GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Accompanying travelers to the national park since 2002

All posts tagged birds

Giving thanks nine ways

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male grouse display Yellowstone

Male dusky grouse displaying in Yellowstone National Park
(Click for larger image)

While Yellowstone has no wild turkey, there are several kinds of grouse and other similar birds in the back country. You might like this photo on Flickr by nature photographer Diana, of a female spruce grouse she saw at Dunraven Pass in the park.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and taking a cue from Janet’s Acknowledgments and Best Sights of Yellowstone pages in Yellowstone Treasures, Updated Fourth Edition, here are some of the people and places we are thankful for:

  1. Artist Point, an incomparable view of the Lower Falls and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River
  2. our geology advisers, Bruno Giletti and Jo-Ann Sherwin, along with our other team members
  3. the Geyser Observation and Study Association and other supporting organizations
  4. Great Fountain Geyser, whose tall and exciting eruptions are safe to witness at close range
  5. Inspiration Point, with its outstanding view of Canyon colors
  6. Old Faithful Inn, the immense hundred-year-old log building that rivals its namesake geyser in beauty and interest
  7. the park rangers who protect Yellowstone and educate visitors
  8. the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center
  9. you, our readers, who have kept us going since 2002!

Photo credits: The dusky grouse is an NPS photo in the public domain.

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Observing the American dipper

Categories: Flora and Fauna, Wildlife
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(Part II of Billy Hofer’s article, continued from yesterday)

[The American dipper’s] plumage is dense and compact, and is moreover well protected by a coat of oil, which he often renews from the large oil sack with which he is provided. So the dipper never gets wet, and we may conclude never takes cold, although he passes the winter about the open places of mountain torrents as far north as Alaska. His food, which he secures from the bottom of the stream, consists mainly of aquatic insects, and although his first cousin who inhabits Northern Europe has been accused of feeding on the spawn of trout and salmon, there is not a particle of evidence to sustain the grave charge.

The dipper dives into the water and gets to the bottom as soon as possible, and by means of rapid wing beats and holding on to the stones and gravel with his feet resists the constant tendency to shoot up through the water to the air above. He vigorously turns over the stones and sticks, and secures the water insects and aquatic larvae which are found in such situations, and then when he requires breath comes to the surface again. He presents a queer appearance when at the bottom, where he seems to be tumbling about in the most curious and erratic way, now for a moment stationary, and again being swept away by the force of the stream. No doubt he makes a good living, for he always seems busy, contented and cheerful.

The dipper seems to be satisfied with his own company for the greater part of the year, but during the breeding season he perforce seeks a mate, and these two build their nest close to the water’s edge, under a bank or the roots of a tree, and often amid the spray of some brawling cascade. The structure is as curious in its way as its architects. It is lined with twigs or fine, dry grass, and completely covered on the outside by an arched roof of fine green moss, which is kept fresh and living by the moisture of its surroundings, or sometimes perhaps by the birds themselves, who, it is said, after emerging from the water, fly to the roof of the nest and, alighting there, vigorously shake the drops from their feathers over the mossy covering.

– – – – –
I am quoting this from Hofer’s “Through Two-Ocean Pass,” Part XII, April 9, pages 202–3, Forest and Stream magazine, in fifteen parts, January 29 through April 30, 1885.

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A delightful bird found in Yellowstone, the American dipper

Categories: Flora and Fauna, Through Early Yellowstone, Wildlife
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(Part I)
There’s a rather small and plain bird that I’ve loved to watch whenever I’m lucky enough to be in the Western mountains. Formerly called the water ouzel, the American dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) shows up on pages 337–38 of Yellowstone Treasures in a quote from Owen Wister. But there’s a longer story I came across in an old Forest and Stream magazine.
320px-American_DipperPhoto from Wikipedia Commons

The winter adventurer, Billy Hofer—whose story of an incredible 1887 ski trip through Yellowstone will appear in my forthcoming anthology, Through Early Yellowstone—must have done some research on dippers, although he does not tell us that. His delightful story about them, written two years before his winter trip, is one that all bird watchers can appreciate. Here’s what he wrote 130 years ago.

[American dippers are] curious little drab-colored birds, progressing with an odd bobbing motion along the water’s edge, or taking short flights from one almost submerged rock to the next.

[The bird ranges from] Alaska to Mexico, and it only insists on clear streams among the mountains. On such brooks and rivers as fulfill these conditions the dipper is found in abundance—though it is not a particularly sociable bird, and seems rather to prefer to be alone—and its cheerful song and remarkable habits render it a pleasing feature alike of the dark cañons and of the open sunlit glens.

One feels a ludicrous sensation of astonishment when first observing this species. It is not very surprising to see a bird sitting upon the water or flying above it, dive beneath its surface, but it is really startling to see one calmly walk down a shelving rock or a smooth beach into the water, and keep on without any apparent attempt at swimming or diving, until it has disappeared. It wholly upsets one’s ideas of specific gravity, for we are accustomed to think that birds and mammals will naturally float, and that to dive or disappear beneath the water requires some apparent effort. It is not so with the dipper, however. He marches deliberately into the turbulent water, which engulfs him and usually sweeps him several feet down the stream before he bobs up serenely to the surface, and either takes wing or sculls himself ashore. It must not be supposed that he always enters the water in this way. Quite as often he dives from the wing or from the surface of the stream, but perhaps the method which he likes best is to plunge from the top of a high rock or a log a foot or two above the current, and then, after his battle with the torrent, return to the same perch, from which at intervals he trills his simple though very sweet song.

