Teton Birds In Winter

Grand Teton National Park … one of the many fabulous U.S. parks set aside for the public to enjoy … and that we did.  It was towards the end of winter and it had snowed heavily the week before we got there, so it was gorgeous to say the least.

_DSC4860The last blog post featured many of the animals that call the Tetons home.  This blog will now focus on the birds that reside here through the winter season … starting out with a beautiful juvenile bald eagle.500_4492Having moved out west, I’ve been much more exposed to a variety of raptors.  One of my favorites is the rough-legged hawk.  There’s something so beautiful about their markings within their feather pattern.500_2841Of course, their grace and agility in flight are worth noting as well.500_2840Rough-legged hawks are one of the only hawks (the ferruginous hawk and the golden eagle being the others) that have feathered legs down to the toes … making their identification easier.  I just love they way that they appear in flight.500_2885-EditOn the ground, we often see bald eagles are they feed on carrion.  This mature bald eagle worked hard on this carcass in the brush.500_3011500_3162-EditAt one point, we came across another mature bald eagle, sitting so still on a post that I was pretty sure it was a fake sighting … for I’ve been fooled by those before (though usually by owl ones – LOL).  It’s feet were full of what appeared to be nesting material.  The sighting was so perfect that even though I saw it blink, I still questioned my eyesight.500_3460-Edit-EditAs we approached closer, it barely even made any signs of flight or concern.  It was breathtaking!500_3647-Edit-Edit500_3625When it finally looked like it was going to fly away, it did its “business”, re-positioned, and after quite some time, finally flew off.500_3904Of course, it wasn’t all raptor sightings … in fact we saw many water birds, such as the ring-necked duck.  It was so beautiful as it swam around in the water and the sunlight showed off its colors.500_4247We also saw many Barrow’s goldeneye, like this male, but also had female sightings as well.500_4230We found swans in numbers as well.500_4255Then we kept running into the rough-legged hawks again, which I was thrilled with,  Not sure that everyone in the car shared my enthusiasm … but hey, at least it wasn’t another male northern harrier (a definite favorite of mine).  LOL500_4326500_4340The bald eagle sightings were numerous though … sometimes multiples in a given tree.  This one looks like it might have found itself perhaps a muskrat to dine on. 500_4073-EditIt’s so fascinating to observe them as they tear it up in the process of devouring it.500_4086-EditYes, the Tetons are beautiful in any season, but there’s something about the “silence” that the winter season allows that makes it one of my favorites.  🙂_DSC4660-Edit-EditThanks Jen for taking this image of Tom and I enjoying the moment during this fabulous trip to the Tetons!IMG_6673Next Up:  More burrowing owls from 2017 … believe it or not.  Can’t get enough of those special friends of mine.  🙂

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                  www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

Always Expect the Unexpected

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.IMG_0571 2As 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.IMG_0572 2This 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.IMG_0604 2Though Yellowstone, for me, is primarily about the wildlife … it also has some gorgeous landscape views._DSC4063_DSC4055Before 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._DSC6287At 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._DSC6382On 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.  🙂_DSC6170As were the falls, with the crashing of the waters as it made its way along._DSC4086We 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._DSC6397Suddenly 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!_DSC6405It 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?_DSC6434Well, 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._DSC6495After 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!_DSC6526Being 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.IMG_0606 2When 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)._DSC6486No matter how many of these guys we come across, I can’t help but stop for more images._DSC6490Finally we had a group of trumpeter swans bid us adieu as we made our way into Idaho._DSC6761So 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

http://www.tnwaphotography.com