“I saw my first robin!”  “I saw bluebirds!” “Did you hear the Sandhill Cranes the other day?”  “The bears are out.” “Have you seen an Osprey?”  “Not yet, should be here soon though.”

As March melts into April, Nature Mappers are excited for spring: we have new critters to see and hear. The wildlife data we submit become all the more interesting and important. This is the time of year we enter First of the Year sightings or FOY’s. We are measuring the natural pulse of spring. Some years, critters appear earlier, other years later, and some species reappear within days of the same date year after year. Your entries help track these annual variations. And if you don’t have the first sighting for the valley, you may well have the first in your area or the first for you! When you see these fresh arrivals, type “FOY” in the notes box of the data form to highlight your finding. Below are some species to look for with the earliest dates recorded between 2010 and 2015 in parentheses.

First of the Year sightings can be migrating birds or emerging or transient mammals. Stimulated by longer days, warmth, and the evolutionary coincidence of food, critters large and small mobilize. Midges, flies and true bugs begin to crawl and fly and become sources of protein for birds. Red-winged Blackbirds and Mountain Bluebirds arrive in the valley in March. In April, Common Nighthawks (4.11.13) swoop overhead through fresh insect hatches, along with Tree (4.8.14) and Violet-green Swallows (4.22.15). With more warmth (and insects), Yellow-rumped Warblers (3.6.10, 4.23.12), Vesper (3.24.12), Savannah (4.17.14), Chipping (4.21.15), and Lincoln’s (4.24.13) Sparrows show up in their various habitats. Warmer soils enable worms and the like to wriggle closer to the surface…within reach of probing beaks of American Robins, Long-billed Curlews (4.12.14), and White-faced Ibis (4.22.14). Anyone heard a Western Meadowlark yet?

Long-billed curlew

Long-billed Curlew

As wetlands and ponds thaw, a variety of waterfowl are on display. American Wigeon (3.20.15), American Coot (4.6.10), Cinnamon Teal (4.8.14), Blue-winged teal (4.12.14), and Wood Duck (4.19.14) are in elegant breeding plumage. A flotilla of magnificent American White Pelicans (4.12.15) may be spied on the Snake River, with a Spotted Sandpiper pecking amidst the stones (3.22.12). Near by, the more ordinary granivores such as Brown-headed Cowbird (4.15.10) and Brewer’s Blackbirds (4.22.10) may flock in among Common Grackles (5.2.10), picking up old seeds and new bugs. Listen for the raucous calls of Yellow-headed Blackbirds (3.16.12) in marshes and skulking Sora (4.10.15).

American White Pelicans Jackson Hole

American White Pelicans

Favorites to spot or hear include mammals and amphibians. Uinta ground squirrels should be emerging from their burrows. They went down last August for the long winter, and are one of the earliest hibernating rodents to reappear (3.26.18). Keep an ear out for their high-pitched whistle and then look for scampering. They emerge in time to feed coyote pups and summering Red-tailed Hawks. Least Chipmunks will pop up as well (3.23.12). We all thrill at the trill of Boreal Chorus Frogs (4.11.13) in neighborhood ponds and floodplain pools. “Cold-blooded,” or technically ectothermic amphibians, are a true indication of warming weather. Wandering Gartersnakes gain mobility from basking in the sun. Amphibians and snakes are an under-reported prize for Nature Mappers.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Also, it is exciting to watch the world-renowned seasonal migrations of ungulates. When do the Wapiti begin to surf the green wave: moving by the thousands from the National Elk Refuge in sequence with the greening grass? Fresh forage provides essential calories and nutrition for females with soon-to-be-born calves. Hundreds of Pronghorn will arrive along the Path of the Pronghorn originating by Pinedale and weaving through the Gros Ventre into Jackson Hole toward the end of April. And where do the buffalo roam throughout the valley?

Bison in Jackson Hole

Where do the bison roam?

Some people consider April to be the off-season in Jackson. Nature Mappers know it is in fact the on season for wildlife. Enjoy entering your sightings that help us understand and protect these wonders of our valley.

–Frances Clark (Data compiled by Susan Marsh)

P.S. Curious what others have seen when? Click on the “All Observations” link on the bottom of the Nature Mapping JH Mobile Page. This is the list of all observations. You can filter by date, group, or species.

View All Observations

View All Observations

 

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