Early May trip

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Dorothy
Posts: 83
Joined: Sat Jul 29, 2017 7:45 pm

Early May trip

Post by Dorothy » Fri May 31, 2019 11:42 pm

<t>HI all! We got back from the parks a couple of days ago and I finally have a minute to post a report. No photos -- sorry, but still have no computer at home that I can download photos on. Sigh!<br/>
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Anyway, I'll do my best to post pictures with words.<br/>
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We took off on Wednesday (May 1) late in the afternoon and got as far as Seedskadee in southern Wyoming. Love that place -- so uncrowded and always something cool to see. In just a little while that evening, we saw lots of great stuff (a moose, various birds), but the best was a young bald eagle (head still not completely white, back still a bit mottled) sitting on a riverbank -- noticed something swimming around there, too, and it turned out to be a couple of beavers -- they swam all around where the eagle was and climbed up on the bank near him. It was -- a bit surprising, as we'd never seen this happen before. Eventually the eagle flew over to a small island just a few yards away -- he appeared to perhaps have something in his talons, so he was likely was sitting on the bank with a fish. We saw several other beavers swimming around a little ways around (the two biggest ones were the ones who were circling around the eagle). It was such fun watching this interaction -- we were enthralled enough that were pretty late getting back to Green River to the hotel. The next morning spent some time going around the refuge, with sightings of various birds (including an impressive golden eagle, kestrels, hawks, merganzers, some smaller black, sharp-beaked bird with a bit of a tuft and a dull red breast -- not a robin, perhaps a shrike?) and two bald eagle nests with eagles VERY visible on them. Always a great visit.<br/>
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Another great view of a bald eagle nest along the way to Jackson on Thursday to get to Grand Teton. Headed into the park about 6:15 p.m. and had a great evening of viewing. Missed 399 and her cubs along Willow Flats when we got there, but caught Blondie and her two cubs near Pilgrim Creek and watched for quite a while. Then headed back to Willow Flats as it was getting dim and there was 399 with her cubs right by the roadside. A ranger held the cars back, of course, but we got a pretty good look at her and the cubs -- a few times, one cub got up on its hind legs, and 399 got up there, too. As it got darker, the ranger finally honked at them and they went back into the willows (he said it was to try to protect the bears, as it was getting dark and a lot of cars driving back and forth). Anyway, great viewing!<br/>
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The next morning several moose in the sage flats around Kelly (very mangy-looking moose, but it's always cool to see a moose!). Some really pretty birds along Moose-Wilson (have to track down my bird book to try to identify some of them). The road all the way to Wilson must have just opened, as there was little traffic, but we went all the way to Wilson and saw the osprey nest there (with ospreys on it). Then to the upper part of the park where we were told we'd missed Blondie. Rats! Drove around for the afternoon, saw more moose (yay!) and lots of birds, including an eagle and a kestrel. And THOUSANDS of elk. The field by the warm springs had been empty the night before, and today had a huge herd of elk. We drove up the outside road to the top of the park that evening and there were elk all over the place -- literally! We'd look on this side of the road and see a big herd, then the other side, there was another big herd. It was amazing.<br/>
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Back to Willow Flats but no 399. However, we went down by the river and there were beavers and some yellow-rumped warblers (according to the birders there. I spent a lot of time trying to get a good photo of those little guys, and did manage to do so. Success! (I'm well on the way to being an avid birder -- don't know all the names yet, but I will spend a lot of time trying to get a good photo of this or that bird, and we both watch for birds all the time. It's FUN!). Also ended up with what looked like a photo of a wood duck that I didn't realize was there. <br/>
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No Blondie, either, and so headed back to Jackson -- took the inner loop, hoping to avoid some of the elk herds (it worked, didn't see many elk on the way back). DID a see fox trotting along in the sage flats -- he eventually crossed the road and trotted in the sage flats before until he disappeared in the sage. He appeared to be collared (it looked VERY tight, although we figured it really wasn't choking him, he just had lots of fur sticking out on either side of it). A pretty guy!<br/>
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Got up early the next morning to go out to the sage grouse lek. The "nearer" lek wasn't being used, so they were WAAAYYY out away from us, but it was still really interesting to watch them through the binoculars and spotting scope. A herd of bison strolled by at one point, so it made some good (albeit very small and a bit fuzzy) photos. Certainly worth the early rising and cold (although it really wasn't THAT cold -- we had great weather throughout out trip -- one snowstorm in the morning in Yellowstone, but all it did was make the sagebrush look pretty with a dusting of snow) and a couple of off-and-on light showers. Nothing much in the south end of the park that morning after the lek, but a nice Sandhill crane near Willow Flats and more ducks and such in the river (some pelicans, too). Didn't spot a lot of things during the day -- well, that's not really true, because there was a moose along Moose-Wilson and we spent quite a bit to time watching an impressive great blue heron fishing (and catching fish!). Other nice birds and ducks along the way (one dark one with a bronzy breast and kind of "striped" wings). Found Blondie and the cubs in the meadow near Pilgrim Creek in the early evening. Eventually, she and the cubs got close to the road and went into the trees, then came out and crossed the road and fed along the side until the ranger "encouraged" them to leave the roadside and get out into the meadow. Some great photo ops with the cubs up on their hind legs and galloping after mama (they are old enough to be kicked out, but were still sticking pretty close to mom). Fun!<br/>
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Sunday we went to Miller's Butte before heading to church (it was right by the church) and saw some really lively ground squirrels (or were they prairie dogs? We figured must be the ground squirrels, but they were really cute. Also a redtailed hawk on a kill out in a field, and a kestrel (my sis got a great photo of it on her little point-and-shoot camera, but later accidentally deleted it as she was editing photos. Sigh -- don't get great kestrel photos often. Also some great photo ops with a herd of bighorn rams (they were VERY photogenic).

