I am embarrassed to admit it, but I visited Yellowstone National Park this past week for the first time in my life. Months ago my son, Travis Jay (as in Jay’s Bird Barn), invited me to accompany him on a trip to the park. This past week I spent time in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah and was amazed by how green it was everywhere we went.
We spent time in the park on four consecutive days. While the emphasis of the trip was not strictly bird watching, I managed to squeeze in quite a bit of birding when I wasn’t looking at bison, elk, antelope, bear, deer, coyote and fox. Yes, I really did see all of those mammal species—and more. The park was truly spectacular.
Because my son has been to the park several times, he was a great guide. He took me to all of the main attractions, such as Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basin, Midway Geyser Basin, Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone Lake, and Lamar and Hayden Valleys, along with countless other beautiful stops along the way.
Yellowstone, if you haven’t been there, is unlike any place on earth. I was absolutely fascinated by the variety of hydrothermal features in the park—ranging from hot springs, mud pots, steam vents and geysers to travertine terraces. If you haven’t visited Yellowstone, I highly recommend it. We stayed in West Yellowstone, Montana where we could access the park just minutes from where we were staying.
The park has an official Birds of Yellowstone checklist that I picked up at one of the visitor’s centers. I carried it with me everywhere I went, referencing it several times a day. The checklist has over 220 species of birds listed that have been documented in the park, either as permanent or as migratory species.
I suspect I would have seen more species, had I been more focused on birding. However, there was so much to do and to see I was not focused strictly on birds, yet I still saw over 60 different bird species on the trip. The overall scenery was spectacular. The lakes, rivers, mountains and valleys captured my attention at every turn.
I managed to get one new bird species for my life list—trumpeter swan in Hayden Valley. It is not very often that I add a new bird to my life list in North America, so I was glad to see the swans. Other good bird sightings include ruffed grouse (great looks), mountain bluebirds, Clark’s nutcrackers, yellow-headed blackbirds and five species of swallows—barn, tree, violet-green, north rough-winged and cliff.
On our last day in the park, we focused our efforts on digiscoping—using a 95mm Swarovski spotting scope with a digital single lens reflex camera, all hooked together with a digiscoping adaptor. Instead of taking still shots, we took video footage with the digital SLR camera, shooting through the ocular lens of the Swarovski scope. The results were amazing!
We were able to capture videos of bison, elk, Bald Eagle, Wilson’s phalarope, killdeer, spotted sandpiper, brown-headed cowbirds, Brewer’s blackbirds, trumpeter swan and several other bird species using our digiscoping setup.
Digiscoping can also be done using an iPhone camera—there are iPhone adapters that fit right over the ocular lens of both spotting scopes and binoculars, allowing you to take either stills or video in this manner.
As a final reminder, this Saturday, June 18, is the Alta Vista Garden Club tour. A limited number of tickets may be available at check in at 8 a.m. at Yavapai College if you have not pre-purchased your tickets.
Until next week, Happy Birding!