Monday, May 26, 2008

Yellowstone - May 26, 2008

It was our last day and we still hadn't seen Rosie and we only had a brief glimpse of the cubs, so we knew that this needed to be our focus today. We started out early again and really hoped that we would see our beautiful fox again, but no luck today.

We did have a great moose encounter at warm springs though. This was the best looking moose of the whole trip since it hadn't started to shed its winter coat yet:
After Breakfast Moose

We stopped at the elk carcass in Lamar and scoped a black wolf on the carcass. The sage brush made visibility tough so we only stayed for a few minutes since we were on Rosie watch.

On to Tower where 2 black bears were loitering but still no Rosie. This was our 3rd YNP trip and we had never seen anything of interest around Rainy Lake, so we got into the habit of calling it "Nothing Lake". Well, we can't say that anymore thanks to this bear:
Black Bear

After Tower, we decided to head back to scout for badger since it seemed like we were the only ones in the park that hadn't see one...But, no luck there. However, we did spy a small group of cars at the Wrecker pullout. We thought it might be the wolf watchers so we pulled in to take a look. Turns out there were some grizzly bears on the hills far away and some wolves but we never saw the wolves. Bill and Peggy were there as well so we chatted a while. Just as we were about to leave, Bill spotted some bighorn sheep coming over a nearby hill. It turns out that this was a group of about 9 male bighorns. We had never seen the rams before so it was really fun to watch these guys hangout and practice their dueling skills:
Bighorn rams

The concensus was that they weren't full adults yet and were just playing around. A few minutes into this show, a group of females came into view and really got the attention of these "teenage" males:
Hey check out the horns on that one!

So, what do you think this group of testosterone filled teenage rams did next?...Yup, just like a flashback to freshmen year of high school, they turned around and ran away:
Oh my god, does she like me...?

After this scene unfolded, we heard there was a Harlequin duck down on a rock by the river, so we proceeded to turn our attention that way. The duck was indeed down there but too far away for decent pictures. But, it was our first Harlequin duck sighting and they are really pretty.

Next we headed to Swan Lake and Sheepeaters after a lunch stop in Mammoth. We saw both a Marmot and Pika at Sheepeaters but they weren't being photogenic and the weather was starting to go bad so we headed back. Just out of Mammoth on a large gnoll before the bridge, there was a group of 10 or so more rams. These appeared to be full size adults but the weather was so crappy that we didn't get out of the car for a closer look. 30+ bighorn in a matter of hours was pretty good though.

The weather started to break as we hit Roosevelt, so we went on to Tower to see if Rosie was out. As we passed "her" meadow we saw a bunch of Y-Netters and Helene said that Rosie was there and just went down over the side out of sight. DOH! We had missed her! Since the crowd had dispersed we proceeded to sit and stake out the meadow since most people thought she would come back. We waited 2 hours and she didn't come back.

We needed to get our scope back to Silvergate so we reluctantly left and headed back to the cabin. After a not so quick transaction at the General Store in Silvergate to pay for the scope and a bite to eat in our cabin, we headed back out. There were a lot of scopes set up on the elk carcass so we stopped. A light colored wolf was really going at the carcass. Pulling it, tearing at it, etc. Finally, the wolf got what it wanted and trotted off with this huge leg in its mouth. This was pretty cool to see. It was getting late now so we rushed back to Tower only to see a plethora of Y-Netters and other long lenses at Rosie's meadow. She was out! We parked at Calcite and rushed back down only to hear that she disappeared again into the fallen trees... Had we timed this completely wrong yet again???

Well, luckily, after a few more minutes of waiting, Rosie and the cubs headed back out into the meadow and we spent the next 2+ hours watching her and the frolicking cubs.
Bear hug

It was tough light so we didn't get too many really good shots but the experience was worth a million. Just as darkness was starting to take command of the evening and after many of the Y-Netters were packing up to get some warm food she decided to nurse the cubs in plain sight. Wow, this was so awesome to watch:
High energy meal

Boy, that must have been some energy drink those cubs had because they proceeded to put on a show until it was just about too dark to see. Our last day was now complete and we journeyed back to the cabin with big grins on our faces :)

The next day, we woke up with only a few hours in the park to enjoy. But, we didn't have to leave our cabin for the first sighting. Guess who wanted to join us for breakfast:
Before Breakfast Moose

After packing the car, we headed out to Lamar and saw some Mt Goats on Barronette, another wolf on the elk carcass, and a black bear near soda butte. Our journey to Mammoth and on to Bozeman had two great highlights. The first was a group of bison and some very hyper "Normans". They were so cute running around in circles at high speed chasing each other:
Can't catch me!

The final highlight was the cranes at Floating Island. We passed them during a "shift change" and the ceremony was reminiscent of the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace (although, the cranes showed more emotion :) )
Sandhill Cranes

As sad as we were as we passed under the arch, we were also happy because this trip provided us with many firsts such as foxes, marmots, beavers, male Bighorns, our closest wolf encounter so far (still not close enough though), Rosie and the cubs, and of course all the other babies that come in the springtime. Despite the weather, this was another great trip to YNP and the Tetons. I am sure we will be back, but not soon enough.

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