May 7, 2010

Yellowstone May 1st - 3rd


A great way to kick off the month of May.

After my last trip; I really needed a good trip to Yellowstone. The wind was too severe in Billings to stay in town and spend the weekend biking and trying to photograph birds so I drove to the park Saturday morning. The weather was far from great with wind, rain, sleet, snow, corn snow, and more wind; but I knew that the overcast light would give me usable light all day long.

Saturday started with an uneventful drive from Billings to Mammoth to Old Faithful. Just before arriving I noticed something out in the field near Biscuit Basin the snow was coming down to hard to be sure; but I thought Wolf. Upon my return there were cars stopped and sure enough it was a collared grey colored Wolf. The light was harsh and backlighting the Wolf so I only took a few photos then just watched. The Wolf moved on and the snow started coming down again so I continued north. Around the Twin Lakes I came across two large Wolves (Quadrants I believe), a collared black and a beautiful un-collared grey. They provided me ample opportunity to photograph them as close distances (from my vehicle - properly parked). I moved ahead to let them move on in peace; but I went ahead and waited with the hope of more photographs as they continued on to me. By the time they reached me a train of cars moving and stopping on the road were with them; but I managed a few nice images when the Wolves left the road to escape the train of cars. I continued ahead waited and had a few more, very similar, encounters. The day ended with a Bear jam, caused by a park bus that decided to park on the road above Mammoth. Of to my sleeping bag for some sleep.

Sunday was very similar to Saturday as far as weather was concerned. I went out toward Cooke City for sunrise, and returned to Tower with no luck (I did snap a shot of a Bull Moose near Petrified). I then did the hike up the "closed to cars" road all they way above tower, nothing other than some birds. I headed out to Gardiner to gas up and buy some sandwich fixings. On my way back in to tower I spent some time with a Black bear near Phantom. Shot the Flicker nesting process, then at tower it was time for a nap. Rested it was time to hike up above Tower Falls and back again. On my return I was rewarded with a Black Bear who I spent the next 3 hours with. The time was special as I was the only one there and the Bear was quite relaxed, content simply eating grass. Headed down and off to camp at sunset.

Monday morning I was up and driving early with hope for a great last day. Not much going on all the way out to Cooke and back only a few Coyote shots to show for the drive. Near tower I ran into some friends and spent an hour chatting. Drove to Gibbons; but the road conditions were quickly deteriorating so I turned north again. Stopped in Swan Lake Flats to photograph some Sandhill Cranes. As things were slow I decided I should head home, that was until I came to the China Garden and noticed a handful of the regulars stopped on a kill... score the Canyons must be near, and they were. I spent the next 6+ hours photographing two of the Canyons and 4 Bald Eagles (two mature, one third year, and one second year).

I had a great time, and this trip erased the bitter taste from my last few slow trips :)

Oddly 35 birds again - Merlin, Ferruginous Hawk, Cassin's Finch, Grey-crowned Rosy-Finch, Northern Flicker, Clarks Nutcracker, Steller's Jay, Mountain Chickadee, Northern Pintail, Killdeer, BuffleHead, Ring-necked Duck, American Kestrel, American Coot, Mountain Bluebird, Green-winged Teal, Red-winged Blackbird, Canada Goose, Dark-eyed Junco, Common Merganser, Mallard, Common Goldeneye, Barrows Goldeneye, Magpie, Vesper Sparrow, Tree Swallow, American White Pelican, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Sandhill Crane, Great Blue Heron, Raven, Crow, Robin, and Golden Eagle. There were more I just am not a good birder.

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