Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Grand Teton National Park

The oxbow of the Snake River, with Tetons looming.

Waking up early in the morning, I left the campground in Yellowstone's Grant Village (not great, but I've seen worse) and headed south for Grand Teton National Park, just a short drive south from Yellowstone's southern boundary. Still high on geyser fumes and megafauna sightings, I really had no idea what to expect in Grand Teton, aside from the amazing scenery the Tetons themselves provide. I was hoping for some more birding opportunities...everything in Yellowstone is so frakking distracting that its hard to get down to business and actually find some birds.

Like Yellowstone, you may traverse the park in a big loop of sorts, which is what I ended up doing my first day...but not before finding my lifer Three-toed Woodpecker at Signal Mountain, mixed in with a massive mixed flock. The experience caused me to vomited violently for a substantial amount of time, particularly when it landed about 12 feet away at the base of a tree. Observing your first Three-toed Woodpecker is a very intense experience, you see. Of course, I didn't have any kind of convenient photography machine with me at the time, so I was free to fantasize about having a camera in hand (and to continue vomiting in ecstasy). I did get a couple record shots eventually, but I only saw one other on my trip.

A juvenile Hairy Woodpecker woodpecking.

A female-type Northern Flicker pauses. Why are they called flickers anyway? I think kinglets should be called flickers. These should be called Anteaters...thats not taken, is it?
Composing myself, I continued up Signal Mountain, where the internets had informed me Dusky Grouse could be found. After aimlessly walking around a lookout/vistaish area with a few tourists, a woman walked up and proudly announced that there had been a grouse sitting only a few feet off the trail, but that her dog had stressed it out and said grouse had wandered off into the underbrush. A nearby know-it-all who had the definite air of a used car salesman proudly announced that it had been a Sage Grouse, but I knew otherwise...

Since I had already set up camp and dicked around Signal Mountain, by the time I got back to the main park road it was bloody hot, ruling out any kind of fun/productive hiking, so I decided to attempt to see as much of the park as I could. Mainly, I spent time taking Teton pictures and cursing the heat and the wind, and wondering if the giant, fuck-off wildfire (pictured below) was going to crest the mountain and burn us all alive. Much-touted Mormon Row was....well, a bit underwhelming, but pretty cool nonetheless, and I did run into some more bison, Pronghorn, and a Black Bear that day, among other things. The birding was solid in the morning, I just wish I had more time to bird! The main eyesore of the area is the hideous Jackson Hole Airport, which is pretty much inside the park for some reason...aside from that, humbling views and wildlife were easy to come by. 

Enough rambling for is prepared.

Three-toed Woodpecker. What a crippler.

Turns out I did see a Dusky Grouse that day. A motor vehicle had murdered it. 

Moose moose moose moose.

Fire. Glad I wasn't stuck on the other side of that hill.


Tetons. Grandiose.

This year has largely been dominated by Swainson's Hawks for me, so I'm not going to stop posting pictures of them. This one is blinking its nictating membrane.


  1. uph. I don't know how I feel. ANNOYED at the dog owner (keep the freakin' dogs off of the trails!!), excited at the woodpeckers, and crestfallen at the dusky grouse. And, as ever, impressed by the scenery, and in awe of the gorgeousness that is Swainson's. Seriously, road ecology haunts me!!

    Thanks for sharing, nevertheless. =)

    Oh, and nice smoke!! ARF!

  2. Whoa dead grouse. Congrats on the woodpecker... I'm still looking for my 3-toed. Nice moose, nice hawk, nice pollination. Mean fire.

    And whatever about the dog/dog owner. It's hard to be on a road trip with a dog in a national park, and it sounds like she was not on a trail but at a lookout/vista point that happened to be near a trail? Just saying.

  3. Dude. I saw my first 3-toed guys about a year ago in Glacier. I pooped myself (almost, thank god for self control, right?)
    Dead dusky bums me out, yo.
    Good lookin' photos!

  4. Awesome photos! I need to get back to Yellowstone, but birder-style this time.

  5. I'm not a birder so I had to Google the 3 toed woodpecker. I thought you might be taking the mickey out of us on that one (I know almost diddly squat about birds) The big purple pollinater, what is that? I really would like to know. Thank you Steve

  6. @BB and Jen - I do not have a problem with dogs in national parks per se, but I do have a problem with unleashed ones who wander towards awesome birds that I have not seen.

    @Jill - Thanks, as always!

    @Robert - Gracias. I could have used more birder time myself. Wish I couldve put more effort into finding a Great Gray...

    @Anne - There is a fantastically mediocre image of a Three-toe on this very post, did you not see? Big purple pollinator is some sort of bumblebee on some sort of thistle....cant say I know much more than that, lo siento.

  7. I saw it Steve. But I wouldn't know a 3 toed from a ten toed. Since your both a birder and a scientist, I naturally suspected a trap. I also need bifocal, but that's another matter. You've a wonderful sense of humour and I always enjoy visiting your page.