Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Blackbirds

As Tom is feeding songbirds he hears a constant crackle coming out of the creek a few hundred yards south of the lodge. Returning to the office he hears an avalanche of wings flying above him and the crackle noise grows louder. Apparently at least one blackbird saw where Tom was putting feed down as they all came.

Amasaback 360

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Ok, maybe not.

Back Side of Amasaback

On Top of Amasaback

You Are Here

From on top of the Amasaback Tom looks down on Jackson Butte and out towards the LaSal Mountains and the area called Behind the Rocks.

Message of Rocks

Just guessing, somebody was on the trail Dec 15th.

Jackson/Jacobs Ladder

Following big horn tracks Tom climbs Jackson Ladder.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Jackson Butte

On Monday Tom resumes his search for the big horn. Finding numerous tracks on the east side of Jackson Hole they've been there at least for a few days. All tracks either go into or come out of Jackson Butte. Tom recalls but one way in and out and doesn't wish to get run over and return to the hospital for a third time in three weeks. The odds are against him getting close on this day anyhow. The wind blows from behind him and the White-tailed Antelope squirrels that serve as an early warning system for him are serving the same purpose for the big horn inside Jackson Butte. Unable to find a way in undetected Tom departs for and spends Monday afternoon in Lockhart Basin.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Careful What You Ask For

At Jackson Hole the other day Tom saw a Golden Eagle. In the Base Camp distance he saw a Cooper's and three times a Loggerhead Shrike has visited. For three months Tom has battled the Sharp-shinned almost daily if not several times a day. Since last Sunday morning's still unexplainable encounter it has been seven full days since Tom has seen or heard a Sharp-shinned. While this is exactly the result Tom has been hoping for since Thanksgiving of last and the songbirds seem much more relaxed Tom's got to admit he misses him. Still, should he return some day and again start wrecking havoc among the songbirds, there will probably be a post with the same heading. Tom doesn't understand it either.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


On Tuesday when Tom visited Jackson Hole to find a path to the river for the Cowboys, he found fresh tracks crossing the trail on the way back. There appears to be at least one male, maybe two, and seven to eight female big horn. On Wednesday he picks up the tracks and follows them off and on all day. Thursday more of the same, occasionally losing the trail then finding it again but never finds them. On Friday he shows the Cowboys the way he found to the river in Jackson Hole. It's muddy, they're concerned. Heading back south of the lodge to move the cattle north they find one of their cows has become stuck in the river mud sometime in the last few days and passed. While the mud is not deep, it's quality mud. Friday evening while headed to town, on top of Hurrah Pass, Tom finds two trailers. The Cowboys are beginning to load up the cows and return them to the ranch so as not to take any chances and lose another.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Tom has seen no sign of Sharp-shinned or Cooper's hawks since the Sunday morning experience where as usually he'll see them several times each day. So when he hears the alert sound of the White-tailed Antelope squirrels that's what he's expecting. Not so.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Favor

There is a herd of cattle a few miles south of Base Camp feeding. Over the last couple weeks they've been calving. Lots of babies running around but not so much food after three months of grazing. The Cowboys would like to move their cattle to Jackson Hole six to eight miles north of Base Camp but they can't find water or a way to get the cows to the river. Last year Tom spent considerable time exploring Jackson Hole and he's pretty sure he remembers an old road going down to the river he found from 70 or so years ago when they hauled equipment in for the Prommel oil well that was in operation only briefly. Tom finds an abandoned song bird nest, the river, and hopefully a bobcat footprint. He's going with bobcat. Generally mud will make a critter footprint 25% larger than regular dirt or real life. Tom returns to Base Camp and calls the cowboys to tell them he's found a way down to the river. If Tom is wrong about it being a bobcat and instead it's a mountain lion, it's going to be unpleasant times for mothers and their babies.

