March in Yellowstone

Seasonal Phenology Notes from the Greater Yellowstone Area

On this page you’ll find March phenology notes for Yellowstone and surrounding areas (mainly Cody, WY). If you’re wondering what it’s like in Yellowstone in March – browse through to get an idea.

March 1

  • 2016: Wapiti | Jim Mountain – The first mountain bluebird was reported to be back. (MW)
  • 2016: Gardiner – Report came in of a first mountain bluebird seen (MAB)
  • 2019: Cody WY – Woke to another inch or two of snow, with glorious clear, blue skies.

March 2

  • 2014: Gardiner – Brad Orstead of Horsefeathers Photography posted on Facebook he spotted some mountain bluebirds – so they are returning to the Gardiner area.
  • 2017: Raccoons got into the suet and seed bird feeders for the first time this year. Friends went to check on the ice at Newton Lakes – strong enough to hold them still, but they said the ice was really singing.
  • 2018: Heard the first drumming of a northern flicker today.

March 3

  • 2014: Cody | North Fork – Sandi Sisti of Wild at Heart Images reported her first sighting of a mountain bluebird up the North Fork of the Shoshone on Facebook.
  • 2017: Friends went back to Newton Lakes with the intention of fishing only to find lots of open water and not much ice left. The chinook winds did their work overnight.

March 4

  • 2014: Yellowstone | Hayden Valley – A grizzly bear  was reported to park officials by visitor Kevin Fitzsimonds.
  • 2019: Cody WY – It’s -17° F this morning. Clear skies and 100% snow cover on the ground.

March 6

  • 2015: Cody | Wapiti – A report came in from closer to the valley floor that grizzly bear scat was deposited in the middle of a road there. (SP)
  • 2016: Hyattville | Three pairs of sandhill cranes were reported in the fields around Hyattville, WY.
  • 2018: Yellowstone – The first grizzly bear sighting in the park was in a news release: “…staff observed an 11-year-old male Grizzly Bear wearing a radio collar in the west-central part of the park.”

March 7

  • 1937: Yellowstone | Mammoth – The past few spring-like days have evidently deceived some of our hibernating friends. Today a Golden Mantled Marmot (Marmota flaviventris nosophora) was seen enjoying the warm sun on a south exposure in the Hoodoos. An hour later a Black Bear (Euarctos americanus cinnamomum) was encountered at the entrance to his den on a hillside north of Mammoth. This bear has been in hibernation since November 18 and will probably remain denned up at least another month. – F.R. Oberhansley (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XIV, No 3 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2014: Cody | South Fork – We saw a small flock of Wild Turkeys (3-4) a few miles up South Fork – one Tom was strutting.
  • 2018: Yellowstone – 2nd sighting of a Grizzly Bear was in a news release: “On Wednesday, March 7, employees reported seeing a Grizzly Bear in the east-central part of the park.”

March 8

  • 2018: Wapiti WY – Got a text from a friend saying he spotted the first mountain bluebird this morning at sunrise.
  • 2019: Yellowstone – 1st grizzly bear sighting was reported. “On March 8, visitors observed a large grizzly bear between Canyon Village and Fishing Bridge.” NPS Press release

March 9

  • 1939: Yellowstone – I replenished the food on our bird tray this morning with a square piece of meat weighing about 2-1/2 pounds. As a rule the Clark Nutcrackers (Nucifraga columbiana) are the first customers, but this time an Arizona weasel (Mustela arizonensis) appeared out of nowhere. As I came close to the window he eyed me beadily and with a lightening movement seized his intended meal, which I judged to weigh six or seven times as much as the weasel.

    I have often heard of this little creature’s lack of fear when foraging so I opened the window and reached down as if to regain the bird’s provender. This weasel in particular did not give ground. Discretion prompted me to withdraw my hand and relinquish title to the meat.

