Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Yellowstone is a very unique and diverse ecosystem … one where you never know what you’re going to be treated to … and the conditions and weather overall can change in a moments notice.  To me, that’s a large part of the beauty and mystique of Yellowstone NP.

On this particular morning, the fog was heavy and the clouds were low.  Though it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, often things present themselves in a fresh perspective.  This bull elk, already sporting some new antlers covered in soft velvet, was found out in the open grassland.   I couldn’t help but notice how wonderful it looked, with those thick clouds in the background.  I knew at that point that it would be an exciting day._DSC0255Yep, it would be a day of varied wildlife for sure.  It wasn’t long before we spotted this lone black wolf in the distance on the open plains … in stalking mode.  No reinforcement from the pack was seen nearby and a solo sandhill crane effectively alerted all potential prey of its presence.  Needless to say, it gave up for the moment and traveled along its way.  OK, so I have to share an amusing moment with everyone … when we were photographing the wolf, a car pulled up and asked us if we had spotted a … horse!  Not really sure how this looked like a horse … especially with the group of long lens photographers who were setting up … for a horse?!  LOL_DSC9812Yellowstone always has its fair share of bison which I’m always fascinated with.  Not sure if it’s their size, their manner as they move about, or the fact that maybe my mind goes back to the bison heads that used to hang on the walls of “Country Bear Jamboree” show at Disney when I was growing up.  🙂_DSC0110Of course, in the spring, there are always lots of “red dogs” nursing off their moms … just the cutest things to watch until they ram their heads into the moms bellies.  Ouch!_DSC0192Can anyone out there resist this one with its “Milk Mustache”?_DSC0218Pronghorn antelope were also quite prevalent during the spring.  This male was chasing around the female, who was pregnant, relentlessly._DSC7470Quite honestly, I thought it was going to drop that baby right then and there!_DSC7455Red fox are favorites of mine.  We caught this one waking up from napping in the shade.  DSC_3811Of course, deer also are fun to spot and photograph, especially when you’re treated to a “two-fer” … two for one, that is._DSC0146Springtime is confirmed with the presence of bluebirds darting about.  _DSC0158Though it was well into May and the official spring season according to the calendar, but in Yellowstone calendar dates aren’t necessarily what determines the season … and snowfall in spring or even summer can happen at any time.fullsizerender-1Just to add a bit of excitement to our day and drive throughout Yellowstone, as we were traveling this tight section, with dropoffs to the right, we heard a noise and watched as an icy boulder came down the mountainside right in front of our car.  Thankfully Tom was able to stop in time and we got out to investigate.fullsizerender-3At first, we thought that we would simply pick it up and off the road by hand.  No way that was going to work, as this frozen boulder was HEAVY!  So while Jen and I blocked any oncoming road traffic, the guys used Tom’s truck to drag it off the road and harm’s way with a couple of heavy tow straps.  Great job Travis and Tom!fullsizerender-2Good deeds are usually rewarded I believe.  Kind of like karma.  Not more than a mile or two down the road, we spotted a bighorn sheep ram … then realized it was an entire herd of boys._DSC7066At first, I wasn’t sure that they were feeling too comfortable with us being there, so we stayed way back, encouraging them to possibly come out for some shots._DSC7184They did just that … and eventually jumped over the rail, onto the road briefly, then proceeded up the mountainside.  I just love the way that they stare with those big eyes. _DSC7330At some point, we pulled over to find some Barrow’s Goldeneye swimming in the still icy water.  This couple was trying to have a few moments of “alone time”, but another male had other plans._DSC7417Over and over, it would be chased off, only to give it another chance.  LOL.  It would swim directly over to the lovebirds and a scuffle would ensue._DSC7410Defending it’s female mate, the male Barrow’s goldeneye would charge after the intruder.  You could hear the action … calling out, running on the surface of the water, water splashing everywhere … so funny to watch and quite interesting as well._DSC7386Every so often, after a successful defense, the paired male would sit up and perform a well executed flappy series for us.DSC_3954The ground squirrels, always on the menu for many wildlife species in the park, alert each other as to the goings on of prey._DSC7473In this case, it was the badger on the prowl.  I was so excited … after all, it was my first!DSC_3839DSC_3846I had been looking for these guys every time I visit Yellowstone.  Finally!  Thankfully (for us anyways), we never saw it catch anything.  I’ve heard stories of how relentless it can be for young wildlife.DSC_3843So this year, the trip was already known in my mind for the wide variety of wildlife that we saw.  Sure, we hadn’t seen a wolverine yet … but I really wasn’t expecting that.  Though I can dream, right?fullsizerender-4Even a yellow-bellied marmot came out to greet us, as it basked in the warmth of the sun.DSC_4910OK, one last glimpse of these young great horned owls before we retreat back to our B&B for the evening … ready to do it all again in the early morning.DSC_4915Can’t every get enough of Yellowstone NP, that’s for sure!_DSC0316Next Up:  What species of wildlife scares me most?  At least on this trip … :-O  Tune in to find out.

