Monday, June 27, 2022

Teaching a simple but effective Fly fishing Technique and a trip to the National Wildlife Museum

Our summer shows are upon us and so we have not kept the blog up to date. Still, we have been able to take time to teach Barb and Dan how to fly fish a small stream. On a rainy day we also traveled to Jackson to visit the National Wildlife Museum. The biggest problem fly fishing here is all the willow trees. They crowd the banks and so most beginners spend much of their time retrieving their flies from the willow’s branches. The answer to this is to use a technique called roll casting.
In it you let you fly line float downstream and then flip the rod tip upstream. The line forms a circle and flips the fly upstream. Tying on dry flies we soon had them both making great roll casts. Now if we could only find fish. The water was not clear, stained really, which presented another problem for novices. Walking up stream Dan soon had a fish on and fought it like a pro.
He followed the fish downstream until I could slip the net underneath the Bonneville Cutthroat trout! Its one of the four types of cutthroats needed for a Wyoming Cut slam Award. Barb meanwhile was making cast after cast, but no fish rose to take her fly. Dan returned to the water and soon landed another nice cut.
As we moved upstream Barb soon had fish attacking her fly, but they were small, and she could not get them to take the hook.
Meanwhile I put on a nymph, and underwater presentation. It worked and I caught two cuts and two mountain whitefish. Releasing them we continued upstream but no more fish cooperated. Renita and I were impressed with how quickly they had caught on! Now if we cold only get a fish on Barb’s flyrod. However, the rains started again, and the waters turned muddy. It was time to do something else.
That something else was to visit the National Wildlife Museum in Jackson. Renita had found out that Wyoming residents got in free on Sundays, and that anyone over sixty-five could buy half price tickets. Dan is a veteran, so he only had to pay eight dollars. Driving by you really cannot appreciate the scope of the museum. There are numerous bronzes on the outside but inside we found a multiroom set of galleries. The artworks included many different mediums ranging from stone birds carved by prehistoric Michigan tribes.
As we wandered from gallery to gallery, we stopped to look at the images of the majestic wildlife. One hallway was filled with womens artwork and discussed the difference between arts and crafts. One exhibit stated that the term crafts is used to denigrate womens work.
It was a real treat to see paintings,bronzes, prints, and other medium from around the world. We strongly recommend anyone in the area take a break and spend a day in the museum. Clear skies

Monday, June 13, 2022

Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge, June 2022

One of life’s birding joys is to observe the little dinosaurs, (birds are their descendants), during the spring breeding season. At that time the males and some of the females are adorned with brilliant colors. If you are really lucky you can even see the birds elaborate courtship rituals and dances. This year our friends Barb and Dan joined us. We made the short drive to Idaho and the Refuge armed with our cameras, cell phones, (for recording the birds calls) and the app Merlin which is great for identification using pictures, locations, and songs, After driving along Tin Cup Creek, we made the turn to the Refuge Head Quarters. We first went to the overlook where we took images of the landscape. Last year a male grouse was dancing there, but we did not see it, just the usual hawks, sandhill cranes, and in the distance ducks.
Stopping at the Main Building we picked up the literature and tried to take photos of the swallows. They were nesting underneath the building’s overhang and while they did not hit us, we did have to duck from near misses, (I did get one good photo of a barn swallow).
Driving on we passed a pond with northern shovelers and a cinnamon teal nesting on a small mound of dirt.
Driving on we passed a kestrel on a fence post, (notice that the kestrel has killed a large mouse in its talons), and several sandhill cranes.
A Western Kingbird posed on a wire
and a red-tailed hawk soared in ever widening circles as it hunted for its breakfast.
My favorite place on the refuge is when we reach the place where the road dissects a portion of the lake. Yellow headed blackbirds hunted for food. Due to the late spring, the cattails where behind in their growth and so we did not get the usual poses in our pictures. Instead, we had to settle for pictures of the birds along the ditch.
A willet waded while two Wilsons Phalaropes swam in quick circles.
The female is the bright colored member of the pair, which is unusual.
At one point a cinnamon teal swam and posed for a close-up image.
White faced and glaucus ibis waded and fed in the shallow water and a flock searched for gravel before exploding into the air.
The iridescent feathers of the ibis are a brilliant purple along with their purple bills.
A sandhill crane fed among the reedy area.
Leaving the water, we mentioned that the rest of the drive was where we saw hawks so of course we did not see any. Again, after telling Dan and Barb about the moose that inhabit the refuge, we never spotted a single one. Nothing like promising something and then nature does not cooperate. Leaving the refuge, we drove to our usual picnic spot where we enjoyed our lunch alongside Tin Cup Creek. It had been a fruitful day as our friends added to their life list. It is so much fun to share trips with friends and Renita and I always enjoy a day of birding. Clear skies