    So far we have observed daily in order of superior numbers at the feeding trays the following birds — Mt. chicadees (Penthestes gambeli), Clark nutcrackers, Canada jays (Perisoreus canadensis), and hairy woodpeckers (Dryobates villosus). Steller’s jays (Cyanocitta stelleri) are rare visitors. – John Lewis (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XVI, No 3-4 | Leaves from our Diaries)

  • 1939: Yellowstone | Slough Creek – A pair of trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) arrived at Slough Creek today and settled down on one of the two open portions of the stream. – John Bauman (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XVI, No 3-4 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2013: Yellowstone | Black Sand Basin – Yellowstone Tour Guides reported seeing grizzly bear tracks at Black Sand Basin. (YTG)
  • 2015: Cody | Wapiti – A Raven pair was seen dancing together on the wind. Also, the mule deer are now in smaller groups and seem to be more restless. Wolf tracks seen in the area may be the cause, or they may be getting ready to start migrating to summer fields. Most of the bucks have lost their antlers, but a couple have been seen – one 2×2 and one 4×4. (JW)

March 10

  • 1937: Yellowstone | Mammoth area – A beaver (Castor canadensis missouris) was seen coming down his trail in the deep snow from the trees above to Crescent Lake. Making his way leisurely down the hill end out onto the lake, he dove through a hole in the ice to reach his lodge. – W.E.K. [W.E. Kearns] (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XIV, No 3 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2015: Gardiner MT – The first report of mountain bluebirds in the Gardiner, MT area were posted on Facebook (MAB)
  • 2015: Cody|Wapiti – The first report of mountain bluebirds came in from a neighbor in Wapiti, WY. (JW)
  • 2015: Cody | South Fork – A report came in on WYOBirds of the first sighting of a Sandhill crane near the Dust Abatement Dike pond.
  • 2016: Cody | In Town – A pair of White-tailed jackrabbits were seen leaping high into the air as well as racing and chasing each other across the golf course.
  • 2017: Cody | Wapiti – The first report of mountain bluebirds came in. A pair arrived at their nesting area.
  • 2017: Gardiner MT – First mountain bluebird report came in.
  • 2018: Cody | Alkali Lake – Got a report of the first Sandhill crane today – was seen out at Alkali Lake early.

March 11

  • 2016: Cody | In Town – Got the first report of Sandhill cranes being heard today. (RH) And magpies were heard in some pine trees, but never located, so probably are nesting.
  • 2017: Cody | North Fork and South Fork – Drove up North Fork this afternoon. Ice very thin on Buffalo Bill Reservoir. No wind let the pools of open water look like oval mirrors. Two bison near the houses in Wapiti. Haven’t seen them down that far before. Flies out at the pullout just beyond Trail Shop. One Bison used the gate post at Big Game Campground as a scratching post. Went up as far as checking the bald eagle nest that’s apparently active this year. Saw one chick and one adult in the nest. Went up South Fork to check on the Ishawooa Horse’s Head – not showing at all yet. Saw three ice fishermen on the Lower South Fork portion of Buffalo Bill Reservoir. Friends went all the way down South Fork to look for Mountain Bluebirds and didn’t see any (neither did I).
  • 2019: Yellowstone – “Grizzly [bear] tracks were reported between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Junction.” NPS Press Release

March 12

  • 1937: Yellowstone | Heart Lake – While on patrol with Ranger Watson to Heart Lake, we followed an Otter’s (Lutra canadensis canadensis) track for over 15 miles, saw a Lynx’s (Lynx canadensis canadensis) track on Witch Creek, and near the Harebell Cabin, saw where a Marten (Martes caurina origines) had killed a Snowshoe Rabbit (Lepus bairdii bairdii) as evidenced by the story in the snow.
    Several Red-winged Blackbirds (Angelaius phoeniceus..?..) were seen near a hot-spot on Snake River today. – Judson Rhoads (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XIV, No 3 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2013: Yellowstone | Midway Geyser Basin – Yellowstone Tour Guides saw their first Grizzly Bear of the year at Midway Geyser Basin. (May have been the first reported sighting in YNP for the year). (YTG)
  • 2016: Cody | South Fork – An American Kestrel (FOY) was seen as well as Red-winged Blackbirds (FOY for me). A Red-Tailed Hawk was on its nest along Marquette Creek. (JW)
  • 2016: Cody | In Town – Forsythia bushes are blooming and the leaf buds have burst on many of the shrubs and trees today. Spotted a Canadian Goose on a nest at Alkali Lake. (JW)
  • 2017: Cody | In Town – Saw the first aspen catkins popping out (though the sneezing from them has been going on for a week or more – so likely out somewhere a bit sooner). We also had the first crocuses blooming in the garden today.
  • 2019: Cody WY – 100% ice coverage on Beck Lake and Alkali Lake.

