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Saturday, May 19, 2012

So Where the Critters At?

Critters? You want critters? Then Yellowstone is the right place. Our first couple of days in the park were chock full of the shaggy, hairy and antlered. We totally lucked out on the shaggy - bison? Nope!

We saw bears! Grizzlys galore! This skinny bear was probably fresh out of his winter's hibernation. He walked along, wolfing down grass like a ravenous shaggy cow. I asked a ranger if the bear ate the grass to 'clear' his post-hibernation intestinal tract, but nope. The bear was just loading up on free and easy to access calories. Who knew grass could nourish a b'jillion pound Grizzly bear?

The best, most up front & personal view of a Yellowstone Grizzly I've ever been privy to,

And did this beautiful boy mark the end of our bear sightings? Not a chance. On a drive towards Mammoth Hot Springs, in the Swan Lake meadows we lucked onto a big she bear, out for a stroll with her 2 yearling cubs. Unlike the close-up Grizzly boy, the sow and her cubs were far out in the meadow. This first photo gives an idea how far off the famly was. The black blots in the foreground are the bears.

The grizzlies are practically polka dots in the vastness of the scenery
 Happily, Joann was on her toes! While I took shot, after shaky shot of blurred bears, she got her tripod out and got this beautiful Grizzly family portrait.

Once upon a time, in a beautiful sage filled meadow, there were 3 bears...
We have seen no less than five Grizzly bears over the past couple of days; the grazing wonder, the sow with her cubs, and another bear, a single bear, walking far out in the Hayden Valley. That is the most bears either Joann or I have ever seen on previous trips to Yellowstone. Oh, and bears weren't the only great furry beasts in the park. Well... these are really rather petite as Yellowstone wildlife goes, but we saw many small groups and herds of Roosevelt elk.

A group of 'ladies' passing through a meadow.
 Want burlier beasts? Sure! There are big ole buffalo strewn throught the Park.

Minor Skirmish between friends
Early today our first event was finding a small copse of trees by the road, in which a kinder-herd of bison were down for a morning nap. There were maybe a half dozen bison cows scattered in the little area, accompanied by their bright red calves.

The Cheyenne called these little fellows, Red Dogs.
Isn't this litte guy adorable -and drowsy.
The little families were kind enough to share their morning with us human kind.
In Yellowstone, the bison birthing season has produced loads of youngin's so we saw plenty of little red calves. Here are some more we spotted.
These cows were on the east side of the park along the Madison River.
Back off, I got dibs on nursing!
Keep those rowdy red brats away from us... we're digesting.
So, enough with the hairy beasts Claire, find any feathered folk? Well, it seems I did. Lots of birds around.
Osprey soaring over the Biscuit Basin
This pair of Mountain Canada Geese perched by the drive, over the Firehole River
Saw a couple of Bald Eagles, one on the ground in Hayden Valley, and another we spotted only because a guy with a HUMONGOUS spotting scope, and a lady with binoculars were on the side of the road. We stopped and I leapt out of the car, binoculars in hand.
"Hi!" I shouted, over-enthused as per usual. I walked up to the woman, by binoculars at the ready. She smiled at me in greeting, a look of trumph on her face. I rattled on.
"A Bald Eagle!"
The smile instantly vanished from the woman's face. "THAT, she growled at me, "is a Golden Eagle!"
Her tone left no lee way for disagreement.
Slowly I backed away from her, and back into the car, Joann threw the car into get-away mode and off we raced before the mean lady could attack. I suspect, someone was determined to add a Golden Eagle to her life list. Here is the beautiful juvenile Baldie in question, looking, gratifyingly, nothing like a Golden Eagle. Oh, unless of course you need one for your life list...

I spent some time one afternoon, watching birds near the Old Faithful Inn.

The Mountain Bluebirds were pretty lively.
I was thrilled to get this shot of a Cassin's Finch
These beautiful little Tree Swallows aren't a stranger to me on my home territory. However, I certainly haven't ever had them close enough, or along side such a colorful tree. I am so tickled with these photos.


Though the scenery and land features of Yellowstone are truly awe inspiring, the wildlife is my favorite thing about this unique park. Can't wait to see what we can find the rest of our time here.

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