Then it was off to Yellowstone. Since the south entrance wasn't open yet, we went over Teton pass and headed toward Aston. A few years ago we took the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway as a little cutoff and really enjoyed it, so took off that way. One small sign said Road Closed 11 miles ahead, so thought of turning back, but never saw another sign (although several other roads came into the one we were on) and nothing seemed to be indicating any problem ahead, so we went ahead. At the 11-mile mark (according to the odometer) there was no indication of any problem, so we continued. But a mile or two further along, we got to one of the parking lots for the falls and there was a LOT of snow across the road. We had a big 4-wheel-drive vehicle, and I started across it (couldn't tell if it was a small slide or just snow that hadn't been plowed) but chickened out a little way in, as couldn't see the end of it (there was a curve up ahead) and I didn't know what lay ahead, so backed up and returned and went on the Ashton and up 20 all the way.

Took a while, but finally arrived at West Yellowstone and headed into the park. Amazing how just driving into the part (whether GT or Yellowstone or even one of the refuges, I immediately feel relaxed and calm and happy. It's my "happy place." We saw some cute baby bison (they looked pretty new) along the way. As we headed up toward the construction area, there were a couple of people pulled over and we looked across the little lake and there was a BIG dark grizzly bear. We had SUCH a great time watching him -- first, he ambled along the tree line, then he started "eating" small pine trees. He would stand on his hind legs and pull a tree down and chew on it, then he'd sit down and pull a small tree down over his shoulder and gnaw on it. He was actually sitting upright with a tree pulled over his shoulder and gnawing on it. SUCH fun --- I'd never seen anything like it. He was such fun to watch, on his hind legs a lot, sitting down ambling around. Wish I could post a picture or two (they're not great, but you get the idea), but not yet -- maybe next trip.

Anyway, had a bunch of fun watching him, then moved on and saw a coyote trotting along on a snowfield. Nobody working the construction site, so no big problem getting through it. On to our hotel in Gardiner to end a long, but fun, day.

Next morning headed down toward Lamar -- birds along the way, different ducks, perching birds, etc. It was cloudy and wet and looked really neat. One lovely shot of flying geese against a line of clouds. DIdn't see a lot on our first pass out into the valley, but did catch the ospreys in their nest just up from Slough. On the way back, stopped at the little grove of aspen past the bridge to check for birds and caught a glimpse of "something" flitting around the trunk of one of trees. We stopped to watch and finally saw what it was -- a red-naped sapsucker (well, we saw "a woodpecker," but checking out the bird book and photos after coming home, that's what it was). It was flitting in and out of a hole in the tree, sticking its head into the hole, and moving out onto a branch to peck. WHAT fun! We seldom manage to see a woodpecker, and if we do, it's usually just a glimpse here and there, but this guy was really interested in that hole (wondered if perhaps he had a mate inside?) and he stayed around. Great fun.