March 13

  • 2018: Gardiner, MT – just north of Yankee Jim Canyon, we saw 500-800 Elk grazing near the road
  • 2018: Chico Hot Springs, MT area – An American Kestrel dropped a mouse or vole on the road near us as we were driving – had it kept hold it would have collided with the car because it couldn’t gain enough altitude and we couldn’t slow fast enough.

March 14

  • 1939: Yellowstone | Slough Creek – Several pairs of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) returned to the open waters of Slough Creek this morning. – John Bauman (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XVI, No 3-4 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2017: Cody | edge of town – Heard my first Sandhill Cranes today. Their distinctive calls came from the direction of Beck Lake/Alkali Lake.
  • 2018: Columbus MT – Saw my first of the year Red-Winged Blackbird.

March 15

  • 1937: Yellowstone | Mammoth & Tower Falls – The matter of the Townsend Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi) being en all year resident has been decided in the affirmative in the light of observations made this past winter. Townsend Solitaires have been observed near Mammoth or at Tower Falls on the dates which follow: November 2 and 13, December 1 and 23, January 10 and 23, February 13, 15, and 20, and on March 8. – W.E.K. [W.E. Kearns] (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XIV, No 3 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2012: Yellowstone | Midway Geyser Basin Yellowstone Tour Guides saw their first Grizzly Bear in Yellowstone: “This bear was sighted not far from the Fairy Falls Trailhead near the Firehole River. The grizzly bear eventually made his way over Rabbit Creek way.”
  • 2017: Yellowstone – The first Grizzly Bear of the year was spotted between Mammoth and Tower-Roosevelt.
  • 2017: Cody | In Town – The Northern Flickers were calling territorial calls throughout the day.
  • 2018: Cody | In Town – Spotted an American Robin at the house for the first time this year. Also spotted the first Starling checking out the next box. There’s also a pair of Northern Flickers checking out the nest box as well.

March 16

  • 1939: Yellowstone | Madison River Valley – In a group of 29 elk (Cervus canadensis) counted along the Madison River today the old bulls were noted to have shed their antlers while the younger bulls are just beginning to lose theirs. – Arthur Jacobson (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XVI, No 3-4 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2015: Cody|Wapiti – We saw our first American Kestrels of the year today flying over our house. Overcast most of the day with weather moving in by evening. A Raven flew by with a branch in its beak. Mountain Bluebirds were battling over the nest box and territory – one pair against three other males. Elk were seen higher up on the mountain.
  • 2015: Cody | In Town – Voles are a problem this spring – everyone is overrun with them.
  • 2018: Cody | In Town – A House Sparrow started building a nest in one of the pine trees in the backyard.

March 17

  • 1937: Yellowstone | Norris (entry listed for both March 17 & 18) – The following notes concern the activity in the Norris Geyser Basin: new activity west of Congress Pool; mud geyser, inactive, except for subterranean roar of steam and splashing of water; Hurricane Vent is very active; great piles of ice encroach upon Valentine Geyser from the northeast; Constant Geyser to heights of from 10 to 13 feet there is more activity and more run-off than in the past from Porcelain Hill.An American Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus alascanus) was seen flying over the Gibbon River near the Norris Mess Hall. – W.E.K. [W.E. Kearns](from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XIV, No 3 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 1939: Yellowstone | Blacktail Deer Creek – On the right bank of the Yellowstone River about two miles below the mouth of Blacktail Deer Creek, a mature coyote (Canis latrans) was surprised at close range, gnawing upon an old weather-beaten elk skull. About 100 yards farther down stream an elk calf was encountered lying near the trail in such a week and emaciated condition that it was unable to regain its feet. Fresh tracks of the coyote in the new snow plainly showed that he also had seen the calf earlier that morning and that he actually detoured away from it in arriving at the old skull farther up the trail.

