Yellowstone Trip June/July

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yellvet
Posts: 26
Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:54 pm

Yellowstone Trip June/July

Post by yellvet » Mon Aug 28, 2017 2:46 pm

Trip Dates: June 15 thru July 14th

We camped at the Mammoth Campground before the Slough Creek CG opened, because I wanted to photograph the elk newborns and spring wildflowers. Had a wonderful time and wasn't the least bit disappointed. Best photo ops and pix came from the upper tier of the campground. Made a day trip over to Slough Creek CG before it opened, to see the impact of last year's fire. Gotta say that we were very pleasantly surprised and relieved. The firefighters did a fantastic job maintaining the integrity and primitive nature of the SC campground and the surrounding area. Most of our closest friends are long-time SC campers and backpackers. So, all of us would like to give our sincerest thanks to all the Buffalo Creek fire fighters who helped save the SC campground and trails! You did a superb job!

June 15 through July 14
On June 15th we moved over to the SC campground. Saw and photographed many critters that were in or close to the campground....male grizzly bear, a black bear sow with 2 adorable cubs (1-black, 1-cinnamon), several pronghorns, a few elk and a coyote, badger and red fox that waltzed through our campsite almost daily to hunt. To see the red fox at SC again was a thrill. I've been photographing the different generations of the SC fox family for close to 30 years so it was great to see that the fox family had escaped the fire last year and was still OK. The wildflowers, however, were disappointing and fairly sparse this year. And, the few that were in bloom, looked very puny....probably due to the heat and intensity of last year's fire. Made 2 or 3 trips over to Floating Island Lake to see what ducks and birds were around. Didn't see many ducks or birds there this year, just a few Coots, yellow headed black birds, a thrush, a few mallards, pintails and ruddy ducks. But not a single sand hill cane (very unusual). Made a few trips through the Lama Valley but didn't see much in the way of wildlife...just an osprey nest east of SC on the south side of the Lamar R. So, we stayed at the SC campground most days. The fishing was very marginal because the Creek was still very high and stayed high until after the 4th of July. The day we arrived at SC, though, I found a bird's nest hanging in one of the bushes along the Creek by Site 11. So I spent 3 weeks, photographing the bird's nest of a "Common Yellowthroat. Birds often return to the same nesting location but this was the first time that I had ever seen the bird at SC. So I was delighted to be able to shoot pix of the nest, the birth, feeding and growth of the Yellow throat babies until they fledged in July.

All in all, it was a pretty slow Yellowstone trip for me this year. But the magic of Yellowstone never grows old, for me or for any of our other Yellowstone friends. Being able to see, follow and photograph the new generations of specific wildlife families is what keeps me going back, year after year. If you're heading to the Park after Labor Day, I highly recommend that you spend some time at the Mammoth Campground to see the elk. The newborns are pretty feisty by then, as are their parents, who are getting ready for the rut. Lots of bugling going at the Campground and in the fields, directly east of Hwy. 89. At Slough Creek be sure not to miss all the bison charging down the hills to the Creek in early September. Lots of good wildlife photo ops if you park at one of the fishing pull outs: geese, otters badgers, coyotes, antelope and merganser families. And don't forget to listen for any wolf calls. In September, the hunting packs are usually out and about along the Creek, at sunrise. Three years ago I was sitting at one of the fishing pull-outs with my camera. It was about 7:15am and I was hoping to see some waterfowl to photograph along the Creek. Nothing was going on, so I decided to pack up and leave. I had just gotten up from my chair when I heard one single wolf howl. So I decided to hang around for awhile. Five minutes later three wolves showed up and sat down, right behind my van's rear bumper. They were less than 10 feet away. But I had already packed away my camera. As a result of my hasty decision to leave and go elsewhere, all I got were some super "butt shots" of the trio, running across the sage and across the Creek. So, here's my September tip of the day. Don't be too quick to leave SC if you only hear one wolf howl. Stay put and be quiet. A wolf hunting party might be close by, along with a few other wild critters like coyotes, otters, ducks, bison, bears and badgers. If you're heading to Yellowstone in September, have a blast. But keep your heads on a swivel, stay on alert and keep your cameras fired up at all times. September is my favorite time to be in the Park. Great photo ops and, best part, the mosquitoes and biting flies have gone elsewhere because of the colder nights.


