Saturday, May 22, 2010

Yellowstone - May 21 & 22, 2010

After a great night's sleep in our absolutely quiet cabin in Silver Gate, we were up and out at 6AM as usual. We were greeted by more COLD; 27 degrees accordingly to our rental car. Since neither the roads nor the car were icy, we set out right away to look for wildlife. We didn't have to wait long as we spied a really good looking moose at Warm Springs just inside the NE entrance:

As we drove down into the Lamar Valley, the temperature dropped to 20 degrees. This was by far the coldest morning of the trip. But, thankfully, the skies were clear so we didn't have to worry about any bad weather for now. At the confluence, we looked for the cow and juvenile moose that we saw the day before. The youngster was out but mom was nowhere to be seen.

Once again, the bison herds were everywhere which was good to see. There seemed to be more calves than in past years and they weren't camera shy at all:

Since today was the day that Dunraven pass was set to open, we headed in that direction right away. Before we got to Tower there was a small "jam" that we assumed was for the bighorn sheep that frequent the area. But, after a quick inquiry, we learned that a black bear and cub were in the area. They were too far away for decent pictures, but the little guy sure was cute. We knew we needed to check in regularly to see if they moved any closer to the road.

While Dunraven pass was really pretty and still covered in deep snow, we didn't see any critters on the pass. So, we looped around and headed to Mammoth for an early lunch. But, before lunch we stopped to check out the Great-horned owl nest in the area and were lucky enough to see one of the three owlets next to momma:

The afternoon was spent touring the northern end of the park where we spotted a small group of bull elk. This fall, their antlers will be really impressive:

We also stopped at Slough Creek and were able to spot one black wolf near the den site using our scope. Apparently, the wolves and pups come out pretty regularly in the early AM so we made a mental note to come back tomorrow.

At Calcite Springs, we heard about a bighorn that had just given birth so we stopped to take a look. They were a long way off across the canyon but still visible:

After a nice hike at Trout Lake which revealed nothing but some water fowl, we made one last pass through the Lamar and spotted a mother grizzly and cub across the valley. Once again, our rented scope came in handy as we watched them for a while before returning home and calling it a night.

The next day was warmer (31 degrees at 6AM), but that was due to cloud cover which brought snow. We woke up to less then an inch but decided to sleep in a bit anyway. Once we were up, I spotted two moose right behind the cabin. But, they moved off quickly before Karen could even pop out of bed to take a look. We spotted another one at Warm Springs on our way into the park.

In the Lamar Valley near Soda Butte, there was only a little snow on the ground and one "road hogging" bison:

We reached the Hitching Post turnout to hear that we just missed a black wolf that was running through the valley. We stopped to scan for a while but no luck. So, we headed to Slough Creek to look for more wolves. Here, we were in luck. The pups were out of the den and some adult wolves were with them as well. Using the scope, we were able to watch 3 pups and 2 adults for a while. This was only our second time being able to see wolf pups and it was great to see.

After standing in the cold and wind for a while, we decided to warm up in the car and head to Tower to see if the black bear and cub were out. Since there was a medium sized group of people at the overlook near Tower, we concluded that they bears were indeed out. They were still pretty far away but we got some nice looks at them through the scope. And, we weren't the only ones watching the bears. A very friendly bighorn was nibbling grass nearby and posing for closeups:

After a while with the bears, we decided to head towards Mammoth since the snow had closed Dunraven again. On the way, we saw another black bear at Rainy Lake, a coyote at Tower Junction, a moose at Elk Creek, and another black bear near Floating Island lake. But, all were too far away for good pictures.

At Mammoth, we stopped to check in on the owls but the owlets weren't being very cooperative. However, this little Mountain Cottontail was:

After lunch, we decided to head towards Norris to look for the grizzly bears that had been spotted along that stretch of the road. A quick bio break at Sheepeaters rewarded us with some nice marmot encounters but we struck out with any grizzly sightings:

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful for photography, but we did spot a coyote in Little America, a grizzly sow and cub of the year on specimen ridge, and had a quick fly by and scream of a peregrin falcon at Calcite Springs. Thankfully, the weather was pretty good today but the forecast was grim for the next few days. We capped off the day with a nice dinner out at the Login Cabin Cafe in Silver Gate (a nice break from the soup and bread we typically have for dinner in the park). Apparently, a black bear just crossed the road right after we entered the cafe. We never think to worry about bears in Silver Gate but that goes to show you that you must always be alert.

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