Yellowstone Reports

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A Whole Different Winter

Things Change
by Dan Hartman

Dec. 14, 2011

Winter seems to be evolving slowly this year. Snow on the ground is roughly a third of last season. Temps have been vastly different also, with December lows last year averaging plus 19 degrees while it has been a much colder Ė7 average this December. This has all computed to different wildlife movements around our cabin. We have yet to spot a rosey finch at our feeder. Last year we had a flock from late October on. Pine Grosbeaks finally arrived just after Thanksgiving, exactly a month later than last year.

Pine martens were hanging all over our cabin at this time in 2010, and had been since early November. But this winter we have yet to have one visit. There is a big male in the valley and we have seen his tracks passing within fifty yards of our cabin. He even checked out the elk calf carcass killed by the Lamars last week. Itís just across the creek from our home. One glaring element missing this winter is the lack of any sign from the little female marten. Without her keeping the males interested, we could have a slow marten year.

On the positive side of this low snow winter is the possible return of owls. We have been finding plunge marks in the snow above our cabin, believed to be from a boreal owl. This was confirmed to be true when I saw one perched at dawn below our cabin. My first boreal of the year. As Iím writing this a pygmy owl just made a try at a grosbeak! Hopefully this will translate in to a good spring nesting season. Last years was non-existent.

Grouse and snowshoe hare sign is abundant. Last year we found little.

I guess these changing conditions are what keeps life interesting. Nothing stays the same.


View slide show

Boreal Owl

Female Grosbeak

Pygmy Owl

Ruffed Grouse