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Last edited by yellvet on Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:02 am, edited 1 time in total.



Dorothy
Posts: 17
Joined: Sat Jul 29, 2017 7:45 pm

Re: Yellowstone Trip June/July

Post by Dorothy » Mon Aug 28, 2017 5:13 pm

What a great report! I loved all the detail about "generations" of wildlife -- that really is one of the things that keeps Yellowstone forever new and intoxicating when you go back. My mom was so thrilled a few years ago when we saw Rosie's three tiny cubs and then Rosie's three year-old cubs the next year, and when we saw a moose with a small baby and what we figured was the same moose with a year-old calf in the same area the next year. It really DOES connect us to the Park -- and we are always anxious to go back.

Anyway, thank's for the wonderful report.

A quick question -- we are pretty well limited to driving (wheelchair only other mode of transport for mom, and I'm still struggling with hip after breaking it), so when you are talking about the fishing pullouts at Slough Creek, are those along the gravel road from the loop road to where there's a bathroom and trails and buildings? I don't know that I've ever actually SEEN the Slough Creek campground, since we always stop there and turn around and go back, but we are planning a very quick trip up the Yellowstone in September and would love to see any of the things you mentioned on your SC report and will try (and try to be patient!) if they are possible along that road.

Again, thanks so much for sharing. It makes me long for Yellowstone even more, but also makes me smile. I DO appreciate the reports here!



Mike W.
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Aug 14, 2017 2:11 pm

Re: Yellowstone Trip June/July

Post by Mike W. » Mon Aug 28, 2017 11:26 pm

3 Wolves 10 feet away? :shock: I know we're not their usual food source, but they are still predators. Weren't you awfully apprehensive?



yellvet
Posts: 26
Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:54 pm

Re: Yellowstone Trip June/July

Post by yellvet » Wed Aug 30, 2017 4:30 am

Dorothy, thanks for the kind words. If you park at one of the SC fishing pullout areas, I think you'll be OK with a wheel chair but you'll likely have to stay at the pullout. Unfortunately, you won't be able to get down to the Creek, though, because the foot trails are fairly rocky and steep. My best advice is to try to tag the handicap camp site at the SC campground. It's Site #12. The site is one of the nicest at the CG....lots of trees for shade, the vault is really close and with help, I bet you could get a wheelchair down to the edge of the Creek. It also has a high, long picnic table that's designed for wheelchair use. Another option is to park your vehicle at the top end of the CG near Site #1. There's a day use parking area that's gravel but it's flat and well maintained. There's also a picnic table and a vault in that area that should give you fairly good wheelchair access with a nice view of the Creek. SC has a new host this summer. Not sure if he's still there but his name is Jack. He's a great guy and I'm sure that he would help you find a suitable site or place to park your vehicle. And if you park or stay at the campground, there really isn't a reason to go anywhere else. If you're looking for birds, bears, coyotes, red fox or a badger they prance through the sites and the campground meadow all the time. SC is one of the few places in the Park where you can just sit back and relax with your camera in your lap and let the critters come to you. And they will!

This was my 39th year photographing wildlife at Slough Creek. I've camped all over the Park but my most favorite campground, by far, is still Slough Creek. My first visit to SC was in September 1978. That was a time when bears outnumbered campers. It's always been a very special place for me because after so many years many of the wildlife have come to know and recognize me. I'm quite small so they probably think that I'm just an overgrown Uinta. Because of my familiarity with many of the SC critters, each time that I go, the trip becomes a time for visiting old friends (the two + four legged variety) as well as meeting their newborns and older offspring. To see the development of offspring over an extended period of time makes my heart smile but it's also saddened when I see one of my favorite critters that I have watched and photographed for several years, die or walk over a hill, never to be seen again. I photographed the 1st Rosie and her coys for well over a decade. She died from wounds received in a bear attack while protecting her cubs. Rosie was the most attentive mother that I had ever photographed. Being killed while protecting her cubs, IMO, was Rosie's ultimate contribution to Yellowstone and a wonderful tribute to her attentive and protective nature as a Yellowstone black bear. So, I have never mourned for Rosie. She died doing what she did best. Being a Yellowstone bear mother. So I will always celebrate her life and not mourn her death. A similar death experience happened a few years ago when I saw a coyote kill a pronghorn fawn by one of the SC ponds. Mama walked around the pond for hours, stopping next to me and then stopping and looking down in the sage where her fawn was lying dead. The pronghorn family had become so used to me, that I almost felt like one of the family. The mother looked at me as if saying, "Why didn't you do something or why aren't you crying?" For me, being able to capture the best and worst moments of wildlife behavior and being accepted by wildlife in their world is exactly what keeps me going back to the Park. IMO, there is no greater gift or compliment than winning the trust and acceptance of an animal.

