Wyoming: Birding the Solar Eclipse in the Grand Tetons Aug 17—22, 2017
Posted by Brian Gibbons
We were just a few of the thousands that had converged upon Jackson, Wyoming for the Great American Eclipse. The valley of Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Bridger-Teton National Forest provided a spectacular backdrop for our birding and the eclipse. On our first evening we had a wonderful meal at Snake River Grill, fortifying ourselves for a great weekend of wildlife, scenery, birds, and a spectacular total eclipse. Our first morning started casually at Blacktail Butte with a view of the Grand Tetons in morning light. Hoping for a bird, a screaming juvenile Peregrine materialized overhead, soon joined by an adult before they disappeared, and so began our tour. Antelope Flats produced a wonderful Bison herd that meandered just off the road, delighting us for photos and memories as a large bull streaked across the road. This was not the sighting of the day, however; that honor belongs to a mama grizzly and her year-old cubs that were gorging on berries along the Pacific Creek Road. The foraging cubs also engaged in horseplay, just fifty feet away as we crept past. We managed several drive-bys before we proceeded on to Two Ocean Lake and our picnic lunch. Gray Jays appeared, as they often do, when the picnic started! After lunch, we hiked through the meadows and forest towards Emma Matilda Lake where we saw a few birds, but for the most part our hike was uninterrupted by birds. On our way back to Jackson we drove to the top of Signal Mountain for a commanding view of Jackson Hole and the Tetons.
The next day we explored the Gros Ventre River all the way above Slide Lake, the lake created by the massive Gros Ventre slide in 1925, one of the largest earth movements in the world! Mountain Bluebirds and Western Tanagers put on a show for us, as well as a couple of Cassin’s Finches. An elusive MacGillivray’s Warbler finally showed himself to the group before we headed back to town for lunch. In the flats before the river we enjoyed great views of a couple of relaxing Pronghorn, just chewing their cud. Our afternoon visit to Flat Creek Wildlife Area added several species to the list. We had good looks at many eclipse-plumaged ducks (appropriately enough), Sora, the Trumpeter Swan family, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and others.
Read Brian’s full report in his Field List.