by Cathy Shill
The rhythm of nature around the solstice, June 20, is hard to describe. Nature peaks at the start of summer in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Flowers fill the meadows. Young animals and birds abound. Rivers pulse. Life is busy, busy, busy.
This month a baby raven came into my life. I thought it was fledging or learning to fly. Out my bedroom window, I heard raven’s squawking so looked outside and a baby raven was on my deck. The adults were certainly agitated as they hopped, squawked, pulled leaves off my trees and screamed with concern. I learned online that it takes 2-5 days for the chicks to fledge.
The baby raven pulled at my heartstrings. I felt nature should take its course so I watched from a distance. I did move the chick out of the road since I didn’t want it to get hit. The parents appeared to be near and watching. Our manicured lawns make it challenging to get off the ground to reach safety. No real down timber to climb.
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The chick was nearby for three days then it was gone. I realized another chick was still in the nest which was forty feet high in a spruce tree. I figured the baby raven either fell, was pushed, or was blown out of the nest. Survival of the remaining chick will increase if receiving all the parent’s attention. Regardless, hard to watch and I hope the young raven survived.
White-crowned sparrows also nest nearby our homes. They are quite territorial and scream at the cat. We walk down the driveway and the adult sparrow chirps at us the entire way. I don’t think it was very happy when we returned. The male sings and sings. I haven’t seen the chicks but I know they are nearby. I like the way the sparrows hop and flit about as they look for seeds, buds, grass and fruit. They scratch the ground to uncover food. I delay sweeping the deck so they have more to eat.
The flowers are amazing! I know that California had incredible blooms this spring due to their wet winter. We also had a wet winter receiving about 150% of normal snowfall. Flowers are abundant and vibrant. Chokecherry blossoms hang heavy on the branch. Arrowleaf balsamroot covers the hillsides. On Munger Mountain, the Sticky Geranium is over 4 feet high! Meadows are filled with a variety of colors and the vegetation is green, green, green. Snow level is currently about 9500 feet but varies based on the aspect. North-facing slopes hold snow the longest. Days are now warm and the snow is receding.
I had coffee while enjoying a cow moose and her newborn calves. They frolicked and played. She rested but kept a watchful eye. She can be quite aggressive so I stayed near the house and they enjoyed the front yard, the freshly mowed grass and the shade of the willow. The mother moose did delight in the new baby Aspen trees. They take their lips and strip the leaves as they eat the tender shoots. The young trees appear to have a buzz haircut with only the thin trunk remaining. Unsure if they will survive but that is life in Jackson Hole. It’s unfortunate but also great to have these beautiful creatures enjoy the yard.
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Life will continue to thrive as young learn the ways of life, snow melts, new trails open and rivers clear. It’s an amazing time to be in the valley. Roads have been closed due to flooding but the month ends with reduced flows and the Gros Ventre Road open to one-way traffic.
The majestic Grizzly Bear made the news. Iconic female grizzly, 399, has two new cubs. Bear 793, Blondie, is believed to be sick so a road was closed to protect habitat for her and her cubs. She has not been seen since mid-June. Allowing nature to just “be” is hard for us. Many different theories emerged as to why she appeared lethargic. I hope she is OK.
The bears made the news recently since the Trump administration will delist the great bear from the Endangered Species Act and hunting will begin. The bears will be managed by the individual states: Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Makes my heart sad. We really don’t know how stable the population is and the tipping point could easily occur endangering the Grizzly again. If anything, the survival of the Grizzly Bear reflects on the health of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. We need these amazing majestic creatures to keep us connected, to protect the environment, to remember our roots and the diversity on the earth.
Here’s to the pulse of summer, lots of time on the trail, bare feet in the grass, a swim in String Lake, an evening sunset, summer music and much more!
What’s In The Woods
6/2/17- Munger- striped coral root, calypso orchid, valerian, spring beauty, yellowbell lily, paintbrush, serviceberry, violet
6/5-Flood watch- Gros Ventre Road closed, cattleman’s bridge
6/9- Fish Creek- numerous chokecherry blossoms
6/11- Wilson, WY- young cow moose eating willow, gold finch, yellow warbler
6/13- Rain/snow mix- 6 inches of snow fell at 9000 feet
6/14- Baby raven on my back deck in downtown Jackson…parents squawking and pestering the young bird but he isn’t moving from the deck.
6/15- Fowers peaking at lower elevations, 6400 feet- Josie’s Ridge near town- geranium, scarlet gilia, buckwheat, penstemon- blue and whipple’s, yellow Sulphur paintbrush, mountain snowberry, chokecherry, groundsel, lupine, sagewort
6/19- Roses-rose woodsia- blooming along Flat Creek
6/22- Cache Creek- buckwheat, scarlet gilia, geranium, lupine, warbling vireo
6/24- Old Pass Road- clasp leaf twisted stalk lily, scarlet gilia, buckwheat, mules ear, pussy toes
6/25- Wilson, WY- cow moose with new calves in yard
6/27- Hard rain and hail
Go play, play, play. Trails will be busy so an early start is always recommended. For short hikes, try the LSR Preserve, Taggert/Bradley Lakes, or the boat ride across Jenny Lake to Hidden Falls. Lots of construction near Jenny Lake so saving for a future visit could be wise. For longer hikes, snow is still an issue, but Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes are accessible. You can hike to the meadows in Garnet Canyon. Teton Pass is accessible and Ski Lake is always a fun option. In town, Cache Creek or Josie’s Ridge. Have fun, be prepared for changing weather and carry bear spray.
Cathy Shill and The Hole Hiking Experience are Jackson’s original nature company to connect to the landscape through lively interpretation. Throughout the year, we share nature and inspire you with our knowledge about flowers, wildlife, ecology, natural history and much more. Nature comes alive as you utilize your senses to connect and discover.
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