Chipmunk snack time
I spent the remainder of the morning unsuccessfully searching the usual areas for the owl. To add insult to injury, I found out that the bird was seen last night on the opposite side of a stand of trees that I was birding. There was no way I could have known that the owl was putting on a great show just off the main road from which I had detoured. Ugh, but I guess this is how birding goes. You just can't be everywhere at one time! I folded my hand on the owl around 11am and headed for lunch. The popular spot to eat around Grand Teton NP appears to be Dornan's. The view from the deck explains why. The meatball sub wasn't bad either. After lunch I look a short ride to get a better view of the mountains. I then found a nice pine tree back near the owl spot and took a nice after lunch siesta in the shade.
The view from Dornan's
The sage plain below the Tetons
After my snooze, I met owl researcher Katherine G. She has been working to census, monitor, and study Great gray owls. She has an incredible finger on the owl pulse, so when she offered to escort me into some owl-rich areas on her own time this afternoon, I jumped at the chance. We waded into what looked like ideal Great gray habitat: Old growth Douglas fir-dominated, boreal forest. Here are two shots of the terrain through which we walked in search of owls.
Meadows punctuated the big trees.
The owls are often seen hunting in these meadows.
As we were walking around and chatting we walked under a lone tree adjacent to one of the above pictured meadows. Without making a sound, a Great gray launched itself from right above our heads and disappeared behind another stand of trees. It was a crappy view as we only saw the bird flying away from us, but it was nevertheless good enough to count the bird as #512 for 2014! We followed the bird around for a few minutes and we eventually got a decent perched view as it hunkered down behind some bushes in a tiny clearing. We left the bird be and headed off for celebratory ice cream. I must confess that I also had ice cream after lunch, so the funny looks I got from the woman running the ice cream booth were certainly warranted. Katherine deserves an incredible "Thank you". I may have found this bird without her help, but it certainly would have taken appreciably more time and effort than without her!
Great gray owl for #512!
Katherine is not at scary as my "smile" might suggest!
This is the 5th Great gray owl I have seen; the other 4 were seen in Ottawa in January of 2013. On that particular occasion I was able to get some slightly better shots!
With the owl present and accounted for, I spent the afternoon just loafing around the park seeing what I could find. I had lots of Red crossbills, and Olive-sided flycatchers were everywhere. I also heard a Virginia rail to complement the Sora that was still present from yesterday. Clark's nutcrackers were all over today as were Dusky flycatchers and Yellow warblers. The highlight of the afternoon did not come in avian form though. Around 5pm I had walked away form my bike (and my camera) when I heard a large splash in the swamp above which I was birding. I looked down the steep hill to see a Grizzly bear cub wading across the creek at the bottom. I figured he was far enough below me that even if mama was around I could watch him down in the creek from my high perch safely enough. I jogged back to my bike to grab my camera. What surprised me was that by the time I had returned to the spot from which I spotted the cub, he had managed to climb up the steep slope and was now looking right at me. He saw me coming and immediately disappeared back down the slope. I decided not to follow him. If he got up the hill that fast then mom could be just behind him. I had no desire to upset mama and her cubs. That being said, I did from a much greater distance, watch the slope and river for signs of other bears. I did not see anything, but I did not go back to bird that area again. The cub was about the size of a Golden retriever. I have no idea when they become independent from mama bear, but this guy seemed to be doing just fine. Sorry, no pics.....safety won out!
I have now found the most crucial birds in this area. I could still tick Ruffed grouse around here, and I think I will make an effort to find this bird at some point tomorrow. I am going to get some bear spray so that I am ready in case I run into another bear at any point this summer. $30 is a good investment as far as I am concerned.
Lastly, these last three days have really helped some ailing portions of my body to heal (particularly my ass). Today was the last day of July, a month in which I rode 1,839 miles. That's an average of 60 miles/day and makes this by far the heaviest riding month of the year to date (I averaged 50 miles/day in February, my next heaviest month - all on flat terrain). The terrain this month was very mountainous, and I spent lots of time bouncing on dirt roads. In short, it was a really tough month, but I did manage to add 22 high-quality bird species. We'll see what happens in August in the next few weeks! It looks as though I will have the time and energy to bow my route out to include Washington state, so if you live up that way and want to help or host me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Map from today. 23 + 4 unmapped miles for 27 total
*Bonus shot* Western wood-pewee from this morning!