FEBRUARY NATURE NOTES

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February brings with it the start of the spring observations. While it might feel like spring is a long ways off, it’s not. We often get a February thaw that’s begins to release winter’s grip. February is a time of romance. Owls start courting, Ravens also begin their courtship with lovely dances performed on the wind. Canids (foxes, coyotes, wolves) will be breeding as well.

The first Mountain Bluebirds might show up near the end of the month or at the beginning of March. Watch the weather patterns as they’ll come in with the winds that help them along their migratory route. Mule deer bucks will start shedding antlers. The first bears may be seen this month depending on how hard the winter has been.

 

February 1

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Foggy and frosty morning. A Mule Deer we recognize by her lighter eyes and floppy ears (less cartiledge we figure) showed up with her family. She’s definitely the lead dear of the group.

February 2

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Windy with a high gust of 53 mph. The wind blew some of the ice of the reservoir.
  • 2017: Cody WY – We had a Mule Deer buck drinking from the heated birdbath with no antlers – just fairly fresh bloody spots where they had been. 5″ of snow out of this storm.

February 3

  • 2016: Cody WY – Watched a pair of Magpies showing some courting behavior: high pitched, but quieter calls, one chasing/hopping after the other under a bush across the street.

February 4

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Great Horned Owls were hooting early this morning. Three coyotes and a Golden Eagle pointed us to a deer carcass. Turned out to be a Mountain Lion kill of a Mule Deer doe about 400 yards from the house. (Blog Post)
  • 2016: Pretty good windstorm underway – can’t remember if this is day two or three of it. Just lots of wind.
  • 2017: Chinook winds started overnight. Woke to find the outside temperature at 41°F.

February 6

  • 2015: Cody Area – Wind storm today. High gust recorded on Jim Mountain in Wapiti was a 95 mph with 70-80 mph sustained winds. Lost a few panels of roofing off the shop – they were guaranteed for 90 mph. Found them over on the neighbor’s property, straightened them and screwed them back on.

February 7

  • 2017: Cody WY – Ended up with another 8″ of snow from this last storm. One of Mom’s friends said that makes 55″ so far this winter. The folks up above the Wapiti valley reported yet another foot of snow up there.

February 9

  • 2015: Yellowstone | Central Portion – First official sighting of a Grizzly Bear -“Blame the relatively mild winter weather for the early emergence of bears in the Greater Yellowstone area. The first confirmed report of grizzly bear activity in Yellowstone occurred on February 9. A grizzly bear was observed late in the afternoon, scavenging on a bison carcass in the central portion of the park.” (YNP News Release)
  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Zero wind and comfortably warm this morning. Rain showers and more wind through the day.
  • 2017: Cody WY – 41°F at 6:00 AM. The chinook winds have arrived. By afternoon most of the fresh snow (and more) had melted. Water everywhere. People were reporting whitecaps on the standing water throughout the area.

February 10

  • 2014: Yellowstone | Madison River Valley – A Great Blue Heron was seen. (YTG)
  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Mostly sunny and not too windy. Had Mule Deer (2 does and 3 yearlings) hang out with us most of the day. Saw a few rabbits.
  • 2017: Saw my first pair of ravens dancing their courtship on the wind. Flooding problems in Clark due to the fast melt and Sleeping Giant Ski Area closed due to the instability of the snow on the slopes. Heard at least 5 Great Horned Owls outside this evening.

February 11

  • 2014: Yellowstone | South End – The first Black Bear of the season was seen.
  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Dark-eyed Juncos seen hanging out in a draw not far from us. Golden Eagles soaring.

February 12

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – A Golden Eagle was on a Mule Deer carcass by the road just west of the Wapiti Post Office – they are huge birds.

February 13

  • 2015: Cody WY – Amazingly warm! In the low 60s in town and it seemed everyone was outside.
  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Saw a Loggerhead Shrike.

February 15

  • 2015: Yellowstone – Another Grizzly Bear was spotted in the park.
  • 2015: Wapiti WY – 1-2″ of snow. Haven’t been very good at writing down snow depths this winter. Hard to pin down a depth sometimes with so much wind – unless it sticks on the vertical surfaces.

February 16

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Woke to 1/2″ of snow. Snow showers through the day gave us about 3-4″ total.
  • 2017: Cody WY – Alkali Lake has some open water after weeks of being frozen over. Got a report of 20″ of ice on the South Fork Dam area (Buffalo Bill Reservoir), but a little squishy along the edge. Two Mule Deer bucks were seen in town with only one antler each with two others pushing them around by just lowering their full set toward them. All the Mule Deer were skittish, cautious and looking around more. Most likely due to the gunshots heard from the culling of the town herd.

February 17

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – We found tons of coyote tracks on a walk. Golden Eagle pair sitting side by side in a tree on the ridge above us – we’ve not seen where they’re nesting this year.
  • 2016: Cody | In Town – Heard the first courting song from a Eurasian Collared Dove.

February 18

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – First breeding behavior seen in the rabbits – hopping in pairs and triplets and chasing.
  • 2015: Cody WY – Black-capped Chickadees singing courting songs almost continually.

February 20

  • 2017: Cody WY – While we’ve had one pair of Eurasian Collared Doves stay for the winter, a second pair was seen for the first time today. Is this the end of their range? A few years ago there were an amazing number that stayed all winter. Even last summer, though, we saw fewer of them.

February 21

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Snowing and cold today.
  • 2017: Cody WY – Heard the first Northern Flicker territorial call of the year today. A pair (possibly a trio) has hung around all winter and routinely inspect the Kestrel House.

February 22

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – A group of about 20 bull Elk were seen on the top of Table Mountain with a spotting scope. The antlers clearly showed in the shadows on the snow. Elk cows were in a group down a bit lower.

February 23

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Cold but calm today.
  • 2016: Yellowstone | Nez Perce Drainage – The first sighting of a Grizzly Bear came from Quinn Harrison while doing a wolf survey flight.
  • 2016: Cody | In Town – Some time in the past couple of days, the winter groups of Mule Deer have broken up into smaller family groups and have left their consistent winter routes.

February 24

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – A bit warmer today – winds increasing throughout the day. The Mule Deer are starting to look a bit messy as their winter coats start to loosen. One actually looks quite brown. Those that are pregnant are starting to show a baby bump.

February 26

  • 2017:  Cody WY – Drove out South Fork as far as the TE Ranch and back. Red-tailed Hawks were in the trees next to the nest on Marquette Creek. No Mountain Bluebirds seen.

February 27

  • 2014: Yellowstone | Fishing Bridge – The first Grizzly Bear of the year was seen one mile north of Fishing bridge (the photo seems to have come to light after the other reporting of a Grizzly Bear seen on March 4). Photo courtesy of June Dunn.
  • 2016: Yellowstone | Lamar Valley – Deby DIxon of Running Wolf Nature Photography reports that members of the Lamar Wolf Pack were seen mating.

February 28

  • 2017: Cody WY – Open water see on Beck Lake today – haven’t seen that in awhile. Windy.

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