Yellowstone Reports

Printer-friendly version

Spring came a bit late

Very few owls
by Dan Hartman

May 16, 2019

     I knew this spring could be a tough one for owls.  I mean the snow level stood at 44 inches on March 1st.  I've never had a good owl season when the level reached 36 inches or above.  Still there were some promising signs.  I had a boreal owl call from the same nesting cavity nine times and in the immediate area five more times. It was a proven nest as it was last used in 2015.  I checked it off and on in late April and early May and twice discovered a feather below the hole.

     To me this signified a nesting pair.  100%

     So when I walked in and actually checked, I was stunned to find it empty!

     I still have a couple of other possibilities, but none as sure as this one.

    I checked my great gray nests in the Beartooths last week and was equally disappointed.

     Three old nests have now collapsed or have fallen over.

     A nest that we filmed for the 2016 "Great Yellowstone Thaw" has been destroyed in a large logging operation.  And another which was used in 2014 now stands in the open from that same logging.

     The main nest for the film is still standing, and I was excited when I found down feathers on my way in, but it was empty.  A search of the area yielded no owls.

      In the Park, I've still got one area I have not checked out yet.  Owls have nested there six times, but both nests they used in the past are down.  The search would include a vast area.  Originally it took me three years to find the two nests.  Other nests in the Park I've checked are empty.  We did see a pair of great grays down Hayden Valley way.

     A pygmy owl hung around our cabin for a week or so pre-nesting season, but then vanished.

     I had a saw-whet calling consistantly near Pebble Creek and snowshoed in but was unable to locate it.

     I know of five to six great horned owl nests, but they are much more diverse and can survive in almost any condition

     Birds are showing up in the aspens.  I've watched bluebirds, flickers and even a williamsons sapsucker at cavities.

     Beartooth Pass is scheduled to open May 24th.  That's where I'll be spending most of my summer.


View slide show

Great Horned Owl Nest



Standing But Empty

Pygmy Owl