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

 

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Bighorn Ram Encounter @ Yellowstone NP

Seems like every year I get the urge … or should I say, feel the necessity … to travel out to Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP.  2015 was no different and so we planned a trip out there, which we coupled with some family time snowboarding/skiing in the nearby vicinity.  Being that it was still winter out there, or so we thought, I originally had plans to rent out a small snow coach for the day.  The very mild winter of 2014-2015 changed those plans as snow coach touring and snowmobiling season ended up closing very early.  Quick … we need to execute Plan B.  So we made reservations in Gardiner, just outside of the parks iconic entrance arch in Yellowstone NP.  That road stays open year-round, as residents use it for travel to and from Cooke City.  It wasn’t long before we spotted our first wildlife – a beautiful pronghorn antelope.

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We expected to see them, along with lots of bison, elk, and mule deer.  What we didn’t expect to see as readily was the bighorn sheep.  As a matter of fact, I had never (believe it or not) seen bighorn sheep within the park boundaries!  So I was a bit thrilled.  I usually associate these fabulous rams when I make my way into Rocky Mountain NP.

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It wasn’t just a fluke sighting either … we found a gathering of several dozen rams.

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Though not many tourists come to Yellowstone during the winter months, even a mild one, we still didn’t want to start a “ram jam”, so we parked down the road and hiked in to where they were … paying particular attention to not encroach on their territory or break any distance regulations.

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Everything was going great until that moment … when the “big guy” came around a corner unexpectantly.  I backed up a bit and turned to assess the situation … snow and ice covered landscape and a rocky ledge behind me.  I managed to back out and put distance back between us.

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While the other rams of various ages and hierarchy continued to feed, this guy almost seemed to serve as the sentinel … you know, the lookout for trouble in the area.

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As they grazed in the grasses, they would occasionally look up and give me that “Vogue” look.  🙂

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I was impressed with their majestic look as they stood proudly, making their way within the group.  It was amazing to see the differences in their horns … or their curls.  You can see the signs of wear & tear on the senior guys and I couldn’t help but wonder about their story … what events they had been through for those “scars”.

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Being that it was late winter, they still had such nice coats and they were quite amicable with each other.  That will change as the year progresses towards the eventual rut season, when they will fight for hierarchy and that important status within the harem of females.

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It was so beautiful as they laid down on the landscape and stared off into the distance … with the bushes near then and trees, mountains, and snow off in the distance.

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Yes, it was fascinating to watch and yes, I felt truly honored to be in their presence and thrilled with the naturalness in their behavior as I clicked away.  🙂

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Wish I could click my heels and be back there right now.  Rest assured though, we’ll be back and ready for more.

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Of course, there’s more to Yellowstone NP that the pronghorn and bighorn sheep, so stay tuned for the next post with more wildlife, sights, and stories.

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography