Partly cloudy skies of stratus and cirrus clouds made for excellent conditions to spot silhouettes against. Thermal lift was poor to fair. West winds at 9-24.6 kph. Low temperature of 3C and a high of 8C by 12:30. The barometric pressure fell steadily signaling the next round of winter weather on tap for tomorrow evening. Visibility was excellent to the east and west over 100km for most of the count.
158 raptors migrated past the Bridger Mountains Hawk Watch. SS 15 CH 3 UA 1 RT 2 UB 1 AK 2 GE 126 NH 1 ML 4 PG 1 BE 2. The morning started with a strong flight of SS with 9 coming through in the first 3 hours. By 11:00 the Golden Eagle began to stream through. By 14:00 I was under the impression we were going to have a slow day, but from 14:00-17:00 the flight kicked into high gear with 116 raptors coming through, primarily GE. At times Paulette and I had 10 in the air at once. It was impressive to see that many come through in such a brief period of time. For the most part birds were flying pretty high and far off to the west of the ridge. (3) ML were spotted in the last hour, one mobbing the near owl providing an excellent look. An AK was spotted flying low to the west of the OP in the same hour, so it was good falcon conditions.
Resident GOEA were active today taking swipes at lingering migrant GOEA and escorting them along the ridge southward. Paulette spotted our resident PRFA on its usual low flying eastern approach towards Tilly.
5 CEDW came through the pass in front of the OP from W to E. 20 GCRF streamed south later in the afternoon. BBMA continue to mob the Tilly Owl. I suspect that there must be some carrion nearby on the north side of Tilly considering I have now seen a good size group of CORA 27 localizing their as well.
Just before I ended the count our resident short-tailed weasel came nosing around the edge of the blind. I was able to stand up in my camouflage and not spook it. It was special to see it wriggling through all of the crevices in the scree below the heli-pad. Occasionally it would look up at me, but it didn’t register me in the camo!
"While some animals get off comparatively easily in the winter by hibernating, or by gorging and then fasting, the short-tailed weasel has to hunt every day to keep its blast-furnace metabolism stoked. With a heart rate of several hundred beats a minute and little in the way of fat reserves on its long and slender body, the animal must consume half its body weight daily.
The same metabolism that keeps the weasel in an almost-constant state of hunger also makes it a quick, effective hunter. Aided by its keen sense of smell, the short-tailed weasel is capable of climbing trees, swimming rivers, diving into small rodent holes in the ground and hunting by day or by night in its search for prey. Its tastes are versatile, ranging from earthworms to waterfowl, although mice are its most common prey. In days of plenty, the energetic short-tailed weasel may kill more than it needs, and stockpile the carcasses for leaner days ahead."
A hiker came across the ridge from Fairy Lake. A runner also ran up to the ridge from Bridger Bowl. Big thank you to Paulette Epple for doing the entire 2019 Bridger Raptor Fest schedule of events! I saw her Friday night at the Ellen Theatre and I know she was busy both Saturday and Sunday at the Jim Bridger Lodge helping kids build nest boxes for AK. She wrapped up a full weekend of volunteering with a visit to the ridge today. There is no way I could have tracked 116 birds in 3 hours without her help! It was fun to finally tally a big day at Bridger together!
Next Day Forecast
A chance of rain and snow between noon and 3pm, then rain likely. Partly sunny, with a high near 50. Breezy, with a west-southwest wind 17 to 24 mph, with gusts as high as 33 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
...WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT
FROM 6 PM TUESDAY TO MIDNIGHT MDT WEDNESDAY NIGHT...
* WHAT...Heavy snow expected. Total snow accumulations 4 to 7
inches at lower elevations, and of 8 to 16 inches in the
mountains. Winds gusting as high as 35 mph.
* WHERE...Gallatin and Madison.
* WHEN...From 6 PM Tuesday to midnight MDT Wednesday night.
We likely will have a decent flight again tomorrow ahead of this approaching weather. I don’t think it will be as big as these past two days.