My wife and I recently had the pleasure of a short trip to the Jackson Hole area in northwestern Wyoming. The town of Jackson is the jumping-off point for two of the crown jewels of the National Park System: Yellowstone National Park and Grant Teton National Park.

Jackson Hole is the relatively flat valley between the Teton Mountains and the Snake River. Access to the valley requires descending fairly steep slopes, giving early trappers the sensation of entering a hole. Jackson Hole is about 6,000 feet above sea level.

Arriving late on June 30, we opted to explore the local area around Jackson on July 1. We began by driving east from our hotel in Teton Village to the Wilson area. Brewer’s Blackbirds were common. Violet-Green Swallows were the most abundant of the four swallows we saw, the others being Tree, Barn and Cliff Swallows. Black-billed Magpies were delightful to see.

Heading east on Fall Creek Road in Wilson, we saw several Ospreys, most nesting atop power poles. A Sandhill Crane was foraging in a marsh adjacent to Fish Creek. Wooded areas produced Northern Flickers (the red-shafted form), Western Wood-Pewees, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, abundant Yellow Warblers and White-crowned Sparrows. Fish Creek produced a Wood Duck, a pair of Green-winged Teal and a Bald Eagle.

We headed south on Route 22 to the Teton Pass at an elevation of 8,431 feet. A lovely trail right at the peak of the pass winds through some coniferous forest before opening up into an alpine meadow with a mosaic of colors. The flowers along the trail were truly stunning.

In the firs, Cassin Finches sang their Purple Finch-like songs. Dark-eyed Juncos were common and we saw a Chipping Sparrow as well. A couple of American Robins and quite a few Pine Siskins were present.

We heard a song that sounded like an Indigo Bunting. Perched in the top of a tree was a Lazuli Bunting, a species that gives the Indigo Bunting a run for its money in terms of beauty.

The abundance of Common Ravens fit the name with a few American Crows present as well. From the forest below, we heard the “quick three beers” call of an Olive-sided Flycatcher.

The trail crested at a small stand of spruce and fir with a few standing dead trees present. These trees had a pair of Mountain Bluebirds and a male Western Tanager. Rather than retracing our steps to the parking lot, we opted to follow a Forest Service road back to our car. Along the way, a Western Kingbird appeared. A Hermit Thrush favored us with its flute-like song and a Red-tailed Hawk screamed unseen.

We then drove north on Route 22 back toward Jackson. We stopped at a small pond (Skyline Pond) on the east side of the road. This marshy pond had Mallards, Gadwall, a Redhead and an American Coot with many chicks swimming around her. Marsh Wrens and Red-winged Blackbirds sang from the cattails.

After a lunch in Jackson, we drove north on Route 89. Just beyond the town proper, a pullout on the east side of the road affords an excellent view of the National Elk Refuge. In the fall, hundreds of elk descend from the mountains to this area to winter and feed on the grasses. No elk were present while we there but many birds were present in the marsh adjacent to the grassland. We found Gadwall, Ring-necked Ducks, Canada Geese and a pair of Trumpeter Swans. The presence of a Belted Kingfisher was given away by its loud rattle-like call. Yellow-headed Blackbirds were common.

We spent most of the rest of the afternoon exploring the sagebrush flats north of Jackson. Our list included American Kestrel, Mourning Dove, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Sage Thrasher, Vesper Sparrow, Brewer’s Sparrow and Green-tailed Towhee.

On to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in the next post.

[Originally published on July 12, 2015