Mike, I have lived in MT for over 30 years and in the extended Yellowstone wolf protective zone in MT for at least 15 years. Saw my first two wolves in our back yard two years after the wolves were first re-introduced into the Park in 2005. Are wolves predators? You bet they are but so are coyotes, grizzly bears and black bears. I've been around wild animals most of my adult life. So I consider them as neighbors. So like a good neighbor, I don't fear them, but I do show and give them the respect that they deserve. Animals are very sensitive to the demeanor, posture and behavior of humans. If you act afraid or weak then a predator will see you as prey...(a nice tasty morsel for lunch or a dinner for four). We have several whitetail families that pass through our yard every day. Most of them I've watched and photographed since they were newborns. Last year in October I saw a huge buck across the road from our yard. When he saw me step off our deck with my camera, he approached and stood within 5 feet of me. Then he stomped his hoof hard on the ground to let me know in no uncertain terms that our yard was his territory and NOT mine. But I knew this feisty little upstart and had also taken pix of him since he was born. So he knew who I was and he knew that I knew who he was. :lol: So when he stomped his hoof on the ground at me, I laughed and approached him. When I got within 5 feet of the buck, I looked him straight in the eye, stomped my foot hard on the ground and scolded him saying, "How dare you do that to me!" I think the buck was so surprised by my "deer" behavior that he did a 360-degree turn, flew over the fence and ran over the ridge. Would I be so bold to ever do that with a deer that I didn't know? No way. One kick would put me in the hospital. But I only did it because I knew that whitetail and I also knew that when a deer stomps its hoof on the ground, it either wants to mark its territory or make a statement about its power and/or masculinity. Most likely the buck saw me as a challenger because the rut was on and there were 3 does in our yard. That's why it's important to book up on the characteristics and behavior of animal species BEFORE you take any pix of them. The more you observe them, the more they'll get accustomed to your presence. And when they're comfortable with your presence, the more apt they'll be to accept you into their world. But it's up to the animal to make that determination and not an observer or photographer.



RichS
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:56 pm

Re: Yellowstone Trip June/July

Post by RichS » Thu Aug 31, 2017 4:58 pm

I will be in The park the last week of September. Yellvet, you mentioned this was your favorite time. Will there be much left of the fall colors at this time, and should the elk be bugling? I'm really hoping to see/hear this.



yellvet
Posts: 26
Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:54 pm

Re: Yellowstone Trip June/July

Post by yellvet » Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:55 pm

Rich S.
If you want to see elk at the end of September, I would try driving over to the Mammoth area..in/out town, by the Mammoth Campground, the hills and fields just east of Hwy 89 and by the Mammoth Terraces. The elk gather by the Terraces at night. The thermal landscape helps keep the newborns and yearlings warm when the air temperature drops below freezing.

Mammoth Campground - Drive very slowly through the campground loop. Around 7am the elk begin to move from the east side of Hwy 89 over to the Mammoth Campground on the other side of the highway. Mid morning you should be able to see some good sized bulls bedded down in the stand of trees at the end of the upper tier roadway just across from the Campground amphitheater. From there they'll travel up the steep slope behind the amphitheater, through the tall sage and then into the town of Mammoth. In town you should be able to find elk near the church, post office, by the Mammoth Grill, the motel and everywhere in between throughout the day....they're all over town! A word of caution....In late Sept. and early October, the bull elk can be very cantankerous. Do NOT get out of your car and do not stop to take pix of any bull elk that are near your vehicle. They might try to charge your car! This is why the NPS has heavy steel cattle guards on the front of their trucks and has a wildlife patrol that drives through the Mammoth Campground daily, during the fall.

