The Song of the Sage

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Let's head over The Bighorns on a sparrow quest! I woke up to a little mini snow squall, but the sun came out so adventure beckoned. Winter clouds parked up on the eastern side of the mountains, but once I cleared the switchbacks going up highway 14, the sun peeked out again. My isolation destination? The area north of Greybull. The "road" is an old two gravel track through sage, going nowhere. This stretch of road between Greybull and Lovell serves as territory of the Sagebrush Sparrow.

Where the road goes, I do not know, because the bridge is out. Very out. The dry creek that runs under it is deceptively deep. It looks like a wide bottom but there is about a 5'x5' sink at the bottom. There is a dug-out road a bit down the draw, but you would still need a very specialized vehicle to make it through. I almost tried it last year but decided discretion was the better part of valor. Since then, it's gotten even deeper. Whenever I'm sitting alone contemplating my driving future, somewhere out there my poor husband gets a little twitch and doesn't know why.

It's a neat area for artifacts of all kinds. Just found stuff. For a million years folks have gone out there shooting cans, bottles, etc. Sometimes things just present themselves as is.

Birding doesn't usually happen like this, I'm probably 50/50 on this spot, but my quarry was the Sagebrush Sparrow with recent eBird reports that it's returned for spring, so there is hope! It's maybe my second favorite sparrow visually and tops for sparrow song. As I dropped in off the highway, within 1/4 mile I could hear the song!

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Sagebrush Sparrow near Greybull, WY

Sagebrush Sparrows near Greybull, WY

There were two males close to each other singing away!

I drove on to the bridge area where I heard a third. It was across the draw, and while I did try to video the singing for a few seconds, it's shaky and short, so I'm including the link to the bird's song instead.

This sweet sparrow's song always lifts my spirits.

Sagebrush Sparrow near Greybull, WY

I went back east through Greybull again. The A&W drive in was open. I got a root beer float and tipped well for being open and trying to stay open.

Going back to the mountains, I detoured to the Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracks area.

This is supposed to be a dino track, but I may be lacking in enough imagination to know that for sure. Still, it's fun to be able to walk around on a rock imprinted with dinosaur tracks and know you are standing where they stood millions of years ago. Tip: I hear if you spill some water about, it makes the tracks really pop!

Well, it's only five miles off the main road, and the scenery is amazing...

and I found the first Loggerhead Shrike of spring!

A few Mountain Bluebirds were on the wing, and the Western Meadowlarks were showing off!

Western Meadowlark - Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite Area, WY

The butte formation to the back right is Hart Mountain, giving a nice view from here.

Up in the mountains again, I stopped at Shell Falls. The area is still closed for winter, after only being open again for a year following a year or two of closures for work. It's suffered as well from budget cuts a time or two. What's sad is you can park outside the gate and just walk around, so it's too bad they can't just open the parking lot and let people do just that either way. It's really quite stunning.

Clark's Nutcracker - Shell Falls, WY

Hey, a Clark's Nutcracker way up on the hillside! Its call sounds like the emergency weather alerts on television if you grew up in Oklahoma, as I did. Time for one quick photo and it flew off to higher territory.

Still a lot of snow around Burgess Junction!

And here comes the cloud again! Back to earth, I go.