Yellowstone NP in the winter is a fabulous place … so vast, so snowy, so quiet. The freshly fallen snow makes wildlife spotting easier and tracks in the snow provides clues as to what might be where. Bring in the sun, patchy white clouds, and blue sky, and it all seems so perfect.As we leave the wintery roads of Lamar Valley, the scenery beckons me and makes it hard to drive away. We are off to the West Yellowstone entrance of Yellowstone NP, which is closed to most traffic during the winter, except for the organized snowmobile and snow coach tours. Numerous years ago, Tom & I engaged in one of the snowmobile tours, but quickly realized that they are not the preferred route for photographers. Two years ago, I experienced a Yellowstone in Winter photography tour, with Daniel Cox of Natural Exposures. It was amazing and I highly recommend it for anyone that might be interested.This year however, I had arranged a small snow coach to take Tom and I, as well as some friends into the park … in search of the notorious bobcat(s) that had been spotted regularly for about a month, but not for the last week or two before we got there.Though Yellowstone, for me, is primarily about the wildlife … it also has some gorgeous landscape views.Before long, a lone coyote was spotted along one of the rivers. We jumped out and began to photograph it as it made its way quickly, stopping to check us out along the way.At one point it stopped at something that was somewhat buried in the snow. After closer observation, we noticed that it was an elk carcass, specifically the head and antlers. It was a very strange sighting, especially with what appeared to be wires wrapped in its tines. To this day I wonder what the story was behind that sighting, though it did seem a bit eerie.On the lighter side of our sightings, the trumpeter swans were out in force … some in mated pairs, some with juveniles still with them, and some were solo. All were beautiful. :-)As were the falls, with the crashing of the waters as it made its way along.We had some bald eagle sightings as well, including this one towards the end of our day. It was finishing off a meal of fresh fish as we caught up with it. We watched patiently as it devoured it … one piece at a time.Suddenly it lifted up and flew off, but not too far. It was then that I noticed that this bald eagle had been banded. I researched the internet and found that many years ago, researchers had banded bald eagles in that area, and perhaps this was one of them. If anyone out there knows more on this, please reach out and/or comment, so that I can learn more. Thanks!It finally landed in the river, but in a location which was even better for us to photograph it. I thought that was pretty nice of it to do that for us, don’t you?Well, in case you’re wondering, we never did find that bobcat, though there was reportedly a possible sighting that day. Of course when we heard the call, off we went to the exact location where it was spotted. Nada! Perhaps it was an erroneous report … or it wandered off. Dang!
What we encountered though was quite remarkable and could never have been expected … never have I seen this before. We came across an area where we had earlier seen a coyote (one of many sightings that day). So we slowed down just a bit to check out if we could find it again.
Well, all of a sudden we see not one, but two coyotes together … and close. It was odd in that they just stood there and didn’t try to run. That’s when Jen realized and called out “they’re mating … they’re tied”. Of course, now it made sense … they couldn’t run. Poor things just stood there, taking turns on who was going to have to look our way. Once and awhile, they both looked our way. Such indignant looks too. LOL. I know that it doesn’t look like anything, but these two lovebirds were in fact … tied.After several minutes and hundreds of collective clicks of the camera later, they “untied” and parted. The female walked away, followed by the male who sniffed her for a bit, then they had an affectionate moment of nose to nose action and a bit of rubbing. It was after all, Valentine’s Day. No joke!Being that we didn’t have any moose sightings, I had to find one on my own. OK, maybe this was just a moose carving in town.When we left West Yellowstone … on our way towards Grand Teton NP … we came across more bighorn sheep rams. Not before we got our AWD car stuck in an unplowed pull-off (yes, I just had to have that landscape shot … which ironically I never got since we were stuck and all).No matter how many of these guys we come across, I can’t help but stop for more images.Finally we had a group of trumpeter swans bid us adieu as we made our way into Idaho.So all in all, I learned that when in Yellowstone during the winter … Always EXPECT the UNEXPECTED!
Thanks Jen, Travis, Debby, and Jessica for sharing in our snow coach day in Yellowstone. We had a blast and were quite entertained. ;-) Good times.
Next Up: Back to some springtime action in Florida … Sandhill crane-style.
© 2016 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography