Mammal and Birding Tour USA: Wyoming and Montana – Exploring Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks


Dates and Costs:

 

22-30 September 2025

Spaces Available: 6

Price: US$5,770 / £4,780 / €5,663 per person sharing

Single Supplement: US$1,390 / £1,152 / €1,364

 

* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.

 


Recommended Field Guide

(Please also read our blogs about recommended field guides for the seven continents here)


Tour Details

Duration: 9 days
Group Size: 5-8
Tour Start: Bozeman, Montana
Tour End: Bozeman, Montana


Price includes:

Meals
Accommodation
Guiding fees
Transport

Price excludes:

All flights
Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts
Alcoholic drinks
Laundry service
Personal insurance
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)

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Mammal and Birding Tour USA: Wyoming & Montana – Exploring Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
September 2025

 

One of the world’s greatest national parks, Yellowstone, covers a vast area in sparsely populated Wyoming, a state where antelope outnumber people, and marginally into both Montana and Idaho. Arguably the most impressive-looking mountains in all of America lie just to the south and are protected in another national park adjacent to Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park. The majestic Grey Wolf, along with the fierce Grizzly Bear, huge herds of American Bison, water-loving Moose, wandering herds of Elk (Wapiti), and a plethora of other large and small mammals make this national park almost comparable to an African park with its big herds and predators. We’ll be on the constant lookout for some much more difficult to spot mammals as well, including WolverinePuma (Mountain Lion), American Badger, and Canada LynxYellow-bellied MarmotAmerican Pika, and the amazingly cute Least Chipmunk are three of the more common small mammals we are likely to encounter.

Yellowstone birding and wildlife tourThe massive American Bison is a staple megafauna of the region.

 

The Rocky Mountains also boast a lot of special birds, including Black Rosy FinchAmerican Three-toed Woodpecker, Williamson’s SapsuckerDusky Grouse, the majestic, two-foot-high Great Grey Owl, and many more. The beautiful Steller’s Jay and charismatic Canada Jay are usually easy to find roaming through the parks. Clark’s NutcrackerTownsend’s SolitaireMountain BluebirdAmerican Dipper, and other classic birds of America’s western mountains are also usually present. Pine Grosbeak and other special birds will also be sought proving this region to be an amazing location for birds and mammals alike!

Yellowstone birding and wildlife tourWe will scan fast moving waterways in hopes of finding an American Dipper.

 

We run this trip in the fall, when the colors (mainly yellow in this part of the world, unlike the more varied colors of the east), are unbelievably stunning against the backdrop of America’s most beautiful mountains that rise straight from the surrounding plain. In addition to our mammal and bird viewing during this tour we also stop to photograph and take in some of this incredible scenery that Yellowstone and the Tetons offer. Yellowstone Caldera, which dominates the national park, is often called a “supervolcano”, the largest volcano in North America. Not wanting to scare people off, but this volcano is due for an eruption, and the park also experiences thousands of small earthquakes a year (most of them undetectable by humans). We’ll pay a visit to one of the most famous geysers in the world, Old Faithful, but we’ll also be sure to look at some of the more spectacular of the 10,000 geothermal oddities in this park while searching for wildlife.

On this trip we’ll look for a great many mammals and birds. Extra time will be spent trying to find tougher species that are in reality only very rarely seen (e.g. Puma). In general, we try to keep the pace of this trip slower than on our other tours to allow more time for scenery and wildlife photography. Having said that, there’s no guarantee we’ll have “down time”, as there is a humongous amount to see in a vast area spanning three states.

Wyoming birding toursOne small example of the many breathtaking scenes featuring yellow leaves in Grand Teton National Park.

 

Itinerary (9 days/8 nights)

 

Day 1. Arrival in Bozeman, Montana

Today you will arrive at the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) with pickup and transfer to our hotel in West Yellowstone. This is an approximate 1.5-hour drive from the airport so please schedule your arrival by 2:00pm. We will travel south along the Gallatin River keeping our eyes peeled for raptors and other birds and mammals we may encounter. Bozeman is a quaint city boasting the largest population (53,000) nearest to the natural beauty of Yellowstone. It might be of interest to some to arrive a day or two early and explore this fascinating city a bit before the tour begins. Upon arrival in West Yellowstone, we will check in with the hotel and head out for dinner where we will go over the plans for this exciting trip.

Overnight: West Yellowstone, Montana

 

Day 2. Old Faithful

After breakfast we depart for Old Faithful, stopping at Lower, Midway, and Upper Geyser Basins on the way. This is geyser country in Yellowstone! With plenty to see we will concentrate on the main attractions, Grand Prismatic Springs, Castle Geyser, and the Firehole River before ending up at Old Faithful – the most famous geyser in North America and perhaps in the world. Yellowstone is unparalleled when it comes to geothermal areas boasting an estimated 10,000 features throughout the park.

Of course, scenery and geological wonders aren’t the only things on display in this area. We will be scouring for birds and mammals as we explore. Clark’s Nutcracker, Bald Eagle, and Common Raven can be found anywhere along our route so we will keep our eyes peeled. Trails surrounding the thermal features typically host species such as Mountain Chickadee and Mountain Bluebird. Herds of Elk and American Bison roam the open areas nearby. Eventually we will make it to West Thumb Lake and do a quick scan for waterfowl such as Barrow’s Goldeneye and Bufflehead before heading back to West Yellowstone for dinner.

Overnight: West Yellowstone, Montana

Yellowstone birding and wildlife tourLarge herds of Elk are common throughout the parks at this time of year.

  

Day 3. Western Yellowstone Ecoregion to the Grand Teton Base

Today we will begin our journey southbound, venturing into Idaho and the western section of the Yellowstone ecoregion. Stops at Harriman State Park, Island Park, and Chester Wetlands may be on the cards depending on timing. These areas of water typically host loads of great species including American White Pelican, Redhead, Gadwall, California Gull, and Trumpeter Swan. We will continue on our way, always scanning for mammals as well as birds, and eventually end up back in Wyoming along Moose Wilson Road.

Here there is a good possibility of seeing American Black Bear, often with cubs, as they feed heavily on the ripened berries along the roadside of this thick forest, fattening up for the upcoming winter. Moose share the roadside wetlands with waterfowl including American Wigeon, Common Merganser, and the occasional Barrow’s Goldeneye. Both Williamson’s and Red-naped Sapsuckers are common in the surrounding woods and American Dipper is also often seen here in the running streams.

Once we reach Teton Village, we can ride the ski lift to the top of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and look for Grey-crowned and Black Rosy Finches. Small flocks are often found here. Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets along with Pine GrosbeakPine Siskin, and Dark-eyed Junco will also be targets. This is also a good place to look for Clark’s Nutcracker if we haven’t seen any yet. From here it is onto Colter Bay Village where we will be spending the next two nights.

Overnight: Colter Bay Village, Wyoming

 

Yellowstone birding toursWe’ll look for the attractive Pine Grosbeak at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

 

 Day 4. Grand Teton National Park

After breakfast we enter Grand Teton National Park. Antelope Flats Road here is a prime area for American BisonPronghorn antelope, and Moose along the river. The bull Moose are out of velvet at this time of year and quite determined to find a cow. American Bison are commonly found along the roadways for some good up-close photo opportunities against the dramatic backdrop of the Tetons. Sage GrouseAmerican Pipit, Northern Harrier, Swainson’s Hawk, and Mountain Bluebird can all be found in these grassland flats. There is now an established pack of Grey Wolves, named the Gros Ventre Pack, which often roam this area, so we will be asking about recent sightings and keeping our eyes peeled. Of course, some avian friends should be around as well such as Black-billed Magpie and American Kestrel.

We will give this scenic area proper and thorough searching before heading back towards Colter Bay Village in the later afternoon for some birding a bit closer to the lodge. Here we will explore Jackson Lake Dam and Colter Bay itself. Loads of great species can be hanging out around the water and in the surrounding trees including Townsend’s Solitaire, Pine Siskin, American Coot, Double-crested Cormorant, Spotted Sandpiper, and Trumpeter Swan. After this we will have dinner and get rested for a day of travel through the park.

Overnight: Colter Bay Village, Wyoming

 

Day 5. Hayden Valley and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

This morning will feature an optional, very early departure (sometimes leaving at 5:30 a.m.), for sunrise at Oxbow Bend. Providing an excellent wildlife habitat for both birds and mammals, Oxbow Bend, with Mount Moran reflected in the mirror-like stillness of Jackson Lake, is one of the most photographed scenes in Grand Teton National Park. Moose, Grizzly Bear, American White Pelican, and Common Merganser are commonly seen here in the early morning. After a breathtaking morning we will head back to get breakfast and load up for a day of traveling through the amazing Yellowstone National Park!

After breakfast, we drive into Yellowstone National Park, making a quick stop at Lewis Falls along the way to take in the sights of the Snake and Lewis Rivers. Soon we’ll arrive at the northern section of Yellowstone Lake. With an average depth of 139 feet/42 meters and its greatest depth of at least 390 feet/119 meters this is the largest body of water in Yellowstone and the largest freshwater lake in North America above 7,000 feet/2,134 meters. Common LoonBlack-necked (Eared) and Pied-billed GrebesTrumpeter SwanCaspian Tern, and Barrow’s Goldeneye can sometimes be found here.

From here we will move on and venture through the Hayden Valley. This is an excellent place to search for Grey Wolves and sometimes Grizzly Bears, which are sometimes seen hunting the large herds of ungulates, especially American Bison, which often share the roadway with cars. There are also plenty of spots to simply stop along the road or to have lunch while admiring the beauty of this area. While in the Hayden Valley we will be sure to stop at the LeHardy’s Rapids, an excellent spot for species that enjoy fast moving water like Harlequin Duck and American Dipper. Eventually we will make it out of the valley and be greeted by the amazing Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. We will be sure to stop for some awesome views and Townsend’s SolitaireClark’s NutcrackerCanada and Steller’s Jays, and, depending on timing, migrating warblers such as Yellow-rumped and Wilson’s Warblers are commonly found among the thick forests of the canyon. Finally, we will make it to Cooke City, Montana where we will stay for the next two nights.

Overnight: Cooke City, Montana

Yellowstone birding and wildlife tourDusky Grouse can be found foraging along the roadside.

 

Day 6. Beartooth Highway

Considered by many to be “the most beautiful drive in America”, Beartooth Highway will surely leave everyone with their jaws dropped. Winding just over 60 miles between Cooke City and Red Lodge, this national treasure passes through a variety of habitats and elevation levels. We will explore the Beartooth Lake, Beartooth Plateau and eventually cross through the mountains along the Beartooth Pass over 10,900 feet/3,335meters in elevation. There alpine forests and high elevation give us great chances at some smaller mammals such as Yellow-bellied Marmot and the adorable American Pika. We’ll be sure to keep our eyes peeled for Mountain Goat along the way, especially around the Rock Creek rest stop where they have hung around in past years.

This area full of spruce and fir trees also give us a great shot at more alpine species including American Pipit, Canada Jay, Horned Lark, and Black Rosy Finch. The steep cliffs in the area also make this section appealing to some more uncommon raptors like Golden Eagle and Prairie Falcon so we will be sure to have eyes on the skies and scan the rocky outcrops. We will have to head back to Cooke City and enjoy the views again on the way. The Beartooth Highway is susceptible to adverse weather conditions and has been known to really pile up the snow, so our participation here is always dependent upon ideal conditions.

Overnight: Cooke City, Montana

Wyoming birding toursThe cute Canada Jay is often seen in the forests of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

 

Day 7. Lamar Valley

It is said that if one wants to see Grey Wolves one should spend time in Lamar Valley, and we will do our best to find them. There are currently two packs that hunt and work the Lamar Valley area, and in recent years sightings have become much more frequent, often with good views just off the roadside if there has been a recent kill. Lamar Valley has been called the “Serengeti of the Yellowstone” due to the open meadows and large herds of American BisonPronghorn, and other wildlife. And it isn’t just wolves that follow the herds of grazers; Grizzly and Black Bears are common as well. Although not guaranteed, our chances are increased by devoting time to this area of the park and we will certainly be spending all day exploring here.

In addition to the megafauna highlights, we will be on the lookout for avian species as well and making a few stops at locations such as Slough Creek and Trout Lake along the way. Loads of great birding can be had with highlights including Northern Flicker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Red Crossbill, and even a chance at American Three-toed Woodpecker. After spending all day searching the Lamar Valley, we will end up in the town of Gardiner, Montana for the night and grab some tasty dinner.

Overnight: Gardiner, Montana

 

Day 8. Mammoth Hot Springs

After breakfast we head off to Mammoth Hot Springs, a collection of travertine terraces which were once popular with tourists. Sadly, they have largely dried up, and many of them have eroded due to the heavy human traffic, but they are still impressive. It is a long hike to the top, however; for those wishing to go there, we can drive to the top and walk down the well-maintained boardwalk/steps and be picked up at the parking lot. From this vantage point you can still enjoy and appreciate some of the remaining colorful terraced pools alive with blooming algae.

In addition to the famous geological features here, we will be birding the area as well as the nearby Beaver Ponds. These bogs and wetlands play host to several nice bird species including Ruffed Grouse, Dark-eyed Junco, Blue-winged Teal, Cedar Waxwing, and Townsend’s Solitaire among others. This area is also favored by Grizzly and Black Bears as well as Muskrat, Moose, and American Beaver. Depending on timing and success of previous days, the afternoon may be spent back on the western portion of Lamar Valley to really maximize our chances at spotting some Grey Wolves in the area as well as any other wildlife we might be missing still.

Overnight: Gardiner, Montana

Wyoming birding toursWe hope to find Grey Wolf in the Lamar Valley.

 

Day 9. Departure from Bozeman

This morning we will make the journey back to Bozeman to catch our flights home. This is approximately a 1.5-hour drive back to the city and we will likely want to do some birding and sightseeing along the way as we pass through mountains and meadows so, please plan for afternoon flights home. This will conclude what is surely to be an amazing trip to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem!

