Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Yellowstone 2024 Grizzlies and a New Life Bird

Each year we look forward to the Cody, Wyoming Wild West Arts Festival. It’s three days of parades and fun and we set up our booth to sell our Jewelry. We always plan on a few extra days to enjoy the surrounding area by making day trips to Yellowstone National Park. This year was an exceptional year as we spotted a new bird for a life list and encountered three grizzly bears. Our friends Fred and Becky had already made a trip to Yellowstone and had encountered several Harlequin ducks. These ducks are small sea ducks that nest in areas with rapids. They had told us that the ducks were located at Le Hardy Rapids. As we drove through Yellowstone, I spotted the sign for the rapids, and we parked in the lot hoping that the Harlequinn ducks were still there. As we walked down the short trail, we could see them perched and resting on a flat rock! We were both elated to see the beautiful ducks and told other visitors, (they did not seem terribly impressed, definitely not birders).
Continuing our drive, we hoped to see some black bears and perhaps a grizzly. The day before we had encountered a bear jam where a sow and her new coy, (new cub of the year), put on a show. The bear has been given the name Raspberry and her new cub is called Snow. The sow was grazing in open spaces between fallen trees and it was comical watching the cub keeping up with mamma bear. Raspberry didn’t have any problems crossing the log jams, but each fallen tree was an almost insurmountable problem for the little cub. It would pull itself up and then lose its balance as it fell off the fallen timber.
Still, it managed to tag along, and we watched them for forty-five minutes before they disappeared in a cove of fallen timber. The next day we drove back but just missed the pair and so we headed to the Hayden Valley and Lamar Valleys. We didn’t see any bears at Hayden Valley, but it was filled with Buffalo.
Many of the bull bison were dusting themselves in dried wallows to give them some relief from insects. At one spot the bull was very near the road, and it glared at us as we quickly stopped to take its picture.
Forgetting us it rolled over in the dried ground creating a cloud of dust!
What a sight. We decided it was time to go even though we were at least twenty-five yards away, which is the required distance to safely view the huge animals. Passing Canyon Village and Tower Junction we decided to drive up the Lamar Valley looking for bears and wolves. The valley was full of buffalo herds, but we didn’t spot much else. However a coyote posed right next to the road.
Further on we used our binoculars to glass the canyon walls and spotted several mountain goats. They were so far away that you really couldn’t see much, just a white goat shaped object. Reaching the Northeast entrance we passed through Cooke City and then Silver Gate. As we left Siver Gate we saw about twenty people watching something.
The something was the largest Grizzly bear we have seen in quite a while. It was grazing about one hundred yards away and we didn’t get a great image as it was surrounded by bushes. It finally disappeared into the brush and several people decided that they would try to push the bear back into an open area for more pictures. What could go wrong? We decided to leave as we didn’t like their idea. Continuing we turned right and drove the Chief Joesph Highway. At a rest area you can walk out to enjoy the view of a steep and narrow canyon. It had been a great two days with new life birds and a huge grizzly bear. Of course, any trip into Yellowstone is always filled with memories of wildlife and scenic views to calm ones soul. Clear skies

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Alpine Mountain Days 2024

Our summer shows schedule started with the Alpine Mountain Days, in Alpine Wyoming. It’s a well-run three day event and we look forward to it each year. One of the highlights is the Native American dances.
This year we were so busy at our booth that I couldn’t break way to watch as many dances as I would have liked. Still, I was able to watch the Children’s dance where Native American invited nonnative children participate! The kids had fun and it was a great dance that everyone enjoyed.
Later I was able to watch a traditional family dance, followed by a nontraditional dance. The main difference was that the outfits in the nontraditional dance contained modern materials and designs. The dance I was able to watch was the Women’s Dance.
The last dance was a male dance. It was obvious that all the dancers were caught up in the excitement of the performances. Thank you to all the dancers and drummers, for sharing your culture! Finally, a thank you to all the people of Alpine, Wyoming who made the show such a success! Clear skies

