Thursday, August 27, 2015

Glacier National Park - August 2015

We have been hearing for years how beautiful Glacier was and what a great hiking park it was.  But, what really convinced us to go for the first time was the fact that it was only 4 hours from my parents place in Idaho and it was the best place to go for a chance at up close Mountain Goat viewing.

We left Idaho with the hope that Montana would bring smoke free air.  But, that was not the case.  In some locations the air was so smokey you could literally "taste" it.

Our first night was spent in West Glacier.  We arrived before dinner and consequently didn't have a lot of time to explore.  We did drive out Camas Rd before and after dinner thinking it would be a good place to see wildlife.  But, we struck out both times unless you count White-tailed Deer, Red Squirrels, and this Gray Jay:

Gray Jay:

But, we hit the jackpot with dinner.  I knew that there was no food along the Going to the Sun road which was our route the next day.  So, we stopped at Glacier Grille and Pizza and got EXTRA pizza so we could have it cold the next day.  The hot pizza was delicious but eating the cold pizza at Logan's pass for lunch the next day in the relatively smoke free setting was even better.  That was our best meal of the trip.

All told, we did the Hidden Lake Overlook trail 3 times looking for goats.  We struck out the first  two times but did have lots of other photos ops.

View along Hidden Lake Overlook Trail:


Columbian Ground Squirrels:

Where's the Pika?

The third time we did the hike we struck gold (well white fur actually).  Right off the trail was a female Mountain Goat (called a Nanny) and two juveniles (called kids).  While I couldn't stand watching that TV show about a Nanny and kids, we had no problem watching these goats for almost 2 hours as they grazed back and forth across the trail.  I took hundreds of pictures and here are some of our favorites:

Tired of goat pictures yet?  I think Mamma goat was too if these looks are any indication:

While we were watching the goats, we could hear some sort of cooing nearby.  Finally, I stopped to investigate and less than 10 feet away was a group of White-tailed Ptarmigan.  A lifer bird for us!

While that experience was certainly the highlight of the trip, we were also lucky enough to spend about an hour with a cow moose:

It was fun to watch the moose eat because it would blow out air underwater presumably to "wash off" dirt before munching on the underwater plants:

We also had a few other critters along this hike:

Red Squirrel:

Yellow-pine Chipmunk:

So, between the Mountain Goats, the moose, and the Ptarmigan our smoke filled trip was a success. Unfortunately, there was no chance to take any scenery pictures. I did try, but only kept a few and have only one decent one to share.  This was the least smokey part of the trip:

While I don't have any decent pictures we did see plenty of other wildlife in Glacier including:
- Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel
- Coyote (heard many around dusk but only saw one)
- 3 Black Bears (one was a cinnamon)
- 1 Grizzly at a distance on Logan Pass
- Prairie Falcon (Another lifer)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Idaho - August 2015

In August we took a week off to journey to Northern Idaho to visit family and to visit Glacier National Park to find Mountain Goats (hopefully).  This blog post will contain highlights of our time in Idaho and the next will contain the highlights from Glacier.

My folk's place in Idaho is on Lake Coeur d'Alene which has always been a beautiful setting but was never a great location for wildlife until the last 5 years or so.  Now, it is truly a wildlife destination for us and this trip didn't disappoint.

Multiple Striped Skunk families have taken up residence near our house in the last few years and this year was no exception.  The problem is they move so fast during the day that it's nearly impossible to get a good shot of them:

The White-tailed Deer were also abundant in our yard.  There were multiple does with fawns that hung around while we were there:

They like to eat the fallen apples but have a hard time getting them positioned in their mouths correctly leading my sister to coin the phrase "Apple Mouth":

The birding on this year's trip was pretty good.  Besides the numerous birds that came to our deck attracted by the gallons of seed my Dad puts out, we had some good looks at birds from our daily evening drives as well:

Song Sparrow:

Black-capped Chickadee:

Lineated Woodpecker:

Northern Flicker (I finally got one to stay still for me after YEARS of trying):

Black-headed Grosbeak:

As I mentioned, we took evening drives along the Couer d'Alene River. Over the years, we have found a few very reliable roads for critter watching but the low light in the evenings makes wildlife photography next to impossible.  For the record, our drives resulted in the following sightings:

- Osprey (the population is thriving in this area which is great to see)
- Juvenile Bald Eagle
- Beaver and likely a Muskrat as well
- Wild Turkey
- California Quail
- White-tailed Deer
- Red Squirrel
- Moose (there were at least two in the area while we were there)
- Snowshoe Hare
- Yellow-pine Chipmunk
- Ruffed Grouse

But the true highlight was seeing our first Black Bears in Idaho.  The first sighting was of a little cub:

As soon as the bear saw us it moved up the hill.  So, we stopped the car and waited about 15 minutes before slowly making our way up the road in the car.  But, there was no sign of it.  Unfortunately, that was our only sighting of the cub and we never did see mama.

Later on in the trip, we did see an adult Black Bear with no cubs high up in a meadow. Furthermore, bear scat was pretty prevalent on the roads so either there are quite a few bears around or there is one that is VERY regular.

The only low light of the trip to Idaho was all the smoke from the Washington forest fires that was blowing in.  It made walking and hiking unhealthy which is why we spent time driving around.  We hoped that it would be better in Glacier...but it wasn't.  Still, it was a great trip and we will be back next year.