Monday, June 6, 2022

Bear 793, Blondie and her three coys, (cubs of the year). Grand Teton National Park

Our first three trips to Grand Teton National Park had been very successful. We had seen grizzly 399 and her four cubs twice, as written in previous blogs. Since then, we had made our trips without seeing any bears and our friends Dan and Barb were beginning to wonder if they were bringing us bad luck. So, when we heard that bear 793 had not only reappeared after a two-year hiatus and now with three new cubs, we had to make another trip. As we neared the park, our friends Becky and Fred called us to report that they had encountered a massive bear jamb. The bears had gone back into the woods, but it was a good place to start.
As we passed the entrance to Colter Bay, we encountered the massive bear jamb. Renita was driving and found a safe place to park. We didn’t waste any time joining the throngs. No one was taking any pictures, so we walked back and forth talking to people, all of whom had seen the bear family. Several showed us their pictures and told us that 793 and her cubs were walking back and forth along a line of trees. A group started to take pictures and as we neared them and we spotted the sow and then her three new cubs. She was grazing on vegetation and as she fed the three little cubs followed her.
They were not interested in anything but nursing and whenever she stopped, they quickly tried to feed. Occasionally she would stop feeding and look at al the people and you could see her red ear tags. She moved behind trees, and we could only spot her when the family passed across open spots in the forest. We did not care it was so great to be able to watch four grizzly bears, acting well like grizzly bears. She had brought her cubs along the road, knowing that the people would keep boars away, and she knew that the boars would kill the cubs if they got the chance, (by killing the cubs she would become receptive to mating). We spent two hours watching them before they disappeared into the woods. Renita had also heard that bear 610 had been spotted with her three new cubs and so we checked out several other spots, but to no avail.
We ate lunch at the Oxbow Lake area where Dan and Barb got a new life bird, a Western Grebe, (notice the large fish it had caught). After lunch we decided we would head back to the spot where we had seen 793 and the timing was perfect. She and her cubs were nearing a side road and were out in the open, about one hundred yards away, (considered the minimum safe distance.
As they neared the road the cubs crowded around her and when she stopped on the road the hungry cubs started to nurse. She watched us for a little while and then went into the ditch where she allowed the coys another chance to nurse, before moving into the woods.
At one point a member of the bear management team walked down the road and let people approach as the bears had disappeared from sight. Our friend Dan was right behind him but no luck with the bears.
As we left the park a bull elk in velvet grazed alongside the road.
It was also taking advantage of the people as it knew that they would keep the bears and wolves away. The antlers are now growing about one inch a day and this bull would have an impressive rack for the fall. It had been a great day, it always is in the park, but this day Barb and Dan got their first Grand Teton Grizzly bears! Clear skies ps bear 399 was spotted swiming the Snake River and her four sub adults have all dispersed. Two, one woth a collar and one without have traveled to an area near Pinedale, Wyoming.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Hiking the String Lake and Grand View Trails, Two more Days in the GTNP