Friday, June 14, 2024

Six Grizzlies in one day at Grand Teton National Park

Usually, we don’t see bears. Our average is about once in every three visits. However, we sometimes have amazing days, one of which was during our last visit. On that day we saw six grizzly bears, all of which were sows with cubs. Arriving at the GTNP we always stop to get our cameras ready. Several times we waited till we accidentally saw bears and by the time we got the cameras ready it was too late as the bear, (bears), had disappeared into the forest. We also check to see if there are any bear jams and plan our drive accordingly. On this day we saw a huge jam that was probably from a bear, (they usually show up as a red traffic congestion warning). Some people have scanners turned to the parks frequency and get the warnings at the same time as the wildlife management team. Renita took over the driving and I got ready to bail out the door, after which she finds a parking spot.
It wasn’t very far to before we saw a lineup of cars. Parking a good distance away, we both walked down the ditch until we reached the point where we could see the two grizzlies. It was 399 and her yearling Spirit. They were both grazing like cows and occasionally digging up tubers and grubs. They ignored all the people and slowly grazed to the highway. The bear management team ordered everyone to clear a path for the bears to cross. They kept all of us at least one hundred yards away for our and the bears safety.
It got to be a mess as they crossed but Renita managed to get several great pictures of them on the pavement. My moment came when they started to feed in the roadside ditch, and I got a picture of Spirit with a mouth full of flowers!
There were so many people that they often got in my way, ( I always try to keep a buffer zone of people between me and the bears). They continued feeding and 399 would sniff the air, perhaps she smelled the odor of Bruno. He is the dominant boar grizzly that kills and eats cubs so that the sow will mate, (dominate lions do the same thing, regardless of what you saw in Lion King). As we watched another photographer told us that grizzly bear 1063, (Bonita), was putting on a show with her three new coys. That’s a name given to brand new cubs and is an acronym for cubs of the year. It is her first litter.
Just as we arrived people were picking up their cameras and starting to leave. We had just missed them as they disappeared from view. We decided to sit still and hope they would reappear. Almost three hours later they had not shown up and we were getting ready to leave when we saw several people taking pictures! We could just see her back, but she moved to the south and climbing over a small rise came into view. Again, they decided to cross the road and so the Wildlife Management Team cleared a path for the bears. While we did not get a good shot of the crossing we were able to get pictures as she grazed.
The three coys stayed near their mom and we didn’t get very good pictures, but we did get some and the one posted was our best! They finally headed into the forest, it was probably feeding time, and so we left and drove to Leeks Marina where we fed on an excellent pizza!
From there we drove the Teton Park Roadway but didn’t see much of anything.
It didn’t matter as we had a great day watching six grizzlies, (our record is eight in one day). Now we are still working on our new park model. Our first big show of the year is next weekend at Alpine Mountain Days. Hopefully we will have a good three days and start to put more money back into savings. Clear skies

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Our first Black Bear of 2024, at Grand Teton National Park

We had just arrived at Grand Teton National Park, and almost immediately we encountered a bear jam. Seems 399 and her cub Spirit had put on quite a show but as we arrived but most of the people were picking up their tripods and cameras. That’s never a good sign.
Still, we drove further and did see people pointing at a grizzly bear, or at least the top of its back. The bear was heading in the direction where we had seen her last year and so we drove further and parked. Now you never know where a bear will go but we were so certain that we spent four hours in one spot. Others started to leave when Renita heard the scanner in the car next to us say that a black bear had appeared alongside a road.
Heading there, we saw the bear jam and a small black bear grazing alongside the road. We watched as the bear resembled a lawn mower. It was sweeping its head back and forth eating grass,(not everyone realizes that bears are omnivores and will eat almost anything). After seeing the black bear, it was the first of the season for us,we decided to head to another spot hoping to see a moose. On the way there we passed an elk nicknamed Hollywood. He has that name because the bull elk feeds in the same spot right along the highway. He spends the whole summer there as his antlers grow and so is perhaps one of the most photographed park’s elk.
No moose was there but there were some yellow warblers and a yellow rumped warbler . Numerous tree swallows were feeding along with a common golden eye, a blue winged teal and of course several mallards. It was a good day at the park! Our first of the year black bear and 399. Maybe next time will be better. Clear skies

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Mothers Day 2024, Grand Teton National Park