You might also want to consider driving to the Norris Campground. In the fall, you should be able to see some very regal bulls bugling and grazing in Gibbon Meadow. You can see the Meadow from the lower loop at the Campground and at the side drive that's off the road that goes over the the Gibbon River (not far from the CG entrance. Site #9 at the Norris Campground gives you an excellent vantage point of the Meadow for taking pix of the bull elk or a phenomenal view of a gorgeous Yellowstone sunset over the Gibbon.

There aren't many elk over by Slough Creek in the fall as far as I know....too many bears around. In the past 5+ years, I bet I've only seen one very small elk herd that was likely just passing through from Little America or the Slough Creek back country.

Indian Creek Campground/Swan Lake Area
In the spring, I've often seen several elk females wandering along the road by the entrance to the Indian Creek Campground and in the hills behind Swan Lake. I've never looked for any bulls in the fall, though. So I can really say if you'll find any bulls in that area or not. But if there are any females around, you can bet that there will, probably, be some romantic-minded bulls hanging around,too. ;)

September is a beautiful time of year in the Park. Nights can drop below freezing but the daytime temps are glorious... in the mid to upper 60's or low 70's. If you enjoy taking fall landscapes, then I highly recommend that you spend some time at the Mammoth Terraces. Take the "drive-thru" route that's just south Mammoth rather than taking the boardwalk. That way you can stop, get out of your car and take your time composing your shots. The best time to take the drive through Mammoth Terraces is around 7pm. The rock formations, thermal pools and glistening colors are quite extraordinary and the lighting at that time of day is nothing short of magnificent! Best part, there aren't any crowds at that time of the day.

Safe journeys and be sure to post a trip report and some pix when you get back. This will be the first time in several years that I haven't gone to the Park in September. Bet you can tell by my post that I'm homesick for the magic of Yellowstone. :(



RichS
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:56 pm

Re: Yellowstone Trip June/July

Post by RichS » Fri Sep 01, 2017 9:24 pm

Yellvet,
Thanks for the info! We are really excited about the trip. We'll definitely check some of these places out. It's been several years since our first trip, and really hoping to have a chance to see more. I'm very happy to see this site back up, and hoping we can keep up with the action in the park leading up to our trip. Thanks again!



Alicia
Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Aug 30, 2017 8:00 am

Re: Yellowstone Trip June/July

Post by Alicia » Wed Sep 20, 2017 10:02 pm

Wow! Exciting trip report, Yellvet! I remember you telling me about those red foxes in SC when we met a few years ago. We're headed up there next week. Hope to catch up with you again one of these days! P.S. I play your husband's music CD from time to time. :)



yellvet
Posts: 26
Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:54 pm

Re: Yellowstone Trip June/July

Post by yellvet » Thu Sep 21, 2017 2:29 pm

Alicia, if you can, be sure to check out the meadow and the area between Sites 11 and 13 at SC. Site 13 (the old site 26) has been our favorite site for years. What makes it so special? That's where you'll find the local red fox, coyote and badger, when they're out on their daily hunt. They passed through our site almost every afternoon in late June and early July. But they were hunting together! :o I've never seen anything like it. The families have been in the SC area for years but I have never ever seen them hunting together, until this year. With the fire at SC last fall the Uinta population was noticeably down in June. There were also 2 grizzlies and a black sow with 2 cubs in the immediate area while we were there.

Uinta ground squirrels are a staple food of bears, coyotes, badgers and fox. So, perhaps the coyote, fox and badger decided that it was time to work together as neighbors for survival purposes, rather than as competitors. Heck, I couldn't even sit in our screen tent without the badger trying to crawl under the flap, trying to chase down one of the baby Uintas who, apparently saw our screen tent as some kind of a safe haven. It would sit right by my feet and chatter at the badger as if it was taunting him. Anyway, I have no idea what was going on but it was the funniest, most amazing and the most interesting experience I've ever had at SC. Too bad my camera was alwasys in the trailer when the 3 showed up together and in this order: the coyote and fox came first and the badger was third, bringing up the rear. Bet they're still there, so keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready.

