Can You Ever Tire Of The Tetons?

One of the many reasons why we wanted to move out west, was to be closer to the wilderness areas of the west that we love so much.  After we got a bit “settled in” (which incidentally is still a work in progresss), we decided it was time to head out west and north a bit.  We made the 7 hr drive to Jackson … and Grand Teton National Park in WY.

Of course, the ride out when you’re traveling out somewhere is always part of the journey.  Since we had never driven from Fruita to Jackson, it was all fresh and new to us.  One of the most interesting and quite beautiful places that we traveled through was Flaming Gorge Reservoir and recreation areas.  It connects to the Flaming Gorge Dam and is the largest reservoir in Wyoming.  Even on this very overcast day in the early fall, it was spectacular.

_DSC2985-Edit_DSC2997-EditEn route to Pinedale, WY, which was our stopping point for the night, we encountered lots of wildlife nearby.  A herd of pronghorn antelope ladies were spotted just off in the distance … and as you can see they spotted us too.DSC_2732Of course, their male counterpart was nearby and overseeing his harem, which I’m sure he worked hard to gather.  To me, pronghorn are such interesting looking creatures, with their fancy horns and all … like crowns on their heads.  LOLDSC_2760Of course, deer were numerous and looking to establish harems of ladies of their own.DSC_2831To my surprise, we also encountered wild horses.  We only spotted two in the near vicinity, but they sure were majestic looking.  Is it just me, or is there something super special about them?DSC_2884The next morning we ventured into Grand Teton NP, met up my good friend Jen, and first made our way to the Jenny Lake area, including some of the outlying places as well.  It was such a fabulous, sunny day, and the perfect temperature as well._DSC9884About that time, we met up with some friends, Phil & Rodney, who were unexpectedly in Yellowstone NP and bummed that they didn’t get good views of the Tetons when they were there just a few days earlier.  Nothing that a quick phone call couldn’t fix … and soon we were meeting up with them at the iconic Oxbow Bend.  I mean, views like this were well worth the drive back, don’t you think?  _DSC0013-Edit-Edit_DSC0006-Edit-Edit-EditAfter spending some time there, drooling about the views, we all decided to go try to find  some bears.  After all, I had been in a bit of a “bear drought” lately and eager to find some.  We encountered a grizzly boar grazing in the brush and had him to ourselves for a few minutes before others spotted the action.  While it was exciting to find and photograph him … as it kept grazing with its head DOWN, not UP.  LOLDSC_3385Then it was time to find some other gems on this gorgeous autumn day.  Before long, the clouds started forming low and the results were amazing._DSC0042-EditThe next day, we came across lots of wildlife … including the distant but quite beautiful view of a bull elk walking away from us.  It was OK with me because, I mean, how beautiful was this view, with the fog and moody sky in the distance?  I was thrilled.DSC_5086-Edit-Edit-EditOf course, a highlight for us, was finding this feisty red fox … pretty much almost to ourselves!  This fox worked the sage brush so hard, digging away at it roots, as it hunted for little squirrels and such.  It never stopped even … like the Everyready Bunny it was.  So entertaining.  I did have one problem … too much lens!  Good problem, I know!DSC_3500-Edit-2Oh, they say the eyes have it and that was never so true as this guy (or gal).  They had me in a trance!  LOLDSC_3502-Edit-EditWell, whatever it found and munched just before this shot, must have been good, as it licked its chops.DSC_3574Bison are always a welcomed sighting when in the Tetons.  I think we caught this group during Siesta Time.  LOL_DSC3184-Edit At one point though, we found ourselves in our car quite close to a few that were quite ready to engage in some fighting.  I was amazed at how powerful they were and amused at how when two dominant bison were sparring, there was usually another (the “ref”?) nearby observing them._DSC3156Of course, no bison photo op is never complete without the shot of the tongue sticking out … whether up its nose or not.  DSC_3668Lots of pronghorn antelope were present and gathered up in harems, which the male protected at all costs.DSC_3706We watched as several times the male chased away other males trying to get a few recruits within his harem.  This guy would have none of that!DSC_3730The mule deer bucks were gathered up together in the wet field, as the weather changed quite a bit between day one and two.DSC_4712DSC_4050DSC_4415More bull elk were coming out, but it was weird because we heard very little bugling, which I was a bit disappointed about.  Still, to witness these big guys roaming in the wilderness was exciting.DSC_3456On the third day, it began to snow a little, then quite a lot … those big giant snowflakes … and it gave the area a whole new look.  Gorgeous!_DSC0143-EditWhile I was quite thrilled with the unexpected snowfall, I don’t think this belted kingfisher was as pleased.  Poor thing was spotted on a ramp to the water and looked quite cold.DSC_5296Snow falling adds so much to an image in the Tetons, I think.  We encountered several bull moose and a female with a juvenile with her, as they made some fast time crossing the landscape and off into the mass of autumn-kissed trees they went.DSC_5408-EditWell, until next time when we return in early spring, I’ll leave everyone with that last look that I got from the active red fox … so cute … I can never resist an image of an animal walking away.  DSC_3619Hope that you enjoyed sharing our autumn trip to the Tetons with us.  It should be noted that in 2017, the fall colors never really arrived, and most of it was unseasonably late.  You just never know.  🙂  Thanks so much to Jen, Phil, and Rodney for sharing our fun with us.  It’s always better with friends!

Next up:  The Colorado Verson of Autumn

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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Nothing Like Springtime In Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park, is mainly situated in Wyoming, but also extends minimally into Montana and Idaho.  While I’ve visited Yellowstone many times in the winter, summer, or fall … I had never been there during the spring season.  Earlier this year, with the company of our good friends Jen and Travis, we decided to do just that.  I have always said that I feel Yellowstone is one of the most diverse of the national parks of the US.  I’ve often referred to it as the “Disneyland” of parks … with lakes, canyons, thermal grounds, hot springs, geysers, valleys, and of course, many species of wildlife.

In the spring, there are less crowds, milder temperatures, emerging grasslands, and wildlife, including the US National Mammal … the American Bison._DSC9334-2

During my winter visit to Yellowstone, I had almost no chance of finding a bear, for they were hibernating in their dens at that time.  So, being the bear fanatic that I am, they were high on my list to find and photograph.  It wasn’t long before we found them too.  However, these were mostly black bears for us on this trip.  This big one seemed to be enjoying its lunch of greens.  🙂DSC_2556Whether black bears or brown bears, the sighting and photograph is always so much more special when eye contact is made.DSC_2534Visiting in the springtime does have its unique advantages including getting to see the spring babies.  Believe it or not, but this was the first time that I had photographed the young “red dogs”.  They were just too cute!DSC_2671They would take advantage every time that they could find their mama standing still to nurse on them, all the while keeping its eye on us.  Have you ever seen a baby bison nurse?  Well, it may look all peaceful in this image, but it’s quite an ordeal.  The newbie nursing peacefully for a short time, then rams its head into its moms underside in order for the milk to come out better.  Tom would give a few sympathy pain expressions for the mom every time that the young ones punched.  LOLDSC_2618-2They call them red dogs due to the coloration they possess when they’re newborn.  Clearly not the traditional bison color._DSC9510-2It was adorable how closely they stayed to moms side most of the time.  The protection of the herd is critical for their survival._DSC9532-2Once in a while they would meet up with another young one in the herd and appear to greet each other … often followed up with some running around together and a few head wrestling moments._DSC9570-2When there are bison around, there are almost always some birds hitchhiking a ride or using their backs as a landing strip.  LOL.  Never did it seem to even phase the bison._DSC9601-2Though bison are the most abundant large mammal in the park, there are also many more species, including the pronghorn antelope.DSC_2588-2I don’t think that I need to tell you how much we squealed with delight when we spotted our first baby pronghorn of the day, which coincidentally, was our first and only.  It was a bit too early for the babies and we were so ecstatic that this momma had hers a bit earlier.  It was by far just the cutest thing ever … such a sweet adorable face, wobbly legs, and it could race around impressingly fast.DSC_2714The bighorn sheep ewes were also spotted on our first day.  OK, so they weren’t the most photogenic subjects I’ve ever shot, with their scruffy spring coat, but hey, we found them grazing on the hillside and they were posing, so why not?  DSC_2695-2OK, so back to some more black bears … this momma sow was spotted near the base of a tree, not far from us.  We wondered what was going on because she seemed so alert to her surroundings.DSC_2794Then we spotted her cub … way up at the top of a very tall tree.  I wish I took an image to show just how high up it was.  To me, it looked like one of those “witches broom” deformities in the tree, but alas, it was this adorable cub.DSC_2910The story went that there was a boar (or two) cruising around the area where the sow and her cub were grazing, so she sent her cub up.  At one point, we could see the boar in two different places, but couldn’t be sure if it was the same one.  I couldn’t believe the patience of the sow and cub and how skilled it was to remain there safely.  That’s about when it climbed up to literally the tip top….DSC_2968We readied our gear, knowing that it went up of course to come down.  Nope, that cub curled itself over the point of the tree top and remained for quite some more time.  This was all during some rainfall and windy conditions.  I was nervous for the little one, yet couldn’t look away.  After mom gave it the “all’s clear” call, it began its descent.DSC_2995It skillfully hung on to the tree circumference as it went down … slow and steady.DSC_3065Along the way, it would savor some insects for some extra nourishment, maybe even lick a few raindrops perhaps.DSC_3071Every so often a break was taken on a convenient branch.  The sow below was getting quite impatient and as it got within her “standing on her hind legs” grapse, she tugged on it and made the arrival on the ground and by her side a quicker one.  Such an adorable experience to witness.  Those bears have amazing instincts for survival.  A boar in the area would most likely try to mate with her and kill the cub in the process.  They were both safe and it was a great morning for sure.DSC_3084When we were visiting Yellowstone earlier this winter, we had so many coyote sightings (including one with them mating).  I was quite surprised that we didn’t see as many on this spring visit.  We did however have one at a very close range that was rolling around … and around … and around paying absolutely no attention to us as we photographed.
_DSC9436-2As I said, this coyote knew that we were there, but was preoccupied in what it was doing.  When it left the area, we walked over to figure out what it was rolling in and saw nothing.  Must have been simply marking its territory.  Such a cool experience._DSC9403Remember, I’m no expert birder, so when I saw this guy, I took images and asked for identification later.  We knew that it was a woodpecker by its behavior of incessant pecking, but didn’t know the species.  It turned out to be, as many of you might already know, the American Three-Toed Woodpecker.  They lack the inner hind toe on each foot and breed further north than any other American woodpecker.  How fun to see._DSC9606-2While photographing the woodpecker who visited with us, we stumbled upon another visitor.  A gorgeous bull elk arrived and grazed on the hillside right next to us.  He already started growing its antlers, which were all covered in velvet.  He still was in the process of shedding his winter coat as well, so he looked a bit scruffy too._DSC9697-2_DSC9668-2Just before we exited the park on that day, we came across our first elk babies of the trip.  they were a bit higher than us on the hillside, so a great shot would have to wait for another day, but it was adorable to see them kiss nose to nose in a tender moment.  Got to love those spots too.  🙂DSC_3446

So our trip to Yellowstone NP in the spring was off to a great start.  Before I end this post, I wanted to share with everyone what I didn’t expect in May in Yellowstone … the weather that we were treated to.  We had weather that wasn’t that much different than our winter visit … rain, hail, sleet, clouds, and snow!  Hayden Valley couldn’t be accessed on several days because Dunraven Pass was closed due to snow and icy conditions.  (Note:  Please pardon these through the windshield images, but I wanted to share the wather shots)IMG_1085Of course, all we had to do was turn a corner and we had sunshine and blue skies as well.  Got to love the variety of weather conditions that we had.  🙂IMG_1086

Next up:  More from Yellowstone NP

© 2016  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com