirds: They were thick in North Park – pairing up and groups of them harassing ravens who came too close to their territory.
Sandhill Cranes: We saw, and heard, Sandhill Cranes flying over the Upper Geyser Basin while we were in Yellowstone, and also saw a pair that seem to be nesting farther south at the Sweetwater Ice Slough in Wyoming.
The trail cam still just seems to pick up house cats for the most part – and it looks like we may have a new teenager around. But one set of shots show a very pregnant doe walking by. Last year, when we could finally see that the deer were obviously pregnant, the fawns dropped no more than a week later.
The trail cam also picked up rabbits hopping about. I’m still surprised that we haven’t seen a fox or other critter that might thin that population out a bit.
A neighbor called us to let us know he saw the BIG black bear on his deck while we were gone – we had mentioned the ‘dumpster tipper’ to him before, and told him it was a big bear, but he was still amazed at the size. This is likely the same bear who – a few years back – would wait early on trash day for people to put the trash in the dumpster and rather than climb in, he simply pushed the dumpster over and walked in. The neighbor said that while on all four feet, he was taller than his grill. He also said he saw a smaller one moving through his property.
The Showy Locoweed is starting to bloom here – and is lining the roads in places. Also, the Leafy Cinquefoil is starting to bloom, as are the small Asters – that still need to be identified. I picked up a small sketchbook that I need to get out and use to get these plants sketched out for future reference – so I hope to have sketches to share soon. It’s ever so much easier to have a sketch and possibly photos to use in the evenings to identify exactly which varieties are blooming. I hope to also get out and get a good list of “What’s Blooming” on a more regular basis this year.
The various pine trees are getting ready to pollinate and turn the decks – and everything else – yellow. We’re both allergic to it here – and are grateful for the rain that knocks it down to the ground rather quickly. One of my jobs this week is to head out and check the various types of trees here on the property to see which ones are at what stage – it’s not something I’ve tracked before, but would like to add to the yearly checklist.
What’s happening in your neck of the woods? Leave a comment and feel free to link to a blog post you might have. I love hearing what’s happening in other corners of the country/world as well.
If you want to catch the wildflowers in full bloom in Yellowstone, this year should be a good one. Last year wasn’t shabby as this photo can tell you. Late July and Early August are usually good times to catch them, but if you missed them in one location, or they aren’t quite ready in another, head up or down in elevation. Usually the water lilies on Isa Lake are blooming around now – and if you’re there, bring out the binoculars and watch in the rocks (across the road from the parking lot with the information sign) as you listen for the high chirping whistle of the Pika who live there. While I haven’t heard from anyone about how the wildflowers are coming along after such a snowy winter and spring – I’m hoping my next trip into the Park will yield some more great photo ops like this one.
I took this photo while taking the Yellowstone Association class with Susan Zwinger: The Illustrated Journal for Heart, Art and Science – a pivot point in the direction I took to get where I am now and pointing the way to where I hope to go. In fact, I think I’m only starting to realize the enormous effect that slight shift is having over time. It’s been nearly one year (+ one week) since I took the class – and this photo. Our assignment was to sketch wildflowers, but with this absolute visual feast before me, that was like asking me to just pick one or two crumbs! Nope, had to use the camera here and let the flowers, sky, and hills feed into and fill the card(s). A part of what I try to capture in my photography is the essence of being there. I finally processed this image so I can still feel the lift of my heart as it soared as I wandered through the flowers, careful of my step – trying not to trample any. I know I’ve got it processed well when I can feel the sun on my back, and then the coolness from the shade of the clouds that came just as I began to feel too hot. Those whose medium is paint, colored pencils or pastels might be able to capture that same lift I felt, but my main medium is the camera and then photoshop to encourage the photo to grow into the one I have in my memory – or the one I visualized as I released the shutter.
This is one photo I’ve slated to be including in the images I’ll offer as prints hopefully in the next few weeks – it just depends on how much I can get done on this and a few other projects in the works. I also need to order test images to make sure they’ll process how I hope they will.
On the Fourth of July, my husband and I debated what we should do – and rattled off the various options. In the end, we settled on watching the live broadcast of the Cody Stampede 4th of July parade on the internet (really good to see it this way when we couldn’t be there in person). So many of my childhood 4th of July celebrations were spent up there – and just watching from here, it made it feel more like a ‘proper’ 4th. About half way through, I realized, “HEY! I can still take photos of the parade!” and did just that. Though screenshots might have been clearer, they would have impeded my ability to just watch the fun. I don’t know why I have a deep need to record things, but I do – maybe it’s just because I know my memory is not to be trusted. But whatever it is, it’s actually easier to go with it than fight it.
And, look! I know someone on this float!
After the parade, we decided just to head out to the National Forest along Cedar Mountain Road so I could take photos of what all was blooming for my field journal. We took a route we had taken before many times – to a lovely little campsite down the end of draw there. I made certain I took lots of vertical shots as I planned to get them printed to fill a couple of 9-pocket page protectors (baseball card sized ones) to go in my scrapbook/field journal after the printout of the topo map showing the route.
Overall, we were dry – marshy places in past years were walkable and the bugs were thick, though few mosquitoes. We joked about it ‘being as hot as the 4th of July!’ – I think it was one of the hottest days we’ve had this year. That sun was brutal, especially inside a jeep with the roof on. But we found shady spots to spend some time wandering around in. I took at least one shot of each type in bloom and created quite a list! I need to double check a couple of them to make sure I’ve identified them correctly, and add in the scientific names for clarity.
- Pussy Toes – the very few blooms were going to seed
- Black Eyed Susan (just starting to bloom)
- Mouse-Eared Chickweed
- Rosy Pussy Toes
- Tall Chiming Bells – only saw one set of blooms right next to the creek
- Lambert Locoweed – past their prime & going to seed- many of them were full of blister beetles of some sort
- Sticky Geranium – only a few
- Richardson Geranium – quite abundant
- Wild Rose – in full bloom
- Colorado Columbine – many were covered with aphids
- Meadow Rue
- Indian Paintbrush
- Daisy/Aster, the small white ones – really not sure which type
- Fairy Trumpets or Scarlet Gilia
- Yellow Stone Crop – blooming in abundance – in fact the stone crop seems to be the only thing truly thriving everywhere up here
- Shooting Stars – just a few, and the blooms fully open were wilted even on the edge of the creek
- Spreading Dogbane
- Penstemon (larger ones – Whipple Penstemon?)
- Leafy Cinquefoil
- Butter and Eggs
- Yarrow – just starting to come out
- Harebell – just starting to come out
- Fireweed – only a few seen
- Yellow Mountain Parsley
And again, we found a turkey feather – almost every time we’ve come down here, we’ve seen at least one turkey feather.
The entire area is slated for a timber sale – it’ll be interesting to see how this little area changes. It has some rather large aspen and pines, but it wasn’t clear to us how far down here the timber sale will reach.
Do you have a place you visit regularly? Consider exploring the area like a naturalist and documenting what you notice. It’s a great excuse to just get out and wander for a bit.