Phenology Report for Mid-April 2020

April is such a fantastic month in Wyoming. It’s when we alternate between snow showers and warm, sunny spring days. At the first of the month, everything is brown, but by the end, the white snows melt into the landscape to turn it green. I want to take a few minutes and jot down some of the seasonal changes seen so far this month in the Cody area.

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Turkey Vultures have returned. We first saw one Turkey vulture at the traditional roost on March 30 and March 31. But then nothing. Finally, on April 7, when we were out looking for them, we followed six or seven to their roost. It turns out they’ve been in the pine trees in the area. Have they been there all that time? Not sure. But one sheer guess on this change in behavior is that it’s been cold at night, and perhaps they find a bit more warmth in the pine trees.

Common grackles returned to the feeders at the house on the 16th. Last year they returned on the 15th. From reports, the mountain bluebirds are working hard on their nests. It won’t be long until the Tree swallows arrive as well. They compete for similar nesting sites and usually the swallows win when there’s a question, so I’m glad to hear the bluebirds are doing well with their head start.

Osprey also returned. We saw a possible one at the very tail end of March, but it was too dark to tell for sure. On April 18, we watched the pair at “Half Moon Bay” – partway along the Buffalo Bill Reservoir. The State Park manager told us they arrived this year as a pair. Usually, the male shows up first, and then the female. They’re already on eggs in the nest. One of them flew up with a fish, landing on a post not far from the nest where it proceeded to dine alone – accompanied by the nearly constant protests of the one sitting on the nest. A magpie ventured closer to see if there might be some table scraps toward the end, but the Osprey was not sharing this time – at all.

And the American White Pelicans are back. A friend of mine out in the Wapiti area let me know they came back on the 18th. When we arrived, there were 10 or 11 of them preening or sleeping. I absolutely love them for the way they herd fish and their synchronized flight.


On a trip up the North Fork of the Shoshone (Cody road to Yellowstone), we noticed a few family groups of mule deer up higher in elevation than I expected. They’re starting to migrate. While there are still hoards of them in the Wapiti Valley, those large groups will soon be following the leading families of the migration. The elk look a bit ratty as they start to lose their winter coats. Not their most photogenic time of year.

I took a documentation shot (read: not a pretty photo) of one of the five bison we saw on one run up the North Fork. He’s an old one that doesn’t look like he’s long for this world. His horns are battered and blunted – telling the tales of past battles that all scars show. Bison often live 10-15 years with a few a bit older. With the various wolf packs along the North Fork and in the Wapiti Valley, I imagine he might feed some pups that could be arriving any day now.

Road to Yellowstone

At Pahaska Tepee, the road to Yellowstone remains closed here, but the plow is out, and one lane is already free of snow. The willows were beginning to put their catkins out, but only on a couple of bushes. The warmth from this upcoming week should encourage more to start to show.

Spring continues to unfold here, and I’ll be out there taking notes, appreciating the scenery, and loving this life I lead. Some of you are farther along than we are here with spring, but whatever stage it’s at in your area, take a bit of time to find it.

Be Outside • Take Notes



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