A few pronghorn (our first in Yellowstone or GT this trip) along the road and some wonderful bison/reflection photo ops with a herd eating alongside one of the many ponds. Then a great sighting -- a mama black bear with two three little cubs just above the Roosevelt ranger station. First we saw one cub, then two, then as she started to head up the mountain a bit, all three of them were visible running behind her. SO cute! We were so excited. The road to Tower was still closed, but a short walk up the road resulted in a chance to watch a bluebird mama apparently building a nest in a hole in a tree (at least, she carried several sticks/grasses into the hole). Some ruddy ducks having a great time trying to impress the ladies at Floating Island and a redtailed hawk on top of a dead tree working on a kill. A coyote along the side of the road and a couple of elk with the start of nice racks alongside the road. A herd of mountain sheep rams at the confluence. The rest of the day (heading up and down and around in Lamar, heading back toward Mammoth and out to the Swan Lake area) included a TINY baby bison alongside the road (mama carefully keeping between us and him most of the time), various ducks and other birds (including a glorious bald eagle) and elk. We headed back toward Gardiner fairly late in the evening and stopped to see if the great horned owl pair were still in the tree near the visitor's center. Noticed one in a tree down the road and it immediately flew toward the tree where the nest has been for a few years. The owl flew into the tree, then out and to the top of one of the houses, but I could hear another owl in the tree, so there were two there. Yay! Always like to pay our respects to the owls.

Next morning it had snowed overnight and looked SO beautiful with the snow dusting the trees and the sagebrush. Lovely views of bison (LOTS of babies), then a real treat just as we came down into Lamar -- a grizzly mom with two 2-year-old cubs on the side of the hill in a little clear area. Bison moving below at times, so some lovely moment and photos ops. They bears spent a lot of time in the little clearing before heading toward the sagebrush, but don't know if they went into them, as we decided it was time to let someone else have our parking space. On the way back, went up Petrified Tree (always have to make the little drive -- have seen quite a few things there, so what the heck, we make the trip up almost every time we pass). This time there was a coyote among the trees and trunks -- a funny moment, he went up to a hollow tree trunk and poked his head in -- and exited in a BIG hurry, jumping back so fast he stumbled. Went cautiously back and sniffed at the end, but didn't stick his head in again. Wonder what he smelled? We stuck around a bit but saw nothing. Just a funny moment. More ruddy ducks and a kestrel and some pronghorn on our way out into Lamar, and a cinnamon black bear on the side of the hill out in the valley.

Then a GREAT moment on the way back -- just before the little wooded area heading to the Yellowstone picnic area, a small crowd of people looking down into a little gully. We thought maybe another coyote, or perhaps some pronghorn. But no ... when we found a place to park and asked what was being seen, it was a badger. BINGO! It took a bit to finally spot it, but then it really put on a show. It was digging in a mudbank (sometimes all you could see was its back end), and the mud would fly, then it would back out and attack another area. It could REALLY dig. Then it did something I've never even heard of before. It went out to a clear area and it began to shake itself, and actually flung itself into the air as it turned over and over -- apparently shaking off the mud (and it worked -- its face, that had been black and muddy, was mostly clear of mud after a few minutes of this). Wow, what a moment! It dug some more and we had a great time watching it for quite a while.

A nice small black bear in a ravine on the way back toward Gardiner. Then, on our last pass through Lamar that evening, a really interesting (albeit a bit not-sure-what-happened) moment. We pulled into the pullout by the river near the mouth of the valley, as people were looking up at the hillside across the river. There were only a few people there, and one told me there was a grizzly up on the hillside on a kill. He was "just at the bottom of that gully." I looked with my camera and my binoculars and finally was sure I had spotted him (he was tucked up in a shadow at the bottom of the gully by a rock and in the fading light was pretty tough to see, but I was sure I COULD see him). the folks we talked to eventually left, and I was trying to get a photo of the bear (and you CAN see him in my photos). Another car drove up and I tried to explain to the couple where the bear was -- they were having trouble seeing it, but finally seemed to think they had spotted the bear, and the lady said, "Hey, there's a wolf up there, too." I looked with my binoculars and there WAS a wolf up there (at least, I was pretty sure it was a wolf, it looked too big to be a coyote and held it tail differently, long legged, dark, etc.). By this time, another fellow had come along and he said the bear was "over there," not where I had been looking. As we looked up to where he was pointing (and he had a spotting scope), there WAS a bear up on the ridge above where I had been looking at the other one, so I wondered if maybe he had moved (but if so, HOW had he moved from the bottom of the gully and up above and on the ridge without us noticing?). Guy with spotting scope also said it was a coyote, NOT a wolf up there near the bear. I felt badly that I'd led the couple astray trying to show them where the bear was when it hadn't been there.

