Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Yellowstone - May 24 & 25, 2010

Another morning waking up to mid twenty degree temperatures at 6AM. At this point, we were actually looking forward to the summer heat back home. Once again, we were rewarded by moose at Warm Springs. This time, there were two:

We decided to make an early morning stop at Mt. Baronette in hopes of scoping some goats again. There was still quite a bit of snow on the cliff faces, but we did manage to spot six goats before the cold made us push on.

At Slough creek, we decided to stop to see of the wolves were out, but they weren't out around the den. However, we did have a good sized grizzly come trotting down the hill only a few hundred yards away from all the wolf watchers. I don't think many of them saw it, but once the grizzly saw them, it took off running in the opposite direction. I never get tired of seeing grizzlies run. They are amazingly fast.

There was a lone black bear at Tower, but the mother and cub weren't out. We also struck out once again at Hellroaring for our daily weasel stakeout. However, at Mammoth the owls were out once again and one of the owlets was testing its wings:

After lunch, we headed off to Petrified Tree to take a hike. Right after the turn out, we were rewarded with a nice encounter with a bull moose:

While looking at this bull moose, a cow moose and yearling were half hidden high up the hill. We got some decent looks at them, but since they were headed towards the hiking trail, we decided to quickly park and start the hike in hopes of a better look which we got:

The hike to Lost lake was short but nice. At the lake, I spotted some movement in the sage. It was a fox and it was moving quickly up the hill. Since this was the first fox sighting this trip, we decided to follow the fox up the ridge in hopes of getting a better look. The ridge was steeper than it looked though. We had to stop a couple times to catch our breath and by the time we reached the top, the fox was long gone. At least we had a fox sighting albeit a brief one.

After the hike, we headed to the Lamar Valley. On the way, we passed a running bison and calf right before the Yellowstone river bride. We crossed the bridge and got out hoping that they might follow us across. We were in luck, not only did they cross the bridge after only a brief hesitation but they ran across it:

Lucky for them they stayed under the speed limit the whole time:

Once in the Lamar Valley we stumbled across a couple photographers staking out an area where a badger had been seen an hour earlier. This was too good to pass up, so we joined the stakeout. Twice that afternoon we would stakeout this area but both times we came up empty and disappointed. As we headed home, we spotted a black bear in the Lamar Valley so at least we ended the day with a good spot.

The next day was our last in the park since we had a late afternoon flight back home. We got out of bed to good news and bad news. The good news was that it was a downright balmy 29 degrees out. The bad news was that there was two inches of snow on the ground and more coming down. After packing up and cleaning the snow off the car, we said our farewell to the cabin and left Silver Gate for the last time. Due to the road conditions (no plough yet) we drove extra slowly. No moose at Warm Springs today, but we did see one just after Thunderer.

The snow lessened by the time we reached the Lamar Valley and the temperature rose. Just passed the confluence, we saw a huge bird in a nearby tree. We stopped to inspect and it turned out to be a beautiful Golden Eagle. This was a first for us and a good last day spot. The eagle just wanted to sit and enjoy the day but a raven would have nothing of it and harassed the eagle until it just couldn't take it anymore:

Even the bison calves took notice of this:

We drove on towards Tower and spotted a black bear which just crossed the road behind us at Slough Creek and another on Specimen Ridge. There were also 5 bighorn at the Yellowstone Picnic Area. The mother and cub at Tower weren't out so we decided to head back towards the Lamar and stakeout the badger area again.

On the way, a group of photographers suddenly pulled off the road at the entrance to the Lamar Valley and yanked out all their big lenses. We pulled over and spotted an osprey, but that was a lot of fuss for an osprey. We scanned the area around the river bank thinking that maybe a bear was down there. Suddenly, I say movement in the water. Otters! Four river otters to be precise and they were swimming upstream against the strong current. This was another first for us in Yellowstone.

Since nobody was staking out the badger area, we continued up to Round Prairie for one last loop through the Lamar. At Soda Butte, some folks were out with scopes. But, due to the lack of parking we just drove past. A few hundred yards past them, something brown, furry, and low to the ground ran across the road. What the heck was that!?...it looked like the world's largest marmot but that can't be!? I hit the brakes and we looked right just in time to see a...BADGER! I left the car running in the middle of the road (which is perfectly legal for the first time you see a badger...right?) and shot out of the car for a few pictures. The badger quickly disappeared down a hole which gave me time to grab the tripod and Karen time to scoot into the drivers seat and move the car somewhat off the road. We didn't have much time because the badger popped out of the hole, looked our way a couple times and disappeared over the small ridge. Luckily, my camera was ready:

What a great last day! Our 3rd "first" of the day and the badger sighting pretty much made the whole trip for me.

Since time was running short now, we quickly left the park, returned the scope and grabbed some lunch. We decided to head towards the airport via the Old Yellowstone Road to see what might be out there. Along with the 100+ mule deer, we spotted our 4th "first" of the day. A pronghorn and baby were in a field next to the road and the baby must have less than a week old:

We had a lot of fun watching the baby start to run and wish we could have stayed longer.

Wow! What a day and what a great way to end the trip. Once again, Yellowstone and Grand Teton never fail to deliver. This was our 6th trip and was one of the best. Eventhough this wasn't a great trip for pictures, we took away lots of great memories, had 4 firsts for us, and met lots of great people. It will only be a matter of time before we are back.

1 comment:

John W. Wall said...

The badger and pronghorn baby are awesome! I've definitely got to get out there sometime.