Be sure to check out our California tours immediately preceding this one as they are easily combinable to make for an amazing time in the western USA.

 

Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.

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­USA – Wyoming: Set Departure Trip Report

22-30 SEPTEMBER 2023

By Jacob Roalef

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USA Wyoming birding report

The group enjoyed American Dipper sightings on several days of the trip.


Overview

This nine-day birding, mammal, and geothermal adventure of “Big Sky Country” covered three different states (Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho) and two large national parks (Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park). We began in Bozeman, Montana and traveled south to West Yellowstone to explore Idaho and some of the western basin of Yellowstone NP. We continued south to the Grand Tetons for a few days before circling back north to complete our coverage of Yellowstone. From here we headed back to Bozeman for some nice birding before heading back to the airport for the trip’s conclusion. The tour explored some other great parks like Henry’s Lake State Park and Glen Lake Rotary Park as well as focusing on some of the amazing geothermal features and scenic views in the area like Old FaithfulNorris Geyser BasinOxbow BendWest Thumb Geyser BasinGrand Prismatic SpringArtists PaintpotsSignal MountainSteamboat GeyserLeHardys RapidsMud Volcano, and many others.

We enjoyed some nice bird sightings as fall migration was winding to an end for the region and we managed a fine list for our nine days in the mountainous west. Highlight species included Trumpeter SwanHarlequin DuckBarrow’s GoldeneyeAmerican DipperRed-necked GrebeSteller’s and Canada JaysClark’s NutcrackerBlack Rosy-FinchCassin’s FinchMountain BluebirdTownsend’s SolitaireMerlinWestern TanagerWilson’s Warbler, and more.  

A total of 93 bird species were seen, however the mammals for the trip might have been more impressive with a total of 18 species seen. The mammal highlights included Brown (Grizzly) BearGrey WolfAmerican BisonPronghornAmerican Pika, and Moose. Full bird and mammal checklists can be found at the end of the report.

USA Wyoming birding report

The quintessential scene of Yellowstone National Park and the Lamar Valley.


Detailed Report

Day 1, 22nd September 2023. Arrival and Henry’s Lake birding

Since all participants arrived in Bozeman the previous night, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and some extra sleep before loading up the vehicle and setting off to begin our trip. First stop was a grocery store to load up on snacks and lunch items for the next several days. We then headed off for a little birding around Story Mill Community Park in Bozeman. Despite the less-than-ideal weather, we managed to get on several nice birds to start off the trip, including Sharp-shinned HawkGrey Catbird, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. We also ticked our first mammals for the trip in the form of White-tailed Deer and North American Red Squirrel. After about an hour of birding, we began our journey south to the town of West Yellowstone, which we would make our home for the next two nights. The drive down was in and out of rain as we followed the Gallatin River. We made several stops to scan the river, proving fruitful with American Dipper and Common Merganser sightings.

Upon arrival in West Yellowstone, we checked into our hotel, dropped off our bags and enjoyed lunch at a local café. The weather was still quite gloomy with misty rain and fog lingering, however, we decided to give some afternoon birding a try. We headed off to the nearby Henry’s Lake State Park to scan for waterbirds as we figured they wouldn’t mind the wet conditions much. Equipped with scopes, we began our scan of the lake and quickly were onto a nice diversity of ducks which included GadwallGreen-winged TealRing-necked Duck, and Bufflehead. We also got onto a lovely Northern Harrier hunting in the grasslands nearby. We decided to continue and check from some other vantage points. Our efforts yielded Trumpeter SwanRed-necked and Black-necked (Eared) GrebesAmerican White PelicanCanvasbackLong-billed DowitcherCalifornia Gull, and more. All in all, it was a very successful first day of birding despite the lousy weather. We loaded up and headed back to West Yellowstone for dinner and rest.


Day 2, 23rd September 2023. Western Yellowstone National Park

We headed off early this morning to beat the traffic and get our first experience of Yellowstone National Park. Today was to be a nice mix of some of the impressive geothermal features plus searching for birds and mammals. First up was the Fountain Paint Pots which hosted an adorable Least Chipmunk in the parking lot. From here we headed to the Grand Prismatic Spring which was very impressive despite the misty fog lingering over it. A nearby Western Osprey made several passes hunting the river. It was then time to head to Old Faithful where we had some time to enjoy lunch and check out the visitor’s center as we waited for the impressive geyser to do its thing. After a nice showing, we loaded up and continued along the western road of Yellowstone until we reached Duck Lake. We made a quick scan and ticked our first Barrow’s Goldeneye and Clark’s Nutcracker.

