Friday, June 18, 2021

Our 50th Anniversary, a weekend of food, bears, and fishing

 


It did not seem possible that we had been married for fifty years. I remember, among other things, my dad dancing the Irish jig down the aisle and of course taking Renita’s hand after her father presented her to me. The rest is pretty blurry, the wedding reception and the reception after the reception. For our honeymoon we went fishing on the Mississippi River and Renita caught the biggest fish, (besides me of course).

Our fiftieth started with a dinner at a great restaurant in Jackson, Wyoming, (thank you Matt), afterwards Matt presented us with matching custom-made fly rods. Both of the kids had gone in on them Each had an engraving that said, “Fiftieth Anniversary”, and each had our sign of the zodiac engraved on it. We had not planned any big trip but instead a week of doing what we love to do, watching wildlife and fly fishing.


The next day we headed to Grand Teton National Park. Of course, we saw elk, deer, antelope and even a moose. In the afternoon we stopped at Willow Flats and as we glassed for bear someone yelled bear and turning, we saw a cinnamon black bear trying to get into a bear proof garbage can.


It tried to rip off the lid, and frustrated it attempted to stick its head inside the container. All to no avail. It moved parallel to the highway, and I followed it taking image after image. A lady was so excited to see the bear that she practically chased it getting so close that I said to the man next to ne that she was dangerously close. He said it was his wife and did yell at her to back off.


The black bear crossed the road, avoiding getting hit by the car jam that had developed and went into the woods. From there we headed north to our turn around point and did not see any more bears. After driving outside the park to see buffalo we returned and made one more drive to Pilgrim Creek. There we were greeted by a bear jam of gargantuan proportions.


It was bear 399 and her four cubs. They were hunting for food, about five hundred yards away, and we were able to get quite a few fuzzy pictures before they headed into the woods.

At one point one of the year-old cubs ran ahead of the others, while the sow and the rest followed slowly behind. Six bears in a day is an exceptional day and so we decided to return the next day.

The day started out great as soon as we entered the park, we became a part of a bear jam that completely blocked the road.


The cars prevented another cinnamon black bear from crossing the road and it stood confused before it ambled off towards the Snake River bottom.

They were no bear team park personal to clear the roads, but the jam finally broke up after the bear left.


We did the usual loops around the park and had a nice picnic lunch on the shore of Jackson Lake. The lake itself is a manmade lake that stores water for the potato farmers in Idaho. It was rebuilt after concerns that it might fail like the Teton Dam did, (The new dam is sitting on six hundred feet of loose material and is designed to float during an earthquake).


The rest of the day was filled with the usual wildlife, just no more bears. We were thankful, as any day you see a bear is a good one, heck any day in the park is great.

We are blessed to live so close to the park and to be able to make so many trips there. 


A few days later we headed to one of our favorite trout streams to try out the new rods. As we headed over Salt Pass a bull moose greeted us with a smile!

The fish were finicky and it took a while before we both caught cutthroats and even a mountain whitefish. She did hook a large cutthroat but it took off downstream and the fly pulled free,

(it was a size eighteen elk caddis). I had bought Renita a new Ross fly reel to match her new rod and she is now laying out line like the great fly fisherwoman she is!

Clear skies

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

A busy Memorial Day Weekend





It has been crazy busy here and now I am behind on the blog, so this entry is actually two blogs in one. On Memorial Day, Fred and Becky joined us for a picnic trip to the Greys National Wildlife Refuge. The next day we made a quick trip to Grand Teton National Park with our friend George as he had not yet been there this year and wanted to see a grizzly bear. Both trips were successful!

It was the earliest we have been to the Greys Refuge and the timing was exactly right! The birds have all arrived and the Sandhills and Yellow headed blackbirds were exhibiting their courtship behavior.


Right away we spotted a sandhill crane pair and the male was dancing his dance going around and around the female crane.


She pretty much ignored him and continued to feed, finally responding with a little bill slapping before returning to feed.

A cow decided to photo bomb us and blocked the pair of sandhills.

Next, we drove to the lookout point, where we watched as a group of male sandhills getting into a ruckus of calls trying to outdo each other.


 As we left the hilltop, a spruce grouse popped up and posed for us, but the light was wrong and so we did not get to see him spread his tail feathers, however Becky did spot his behavior.

Fred was also unable to get a picture of the tail feather display but at least we were able to see the bird.

At another small pond a northern shoveler paddled while a horse appeared to watch.



Continuing down the road, a red-tail hawk hunted and we were able to get several good images as he flew and then posed on top of a power pole.


 Next we saw a Swainson's Hawk

and then a little further and two female yellow headed blackbirds fought a bit before flying away.


We saw several more red-tailed hawks before we reached the spot where both sides of the hill are flooded. This year we again saw the usual male yellow headed blackbirds as they displayed their colors and hoping to attract a female. One did hook up with a female but we missed a picture of the event.


Suffice it say it was quick, much quicker than the Great Blue Heron displays we saw down in Texas. A floc of white faced ibis landed near us.

