by Max Frankenberry, JHWF Assistant Bird Bander

This past Saturday, May 19, 2018, JHWF staff participated in the annual Wyoming Game & Fish Department bird survey of the South Park Wildlife Habitat Management Area, just south of Jackson. Our group of volunteer birders, including enthusiastic Nature Mappers and Jackson Hole Bird & Nature Club members, met bright and early Saturday morning, led by our local bird nerd expert volunteer, Tim Griffith. Tim has been crucial to organizing Game & Fish bird surveys of the South Park area since 2016, which have so far logged 96 different species for the area! Our pack split into two groups, one to tackle waterfowl, shorebirds and raptors around the ponds, the other to take on “Warbler Alley,” the thick cottonwood tree groves hugging the backwaters of the Snake River to the southeast. What an appropriate nickname that was – Yellow Warblers dotted most every tree in South Park, and were joined by the radiant Yellow-rumped, Wilson’s and MacGillivary’s Warblers as well. It was a different traveler from the south, however, that took everyone by surprise.

south park wildlife management area annual bird survey jackson wy

‘Warbler’s neck’ is a common occurrence on a bird survey.

After a busy four hours of hiking and birding the survey was winding down, and brunch was on the brain. But birding tends to deliver the bombshells at the last moments, and Saturday was no different. Jon Mobeck, our team’s oriole-obsessed leader shouted. “Bullock’s! Wait… BALTIMORE!” In a low hawthorn tree not 50 feet from us, was not only a Bullock’s Oriole, a gorgeous but fairly common bird in Jackson Hole, but next to it was a Baltimore Oriole, a normally much more eastern cousin. Historical records vary, but this bird may be one of less than a dozen ever reported in the state of Wyoming, and likely less than a handful have ever been seen in Teton County. What a find! The Bullock’s and Baltimore seemed to follow each other, flying from tree to tree after one another. Perhaps the Baltimore had lost his way on his normal spring route up from Central America, noticed a bird that resembled his brilliant orange color, and followed that Bullock’s back to our western mountains, far away from his normal east-of-the-plains summer vacation.

Baltimore Oriole and Bullock's Oriole found on bird survey Jackson Hole

A Baltimore Oriole (left) is a rare find in Jackson Hole. The Bullock’s Oriole (right) is more of a local. Photos: Kate Maley

It’s moments like these that make us realize how special close-to-home wild places like South Park are. The diversity of wildlife in these areas can be astounding. But problems exist in the fact that unless these places are studied or surveyed, we may never know the rarities or struggling populations there. This is the issue Nature Mapping Jackson Hole is helping to solve – by submitting data from your commute from work, a dog-walk in a Jackson city park or a backpacking trip through the Gros Ventre, you are helping to build our human community’s understanding of the wildlife community that surrounds us. And every data point really is significant! You don’t often find rare birds like the Baltimore Oriole, but it’s very possible that the deer you saw driving home could represent the beginning of a muley movement exploring a new feeding ground in Jackson Hole. The data you enter from these sightings help JHWF’s partners to prepare management decisions that inspire positive interaction between humans and the wildlife moving into these areas. Knowing that your effort can directly benefit our local species is a reward in itself, and who knows – maybe your attention to wildlife developed from Nature Mapping will lead you to that once-in-a-lifetime animal.

Birding in South Park Jackson Hole Wyoming

Max Frankenberry spots a Common Merganser on a back channel of the Snake River through Wingspan Optics binoculars.

South Park Wildlife Habitat Management Area Species Count 2018 Surveyed by 22 Participants

American Coot 3
American Crow 1
American Goldfinch 11
American Kestrel 13
American Robin 74
American White Pelican 38
American Wigeon 9
Bald Eagle 6
BALTIMORE ORIOLE 1
Bank Swallow 4
Barn Swallow 6
Barrow’s Goldeneye 16
Belted Kingfisher 4
Black-billed Magpie 9
Black-capped Chickadee 24
Black-headed Grosbeak 2
Blue-winged Teal
Brewer’s Blackbird 1
Broad-tail Hummingbird 2
Brown-headed Cowbird 6
Bufflehead
Bullock’s Oriole 4
Calliope Hummingbird 6
Canada Goose 114
Cedar Waxwing
Chipping Sparrow 2
Cinnamon Teal 47
Cliff Swallow 7
Common Merganser 37
Common Raven 15
Common Yellowthroat
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Dark-eyed Junco
Double-crested Cormorant
Dusky Flycatcher
Eared Grebe
Eastern Kingbird
European Starling 21
Gadwall 84
Gray Catbird 1
Great Blue Heron 6
Green-tailed Towhee 1
Green-winged Teal 2
House Wren 14
Killdeer 12
Lazuli Bunting
Lesser Scaup 7
Lincoln Sparrow
MacGillivary’s Warbler 3
Mallard 52
Marsh Wren 5
Mountain Bluebird
Mountain Chickadee
Mourning Dove
N. Rough Wing Swallow 11
Northern Flicker 19
Northern Shoveler
Orange-crowned Warbler 2
Osprey 6
Pied-billed Grebe
Pine Siskin
Redhead Duck
Red-naped Sapsucker
Red-tailed Hawk 6
Red-winged Blackbird 62
Ring-billed Gull 2
Ring-necked Duck 12
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 7
Ruddy Duck 4
Sandhill Crane 3
Savannah Sparrow 6
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Song Sparrow 51
Sora 3
Spotted Sandpiper 24
Swainson’s Thrush 1
Tree Swallow 219
Trumpeter Swan 2
Turkey Vulture 6
Vesper Sparrow 2
Violet-green Swallow 3
Virginia Rail 1
Western Meadowlark 3
Western Tanager 1
Western Wood Pewee
Western/Clark’s Grebe
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
White-crowned Sparrow 3
White-faced Ibis
Wilson’s Phalarope
Wilson’s Snipe
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Wood Duck
Yellow Warbler 130
Yellow-headed Blackbird 37
Yellow-rumped Warbler 94

Species Total 68

Celebrate Wildlife

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