Sunday, May 15, 2016

Yellowstone Day 7 & 8 - May 2016

Today was our last full day in the park so we got out pretty early for us (7AM).  The sun was out so we once again enjoyed good light as we entered the Lamar Valley.

A few Bison were hanging out around Soda Butte.  This one took advantage of a man made scratching post:
The Big Scratch

There was a Moose lying down at Confluence but we didn't stop.  Two of the Owlets were out at the cliff nest but still no adults.

We stopped at the top pullout in the Lamar to scope the location of a probable Coyote den (There was one here a few years ago).  Once again, we saw a lone coyote near the "den".  We also spotted two other Coyotes out in the valley.  They appeared to be playing with something.  It took us a few looks through the scope to realize that they were playing with a shoe.  They were playing tug of war with it. It was a Men's Oxford size 12 1/2 wide I believe.  Our rental scope is almost TOO good... ;)

I don't even want to know how a shoe got out there.  After a while, we moved on once we were certain there were no signs of Coyote pups.  There may not even be a den there but we saw Coyote activity in that area regularly during the week.

A nice looking lone Pronghorn was walking around near Slough Creek:

We drove down into Slough Creek but there was no action at the Wolf den.  But, the views were nice:
Slough Creek

We also saw a muskrat swimming in the Creek.

And we had another cooperative Pronghorn:
Slough Creek Pronghorn

We also spotted our first Three-toed Woodpecker:
Three-toed Woodpecker

Some of the wolf watchers alerted us to a Black Bear that was pretty far away in the hills and we got our scope set up just in time to catch some looks before it moved into some trees.

At Petrified Tree we stopped to photograph the famous residents again:
Mountain Bluebird

Next we headed up to Tower to see if any Black Bear cubs were out.  Surprisingly, none were and there weren't very many people around either...strange.  As we rounded the corner at the Tower Parking Lot we were about to turn around when we saw that the "Closed" signs were down for Dunraven Pass. It wasn't supposed to open for a week.  What a nice surprise.

We didn't look a gift horse in the mouth and headed up the pass.  Our decision was rewarded right away as we came upon a small group of people watching a cinnamon Black Bear and yearling cub:
Cinnamon Black Bear

Cinnamon Black Bear and Cub

We didn't see anything else for the rest of the journey to Canyon, but it was nice to drive that portion of road again since it typically isn't open before Memorial Day.

We continued on to Hayden Valley where we scoped a Grizzly and 3 COY.  They were far away but we could see them very clearly through the scope.  We even got to see the cubs playing around.

After a stop at the Canyon Grill for lunch, we made our way back over the pass again and to Hellroaring. We stopped there just in case the Weasel made an appearance. It didn't, but we did see some more Pika and a Marmot:

Pika Lunch

American Pika

I take lots of Pika shots cause they are so darn cute.  Look at those whiskers!
American Pika

As we headed back to Silver Gate for dinner, we had to stop to enjoy the Bison in the Lamar Valley:
Lamar Vally Bison

After a really tasty Pizza at the Miner Saloon in Cooke City, we headed back into the park.

As we rounded the bend at Confluence we were hoping that the Moose from this morning was still around and being more active. We were in luck because there were now two Moose hanging out enjoying the Willows, a mama and yearling.

Yearling Moose eating:
Moose Yearling Eating

We watched as the mama Moose crossed the rapid flow of the creek looking for greener pastures:
Mama Moose

Unfortunately, the yearling moose wasn't so eager to cross and started frantically pacing on the far shore:
Yearling Moose Looking for Mom

Then, a little drama started.  If we spoke Moose, I imagine this is how events unfolded.

"Ummm, Mom.  You left me all alone on this side of the river":

"Well, since you don't seem to be paying any attention to me, I guess I better try to cross":
Crossing Attempt 1

"Dang that water is cold.  Hey Lady!  I AM STUCK ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RIVER!":
Crossing Failed

"Oh boy, this bush is tasty...":
Mama Moose Unmoved

"Crap!  The water is really moving. I can't make it":
Crossing Attempt 2 Failed

"Oh great, now it is freakin raining!":Pacing...

"Nope, not going to make it again.  Dang it!":
Crossing Attempt 3 Failed

"YESSSS!  I finally made it.  Happy Dance! Happy Dance!":
Success and Happy Dance!

"This is me giving you the Stink eye Mom!":
The Old Stink Eye

"I'm sorry did you say something sweetie...?"
Mama Moose Still Unmoved

"Oh hey, this bush IS tasty":
Dual Dining

With mother and yearling reunited and the rain coming down harder we called it a night.  But, it was another good day in Yellowstone capped off by yet some more late evening drama.

Today's Sightings:
- 4 Grizzly Bears
- 3 Black Bears
- 3 Coyote
- 3+ Pika
- 2 Moose
- 2 Owls
- 1 Bald Eagle, Marmot and Muskrat

The next morning, we were out around the same time as yesterday since we had a pretty long drive ahead of us to Northern Idaho.  We did continue our moose streak at Lower Barronette with this rather mangy beast:

Lower Barronette Moose

As we passed the confluence, one of the moose from the night before was still visible lying down in the bushes.  We stopped briefly at Slough Creek but there was nothing happening at the wolf den.  Even the Bluebirds were a no show at Petrified Tree.  All in all, it was a very quiet drive through the park to Mammoth.  As we left Mammoth and headed down the hill, the park gave us one last sighting.  A small group of people had stopped and were looking at an Elk.  As we drove by, we realized that the Elk had a calf.  So, we decided to stop and take a look.  It turns out that the calf had just been born recently since mom was still getting rid of the evidence:

Elk with Newborn

Destroying The Evidence

That was a nice end to a really great week in Yellowstone. We saw a ton of bears, some great wolf behavior and of course our first Long-tailed Weasel.  Looking back, this might have been our best trip ever to the park which is certainly saying something.

We had a long 7 hour drive ahead of us and the weather was crappy most of the way.  We endured wind, heavy rain and very little sun the whole way.   The best part of the trip was eating leftover cold pizza in a parking lot by the Freeway.  Mmmmm...Pizzzzza!  We made a pit stop at one of the last Rest Areas before the state line and snapped a few photos of the wet residents.

Columbian Ground Squirrels:
Columbian Ground Squirrel

The Lookout

Our trip ended in Couer d'alene, but the photo ops didn't.

Cassin's Finch:
Cassin's Finch

Great Blue Heron:
Great Blue Heron

We were amazed to see a huge pod of White Pelicans obviously having a bit of a feeding frenzy in a nearby lake.  There were easily 30 Pelicans in this pod:
White Pelican Feeding Frenzy

I managed to get a close up of one eating and after zooming way in it appeared they were eating perch.  I used to fish that lake for perch as a kid.  Looks like the kids of today have competition.

The last sighting of note for the trip was a cinnamon Black Bear cub that Karen saw from the car.  But, by the time we backed up and got out to look it had fled up a hill.  Too bad.  But, it's good to know that the bears are still around.

And so concludes another great vacation.  Time to go back to the grind and prepare for the next adventure which is Brazil in the fall.

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