Yellowstone Birds

Yellowstone is not really known as a place to photograph birds. Other features and mammals tend to take all the attention. The variety and number of birds is not what you might find elsewhere, but there are some gems if you look hard enough. The various guidebook that I consulted had very contradictory information as to the abundance and locations of many bird species. Basically, you're on your own!


Endangered Trumpeter Swan - This was a HUGE miss on the part of the guide books. Fairly common during the breeding season, there was exactly ONE to be found during the two weeks that I was there

Mountain Bluebirds were another target species for my trip. It seemed that whenever I had a short lens on the camera, I saw Bluebirds. I'd swap lenses and they disappeared. I managed to get a few along with some nice shots while in the Tetons



I found a small group of Mountain Bluebirds around the Mammoth Hot Springs. I'm not sure people knew what to think about someone carrying a 700mm lens into one of the thermal areas where a pocket cam was sufficient. One person looked at this bird that I was photographing, said, "It's just a bird" and walked right in front of me, scaring off the bird. I was carrying about 40 pounds of equipment, so I was not able to hurt them as badly as was justifiable

Present, but hard to photograph were Clark's Nutcrackers. I found this one on a hike to the top of Mount Washburn (big mistake - long story). They have the unique ability to keep themselves in rotten light most of the time



Clark's Nutcrackers also know that they don't show up too well against gray skies. Crafty little buggers! 

According to the guidebooks, Black-billed Magpies would be a snap to photograph. Wrong! I was lucky enough to find this fellow eating dead bugs off of a car grill. I managed to get this shot when he flew to a nearby bush. Most of the Magpies I found were suffering some serious molting issues while I was there.



Ravens are everywhere in Yellowstone, but the combination of very black bird in sunny conditions made them tough to photograph.

I've always had a soft spot in my heart (head?) for Dippers. They tend to be a bit skulky and like crummy light. This one must have made a mistake by throwing me a bone and perching in nice light.



Apparently, I have to travel all the way across the country to get a nice shot of an Eastern Kingbird. According to my guidebook, they shouldn't be there.

Osprey were pretty easy to find in Yellowstone - a few were still on nests, even though it was September



Osprey taking flight along the Firehole River - people probably wonder why I focus on a bird in a tree and take no shots for five minutes. This is why.

This bird was hunting along the Firehole River and gave me a few opportunities to get shots while I was looking for Bluebirds



I stumbled across a few "Western" Red-tailed Hawks in Yellowstone. They have a much wider range of plumages than their cousins back east. 

A female Western Tanager was a nice surprise in Mammoth. I am not too familiar with the female of this species and wasn't sure if it was a Tanager or an Oriole at first. Fortunately, someone nearby was generous enough to share their knowledge with me.



Gray Jays (a.k.a. camp robbers) seem to travel in bands, steal foot and then move on. Really tought to photograph despite bold behavior

The real birds you need to watch for are the Ravens. This bird spent 5 minutes unzipping and going through pouches on a motor cycle. The owner returned and wanted to know why nobody stopped it. Sorry dude, we were having fun laughing at your expense. Never would have happened to a Harley