Not far from Duck Lake was the West Thumb Geyser Basin where we were greeted in the parking area by a small group of Canada Jays. We quickly parked and followed them into the nearby picnic area where they gave us some very nice looks. As we walked the boardwalk here and checked out the neat paint pots and bubbling waters, a gorgeous adult Bald Eagle soared by. We also noted our first Cassin’s Finch and Dark-eyed Junco of the trip before continuing. The road now was headed north and followed the shore of Yellowstone Lake which offered some fantastic scenery for the drive. Towards the north end of lake, we spotted two Swainson’s Hawks as we drove. Eventually we reached LeHardys Rapids, which provided excellent views of 20+ Harlequin Ducks and an American Dipper. Following the Yellowstone River, we came upon the scenic Hayden Valley where we enjoyed our first large herds of American Bisons as well as a Sandhill Crane flyover. We stopped for dinner in Canyon Village before completing our first loop of Yellowstone and arriving back in West Yellowstone for some much-deserved rest.

USA Wyoming birding report

This group of Harlequin Ducks took a break from the pounding rapids.


Day 3, 24th September 2023. Southern Yellowstone to the Grand Tetons

After a nice breakfast at a nearby café, we packed our things and headed back to Yellowstone. The morning greeted us with a thick layer of fog which we hoped would burn off soon. We spent a lot of the morning covering ground and passing by several areas we checked the previous day. However, once we reached West Thumb we headed south instead of north. Our first stop was near Lewis Canyon where we scored some fantastic views of American Pika, a top target for the trip and possibly North America’s cutest mammal! Luckily there were at least two animals still active despite the gloomy day and thick air. We continued south and stopped at the southern entrance gate to enjoy the view and take the needed photo of the “Welcome to Yellowstone” sign.

As we approached Grand Teton National Park, the weather began to break and blue skies could be seen which boded well for an afternoon of nice birding and exploration. We stopped along Jackson lake and scoped some waterbirds which included Common LoonTrumpeter SwanNorthern Shoveler, and American Wigeon. After quickly checking out Colter Bay (our home base for the next two nights) we headed out to bird along some backroads and had a nice picnic lunch. We noted some nice birds including Chipping SparrowDark-eyed Junco, and Red-breasted Nuthatch. The sun had come out by now and several butterflies were spotted at the puddles of water in the road. Back on the main road we spotted many vehicles stopped along the road, so we stopped as well to see what the commotion was about. There was a very distant Grizzly Bear that we managed to get our scopes on and enjoy before it disappeared into the trees. A great start to the Grand Tetons! The rest of the afternoon we spent driving up Signal Mountain and other roads searching for birds and mammals. Unfortunately, things were a bit slow with Mule DeerAmerican White PelicanCommon Merganser, and Red-tailed Hawk. After dinner in the town of Moose, we headed back to Colter Bay to settle in for the night.

USA Wyoming birding report

American Pika is possibly the most adorable mammal in North America.


Day 4, 25th September 2023. Grand Tetons National Park

We began the morning before dawn in hopes of finding an owl along the dump road where we had lunch the day before. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be this morning, despite the habitat, but that is the way birding goes at times. We were not discouraged and continued our morning with a spectacular view of the Grand Tetons from Oxbow Bend, a fabulous location for early morning light. A pair of Trumpeter Swans was seen in the river and a Western Osprey flew by overhead. From here we headed back up Signal Mountain which yielded Cassin’s Finch and Green-tailed Towhee along with a gorgeous vista. It was now time for breakfast, so we headed back to Colter Bay and enjoyed the breakfast buffet there.

Towards the end of breakfast, we noticed that google maps were showing heavy traffic nearby which likely meant a mammal congestion! We quickly finished up breakfast, grabbed our gear and headed to the location. We were greeted by a proper “bear jam” blocking up traffic. The same female Grizzly Bear from yesterday afternoon’s sighting was now much closer to the road and allowed for excellent views and even some photos. After spending a long while with the bear, we continued our search along the Snake River. Our walk in some deciduous trees netted us Mountain Chickadee and a bull Elk. We followed the river to the dam where several Common Mergansers and American White Pelicans were navigating the rough waters. We continued heading south from here and spotted our first Coyote along the way.

After lunch in Moose, we continued south towards Jackson. We made a stop at the National Elk Refuge which had a small body of water near the road that hosted loads of waterfowl. We ticked Redhead (new for the trip) as well as Ring-necked DuckMallard, and Northern Shoveler. In the nearby reeds a Song Sparrow and Marsh Wren were playing hard to get, but with some patience we managed to get views of each of them. The afternoon was spent birding around some nearby neighborhoods which only turned up Black-billed MagpieHouse Sparrow, and Common Starling. It was then time to head back towards Colter Bay. Along the way we stopped for a gorgeous Mountain Bluebird against the blue sky. In the early evening, together with many other park visitors, we enjoyed a distant cow Moose, before heading back to Colter Bay for dinner and to turn in for the night.