On the first day we did take a short hike along the Grand Viewpoint trail. It is about one point seven miles, one way, and has an elevation gain of about five hundred and ninety-one feet. As it was our first hike of the year, we cut it short and never reached the point. Still it was a good easy day, and we did see two new life birds for us, a dusky flycatcher and a Pink sided Dark Eyed Junco. The Junco was a subspecies, so it does not count on the life list, but it was a new subspecies for us. It is always neat to see a new bird.
The second day we returned the Park planning to hike the String Lake Trail. It is supposed to be a three point seven-mile-long trail and was labeled an easy hike. We had heard that a sow bear and her cub were spotted along the trail and so, besides our heavy cameras, we caried a lunch and our cans of bear spray. Normally the parking lot is so full that you have to park quite far away but as it was early, we found a spot right by the bathrooms. We did not really know what to expect and I did something really dumb, I should have taken a picture of the trail maps on my phone but didn't.
Still, it started off easy and we took out time as we were birding. At the south end of String Lake, it empties into Jenny Lake.
A nice sturdy bridge crossed the outlet and we continued on our way. There were signs posted at the trail junctions and we turned north along the west side of Sting Lake. We had to walk though some patches of snow and as we expected there would be more when we walked through the shady east slopes.
At one point we looked down on the lake and spotted a beaver lodge. A little further and a family passed up. The father told us that there was more snow ahead, which we already knew, so we continued on. Looking across the lake we figured we had gone halfway around, (we were mistaken), and so we pushed on.
The trail climbed up and the patches of snow got deeper but it was pretty solid, and we only punched through the crust a few times. The trial continued to climb, and we had to stop. A marmot posed on a boulder and Renita got a picture.
After spending five months at sea level, it takes a while, for our bodies to adjust. The patches of snow got longer and at one chute, we had to cross a debris field of broken trees and snow where an avalanche had thundered down.
Past the avalanche, we hiked in the shade and the snow became deeper, but the trail was still passable. We finally reached the upper end of String Lake. Leigh Lake was visible to the south, and there was a good bridge,
allowing us to cross the outlet. We were still eight tenths of a mile from the trailhead. Stopping we took pictures of the avalanche.
We could see where it had run out after leaving the chute. Reaching our car, we loaded our gear we next drove north looking for bears but never did spot any, (we were told by a friend that Park Rangers were using their sirens to scare the bears away from the road). Our final stop was at the Moose-Wilson pond. Hiking along a trail we saw numerous black headed grosbeaks.
They were oblivious to us and even perched ten feet away.
Yellow warblers. Pine siskins, a red breasted nuthatch,
a mountain chickadee, and a Red-Naped Sapsucker were easily to photograph and at one point a sandhill crane sat on a nest.
As it stood up, we could see the chicks and that one egg still had not hatched. Before I could get a picture, it sat back down so we moved on. Barb showed us how to use Merlin’s voice recorder and it said it heard an orange crowned warbler, and a dusky flycatcher but we never did see it
. It was getting late, and we left the park driving back to Star Valley. Another day without bears but another day of great birding. Its so much fun to share the day with friends. Clear skies

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Friends, Bears, and Birds A day in Grand Teton National Park

Our friends Dan and Barb arrived here for a two month stay. They were excited to be here and hoped to see, and take pictures, of grizzly bears. The next day we took off early, well not to early, and picked them up. Renita and I had talked it over and decided the best bet was to head to Pilgrim Creek and the Colter Bay area. Its an area where we frequently see bears. We did tell them that while we often see them, it not an everyday thing.
Driving to our first spot there were not any bears present, but a coyote did not mind us as it hunted for ground squirrels. It crossed the road in front of us and we watched as it stopped and then ran after one, finally catching it and swallowing it whole. No bears appeared so we drove to our next two spots but again no bears. Turning around we headed south and did spot elk at Willow Flats. The elk move into the willows to calve, and one can sometimes spot a grizzly bear, or black bear, hunting the newborn elk calves.
It was a few weeks early as the elk usually calf in late May or early June. They hide their newborns in the thick willow stands where the scentless calf lay motionless as the bears try to spot them. If the calf moves or tries to run, it is easy prey for the hungry bears. We next drove to small lake below the dam. No sign of bears but there were quite a few birds. Barb and Dan have become avid birders and we both took pictures of hooded mergansers, tree swallows, mallards, and a Clarks Nutcracker. The Clarks Nutcracker was a new bird for their life list. It posed in a nearby tree top and then flew to another perch, (I captured a picture of it in flight). The bird looks similar to another jay, a gray jay but does not have the grey’s black eye swipe.
Crossing the dam, we headed to the Potholes and again no bears! From there our next stop was at the Oxbow Parking lot. Several days before, we had watched 399 and her cubs digging for grubs. Since then, 399 met a boar and drove the cubs off, so they are on their own! It is a dangerous time for the sub adults and if people feed them, they will be euthanized. Many suspect that none of the famous bear cubs will survive this first year. Remember a fed bear is a dead bear. After eating lunch at the Oxbow, we next headed up to Towgotee Pass. Last year a grizzly and her cubs had become problems and hazed from the roadside, (If you do go there do not park alongside the road as you may be ticketed, with a two hundred and fifty dollar fine. Barb spotted a fox!
There are pull off parking lots where you can safely stop. Just be sure to stay away from the bears and follow the directions of the ambassador bear teams. Be super nice to these people as they are trying to save the bears lives, and yours. It is a busy highway with many speeding cars, trucks, and semis!
Our final stop for the day was along the Moose-Wilson Road where We never did see any bears, but we did see lots of birds. It was good to see how Barb and Dan turned the day into a birding day as they saw and photographed many new life birds.
One was a Cedar Waxwing and in the parking lot an aggressive mountain blue bird perched on cars. It also attacked its own image in several of the car’s mirrors. Clear skies