I returned from Scotland about a week ago and was instantly busy with groups By the way, Yellowstone is extremely popular in the UK, so I was well received, especially my owl program.
Anyway, in the last few days I've been able to get back to walking the woods. I really expected nesting to be in full swing. I found just the opposite.
Bluebird and hairy woodpecker females are still flying around, which means they haven't started incubating eggs yet. Idid find a flicker in a cavity but many more still haven't chosen a cavity. I didn't find any sapsuckers.
Re-checking my great gray owl nests, I found all still empty. So that's that.
Yesterday I went on a scout with good friends Dave and Laura. We climbed to a high aspen grove I haven't walked in years. We discovered a pair of bluebirds, also a pair of flickers. Promising nesting will happen soon.
We climbed higher, reaching a view of decades old fence line that stretches across the sage flats backed by snow covered Pilot-Index. Shortly after we re-entered a stand of mixed forests that lead down to the river. Cindy and I had found evidence of great gray owls here some ten years ago, so I thought we'd look around a bit. As we walked down a long meadow, a feather blowing in the wind caught my eye. It was from a great gray. We were instantly excited. But, that excitement quickly dropped to frustration as more feathers came to view. More than two dozen. We'd discovered what remained of a dead owl.
How did it die?
Killed by another owl..... maybe a goshawk? More likely, it starved to death.
The tail feathers told me it was an adult male. Did that mean a female was nearby on a nest? The feathers were a few days old. She probably already abandoned the nest, if there was one. We moved on.
Today I climbed up to a pygmy owl nest that was active in 2015. Two bison grazed beneath the aspens. An elk with a calf barked and disappeared into the forest. I sat down on a log to listen. If I was lucky, I'd hear the little owl bring food to its mate. Tree swallows flitted above the aspens. A pair of Williamson sapsuckers moved from tree to tree. The first sapsuckers I've seen. I glassed the cliffs miles to the south. Two goats browsed in a green area.
Time passed. I walked around a bit. Four fresh bear scats lay scattered under a large pine.
I finally gave up. No whistles had sounded from the forest. I wasn't surprised. I haven't seen a pygmy owl since January.
Like the great grays, pygmy nest are going to be few and far between.