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

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Blodgett Point Hike

We took our first hike at altitude. Jen and Eric are careful to watch us and make sure we were not overdoing it. Their first selection was one we have never been on before. It’s a hike to a place called Blodgett Point and looks down on the Canyon hike we took last year.
This year, due to low snowfall, the hike was dry, and was about one and a half miles long, three miles round trip. The total elevation gain was about three hundred feet, which is about half the height of Devils Tower, which I use to rock climb.
We were passed by many others and on the way down a biker was attempting to ride up the trail. Something I will never try! It was a good pick and we will soon be hiking in Grand Teton National Park. Thanks Jen and Eric! Clear skies

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge, April 2024

It’s about a five-hour drive to our daughter and son in laws home in Hamilton, Montana and we were warmly greeted with hugs upon our arrival. It rained lightly and a little snow fell but the pass was open and was clear of any ice. The next several days were more snow and light rain so we decided to go to the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. Jen drove and Eric had the day off. It’s not very far away from their home and upon arrival we were surprised at the number of cars in the parking lot.
The main attraction is a pair of nesting Great Horned Owls and their brood of owlets. It’s a short hike on a good path to the large cottonwood tree where the owls have their nest. We could see the male owl and female parents both perching in separate trees, (both were sleeping). Their three young were all in the hollowed-out tree and we could just see one of the owlets peeking out, looking for it’s parents. They were fletching and would soon venture out, but they stayed put on the day we were there.
Continuing on Renita took a picture of a Northern Flicker, and I took one of an America Robin sitting on its nest.
Further an osprey sat on the top of a tree overlooking the Bitterroot River. Everyone else watched as a bald eagle soared but it disappeared before we could get a shot, Further along a pair of California Quail nervously watched us.
They were introduced here years ago and do well in the Bitterroot valley. Many of the paths were muddy and so we decided to drive to the Refuge headquarters. There is a large pond awaited with many species of ducks. An osprey stared at the pond and took off while we were taking its picture.
It flew to the pond, dove and grabbed a fish in its talons. It returned to its perch above us for its meal. Nothing like fresh sushi.
Its mate sat on their nest a little further in but this meal was not for sharing. Several mallards fed by dabbling on the underwater vegetation. Besides the plants they also eat the small invertebrates that live in plants, It’s an extremely healthy food source. Ducks don’t have teeth, but they have a serrated bill with edges on their beaks, which helps them to tear off the rooted plants.
A Barrows Golden Eye swam by, you can see why they are so aptly named, and a Cinnamon Teal,(a crummy picture) and a pair of Northern Shovelers were also feeding.
Driving past the headquarters we watched a lone sandhill crane and stopped for pictures of a strutting turkey.
As it displayed its fanned out tail, a hen turkey watched, trying to decide if the tom was a suitable mate.
We also spotted a red tailed hawk, and I did get a picure of it flying overhead.
On the way back Jen and Eric pointed out a male pheasant.
Such a beautiful bird! It was accompanied by a brood of chicks, but they disappeared into the tall grass before I could take their picture. It had been a good outing, a nice day of birding, and it felt good to start our Montana adventure with an easy hike. Thanks Jen and Eric! Clear skies

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Day 3 A Great Day with Grizzly 610 and her Subadults

