Saturday, May 16, 2009

Yellowstone - May 16, 2009

We awoke to perfectly clear skies and were out of Gardiner by 7:15AM. We had a long drive to the Tetons today but wanted to enjoy the drive as much as possible. As we approached Mammoth, we spotted bighorn sheep on both sides of the roads up on the cliffs.

As we approached the Nymph Lake area north of Norris, we saw a few cars pulled over and figured it was a bear. Much to our surprise, it was a wolf and elk standoff. The wolves had chased an elk and it made a temporary escape to a small island in the lake. The wolves apparently weren't interested in swimming out to challenge the elk just yet so they rested and waited. In this shot you can see the elk on the far left of the frame and 1 black and 1 gray wolf on the right:


Here's a closeup of the wolves:

Black and Gray Wolf

We later learned from reading other people's reports, that the elk was taken down that evening so it was good that we didn't wait around too long.

The drive to Canyon and through the Hayden Valley were uneventful. We turned left at Fishing Bridge and headed out towards Steamboat Point. At Sedge Bay we encountered a grizzly jam. The grizzly had wandered up the hill too far away for pictures but it was nice to finally see a grizzly in this part of the park.

Further down the road, we spotted a marmot sunning itself. I couldn't pass up this photo opportunity:

Yellow-bellied Marmot

We also spotted a bunch of merganzers and a muskrat in a roadside pond. For a brief moment, we thought I might be our first Yellowstone otter, but it was just a muskrat.

As we left the lake area, a bald eagle flew over our heads as if to wish us farewell. It is always hard leaving Yellowstone, but the fact that the Tetons were next made this particular goodbye easier.

After experiencing some delays and lots of bumps, gravel, and dirt due to road construction, we finally made it to Signal Mountain Lodge for lunch. After lunch, we headed out to Oxbow Bend and had our first Teton moose sighting in the pond past Oxbow Bend. The afternoon lighting conditions didn't make for great photos. So, we decided to hike the old road by Oxbow Bend since it was closed to cars. We saw lots of waterfowl back there including mallards, pelicans, cormorants and these merganzers:

The Flying Merganzers

After dinner at the lodge, we headed out to Morman Row and Antelope Creek to take in the sunset. While we did end up having a great sunset, the highlight was finding 9 moose. 8 of which were all congregated around a small stream. At a distance, we were sure these shapes were bison because "there are too many to be moose". But, we were wrong:

Moose Dinner Party

Did I mention that the sunset was nice as well:

Teton Sunset

A 10 moose day, not too shabby. I wonder if they will still be around in the morning...

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