His method of progression under water is like that of most, if not all, diving birds, by means of the wings. His feet are not better adapted fro swimming than those of a robin, and although he gets along capitally when sculling about the edges of the mountain holes, they would be of little service to him under water except sometimes as anchors. He flies under the water therefore with nearly open wings, and gets about very actively.

(To be continued tomorrow.)

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For wolf devotees and other wildlife lovers

Categories: On the Web, Wildlife
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For a small investment, you can watch from afar the comings and goings of Yellowstone Park’s wildlife. This is a worthwhile website with reports by real naturalists and experienced wolf-watchers.

Besides the almost daily reports, you can also find pictures of the animals and birds the naturalists are seeing. Spring is a great season to be watching all this! And it’s a time when—for personal reasons—very few of us are likely to be there. In fact, these weeks are also not the best time to visit most of the park, because not all roads and facilities are open yet, and because the weather is usually quite iffy until mid June or so.

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Canoeing and kayaking in Yellowstone

Categories: Thermal features, Trip planning
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Yellowstone Lake with deer

Yellowstone Lake at West Thumb

Have you ever imagined seeing the lakeside hot springs of West Thumb Geyser Basin from the water? A new article by Kurt Repanshek, “Fleeing Yellowstone & Grand Teton Crowds by Sea Kayak,” tells you how to go on a guided kayaking tour to do just that.

You can also bring your own boat and explore lakes beyond Yellowstone Lake. From the Travel Tips section of Yellowstone Treasures, here are some of the regulations about nonmotorized boating. It’s permitted on all park lakes EXCEPT Sylvan and Eleanor Lakes, Twin Lakes, or Beach Springs Lagoon.

Boating permits, required for all boats and float tubes, cost $10 (annual) or $5 (7-day). They can be
obtained at any of the following locations:

  • South, West, and Northeast Entrance Stations
  • Lewis Lake Campground
  • Grant Village Backcountry Office
  • Bridge Bay and Bechler Ranger Stations
  • Canyon, Old Faithful, and Mammoth visitor centers
  • West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center.

Boats are not allowed on rivers and streams, except that hand-propelled vessels may use the channel between Lewis and Shoshone Lakes. Only non-motorized boats are allowed in the most remote sections of the three so-called fingers of the lake: Flat Mountain Arm, South Arm, and Southeast Arm. This is primarily to protect the nesting pelicans, terns, and seagulls. Boating is a great way to see birds!

—Beth, Editor and Publisher

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What to see and do near Canyon Village

Categories: Trip planning
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Yellowstone Canyon from Inspiration Point

Canyon colors from Inspiration Point

Are you planning a trip to Yellowstone? Here are some tips about what you can visit when you are in the right middle section of the figure 8 known as the Grand Loop Road. (See the main map to orient yourself.)

  • At the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, marvel at the world’s most spectacular combination of rainbow-colored canyon walls and breathtaking waterfalls.
  • For an unusual and uncrowded view into the Yellowstone River canyon across the river from the busy Tower Fall area, take the Specimen Ridge Trail from the Yellowstone River picnic area. You can see Calcite Springs and sometimes spy osprey or peregrine falcon nests in the canyon.
  • Horses are available at Canyon, Mammoth, and Tower-Roosevelt Junctions, for hire from the park concessionaire.
  • Opened at the end of August 2006, the beautifully upgraded Canyon Visitor Center displays the volcanic source of Yellowstone’s wonders in ways that all can understand. Exhibits about the caldera eruptions, subsequent lava flows, glacial effects, and earthquakes bring you up to date on scientific knowledge about the park’s geology. Don’t miss it when you visit the Canyon area!

There’s more about what to see and do at and in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in Yellowstone Treasures, fourth edition, pages 179-188. Here is the Canyon Area: Village and Falls map from that section of the guidebook.

–Editor and webmaster, Beth Chapple

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Spring comes to Greater Yellowstone

Categories: Flora and Fauna, Park environs, Wildlife
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I recently found something that’s fun to watch, if you enjoy observing the unusual spring rituals of birds and animals. I’ve never seen this in person and probably never will, since it occurs in April, which is too early in the spring for most roads and facilities in the Greater Yellowstone area to be open. But still . . . Watch—and listen to—the greater sage grouse’s mating ritual at: http://www.yellowstonegate.com/2012/04/grand-teton-rangers-lead-morning-tours-watch-sage-grouse-strut.

The Yellowstone Gate website is a good place to learn about current events in and around Yellowstone and the Tetons. I was reminded that later this month is National Park Week (April 21-29, 2012), when park entrance fees are waived. However, only people who live close by can really benefit from this, since no hotels are open until early May, and the only campground open all year is at Mammoth.

2012

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The swan and the western town

Categories: Flora and Fauna, On the Web
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Here’s a nice story about how a small Montana town was able to deal with an apparently confused trumpeter swan:
http://www.westyellowstonenews.com/news/article_1790edc0-ef2e-11df-8d19-001cc4c03286.html
When he took off from the Madison River outside of West Yellowstone, he made the right decision—he headed toward Yellowstone!

2010

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