Their spring color includes a glossy color and sometimes they mate with glossy ibis so their hybrid off spring can cause confusion. More birds that made an appearance included a long billed curlew, a willet, and a Wilsons Phalarope. 



Menawhile a pair of cinnamon teal waddled across the road.

Latter we stopped a on hillside to glass the refuge and Renita and Becky both spotted moose. They were far away but they were obviously moose, and it was the first time we have seem then there, (there were three).


We did not see any elk, but we did see several doe mule deer. Our last stop of the day was for a picnic lunch at a National Forest Campground along Tin Cup Creek. It had been another good day of birding and it was the first time we had seen sand hill crane dancing!

The next day we headed to Grand Teton National Park, this time looking for bears. Hitting all the usual spots we did not see any bears. Stopping for lunch at Sargent Picnic Area we drove back south and there was a grizzly bear near the parks dump.


A member of the bear team told us it was feeding on a carcass and that the park had moved the carcass further form the road. The reason for this was to protect the bear from all the people.


The bear finished on the carcass and decided it had posed enough for the day. Before leaving the field, it answered the old question of where a bear relieves itself, anywhere it wants to. I will leave the picture unpublished but suffice it to say it was a large scat!

We did not see any more bears, just the usual elk, but it had been another successful day of bear hunting. George got to see his first grizzly of the year! Clear skies

 

Monday, May 31, 2021

More Grizzlies in Grand Teton National Park, May 27, 2021


It had been a busy week since we had last been looking for bears and so Renita packed a picnic lunch, and we loaded our cameras and binoculars into the car. It takes about an hour and a half to reach the park boundaries and we entered at the Moose Entrance Station.

Just past the Taggert Lake Trailhead we saw our first traffic jam. This time it was the cow moose that we had seen before. She was laying down and seemed unconcerned by all the people, many of whom were way too close, less than twenty-five yards. We watched a safe distance and took photos.


Continuing on we passed spots where we had seen bears before, but this time we drew a blank and it was not until we almost reached the Colter Bay turnoff that the road was blocked by a huge bear jam. Renita found us a good parking spot and after locking the car we walked along the shoulder until we saw a grizzly bear.

As we took images another grizzly bear appeared, this one almost black in color but you could easily spot the pronounced hump and the characteristic ear shape which are two ways to id a grizzly.


As we stood there the bears turned toward us and while stopping to feed on the yellow flowers, continued until they got to close.


At that point, the Park Ranger yelled at our crowd that it was time to back up and as bears continued heading our way, he twice told us to backup, before the bears turned and attempted to cross the road. Another ranger showed up with her sirens blaring and her lights flashing.  That did the trick, and the bears crossed the road and hurried into the woods.

Anytime you see a bear is a good day and this time we were lucky to see two subadult grizzlies. Note the claws! It was said that these two had been kicked out by their mom, just this spring.


It was the first time we had seen these bears and in the month of May, we have seen thirteen different grizzlies and one black bear, (we see more black bears in the fall). The crowd dissipated and returning to our car we drove north to Sargent Picnic area.


Turning around we checked out Leeks Marina, Colter Bay, before stopping for lunch at Pilgrim Creek. Hoping to spot a bear, none appeared but a coyote did show up along the edge of the forest.

One man yelled, “It’s a wolf”, and a little later another person said it is a red fox. I mentioned it is a coyote and moved closer taking lots of pictures.

It seemed unconcerned and hunted for a meal. At several spots it stopped as it heard prey in the grass but never pounced on an unsuspecting mouse, vole, or shrew.  It finally disappeared into the forest, and we drove on.


At the Willow Flats we saw quite a few cow elk feeding. Its time for them to calve and they use this area to hide their calves from bears, which love fresh elk, (Two years ago we watched as a bear fed on a calf elk before it cached its kill, (That time the mother of the calf approached, and the bear stopped to hunt the cow, but the elk finally retreated from the hunting grizzly).

A bald eagle soared overhead, and I did take an image of it as it hunted.


We next stopped at the Oxbow where a muskrat fed before returning to its house. From there we drove across the dam and saw another wildlife traffic jam. Rolling down the window I asked a man what he had seen, and he said a caribou.

Knowing there are no caribou in the park we pulled over and walked down the road until we spotted a huge bull elk resting in the shade.


It was time to go and so we headed back to Moose. On the way we spotted the red fox that we had seen on the last trip. If you go to a park there are some things you need to know:

 


Always park so that your vehicle is outside the white painted line. Never approach within twenty-five yards of buffalo, elk, deer, big horn sheep and keep at least one hundred yards away from bears, wolves, and mountain lions, (anything that can eat you).

Drone flying is illegal! Tell them they may be arrested. Take their picture and one of their license plates. 

There have been fights reported between people as they jockey for position, do not be an idiot! When asked what you are watching, share what you are seeing with others and do not put out chairs to block others from parking spots. There is no saving spots for your friends.

 If you run into a jerk take their picture and one of their license plates and post it on social media. No one is entitled, it is a National Park for everyone.

Do not feed the wildlife!

Finally obey the bear volunteers and park rangers. Thank them for the job they do in keeping the bears and us safe. Clear skies