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Tetons and Yellowstone (birds)

Updated: Jun 24, 2019

It was not until a few days before we flew out that I realized there was one potential lifer in the area. There is a Greater Sage-Grouse population down in the Tetons. June is way too late in the year to look for them, but that did not stop me. Honestly, I had little hope. My main targets were to get decent pictures of Harlequin Duck and American Dipper. Anything else was a bonus.


Well, I'm glad I felt that way, because we did not do much birding. We mainly focused on finding bears, moose, and other wildlife.


Harlequin Duck-

I knew there were some at Le Hardy Rapids. I'd imagined a better scenario for shooting. They stayed just distant enough that my 200-400 was not quite enough reach. I had to shoot from up on an elevated boardwalk. The lighting could have been better. I needed a bright, overcast day here. I feel lucky though. Not quite a week later, both the drakes had paired up with females and departed. A friend that visited later only had 3 hens left.


American Dipper-

I love these little birds. Yes, they are plain. But they have a really great song, and they have the most amazing of abilities. They walk under water. On our last visit to Le Hardy Rapids, I was about to leave after shooting a Stellar's Jay that had stopped by when a bird flew in and landed on a rock. I immediately yelled, "American Dipper!", and I was right. It put on a pretty good show. It flew up river, and I thought I was going to be able to get some better eye-level shots, but I screwed up my approach, and the bird flew across river. Don't make eye contact with birds you are trying to walk past.


The amount of feather wear in the feathers is amazing

Well, that covers birding! Just kidding. I did, at least, see and photograph my targets. I had some amazing encounters with grouse. They just were not the ones I was looking for. It's hard to complain about these experience with these birds.


Dusky Grouse-

This bird was at the top of Signal Mountain. He was confident and fearless as he walked the edge of the road and called out. I'd first spotted the bird as we came around the last curve. I saw it briefly as another car dodged around it. I thought it was a turkey at first glance. It had it's tail spread, and I'd seen it for less than a second. I laid in the road and snapped shots until it wandered off.



Ruffed Grouse-

I was pretty happy with this encounter, too. We were driving the road that lead down to a boat launch for Jenny Lake. As we passed the last camping spot before the lake, Carmen asked if they put out plastic owls. She's spotted a large bird perched on a log near the ground and though maybe it was fake. I backed up and there was a Ruffed Grouse. It sat there and watched me photograph it. It wandered around and then returned and drummed a couple times. Amazing experience. I just wish I had more light (yes, I say that a lot).


The only other true birding experience was the Cliff Swallows. They were building nests in a couple locations. It was neat to sit back and try to photograph the coming in with mud. I tried to capture the overall experience of them coming in and out of the nesting site, but I'm afraid I did not do too well. I should have been on the opposite side of the sun. That would have put me too close to them though.



I photographed what I could throughout the trip. Birding just was not the main focus here. It is what I enjoy most, though.


Thanks for reading,

Mike



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