Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Berries were everywhere. Our first of the year Black Bear

The recent monsoon rains had come at just the right time. The berries had plumped up and it was the best crop we have ever seen. Besides the service berries the Hawthorn trees were almost sagging from the weight, (In the previous blog I misidentified these as hackthorn berrries).
Added to that choke cherries were also everywhere, along with Oregon grapes,
rose hips,
and snow berries! All are bear food!
It was perfect timing for the bears had entered hyperphagia, that’s when they begin to eat for twenty hours a day as they must put on weight for the long hibernation. A friend Bruce had stopped by and told us that he had seen five bears and had even watched as a bear as it ran right in front of a woman, almost knocking her over. It didn’t care about her as it only wanted to avoid the others hiking on the trail, (most of the time you never see bears as they run away from people).
We had some business to take care of in Jackson and so Fred and Becky agreed to meet us at our favorite black bear spot. Just as we arrived at our rendezvous spot, Becky called us and told us that they had seen two black bears. They had not gotten any pictures as Fred was driving. We drove up the road and when we approached the spot a member of the bear management team told us that the bears had just left, (you can see a pile of bear scat on the road). Seeing a bear is really a matter of luck, timing, and perseverance. You have to be lucky. We finally met up and they told us of their bear encounters, we hoped that soon we would also spot one. Hiking along our favorite trail we walked past tree after tree, filled with berries. Black Capped Chickadees were everywhere.
Stopping to glass the forest fringe we never did see any moving bushes or heard any branches breaking. We even stopped at places from previous years and waited for a bear to materialize. None did. We ate lunch at a parking lot where three members of the bear management team were taking a break. Suddenly they all got in their vehicles and took off down the road. Someone must have reported a bear. Finishing our lunch we decided to drive down the road and hope a bear was visible, (the trees and underbrush are so thick that its really hard to spot one). Ahead cars were lined up and a team member was waving them through, one at a time. As we were waved through, I saw movement, a large cinnamon black bear, (grizzly bears have a prominant hump). I tried to take a picture, but it didn’t work, the bear was too close for my large lens, (too close means I am less than twelve feet)! All I got were blurry bushes.
You are not allowed to stop your car or get out and so taking a picture of a bear is difficult. Further down the road we were able to turn around and I readied Renita’s camera. Returning to the small line of cars we were again waved though and the bear was in an open spot, barely a foot from the edge of the asphalt road!
Taking a image after image, we finally got a few good ones of the bear.
It didn’t care about the cars or the bear management team, it was concentrating on the berries. We again turned around but when we got back to the bear’s location we discovered that the bear had crossed the road and was swimming in a beaver pond.
The problem here was that cattails lined the road. My camera was focusing on them and not the bear. As we could not stop I could not use manual focus. Oh no! I did get a blurry shot of the bears head, Finally ,on our last pass, the bear swam out of sight and all we got was a shot of its wet hindquarters.
It didn’t matter we had seen a black bear. It was the first one we have spotted this year. All of our other bear encounters have been grizzlies. We were tired but elated as we retuned home. Next up we are making a short trip to Montana to see our daughter Jen and her husband, Eric. Hopefully while there we will see more bears. Its bear time! Clear skies

Friday, August 26, 2022

Berries, Flowers, and Mountain Lion Scat

Kind of an unusual picture to open a blog post with, but this is the first time we think we have found mountain lion scat. It was on a path that we usually walk when we are looking for bears. What makes us think that its mountain lion scat is that its segmented, with individual lumps and has tails on the segments. Its also too large for a coyote and it does contain lots of hair, (elk). I am going to send the picture to a friend who is an expert on scat, (we have lots of friends with unusual collections).
The main purpose of the trip to Grand Teton National Park was to see the condition of the berry crop, hoping to see a bear, and to just enjoy the day in our favorite place. The berry crop this year is great and the bears should be gorging on them, or will soon be.
We did spot a flock of Cedar waxwings feeding on the berries. Another plus of the day was to enjoy the flowers, most of which I don’t know but Renita did snap a quick picture of a small Indian paintbrush
and a group of Wyoming Fireweed in bloom. The flowers are near the top of the fireweed, which means fall is arriving.
We also drove to the Oxbow where we enjoyed watching an American white pelican
as it flew over and also caught a picture of a bald eagle, both of which were looking for fish.
I once got to canoe the Oxbow when I was on a field trip with an Ecology class led by Paul Lussow. We never did see any bears, but we did hear that they have started to feed, preparing for their winter hibernation. Our hope to make one more trip to the park before we head north for a week with our daughter in Montana. Clear skies