Glad you're still playing the Yellowstone music CD. Hubby has been thinking about recording another CD this winter, but I doubt if it's going to happen. Got a lot on our plate right now (doing some home improvements) and we're still dealing with some health issues. But I'm feeling much, much better than I was, last year at this time. I just can't carry the heavy weight of my pro gear any more. That's what contributed to my health problems in the first place. I knew better but was just too stubborn to recognize my my physical limitations. So let this be a warning to all budding pro photographers. Don't carry more weight than you can physically handle!! On the bright side, I've been swimming, walking and pumping iron trying to beef up my body, back and arms. But if I can't comfortably carry 12+ pounds by New Years, then stay tuned to the forum next spring because I may be selling some/all of my pro gear. If and when that happens, I'll tell ya right up front that I want the equipment to go to budding pro photographers or serious amateurs who want high quality gear but just can't afford the cost. They also must share my love for wildlife and my passion for ethical wildlife photography. For me, money isn't a factor. I'm more concerned that my equipment goes to the right people who will use the gear to its maximum potential. All my cameras are Canon and the lenses are "L" series pro Canon lenses. Thought I'd mention this now to give members a chance to think about this over the winter just in case you've been thinking about upgrading your camera equipment next year but don't have the money to do so. I need to think about it, too. Having to part with any of my pro gear is a pretty big decision for me but I refuse to let any of it just sit on a shelf or in a closet collecting dust.



Mike W.
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Aug 14, 2017 2:11 pm

Re: Yellowstone Trip June/July

Post by Mike W. » Sat Oct 21, 2017 12:27 am

yellvet wrote:
Wed Aug 30, 2017 4:30 am

Mike, I have lived in MT for over 30 years and in the extended Yellowstone wolf protective zone in MT for at least 15 years. Saw my first two wolves in our back yard two years after the wolves were first re-introduced into the Park in 2005. Are wolves predators? You bet they are but so are coyotes, grizzly bears and black bears. I've been around wild animals most of my adult life. So I consider them as neighbors. So like a good neighbor, I don't fear them, but I do show and give them the respect that they deserve. Animals are very sensitive to the demeanor, posture and behavior of humans. If you act afraid or weak then a predator will see you as prey...(a nice tasty morsel for lunch or a dinner for four). We have several whitetail families that pass through our yard every day. Most of them I've watched and photographed since they were newborns. Last year in October I saw a huge buck across the road from our yard. When he saw me step off our deck with my camera, he approached and stood within 5 feet of me. Then he stomped his hoof hard on the ground to let me know in no uncertain terms that our yard was his territory and NOT mine. But I knew this feisty little upstart and had also taken pix of him since he was born. So he knew who I was and he knew that I knew who he was. :lol: So when he stomped his hoof on the ground at me, I laughed and approached him. When I got within 5 feet of the buck, I looked him straight in the eye, stomped my foot hard on the ground and scolded him saying, "How dare you do that to me!" I think the buck was so surprised by my "deer" behavior that he did a 360-degree turn, flew over the fence and ran over the ridge. Would I be so bold to ever do that with a deer that I didn't know? No way. One kick would put me in the hospital. But I only did it because I knew that whitetail and I also knew that when a deer stomps its hoof on the ground, it either wants to mark its territory or make a statement about its power and/or masculinity. Most likely the buck saw me as a challenger because the rut was on and there were 3 does in our yard. That's why it's important to book up on the characteristics and behavior of animal species BEFORE you take any pix of them. The more you observe them, the more they'll get accustomed to your presence. And when they're comfortable with your presence, the more apt they'll be to accept you into their world. But it's up to the animal to make that determination and not an observer or photographer.
yellvet, my complements to you on your knowledge and confidence, while I'm not terrified by our friends out there I try so hard to photograph, I don't have nearly your expertise. I was only mildly apprehensive last trip to Yellowstone when a Bison walked up over a rise to within 8 feet or so of me when I had my back turned, and so much of the park literature speaks about how dangerous they are. But I figured he knew I was there so I wasn't too worried. And he munched a bit on the grass and kept on going. The thing that upset me was he never really turned his face to me so I could snap a good photo.



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