Celebrating Mother’s Day is always easy. I don’t even have to ask as Renita wants to spend the day in Grand Teton National Park. It’s always a great place to watch wildlife and perhaps we would even see grizzly bear 399 and her yearling Spirit. Entering the park, we passed the usual places and no bears. At one stop along the Sanke River a Photographer had two cameras set up. Her setup was probably ten times the cost of our equipment. I asked her if anything exciting was happening and she told us that 399 and her yearling had earlier been seen near a closed road. It’s a place where the Park Service places road killed animals and after parking, we glassed the area. At first, we didn’t see anything, but I spotted some brown motion a long way away, (as our friend Fred told me always look for motion). A large bear and a yearling were one half mile away. The bear was feeding in a location where a carcass dump is, and we could see her feeding on something while her yearling scampered back and forth. At the distance, with our cameras, it is impossible to get a good sharp image. She lifted her head occasionally and finally disappeared in the thick brush. Her yearling rushed to the spot, probably feeding time, and so we left in search of other wildlife.
Next we drove to our favorite pond. There sandhill pair nests yearly but this year were in a new spot. It stood up and turned the egg before settling back down for the incubation. A tree swallow posed and a yellw rumped warbler flitted back and forth.
Deciding to head back to the dam, to thank the photographer, we encountered a bear jam. It was one of grizzly 699 triplets that she had probably just released, (a polite way of saying she kicked them out). Renita dropped me off and drove on looking for a parking spot. There were others around but no one else was carrying bear spray. The bear management people were discussing what to do when the grizzly turned and started to walk towards us.
It soon decided to head back and look for its sibling. It was about one hundred yards away, (too close for comfort), and I did get a great shot. You can see the bears’ teeth and claws against the snow and trees. Our next stop was at the Oxbow where a single trumpeter swan was surrounded by common and hooded mergansers. In the distance we could see that several great blue herons were claiming their spots in the heron rookery near Cattleman’s Bridge. Anytime you see grizzly bears is a special treat and Renita had a great Mother’s Day in the park. Both our children had texted her to wish her a happy Mother’s Day! Her day was made, (the cell service in the park is sporadic at best, so texts work better than calls. Hope all the mothers out there had a great day, including the bears! Clear skies Ps the reason for this late post is that we are moving into a Park Model and our internet service frankly stinks. I hope to never go through moving again. The recent bear attack was near where we were. The bear was not shot but bit into the persons bear spray canister and ran away. There is no plan to capture the bear as she was defending her cub and the person was off trail….

Monday, May 20, 2024

A Rainy Drive to Painted Rock State Park

It was our last day at Jen and Erics and while we had hoped for a hike the weather said otherwise. Instead, Jen and Eric took us on a sightseeing drive to Painted Rock State Park. Along the way we passed a hear of buffalo. It was a private herd and a sign started that the buffalo/buffalo meat were for sale. ! The herd was in several different pastures and the distant one contained red dogs, (this year’s calf buffalo). Not having a freezer big enough to hold all the meat we drove on, (we enjoy buffalo meat but have never had the chance to taste the buffalo hunters favorite cuts, (the hump and the tongue) Further on we reached the dam that marked the start of Painted Rock State Park. It was not our first trip there and I wrote of our visit in one of last year’s blogs. A novice fly fisherman was practicing casting his line. He was doing pretty good so I didn’t mention that he should practice a roll cast, (it’s a perfect cast for small streams lined with willows and brush).
We glassed for birds but the steady, but light rain kept them hidden in the trees. Green head mallards flew by, and a pair of common mergansers landed in a distant inlet. The rain continued and so we enjoyed the view from the car windows and enjoyed the chance to visit about our stay. As always we so enjoyed and the next day we left early for our trip back to Star Valley. Soon our Park Model, (think tiny home), would be delivered and we knew we would be too busy for much else, with the set-up and packing, Thanks Jen and Eric for all the fun,food, hikes, and especially your love. Clear skies Our internet connection is so lousy that I can't upload pictures. Later

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Shalkaho Park, Hamilton, Montana

Along the Bitterroot River lies a delightful City Park. It is named Skalkaho. Its all the normal things in a city park but also a delightful and easy set of trails. These parallel the river and you can encounter many birds, often times a moose, and this year a mountain lion was in the area.
We had a few days left with Jen and Eric. Eric had to work so we decided to stroll along the park’s many trails. The snow is melting, and the river was bank full as we began our stroll. We parked just north of town and at first headed down river. It’s a place where we have seen moose, but not today, The trees were budding, but we picked a bad time as the birds were not in evidence. Sometimes we see pileated woodpeckers and we did head a bird working on a tree, but it wasn’t the deep pecks of a pileated. Instead it was a different woodpecker and we did not spot it. The pileated woodpeckers leave huge holes as they search for grubs. There were quite a few people enjoying the trails. We did see some Canadian geese and a few mallards, but nothing unusual, It was a simple and easy hike made extra enjoyable with Jen and Renita. Again, thanks Jen and Eric for all your guidance. Clear skies and Love