USA Wyoming birding report

The view of the Grand Tetons from Oxbow Bend in the fall is unmatched.


Day 5, 26th September 2023. Colter Bay to Red Lodge

Today we had a lot of ground to cover to get north to Red Lodge, where we would spend the next two nights. We decided to give Signal Mountain one more visit after breakfast. This final visit resulted in several new trip birds which included Brown CreeperPine Grosbeak, and Hairy Woodpecker as well as a new mammal, Red Fox. We then took off to the north, back through the southern entrance of Yellowstone NP. Stops were few this morning but of course we had to make another visit to Lewis Canyon to see the American Pikas again. Eventually we made it to Gull Point Drive, which served as an excellent spot for a picnic lunch. Several Canada Jays and a pair of Clark’s Nutcrackers were interested in our lunch and stopped by to have a look.

We continued north of Yellowstone Lake and this time we took the road to the east to head out of the eastern entrance of the park. We climbed up the mountains and managed to spot our first Steller’s Jay at nearly 8,500 feet (2590m). The scenery just outside of the park was a more stark difference than any we had yet seen, with more jagged rock faces and few trees. Temperatures around Cody were nearly 80° F (27° C)! We stopped briefly in town for a short break and some refreshments before heading north towards Montana. The scenery changed again and now we were surrounded by cattle and farming fields. We spotted Western MeadowlarkAmerican Goldfinch and Pronghorn in this new habitat. Eventually we rolled into Red Lodge where we checked in and headed off for a tasty pizza dinner.

USA Wyoming birding report

The group enjoyed this female Brown (Grizzly) Bear as it prepared for the winter.


Day 6, 27th September 2023. Lamar Valley and Beartooth Pass

This morning required a very early, pre-dawn start. We loaded our gear into the vehicle and headed out in the dark to traverse the Beartooth Pass and arrive at Lamar Valley around dawn. After about two hours we made it over the 12,000-foot (3650m) pass and through several small towns to arrive at the grassy openness of the Lamar Valley. We quickly saw others with scopes out, so we scurried up the hill and got onto a pack of nine Grey Wolves! This was our main target and the reason for our early start, since the wolves typically become less active as the day warms up. In addition to the amazing pack of wolves, we spotted a herd of PronghornsAmerican Bison, a distant Grizzly Bear, and a Bald Eagle perched regally in a nearby tree. We watched the wolves for a while before packing up our scopes to continue through the Lamar Valley. Here we saw several large herds of American Bison, both out in the distance and up close along the roadsides. We stopped for a few moments at the western edge of the valley and picked up White-crowned Sparrow and Cooper’s Hawk. After some long traffic stops due to road construction, we made it through the valley and arrived at Tower Falls. The impressive 132-foot (40m) falls are certainly worth the stop to see. In the surrounding area we also spotted our first Bighorn Sheep of the trip. These animals favor the rocky pinnacles in this region of the park.

We made it to Canyon Village where we stopped for lunch and a visit to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, another of the impressive canyons and waterfalls within the park. Yellowstone has no shortage of scenic vistas and amazing geological features. It was time to head back the way we had come, as Red Lodge was far away. We made it back through the construction and Lamar Valley. We made a stop at the Barronette Peak viewpoint, just inside the northeast entrance of the park. This cliff face almost always hosts groups of Mountain Goats and today was no different. The more we looked, the more white dots we found on the mountain. We left the park and began our climb up Beartooth Pass. Near the top we got onto a flock of stunning Black Rosy Finches as well as a lone Buff-bellied Pipit and Golden Eagle. A fantastic way to cap off an amazing day of birds, mammals, and scenery!

USA Wyoming birding report

This sky-blue Mountain Bluebird blended in with the blue sky.


Day 7, 28th September 2023. Beartooth Pass to Mammoth Hot Springs

Since we had a long day and early start yesterday, we decided on a more leisurely start today. We had a nice breakfast at our lodge, and the trees surrounding the parking lot were loaded with birds. We spent an hour or so enjoying both the hot coffee/tea and the birds. Species included Red CrossbillRed-breasted NuthatchCedar WaxwingAmerican RobinEvening GrosbeakPine Siskin, and Cassin’s Finch. It was tough to leave this pleasant birding and the neighboring areas but eventually we said goodbye to Red Lodge and headed back up the Beartooth Pass for the final time. Near the top we were again greeted by Black Rosy-Finches and this time they offered some more photographic opportunities. A Peregrine FalconGolden EagleRed-tailed Hawk, and American Kestrel were flybys over the ridges. We made our way through a relatively quiet Lamar Valley with American Bison and a lone Coyote as highlights. After getting through the construction, we approached Mammoth.