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Humming Bird Wars

The other night I was sitting outside under our pergola and reading when I noticed that there were quite a few hummingbirds. They were attracted to our feeder and I could not only hear their wing beats, but I could also hear their chirps, (I recently got my hearing aids repaired and refitted). There were at least six of them and they were fighting over possession of the feeder. One fight was especially viscous as one, attacked the other and forced it down to the cement floor. It did this by stabbing the less dominant bird with its beak.
Its not the first time we have seen this happen, last year we even found a dead humming bird after witnessing one such fight. That time the winner stood on top of the bird and repeatedly stabbed it with its beak.
We also have another feeder and this one is guarded by a hummer we have named the sentinel. He sits on top and attacks any other hummer that tries to feed.
The biggest fight we have watched this year involved twelve of these birds in what could best be described as a dogfight! I did not get a picture of that one but the best fight picture I have is of four displaying their feathers while a fifth one was eating on the other side of the feeder. Thank goodness the birds are so small. I would hate to be attacked by a flock of the little dinosaurs, (birds are descendants of dinosaurs). They should soon start their migration and the violence, here anyway, will stop. Clear skies

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Hiking the Grand View Trail

We have hiked parts of the Grand View Trail, but we had never reached the mountain top. The last attempt was stopped when a storm moved in and we had to retreat to the car, (lighting is never good when you are on a mountain). It rained heavy last week but the skies had cleared and we decided to take advantage of three days of clear skies and hike to the top. Now the view from Grand View Point, is reported to be the best view of the Tetons. A long time ago I climbed Teewinot and from there had a stunning view of Jackson Hole, the Gros Ventre Slide, and Blacktail Butte. However, you can’t really see the mountains when you are standing on top of one.
Renita packed a lunch, while I got out the bear spray and loaded the car. Taking off, it’s a sixty five mile drive to the Moran Entrance Station, we reached the Grand View Parking lot about ten thirty am. Gearing up with water, cameras, lunch, and of course bear spray we began the hike, (Always carry bear spray when ever you see the bear warning signs).
Now we are both over seventy years young, so we planned on taking it easy hiking up the trail. The trail starts off with an easy slope but about one third of the way up it becomes steeper.
There were lots of wildflowers and so we paused to catch our breath and took pictures, At one place, we walked through a stand of choke cherry bushes loaded with ripe fruit, (hmm bears love choke cherries).
At places the trail became steeper, and we frequently paused. It flattened out and we made pretty good time. Finally an open spot appeared. and we could get a view of the Tetons. As we enjoyed the view three teenage girls caught up to us and one offered to take our picture. Passing us they continued on and we slowly followed them.
We spotted Two Ocean Lake and a little higher Emma Matilda Lake. Years ago, I had been on a field trip with high school students and had hiked part of the lake’s trails. It was so long ago that grizzly bears were not in the area, (now there are about one thousand grizzlies and black bears are numerous in the Yellowstone Ecosystem).
We saw the girls sitting on a clearing and after a few pictures we finished the hike to the summit.
We both posed for a picture with the sign and then retuned to a bare spot to eat our lunch. A couple reached us and the women asked if we had seen the bears! She was quite excited and said that a black bear sow with two cubs and crossed the trail right in front of them. The couple both had bear spray and were the only two with spray of the many people we encountered on the trail. The three teenage girls talked incessantly. We offered to take their pictures. No chance the bears would show up at our lunch spot. Being a former high school teacher, I removed my hearing aides, and their conversation was reduced to a quiet murmur.
Renita mentioned to them that they should make noise when returning down the trail and one of them had actually brought a speaker along. We could hear their music as they hiked down the trail, We have never thought to bring a speaker on a hike as we like to hear birds. elk bugling, and even bears breaking branches as they strip and eat berries off bushes.
We finally decided to head back down the trail. We never did spot the bears but Renita did see a small bear print, probably from one of the cubs. She has become quite the tracker and looks for tracks as I scan for the bears, (I do occasionally look back to make sure we are not being followed down the trail). Reaching the car, we both agreed that Grand Point View is the best view of the Teton Range. You can even look north into the southern part of Yellowstone National Park. The hike is one we plan on taking again and is well worth the effort, (on the All Trails app it is described a as moderate hike). Clear skies and be sure to carry bear spray!