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It’s In Your Nature: Some notable birds of Wyoming

I’m sure you know my passion for learning more, and experiencing everything about nature. And of course, birds. I’ll never reach the life list numbers of my fellow birder, Dave Hawk (634) but I will always hope to see something new where ever my nature travels take me. Whether it’s here in the Times News region, or as in my June 16 trip to Wyoming.

While there, I tried to beat the late rising guests afield and also knowing that wildlife activity wanes as the day progresses. Each of the six mornings in the Jackson Hole area and Yellowstone National Park found me heading for a new and interestingly looking habitat. My nature snooping began rather early every morning. In fact so early that I often needed to wait for enough sunlight to begin photography.

My goal was to add 12 to 15 “lifers” and I wasn’t disappointed. I added 19 never seen before species now bringing my life list to 410. The good news for me is that I had multiple opportunities to see most of these birds. I’m not a Wyoming Audubon member expert, but I was quick to be comfortable in identifying them. The variety of habitats, from sage brush covered meadows and hillsides, to rushing rapids of the Yellowstone River, to the unbelievable vast coniferous forests of Yellowstone held a variety of birds.

My wife and I even took a tram to the top of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ski area, where at 10,400 feet I was hoping to find black rosy-finches atop the nearly barren mountain top. Within minutes of arriving in this alpine environment a single finch obligingly landed close to me and a new “lifer” was in the books.

Again, as in my Wyoming mammal column a few weeks ago, I hope I can rekindle some memories if you’ve already been to the West. For others like me, maybe these pictures will prompt you to move a trip to Wyoming higher on your bucket list. I hope you enjoy viewing the species I’ve found, but know they are so much more appreciated when you see them in the wild. Enjoy.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: True/False: The largest bear species in North American is the grizzly bear?

Last Week’s Trivia Answer: Tree swallows, whose broods for the year have already left their nest cavities, will disperse to large lakes or rivers and feed there until late September or early October and again pass through our region heading to coastal areas farther south for the winter. They are the first arriving and last departing swallows locally.

Email Barry Reed at breed71@gmail.com

A member of the crow family, a black-billed magpie walks along a secondary road in the Jackson Hole area. They are rather common around ranches, sagebrush and meadow areas, but shun the deep coniferous forest areas of Yellowstone. Their long tail adds to their 19-inch length. BARRY REED PHOTOS
We were fortunate enough to twice cross paths with North America's smallest hummingbird, the calliope hummingbird. It has a beautiful necklace of delicate red feathers.
I was a bit surprised to see few raptors on my Wyoming trip. A Harlan's redtail - a common dark form of our common redtail - perches on a post in sagebrush west of Jackson.
Wyoming doesn't host our scarlet tanager, but the resident Western tanagers rival their eastern counterparts.
Gaudy maybe, but truly beautiful, harlequin ducks rest on a log in the LaHardy Rapids on the Yellowstone River.
A Clark's grebe surfaces after searching underwater for small fish in a backwater area of the Yellowstone River.
A cinnamon teal swims among the water plants along the shore line of Yellowstone Lake. I'm sure you know how it got its name.
A group of eight white pelicans - seemingly out of place in the mountains of Wyoming - swim in tandem to ‘herd' fish into the shallows of Yellowstone Lake.
The mountain bluebird certainly ranks high on the most beautiful bird list. We saw a number of them in the Old Faithful area.
Rather common in sagebrush and stream side brush, the black-headed grosbeak is the western counterpart of our rose-breasted grosbeak.
Green-tailed towhees, like this one, were common in sagebrush especially in the Jackson Hole area.