The town of Jackson, Wyoming, by Jackson Hole, the lovely valley in the shadow of the mountains, is the gateway to the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, and to great birding. Within walking distance of many motels and restaurants in this resort area is a lovely pond, nestled between the mountains, where a parade of brilliant waterfowl does touch-and-go landings in front of you and where a trumpeter swan flyover may welcome you. The scenery is dazzling; from the shelter of a double-deck observation platform at the Chamber of Commerce Building on the northern outskirts of Jackson, a splendid collection of wildlife is on display for you.
The pond joins the National Elk Refuge where, in winter, the world’s largest elk herd gathers, the bulls filling the valley with their haunting bugling. Coyotes wail nearby, and you may see them stalking mice in the surrounding fields. But the real show is provided by the birds: Here you may see in summer six species of swallows gathering insects around the marsh areas and streaking the still water with liquid trails. This area is home to tree, violet-green, northern rough-winged, bank, cliff, and barn swallows, all nesting nearby.
Trumpeter swans glide the streams in the Elk Refuge, and the pond welcomes Canada geese, mallards, cinnamon teal, ring-necked and several other duck species, the varieties changing with the seasons. The marsh shrubs and grasses may shelter Bohemian and cedar waxwings, and rock, house, and marsh wrens nest here also. Yellow-headed, red-winged, and Brewer’s blackbirds are common in summer, and black-billed magpies patrol the nearby picnic tables. Common yellowthroats, yellow, yellow-rumped, MacGillivray’s, and Wilson’s warblers flit through the bushes. Once I photographed a beautiful lazuli bunting by the waterside.
Be sure to look up! You may see a bald or golden eagle sharing the sky with the snowy Grand Tetons, while northern harriers in quartering flight help the coyotes patrol for small rodents. You’ll probably see Swain son’s and red-tailed hawks perching nearby, and a visit to the nearby timber may give you a glimpse of a northern goshawk streaking through the forest.
Nearby birding adventures include the marshes and meadows along the Wilson Road, south from the Grand Teton National Park, where I once spent part of an afternoon photographing a great gray owl. Don’t miss Christian Pond in the Grand Teton Park, with its resident trumpeter swan family, often sharing the marsh area with ruddy ducks, which are dwarfed by the magnificent swans. Beavers can also be seen in early morning and late evening, along with moose in the willows along the Snake River. Watch for Cassin’s finches, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, downy and hairy woodpeckers in nearby trees. The lovely Oxbow Bend of the Snake River may be graced by white pelicans and bald and golden eagles, flying in front of the back drop of Mt. Moran, with Skillet Glacier forever etched in snow.
Above all, take time to enjoy the special pond by the Chamber of Commerce in Jackson, which will welcome and reward you with beautiful scenery and delightful birding.