Saturday, June 8, 2019

Another Day in Grand Teton Nation Park, Friends, Birds, and Wearing Bear Spray

Most people who travel to the park never do see a bear. The best times here are in May and September. Those times are predictable as in May the female bears are alongside the roads with their cubs while in September, the bears are in the berry patches.
So, when our friends invited us to go with them, we packed our picnic lunch, binoculars, bear spray, and cameras. They offered to drive their car and soon we were off looking for local wildlife. After stopping in Jackson for a sticky bun, we got caught in a road construction traffic jam, just after entering the park.
Finally getting flagged through we passed buffalo and Antelope before reaching Moran Junction and driving up Towgotee Pass. We missed the cattle drive, whew, and made our first stop just past the bear warning traffic sign.  No bears were visible at either of the usual spots and so we continued up to the pass.
From there we turned around and headed back down looking but not seeing anything unusual, so we turned into the park at Moran Junction. Our next stop was at Pilgrim Creek and the road was open!
Slowly driving up the road to its end we didn’t spot any bears. The two female grizzlies, bears 399 and 793 have both sent their cubs off to fend for themselves and there have been reports of lewd and lascivious behavior with a male grizzly bear named Brutus.
The only sight that greeted us were the stunning views of the Tetons as we drove though sagebrush flats interspersed with lodge pole and ponderosa pines. There were also aspens, cotton woods and the occasional Englemann spruce, (a straight tree with a sharp pointed spire like crown).
Turning south we passed Willow Flats and we did spot some elk on the edges of the willow trees. They should have calved by now, but the calves are hiding from the bears by staying still and hidden. The calf elk are scentless and spotted so a bear must almost step on one to find it.
As it was lunch time, we drove to our favorite picnic area where the tables were all taken. Continuing past the flats we stopped at another picnic area that overlooked Jackson Lake. As we ate, we watched for rising fish and I mused on the stability of the dam. The dam itself is built as a floating dam sitting on six hundred feet of loose sediment.
A study was done that recommended that the dam should not be built in its current location. However, the politics demanded that the water should be stored for future use by the potato farmers in Idaho. The best site for the dam would have flooded and blocked the elk migration route from Yellowstone thank God a non starter, (One dam, just over the other side of the mountains failed shortly after being built, look up the Teton Dam Disaster).

As we left, we spotted a flower which we think is named purple fringe. Renita and I are not very good botanists, even though we have both taken wildflower identification classes, (we had great instructors but we are not smart enough and so we usually only identify rocks).
After lunch we hoped to drive the Moose-Wilson road. The road was close, but we did get far enough to a place where we often take a short hike. As there are bears in the area, I took my bear spray along, it doesn’t do any good left in the vehicle. We didn’t see any bears or moose, just other birders. There were reports of great gray owls, nesting in the area, but we never found the nest or spotted the owls.
A hoary woodpecker entertained us, along with a buffalo head duck, a rufous crowned sparrow, and several yellow warblers. On the way back to the car, Renita spotted several elk on a ridge. Besides the cow elk she also spotted a huge bull elk. The elk have started to grow their new antlers and this one will be a monster bull come this fall.
As we hiked, we disturbed a sandhill crane that flew off with several loud croaking call, but that doesn’t really describe the sound. As you would expect its call is extremely loud!
The drive home was uneventful, after we got caught in a buffalo traffic jam, (it always funny to watch the tourists get out of their cars to take closeups), and we finished the drive in the rain. Another nice day in the park! Clear skies.

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