Just outside of town was a small herd of Elk which included a huge bull with many cows. We soon learned that inside the town also hosted an even bigger herd of these large mammals, and they were not shy of people (or cars).  After lunch at the café, we headed off for the Mammoth Hot Springs, another fantastic geothermal feature of the park. We decided to first walk the lower parts and burn off some of our lunch. It was funny to see a Killdeer on seemingly desolate thermal ground. From here we drove to the upper section of the hot springs, which featured a driving loop. We took in all the scenery and just before the exit we spotted a new bird, in the form of Townsend’s Solitaire, conveniently located next to a pull-off. After this we headed north and left the park to arrive in Gardiner, our base for the final two nights of the trip.

USA Wyoming birding report

The contrast of this Black Rosy-Finch against the white snow was special.


Day 8, 29th September 2023. Final Yellowstone loop

Today was our final day to explore Yellowstone National Park. Our goals for the day were one last loop through the park to see Old Faithful against blue skies rather than the grey we had seen on the second day, and to visit the final geothermal highlights of the park. Our first stop was the Norris Geyser Basin, which was perhaps the most impressive of all the geothermal features within the park. The power and colors were incredible in the morning light. We then walked up to the other side of the basin to see Steamboat Geyser, the largest active geyser in the world. While it did not erupt, it still gave spurts of water to show what power was lurking beneath. From here we continued south and stopped at the Artist Paintpots, which were almost like a scene from a Tolkien novel.

We then made it to Old Faithful, but were just a few minutes late to catch its eruption. No big deal though as it was lunch time, so we enjoyed some food and ice cream dessert along with the Northern Ravens and Brewer’s Blackbirds. Eventually it was time again for Old Faithful to do its thing and today was a much better showing against the blue skies. The water blasted even higher than the first time as well. A fantastic showing! From here we continued our loop and passed by West Thumb again and just had to stop at LeHardys Rapids one last time. Who couldn’t resist and today we were treated to at least six American Dippers in addition to a few Harlequin Ducks! Our final stop was also our final geothermal feature to see, the Mud Volcano. The boardwalk area wreaked of sulfur as the mud and water was bubbling and gurgling up. What a strange area. Eventually we completed the loop and made it back to Mammoth, where we said goodbye to the Elk and to Yellowstone National Park. We thoroughly covered all the scenery, geothermal features, birds, and mammals during our time here. Back in Gardiner we enjoyed atasty dinner along the river before retiring for the evening.

USA Wyoming birding report

Old Faithful erupting with blue skies in the background.


Day 9, 30th September 2023. Bozeman birding and departure

On our final day, we had some time before our scheduled departure flights out of Bozeman. We enjoyed another nice breakfast at our lodge before we packed our things and hit the road north. It was about an hour or so drive before we made it back to Bozeman. With time to spare, we decided on some birding at a nearby local park called Glen Lake Rotary Park. This morning’s birding proved very fruitful, as we continued to add new species to our list at every turn. First it was Myrtle and Wilson’s Warblers in a flock of mostly Audubon’s Warblers. Then we picked up Common YellowthroatHermit ThrushWestern TanagerCommon Grackle, and Downy Woodpecker. A fantastic and pleasant final morning of birding to wrap up our trip. After we rearranged our bags and got our optics and camera gear stowed away, we headed off for the Bozeman airport. A final lunch inside and then it was time to say our goodbyes and call the trip to an end.

Top highlight species and moments of the trip included Old Faithful (the second time especially), Grizzly BearGrey WolfTrumpeter Swan, and Black Rosy-Finch.

USA Wyoming birding report

The group enjoyed many Pronghorn, the second fastest land-mammal on Earth.


Bird List
 – Following IOC (13.1)

 

Birds ‘heard only’ are marked with (H) after the common name, all other species were seen. Species seen only on the pre-trip day of this trip are marked with (+) after the common name.

The following notation after species names is used to show conservation status following BirdLife International: CE = Critically Endangered, EN = Endangered, VU = Vulnerable, NT = Near Threatened.

Common Name Scientific Name
Ducks, Geese, Swans (Anatidae)
Canada Goose Branta canadensis
Trumpeter Swan Cygnus buccinator
Northern Shoveler Spatula clypeata
Gadwall Mareca strepera
American Wigeon Mareca americana
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Green-winged Teal Anas crecca
Canvasback Aythya valisineria
Redhead Aythya americana
Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris
Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis
Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus
Bufflehead Bucephala albeola
Barrow’s Goldeneye Bucephala islandica
Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus
Common Merganser Mergus merganser
Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis
 
Pigeons, Doves (Columbidae)
Rock Pigeon (Introduced) Columba livia
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Introduced) Streptopelia decaocto
Rails, Crakes & Coots (Rallidae)
American Coot Fulica americana
 