But the upshot was, when I got back to the hotel and examined my photos, there WAS a bear (and it was on a carcass, at least appeared to be) at the bottom of the gully. And it DOES look like a wolf up there passing by that bear (the photos aren't that great, but it sure looks like a wolf, not a coyote). And there WAS a grizzly up on the ridge, too -- I don't think there's any way the bear from the gully could have got up on the ridge without us knowing it (I'm not sure the timing on my photos of the bear on the ridge and the bear in the gully). The upshot is I would think perhaps we had two grizzlies,a wolf, and perhaps a coyote (although I never saw it, but it was supposed to be up by the bear on the ridge) in that one small area. Wow!

Headed out to the next morning toward West Yellowstone -- no bears along the way, but a lot of cute little birds along the Riverside Drive (I spent WAY too much time trying to get a photo of some of the ones that were making a LOT of noise). We heard some shots while we were there and were a bit disconcerted -- so we stopped in at the visitor's center on the way out and told the ranger we had heard what we were SURE were shots -- several at a time, then quiet, then several more. The ranger went back to talk to a superior, then came out with a smile and said there was a shooting range where some practice was going on near enough that we could have heard the shots, but thanked us for reporting it. We were relieved.

A quick stop along the way home to visit our niece, who is going to school in Idaho, then a another quick trip up to Market Lake to look around. Some great ducks AND a nice view of a great horned owl nest with two solemn-looking chicks in it. A good view and such fun to see.

Another wonderful trip to the parks. We really love going. Sorry about no photos, but I surely appreciate those who DO include photos in their reports.

We're heading back again in a little bit and can't wait! </t>



User avatar
Max
Posts: 151
Joined: Sun Jul 23, 2017 12:27 pm

Re: Early May trip

Post by Max » Sun Jun 02, 2019 5:20 pm

Thanks Dorothy. The eagle/beaver interaction must've been fun to see. Congrats on the badger.

Max



yellvet
Posts: 182
Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:54 pm

Re: Early May trip

Post by yellvet » Sun Jun 02, 2019 8:55 pm

Sounds like you had a wonderful trip, Dorothy. Bears, badgers and birdies....doesn't get any better than that. Thanks for taking us along on your trip! :)



billandkaren
Posts: 81
Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2017 8:50 pm

Re: Early May trip

Post by billandkaren » Thu Jun 20, 2019 10:36 am

Wow! What a great trip! I feel the same way when we get to the parks. It is definitely our happy Place :)

--Bill



User avatar
JimO
Posts: 40
Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2017 6:08 am
Location: Kansas

Re: Early May trip

Post by JimO » Fri Jun 21, 2019 5:05 am

Wonderful Report-Good to hear about the early season sightings. YNP is not just a happy place, it can be pure Nirvana!
Hope you get your photo situation worked out. Would love to see your shots as no trip on the agenda this year for us.

PS: Birding is addictive!! I really got into it as we traveled through the Dakotas and Southern Canada last year. :)



lah
Posts: 148
Joined: Thu Jul 27, 2017 12:47 pm

Re: Early May trip

Post by lah » Fri Jun 21, 2019 3:10 pm

Dorothy, thanks so much for your report, and I'm so glad you had some great experiences.
And I'm jealous that you get to go back soon -- but happy for you.



dpeter77
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2019 7:51 pm

Re: Early May trip

Post by dpeter77 » Wed Jul 03, 2019 8:53 am

Anyone have any updates on animal sightings in last two weeks? We are due to arrive July 11. Thank you.



billandkaren
Posts: 81
Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2017 8:50 pm

Re: Early May trip

Post by billandkaren » Sat Jul 06, 2019 5:57 pm

dpeter77 wrote:
Wed Jul 03, 2019 8:53 am
Anyone have any updates on animal sightings in last two weeks? We are due to arrive July 11. Thank you.
Just posted a quick trip report from last week. In July animal sightings can slow down a bit, but they still are there. Hopefully, you get to see lots of good stuff, but no matter what the park is still a beautiful place to be :P



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