Day 3 we drove to the usual spot and a crowd had already gathered. ^10 and her triplet subadults were coming down the mountain, The bears were already closer than we had ever been to them and now they were heading for the mass of people.
As they reached the stand of trees at the bottom 610 turned and her family followed her. Many people jumped into their cars and drove further south. I walked fast along the road being careful to stay outside the white line, (the ditch), and moved to the other side so I could watch the traffic as it approached. Renita stayed where she was with her camera, so we would cover two possible crossings. The bears kept moving parallel to the road and I called her to bring the car down as they were getting closer. I called her and by the time she arrived the bears had passed my spot and so we drove to a large meadow.
Parking, we waited and hoped it wouldn’t be long before they appeared. At one spot they huddled together. An elk carcass was there, or should I say a skeleton and one of the subadults was picking it up and chewing on a spinal column. Talk about a chew toy! This went on for a while and 610 started to move again.
Two of the subadults got in a fight. They would wrestle and then move and wrestle and move further. The sow started to walk directly toward us, and the third one joined her. She kept walking but the third heard the two fighting and turned towards its siblings and joined them. Meanwhile the sow got closer to us and as she neared the one-hundred-yard distance the Bear Management leader yelled that we should all get in our cars.
About then she turned around and saw that her triplets were not with her and so she turned back and rejoined them.By that time, we had arrived at the Pacific Creek Road.
Many of the cars and trucks had turned down it to head them off. Driving past them we couldn’t find a place to park as the ditch was very narrow, (you must park outside the white line). We moved further down to where a lot parking area was and waited for the bears. Some of the cars drove past us and a bear management team member stopped and told us the four grizzlies had crossed the road. Driving back, we saw they had crossed at a spot where we had parked and so we took pictures of their tracks.
Next we headed towards the dam but before we got there we saw vehicles parked and so we pulled over. There were two sets of grizzly tracks that had crossed the road the night before. The tracks were from 399 and her yearling called Spirit. You can see the difference in size.
They had appeared the evening before and escorted by the bear team crossed the road and river before continuing. They left the park boundaries and walked all the way to Wilson. We decided to call it a day and so returned to Jackson. Clear skies The next day we returned to the park. We did not see bears but just past the Lodge turnoff a wolf ran across the road. I could not get a picture, but later we were able to take pictures of the tracks. And yes we know the differenc ebetweena wolf an da coyote. It is only the second time we have seen a wolf in Grand Teton National Park and it made our day!
My hand is the same size as the track.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Grand Teton National Park Day 2

We arrived in the park later than we planned. A traffic jam was at the same place as yesterday and we hoped to see the bears, but not that morning. The bears had been out all morning but they disappeared over the ridge just as we arrived. We waited around in the hopes they would come back but almost everyone left and so we headed to another spot. It was a sunny day and we arrived at the oxbow at the perfect time. Three otters were swimming in the open water before diving under the ice shelf but soon returned, (freshwater otters can hold their breath for up to eight minutes). They all shot from the water onto another ice shelf and huddled together as if they were discussing the fishing. The sun was perfect, and their coats glistened from the water. It was the perfect shot. The best picture I have ever taken of otters. They returned to the water and swam away so we left looking for bear 399 and her cub, but they had not yet made an appearance. Our next stop was at Pilgrim Creek, and then Leeks Marina, From there we drove north to Yellowstone Park but the road was closed at Flagg Ranch.
Turning around we stopped as a fox was in the middle of the road. It was begging for food from a truck and ran to our truck hoping for a handout. People don’t realize that a human fed animal is a dead animal. The wild animals get used to eating human food, they become pests, are captured and then euthanized.
Near the entrance at Moran Junction, another traffic jam had formed. The bears had returned to the place they had been for the last four days but still stayed far away, almost four hundred yards. After a while they headed back over the ridge and so we decided to head to a pond, near Moose Junction.
On the way there, a car had stopped, and a photographer was taking pictures of a fox. The fox was mousing, and we watched as it located the mouse, by hearing, then leapt into the air and made a one-point landing on its mouth as it attempted to grab the small rodent.
It missed and so we drove on. We had watched fox and coyotes exhibiting the same behavior. Talk about acute hearing!
Nothing was at the pond, and we ate lunch there. Two years before we had watched as 399 and her four subadults walk out from the trees. That was an incredible experience as we watched alone for about twenty-five minutes before we were deluged with cars and photographers. (That was when we took the picture on our 2022 Christmas/Holiday Card.
We had a list of things to do in Jackson, so we called it a day. It had been a great day with otters, fox and even far away grizzly bears. On the way back to town we were wondering where the moose were and sure enough, they were just south of Moose Junction, (I wonder how it got its name)?
The moose are shaggy this time of year as they are shedding their winter coats. They have already lost their antlers. As I said before it had been a great day! Clear skies