Cranes (Gruidae)
Sandhill Crane Antigone canadensis
 
Grebes (Podicipedidae)
Eared Grebe (Black-necked) Podiceps nigricollis
Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena
 
Plovers (Charadriidae)
Killdeer Charadrius vociferus
Sandpipers, Snipes (Scolopacidae)
Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus
Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes
Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
California Gull Larus californicus
Divers/Loons (Gaviidae)
Great Northern Diver (Common Loon) Gavia immer
Cormorants and Shags (Phalacrocoracidae)
Double-crested Cormorant Nannopterum auritum
Pelicans (Pelecanidae)
American White Pelican Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
Herons, Bitterns (Ardeidae)
Great Blue Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
New World Vultures (Cathartidae)
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
Ospreys (Pandionidae)
Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Kites, Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Northern Harrier Circus hudsonius
Sharp-shinned Hawk Accipiter striatus
Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii
Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Swainson’s Hawk Buteo swainsoni
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
 
Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)
Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon
Woodpeckers (Picidae)
Downy Woodpecker Dryobates pubescens
Hairy Woodpecker Leuconotopicus villosus
Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus
 
Caracaras, Falcons (Falconidae)
American Kestrel Falco sparverius
Merlin Falco columbarius
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
Crows, Jays, and Magpies (Corvidae)
Canada Jay Perisoreus canadensis
Steller’s Jay Cyanocitta stelleri
Black-billed Magpie Pica hudsonia
Clark’s Nutcracker Nucifraga columbiana
American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos
Northern (Common) Raven Corvus corax
Waxwings (Bombycillidae)
Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum
Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice (Paridae)
Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
Mountain Chickadee Poecile gambeli
Swallows (Hirundinidae)
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Kinglets (Regulidae)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Corthylio calendula
Wrens (Troglodytidae)
Marsh Wren Cistothorus palustris
Nuthatches (Sittidae)
Red-breasted Nuthatch Sitta canadensis
Treecreepers (Certhiidae)
Brown Creeper Certhia americana
Starlings, Rhabdornis (Sturnidae)
Common (European) Starling (Introduced) Acridotheres tristis
Mockingbirds, Thrashers (Mimidae)
Grey Catbird Dumetella carolinensis
Thrushes (Turdidae)
Mountain Bluebird Sialia currucoides
Townsend’s Solitaire Myadestes townsendi
Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus
American Robin Turdus migratorius
Dippers (Cinclidae)
American Dipper Cinclus mexicanus
Old World Sparrows (Passeridae)
House Sparrow (Introduced) Passer domesticus
 
Wagtails and Pipits (Motacillidae)
Buff-bellied Pipit (American) Anthus rubescens
 
Finches, Euphonias (Fringillidae)
Evening Grosbeak – VU Coccothraustes vespertinus
Pine Grosbeak Pinicola enucleator
Black Rosy-Finch – EN Leucosticte atrata
Cassin’s Finch Haemorhous cassinii
Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra
Pine Siskin Spinus pinus
American Goldfinch Spinus tristis
 
New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)
Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina
Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis
White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys
White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis
Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
Green-tailed Towhee Pipilo chlorurus
 
Oropendolas, Orioles, Blackbirds (Icteridae)
Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
Brewer’s Blackbird Euphagus cyanocephalus
Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscula
 
New World Warblers (Parulidae)
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
Myrtle Warbler Setophaga coronata
Audubon’s Warbler Setophaga auduboni
Wilson’s Warbler Cardellina pusilla
 
Cardinals and Allies (Cardinalidae)
Western Tanager Piranga ludoviciana
Total Seen 93
Total Heard 0
Total Recorded 93

Mammal List

Common Name Scientific Name
Pikas (Ochotonidae)
American Pika Ochotona princeps
Rabbits and Hares (Leporidae)
Mountain Cottontail Sylvilagus nuttallii
Squirrels and Allies (Sciuridae)
North American Red Squirrel Tamiasciurus hudsonicus
Least Chipmunk Neotamias minimus
Uinta Ground Squirrel Urocitellus armatus
Rodents (Cricetidae)
Montane Vole Microtus montanus
Dogs (Canidae)
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes
Coyote Canis latrans
Grey Wolf Canis lupus
Bears (Ursidae)
Brown Bear (Grizzly) Ursus arctos
True Deer (Cervidae)
Elk (Wapiti) Cervus canadensis
Moose Alces alces
Mule Deer Odocoileus hemionus
White-tailed Deer Odocoileus virginianus
Cloven-hoofed Mammals (Bovidae)
American Bison Bos bison
Mountain Goat Oreamnos americanus
Bighorn Sheep Ovis canadensis
Pronghorn (Antilocapridae)
Pronghorn Antilocapra americana
Total seen 19

 

DOWNLOAD TRIP REPORT

Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included. This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.

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