    During the course of this snowshoe trip down the Yellowstone from March 16 to 18 inclusive, three other elk calves were observed in a weakened condition similar to the one described above; in addition an old, almost toothless, cow elk was seen in a dying condition where she had been lying for many hours beside the trail. – Frank R. Oberhansley (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XVI, No 3-4 | Leaves from our Diaries)

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Waking to fog and about 1″ of snow on the ground. Elk were farther down on the mountain today. Watched a Mule Deer buck rubbing his newly emerging antlers on a on a sagebrush bush. Three Bald Eagles were soaring on the thermals near the house.
  • 2018: Cody | In Town – The lone Blue Jay that wintered here is calling for a mate with no reply heard.
  • 2019: Wapiti, WY – Saw my first mountain bluebird up on Jim Mountain today.

March 18

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – A flock of American Robins returned to their summer grounds at a neighbor’s house.
  • 2019: Cody WY – Northern flickers were heard calling for the first time this spring. No drumming heard, though.

March 19

  • 2019: Cody, WY – Northern Flickers were heard drumming for the first time.
  • 2019: Clark, WY – Saw a mountain bluebird and snow bunting along with a group of chukars on Chapman Bench.

March 20

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – A Golden Eagle hunted around the house this morning. Mule Deer were seen gathering nearby in numbers larger than normally seen in winter.

March 21

  • 1939: Yellowstone | Daly Creek – Two blue birds (Sialia currucoides) were seen at the mouth of Daly Creek today. – Arthur Jacobson (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XVI, No 3-4 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2015: Cody | North Fork  – Aspens have their catkins out all along the North Fork, as well as Willows at Pahaska. The Cottonwood tree buds are swollen all along the North Fork. (JW)
  • 2015: Cody | In Town – Crocus and Daffodils blooming. Lilac bushes have leaves emerging. (JW)
  • 2015: Cody | South Fork – Sandhill Cranes in the fields and flying overhead. The Ishawooa Horse’s Head is showing the reins clearly – but they haven’t broken yet. (JW)

March 22

  • 1939: Yellowstone | NE Entrance – Pink sided juncos (Junco mearnsi) appeared at Cooke station today. Five steller’s jays visit the feeding trays regularly. Our pet weasel “Tippy” is still very much in evidence around the station. Two great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) were heard last night. The hammering of woodpeckers in the vicinity of the ranger station is heard daily. Evidently they are preparing to nest. – Peg Arnold (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XVI, No 3-4 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 1939: Yellowstone | Gardiner/Mammoth – A goshhawk (Astur atricapallus) was observed as it flew off a freshly killed and partly consumed blue grouse (Canachites Dendragopus obscurus richardsoni ?) near Reese Creek today. On the following day the remains of the grouse consisting of the drumsticks to which some meat and feathers were still adhering were found reposing on a fence post. The goshhawk had evidently returned and taking his kill to the elevated position, from where he could scan the country and timely observe any approaching danger, finished his repast. – Rudolph Grimm (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XVI, No 3-4 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2019: Cody, WY – Had a female mountain bluebird stop at the bluebird box (didn’t stay).

March 23

  • 2013: Yellowstone | Upper Geyser Basin – First Grizzly Bear seen on the live streaming webcam pointed at Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin.
  • 2014: Cody | South Fork – First report of a pair of Sandhill Cranes came in – they were spotted mid day in a field. (RH)
  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Found the first tick of the season. Warm this morning but clouds moved in. Snowing and blowing by bedtime.

March 24

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – About 1/2″ of snow on the ground at the higher elevations. A neighbor called to report his first sighting of Red-winged Blackbirds this year at his place. (KB)

March 25

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Elk hung out near the house most of the day.

