Monday, May 18, 2009

Grand Teton - May 17 & 18, 2009

We were up and out by 6AM today because I wanted the required sunrise shots at Oxbow. The sunrise was good, but not great. But, of course Oxbow Bend was still beautiful.

We decided to drive some roads today that we hadn’t tried in previous trips. First stop was Buffalo Ranch road which winds through some great scenery and some populated areas just outside the official park boundaries. We spotted some beaver, muskrat and a close osprey nest but not much else. I did like some of the early morning color:

Sage Brush

We went back to Oxbow for some mid morning shots which is one of my favorite times. I had pre-envisioned creating a pano of Oxbow that we could frame and hang (either one picture or broken up into 3 or 4 separate ones). Here’s a contender for that framing but I have more to consider as well:

Oxbow Bend Pano

Upon leaving Oxbow we spotted a coyote as we drove towards Signal Mountain. Morning is not the best time to drive up Signal Mountain since the best views are east as opposed to west towards the Tetons, but the trip was worth while since we saw two (one at each upper viewpoint) displaying Blue Grouse:

Male Blue Grouse

Displaying Male Blue Grouse

Not only was the display fun to watch, but the low rumbling noise they made was unexpected. They must have large “woofers” to get such low bass.

We decided to walk out the dirt road by Oxbow again because we thought the prospect of seeing some wildlife was good. About a 100 yards in, our decision was validated. A moose was bedded down not five feet off the road. This one was collared and didn’t seem to mind us walking quietly by it at all:

Resting Moose

We also spotted another coyote, which turned tail and disappeared the moment he saw us, and some circling bald eagles. Our friend the moose was still there on the walk back and appeared to be sleeping or resting very soundly.

Off to Antelope Flats where we spotted another coyote near the Teton Science School. We decided to head towards the small creek where we saw all the moose the night before on the off chance that they were still there. Unfortunately, all 8 moose weren’t still there. But, 6 of them were! Imagine spending time watching moose grazing peacefully in a stream with the magnificent backdrop of the Tetons. It was truly a great experience that was hard to capture perfectly by the camera:

Wading Moose

Grand Teton Moose

The rest of the day was spent trolling the Moose-Wilson road and other areas of the park where we saw more moose, beaver and muskrat. A great last full day to end our trip.

The next morning we made one last visit to Oxbow Bend before leaving the park. Our friend the bedded down moose from the day before was there to say goodbye:

Moose Closeup

On the way back towards Twin Falls, ID we decided to take a detour to visit the cranes at Grays Lake NWR in Idaho. While the drive getting there was really pretty and peaceful, the lake itself was just about bone dry. We saw about a dozen Sandhill Cranes and some White-Faced Ibis, but all at a distance with the exception of this one:

Sandhill Crane

All in all, we had another great trip. Yellowstone and Grand Teton never disappoint and are a nature lovers dream. Once again, we saw all kinds of wildlife, encountered new behaviors we hadn’t seen before, and experienced all sorts of weather. The trip back was long but we managed to find 45 states and 5 Canadian provinces in the license plate game during the trip, if anyone saw Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island, North Dakota, or Deleware let us know…

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