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Back to the Woods

Late start for nesting birds

by Dan Hartman
June 1, 2017

     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.








Photos

View slide show

Me After My Talk In Scotland

Pilot-Index

Great Gray Owl Feathers

Laura With Feather

Williamson Sap Sucker

Pygmy Aspen Grove




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