Two Ears

A slightly smaller and two eared Gray fox comes to the porch.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Morning of Magic: Coming to an Understanding

When the sun rises over the Anti-Cline it's rays hit the tamarisk by the river and within three minutes the lodge front porch. The songbirds and Tom know that's feeding time. Matters not the clock says, it's what the sun brings. Tom walks outside to put both critter and songbird feed out. No songbirds. Not unusual. There's a predator somewhere and everybody knows where except Tom. Tom scans the landscape. There is rustling in a few bushes to the right, to the left, even straight ahead. An occasional bird tweet. A flicker of movement. Towards the well house, nothing moves, nothing speaks, no sounds emerge. It's truly the dog not barking that tells Tom what he needs to know. As Tom approaches the well house he turns the camera on just in case. What happens next is unexplainable. Tom's mortal enemy for the last two months, the Sharp-shinned hawk, with a nervous mother circling overhead during the interaction, makes peace. The victim is a juvenile White-crowned sparrow, not a House finch.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Return of One Ear

Tom hadn't seen One Ear in a week or so but last time he did One Ear was looking pretty good so he wasn't too worried. Evening was coming and Tom had left enough food out there to feed two or three foxes but One Ear ate every single bit. One Ear still seems to have some pain in it's mouth somewhere but when One Ear first showed up it couldn't even keep the cat food down. Kind of looking like one ear and three quarters now.

Friday, February 15, 2013


If There's a Sharp-shinned, There's a Way

Tom's mortal enemy the Red-eyed Sharp-shinned has been sitting in the top of the Cottonwood off and on since Tom returned from hiking and he's searching for a songbird meal. Despite an improved shoulder Tom still can't reach him with a rock or snowball. But, where there's a will, there's a way. There is actually video but it's one armed video again and a waste of time. Tom fills up the sink, takes out the Super Soaker and it's his sincere hope the Sharp-shinned enjoyed his morning shower. Tom did.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

In Your Face

Tom has quit feeding the songbirds in the back yard as it's hard to track when predators are there so feeds them out front and on the side only now. After a few days of no Sharp-shinned, he's back and right in Tom's face. Spending most of his time at the top of the Cottonwood tree where Tom can't place a walkie talkie or with the still injured, but improving, shoulder throw a rock or snowball to scare him off. Yelling at him he simply thinks is amusing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Change Has Come

The Sharp-shinneds have not returned to the rear of the lodge. There has been no alert call from the Antelope Squirrels, there is no fresh hawk scat on the favored rock perches. The walkie talkie trick worked. The result though is the Sharp-shinned has a new strategy, a more dangerous one. It comes in low and fast from the east and west three or four times a day trying to catch a songbird right at lift off. It can't perch anywhere without being spotted so it just flies through on random chance. Sometimes there are songbirds there and sometimes not. Tom witnessed two near misses yesterday. With the Monday kill and what Tom saw earlier in Sharp-shinned collusion he was pretty sure that one Sharp-shinned had spooked the songbirds from the east to fly right into a kill from the west. But Tom has seen the Sharp-shinned on six or seven flybys now and can recognize him from his velocity alone. What hit the House finch on Monday and what just flew through here about ten minutes ago is three to four times as fast as the Sharp-shinned. There's a ghost out there. On the right side of the bush, might have to blow it up to see it. Tom sees the butcher for the first time in over two weeks. The Loggerhead Shrike and it's almost a relief compared to the last two days.

Monday, February 11, 2013

What Was That?

It was nice. Lot of snow. Tom could see the songbirds all morning across the driveway, pretty relaxed. They would run for cover occasionally but always a false alarm. A Cooper's hawk made a run at them around noon but generally he's too slow and Tom was out the door moments after he got there. Tom saw a Spotted skunk coming up on the porch for food so went outside to put food under the porch which is where he'd prefer to keep him. While delivering the cat food he could hear the far off cry of a Sharp-shinned. Way down in the creek bed 700 to 800 feet south of the lodge the cry got more furious. Retrieving the binoculars Tom could see three Sharp-shinneds in the top of an old Oak tree. One was talking to the other two and very animated about it. It was a spooky feeling. They're up to no good.
Tom sees songbirds coming from the east and coming hard and fast. Tom knows something is pushing them this way. Just as the songbirds across the driveway begin to lift up to join the retreat, something, dark and fast, blows in from the west. There is an explosion of feathers and it was gone. Tom is not even sure what he saw. Looking out the office window there are feathers still floating about four feet off the ground. Tom walks outside and finds twenty or so feathers from a male House finch. Something spooked them from the east and when they began to take off they got hit by something from the west. If Tom would have been standing out there even at point of contact, he couldn't have done anything about it. From the time the fast mover came into his sight from the west, thru the explosion of feathers to disappearing, was maybe two seconds, probably less.