Saturday, May 23, 2020

Looking for Bear 399, A Day in Grand Teton National Park

On the first day the park opened lucky people caught a glimpse of the most photographed grizzly bear in the area. Bear 399 is a twenty-three-year-old sow grizzly bear. Her fame is because she has raised over twenty cubs and because she often is near roads, (she keeps her cubs near roads so boar grizzly bears will not kill the cubs.
On last Monday, she appeared at her favorite spring location and was accompanied by four new cubs. Now grizzly bears normally have one to four cubs. Nothing unusual there but what is unusual is her age had caused many to speculate that she would no longer have any cubs. Obviously, those who said so were wrong.
So as soon as we saw the image we had to go to the park and try to see her. George and Val also went and being aware of the virus danger we took two cars and wore masks. Arriving at Pilgrim Creek we saw the bear jam, or should I say a car jam. There were probably about one hundred people waiting patiently for her to show up.
We waited for four hours but she never did show. Still it was a great place to have a picnic and George and Val joined us, (we kept a six-foot separation). 
A Black bear had been spotted in the area and it did put in a brief appearance. As you can see in our photos. It was quite a ways away and people blocked our view, (I spotted the bear as it left the trees to cross the road, but it happened so fast that I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough to get a clear image). Renita hurried up to where it had disappeared, but she never did get a glimpse of it.
We did meet one of the best bear photographers we know, Rick Larson, and later learned that Tom Mangelsen was also nearby. We also learned much earlier two grizzlies had been spotted on Towgotee Pass. Two mountain blue birds flew nearby, but again no images.
It was time to return home and as we passed Willow Flats, we saw that it was filled with cow elk. They should start calving and that means the grizzlies will move there to hunt the elk calves. They are the main predator of calf elk and we did see one feeding on a new kill last year.
Still it had been a good trip. Anytime we are in a national park, it is a good day. We also got to see a black bear and we do not see bears every day. It is our first bear spotting of the year!  Right now, it is snowing here, but it is going to warm up Monday, so we are planning on heading back to the park next week. Clear skies

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Homeward Bound

It was finally time to head north. We had stayed for a full month longer than we usually do because our place in Wyoming was not yet open. The temps in south Texas heated up and the humidity made it more than we could stand so we spent most of the day indoors. The plan was to drive the seventeen hundred miles in four days, which is a huge mount of driving without breaks.
The first day on the road was a drive of four hundred plus miles to Sweet Water Texas. Once we got on the way, (we had a lot of prepare the fifth wheel for storage), it was ten thirty which meant that we would get to Sweet Water about six in the afternoon.
If you have never been to south Texas, the area we crossed was really flat. At least there were lots of scrub brush to break up the monotony and crossing several rivers. All of the rivers we crossed were low due to the drought that eastern and central Texas is currently undergoing. Gas was cheap and when we reached Sweet Water, we found a nice place to stay along with fast food restaurants nearby.
The second day was another drive of about the same length but this day we drove through some areas with buttes, and the area near the Canadian River was really quite pretty. It reminded us of some areas in southwest Wyoming.
This day we as we neared Oklahoma a warning light came on. We had never seen a warming light on this car and this one said that a tire was underinflated and needed to be checked. Renita even got a text message from Subaru!
We had just left Perryton, Texas and turning around we went to Perryton Tires, There the staff welcomed us and got our car in and after removing the tire and looking for a leak, put the tire on and sent us on our way free of charge. We offered to pay but the tire man thanked us and said no payment was necessary! If anyone ever sees them self in need of tires or service Perryton Tires is the place to go!
After spending the night in Garden City, Kansas we left on day three for another leg to Sidney, Nebraska. There were lots of detours and we got off route so bad that our gps stopped receiving data. We found a map of Kansas, in a small convenience store in Atwood, Kansas. We decided to take a longer route to get back on track as the road we had been on was narrow. It had rained most of the day and we dreaded going on such a road with no shoulders.
The highlight of the day was when we stopped at a small picnic area. There two American goldfinches flew nearby and landed in a small bush next to the car. They were brilliantly colored in their breeding plumage, (and puffed up from the cold temperatures as it was forty-five degrees Fahrenheit), but they flew away before we could get any pictures.
We reached Sidney, Nebraska and were shocked to see the gas price was fifty cents higher per gallon than the town that we had passed through forty miles earlier. It seemed like price gouging to the extreme which is pretty typical when you are in a town next to the interstate.
We left Sidney and drove across Wyoming, stopping for the night at the Little America on Interstate eighty. It was an easy drive, a little less than four hundred miles.  The mountains were covered with snow and it was so nice to see mountains!
Our rv park did not open till the next day and so we were only one hundred and fifty miles away. It was the first time we have stayed at Little America and the room was nice but dated. They do have two grills there and so we had our usual chicken and cheeseburgers. The highlight of our stay there were the two red breasted nuthatches that stopped to look at us before continuing their hunt for bugs.
The final day started with a short drive and we arrived at eleven am. The rest of the day was spent checking for damage, (no damage to our fifth wheel), and unpacking. It is amazing how much stuff we brought in our Subaru.
Clear skies

Monday, May 4, 2020

The Packary Channel County Park, A Great Day of Birding

Last week we went to Port Aransas for a day of birding with Dan and Barb.  While there, Renita talked with a woman who commented on the great birding at the Packary Channel County Park, which is located on North Padre Island.
Renita's birthday was last Friday, and I asked her what she wanted to do. She did not think awfully long before she said she wanted to go birding at the Packary Channel County Park. After packing a lunch and putting the cameras and binoculars in the car we used Google maps to find out how to get there.It showed us that the quickest way was to go through Corpus, Christi and then take SPID, (South Padre Island Drive), over the bridge to the county park. However, Renita wanted to take the ferry and it was a good choice as we saw a beautiful Cara Cara and a bright pink Roseate Spoonbill.
Arriving at the park, we first walked out on the boardwalk and quickly spotted several hummingbirds feeding on long reddish flowers. The more Renita and I watched the more hummers we saw and to add to the mix three Baltimore orioles played a game of chase as they also fed on the same flowers. They flew to a larger flowering shrub and there were more hummingbirds, orchard orioles, and several warblers
It was a great way to start the morning, but it got even better. Another birder told Renita that we should go left at the road and slowly walk the road carefully watching the shrubs, trees, and all the feeders. It was only a quarter mile and at first, we did not see much but upon reaching the yard at the end of the street we were amazed at all the orioles and hummers in the yard.
The owner had put out orange halves and the birds were greedily tearing the pulp from the fruit! On one stick an impaled orange half was being fed on by a Tennessee Warbler, while a female orchard oriole waited overhead.
After taking some images of other orioles, I got an image of four hummingbirds on a feeder. They were busy sipping the nectar while another flew nearby waiting for its chance.
Leaving the back yard, an eastern peewee posed on a nearby branch. As I was taking its image, Renita spotted a rose breasted grosbeak high up in a towering tree.
On our walk back Renita further spotted a blackburnian warbler

and I got another image of a yellow warbler. It had been a great day of birding and while there were other birders, we were easily able to maintain a six-foot distance. We also wore our masks which is something that we do not see a lot of people doing down here along the Texas Coastal Bend. Clear skies

Ps We went back the next day, accompanied by Dan and Barb, (and yes, we drove in separate cars). Only to find that most of the birds have continued their migration. It turned out that we had caught the tail end of a huge fall out. There had been a really strong cold front and as the birds fly north across the Gulf of Mexico they tire and “Fall out”, on the first land they see.