Latest Trips – a couple of pictures

8 06 2009
Black Bear Cub - Luke Tiller

Black Bear Cub - Luke Tiller

I am busy finishing up trip reports from Colorado, New York and Montana. Just as a teaser here is one of the pictures. This one is a digiscoped snap of one of the Black Bear cubs that we found frolicking by the side of the road. OK, not a likely inclusion for any copies of National Geographic but it’s all my own work and is a memory that will live with me a long time.

I also note that Gary Howard has started to post a few of his shots from our tour of Colorado in April. Check out the Rosy Finches and other stuff here, Some absolutely cracking photo’s!

Montana and Wyoming – great finale to a great trip.

6 06 2009
Lewis's Wodpecker - Luke Tiller

Lewis's Wodpecker - Luke Tiller

We finished up the trip with two days in Billings MT. After being shut out of the Beartooth Highway due to snow – on June 2nd!!!!! (which we had luckily already hit for Black Rosy-finch and breeding Pipit) we swung through the Chief Joseph Highway and managed to pick up some nice birds en route including finding a Golden Eagles nest with two accompanying chicks!

After touching down in Billings we wandered in at a leisurely pace, and after a relaxing early afternoon a few of the group decided to roll out to a couple of Billings local birding hotspots. First on the list were the Pictograph Cave State Park. What an amazing place, with stunning scenery (hasn’t it all been?!) and interesting history (see website here). We soaked up the atmosphere (pretending we were Native American’s watching over our Bison herds) and then picked up a few nice birds as we strolled including killer views of the usually skulky Yellow-breasted Chat and we also worked hard for some great view of our first Canyon Wren at a nest site – what a fantastically characterful little bird – the very definition of cheerful!

After that we hit another couple of nice spots including the nice city park Two Moons. In the end we had managed a few better looks at some desirable birds (like Lazuli Bunting) and managed to add a nice Wood Duck to the growing string of sightings. A stop at Lake Elmo was somewhat disappointing but with a flyby Caspian Tern we still had another great day under our belts.

The final day and we had an appointment with Helen Carlson, local birder extraordinaire and she quickly started to produce some of the local specialty birds of the area including such goodies as Pinyon Jay (I love their calls!) at a friends feeders, Chestnut-collared Longspur, McCown’s Longspur as well as such goodies as Says Phoebe.

All in all a simply brilliant trip with loads of great birds, great scenery and most of all great company to what is surely North Americas own Serengeti. If you haven’t considered a trip to Yellowstone yet, start thinking about it right now!

Attached one of my horrible digiscoped pictures of the Lewis’s Woodpecker – better ones to come I hope.

Yellowstone Park/Grand Tetons – the story so far…

1 06 2009

Scarlet Tanager - Luke Tiller

Scarlet Tanager - Luke Tiller

Is it me or is Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons a vastly underrated birding destination? It seems like there aren’t many birders here (we’ve met one – who strangely enough I met during my time with another tour company). Anyway the highlights thus far have been legion including: my GPS taking me down a wrong turn in Jackson and stumbling upon the towns best feeder setup, with multitudes of Western Tanagers, Bullock’s Orioles and in the stream nearby a spritely little American Dipper, 4 sightings of Three-toed Woodpecker including crippling views of a pair, Great Gray Owl, Sandhill Cranes aplenty, Trumpeter Swans all over the place, both Crossbill species, Jackson’s second record of Broad-winged Hawk (trust me to stumble on a mega that barely raised any eyebrows amongst the US contingent!) and today’s highlight – drop dead views of two Lewis’s Woodpeckers at a nest site. Throw in Williamson’s Sapsucker, Lazuli Bunting and Calliope Hummingbird and you have a host of wonderful accompanying beauties.

I have to say though, even as a hardcore birder, the mammals somewhat steal the show with great looks at Grizzly Bear and Gray Wolf amongst the ubiquitous Bison and Elk. Today’s special was a sow Black Bear with two young cubs that were putting on quite the show climbing trees, pouncing on each other and generally just behaving all too cutely for words. Anyway my useless laptop isn’t compatible with the card in my new point and shoot so for now you’ll have to make do with this snap of a Scarlet Tanager from my yard until I get home.

If you are desperate to see some great pictures of the local birds and animals check out Dan Hartman’s online gallery – we just snuck in there today to do some shopping (link here).