March 26

  • 1937: Yellowstone | Likely Mammoth – The Northern Shrike (Lanius borealis borealis) which we have been following with interest throughout the winter gave us a real thrill this afternoon. Junior Naturalist Oberhansley and I were out in the field looking for him and had been watching a pair of Golden Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) until one of them finally settled on a telephone pole just back of Pryor’s Store. A few yards further on we flushed the Shrike and he flew directly toward the Eagle. To our amazement, he hovered over the Eagle on rapidly beating wings and then darted directly at the great bird’s head, rising again for a few yards to pause and then repeat his rapier like attacks. The Eagle, greatly disturbed, would flap his wings and twist his head to avoid his assailant. After resting on the telephone wire within six feet of the Eagle, the Shrike renewed his harassing assault with such vigor that the Eagle, with a scream of protest, finally took flight. – W.E. Kearns (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XIV, No 3 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 1939: Yellowstone | Mammoth & NE Entrance – A large black bear (Euarctos americanus cinnamomum) was seen in the Hoodoos near Mammoth Hot Springs today. He evidently had recently emerged from one of the many dens in that locality. More than 100 bluebirds (Sialia currucoides) were seen on the flats near the North Entrance this p.m. – Frank R. Oberhansley (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XVI, No 3-4 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2017: Cody | North Fork – Took a drive today up North Fork. Mountain Bluebirds were just west of the Post Office. Elk at Copperleaf. 25-30 Bighorn Sheep at the Ranger Station in the National Forest. Catkins on the Aspen at Crossed Sabers. 48 degrees (F) at the Swinging Bridge by Eagle Creek – also saw Mountain Bluebirds there. 44 degrees (F) at Pahaska – Willows starting to put out catkins. Two Bison seen on the way back to Cody just inside the National Forest.

March 27

  • 2017: Cody | In Town – Saw a report that Turkey Vultures were seen today for the first time this year.

March 28

  • 1939: Yellowstone | Geode Creek – Another sign of spring was observed this morning. As I was riding across a bare southern exposure near Geode Creek I observed severe newly hatched grasshoppers. – John Bauman (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XVI, No 3-4 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Windy today. Gusts in the 60 mph range. Then rain and dust mixed to create a mud storm that covered everything.
  • 2019: Yellowstone | Upper Geyser Basin – First grizzly bear seen on the Old Faithful webcam. Video

March 29

  • 2014: Cody |North Fork of the Shoshone – A photographer reported seeing eight different moose between Pahaska and Wapiti.
  • 2015: Wapiti WY -Still windy. Ticks are thick this year. Heard a report of a moose napping on the North Fork dust abatement dike at Buffalo Bill Reservoir sometime earlier this week.

March 30

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Moss Campion blooming near the house.
  • 2017: Blog Post – Late March Phenology Report – A Starling was seen at the Kestrel box already claimed by Northern Flickers that wintered around here and have filled the nest box with a couple of inches of bark mulch. (Later note: nobody used the nest box this year).

March 31

  • 1938: Yellowstone | Mammoth – Bears are supposed to choose their first food with nice precision upon emerging from the hibernating den. Having passed the entire winter without eating the stomach and intestines become shrunken with disuse. A variety of vegetable matter, therefore, seems requisite for resumption of the digestive processes before the main business of eating gets fully under way.Contrary to this idea, Dr. Fallis and I surprised a large, black male bear near Orange Spring Mound feasting upon the carcass of a bull elk that had recently died. As we approached, the bear moved sluggishly back into the timber. He had gorged himself to the point of apparent discomfort, judging not only from his actions and distended condition, but also from the fact that he had eaten the vital organs and an entire hind quarter of the elk. “May good digestion wait on appetite.” – Frank R. Oberhansley (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XV, Nos. 5-6 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2015: Wapiti WY – An American Kestrel stopped momentarily this morning. Incredibly warm – in the low 70s. This is the first day the fields seem to have a touch of green to them. Saw my first butterfly of the year while on a walk.
  • 2019: Cody WY – Crocuses blooming for the first time in town today.