A Day That I Will Never Forget

OK, a few posts ago, I shared with you some images and stories about the wildlife opportunities that we encountered this winter in the Tetons.  I now want to re-visit those memories and add one more MAJOR chapter to that book.

_DSC4866-EditSo as many times as I’ve visited the Tetons, or other similar wilderness places for that matter, there’s always been a few things that I had never had the opportunity to photograph.  No, I’m not talking about the bears (which I obviously wouldn’t easily find in the midst of winter) … or even the wolves (which I have seen from afar, but I’ve photographed other places) … or even a bobcat/lynx (which I’ve also photographed in other fabulous parks).  What would be considered to be the “holy grail” to a wildlife photographer?  OK, perhaps the wolverine … but I didn’t see that!  Next to that, I’ve always wanted to see a mountain lion, right?

Well, on this trip, my dream came true … for we witnessed a MOUNTAIN LION sighting!  It was not a close one, by any stretch, but it was nonetheless a sighting!  Though it was about 600 yards away, we could actually see it through the 500mm lens + cropped sensor + major cropping on the image.  This huge male had been sighted on an elk kill and had seemingly taken up residence under the tree where it was cached.

500_6023-EditWe planted ourselves in a position to be able to observe the cat as it maneuvered itself in different locations, but never far from the guarded carcass.  It was definitely one of the coolest things that I had ever witnessed in nature.  To think that this sighting was so far away and yet so viewable blew my mind!  It was not known whether the lion had actually taken down the elk or simply stumbled across it, but this was so incredible that to me, it didn’t even matter.  I really didn’t even think that it could get any better than this, right?  I mean, the onlookers included wildlife biologists that were clearly moved by what they were even witnessing.500_5778-EditOn our second day of observing the cat, we noticed that it appeared to be walking away from the kill.  We all thought that perhaps the “fun” was over … at least for a bit.  As it was retreating into the landscape, Tom noticed that it was back on the kill.  What?  How could that be?500_6091-EditThe cat appeared to be aggressively tearing apart the carcass as if it hadn’t been exposed to it previously.  That’s when onlookers started putting the pieces of the puzzle together.  It was actually a 2nd MOUNTAIN LION … a female this time.500_6067-EditIt wasn’t until I got home and reviewed my TONS of images (no joke … but who could blame me?) that I found a series of frames showing the female arriving to the scene and the male relinquishing the kill to her!500_6054She was quite beautiful too and she would pause momentarily during consuming the carcass and would look around her.  By now, I was pinching myself to be sure that this was really happening and that I wasn’t just having a fantastic dream.  It hurt, so I wasn’t dreaming and I was thrilled beyond belief.  By now, I might add, almost everyone in attendance was either crying (inside or out) or on the verge of crying … it was just way too special.  In the words of some of the biologists on hand, it was something that they had only read about or seen on film … never witnessed firsthand.500_6153-EditIn careful observation, through going frame by frame through my images, I noticed also the precise moment that the male actually returned to the scene.  It was apparent that the lioness had noticed him as well.  If you’re having a hard time seeing them in the image … let me help.  She’s actually under the tree at the carcass and he placed himself in the trees in the upper right hand corner.  Hope that helps.500_6351-EditOne last fine tooth comb look through the frames and I spotted this … both of them retreating into the wilderness separately, yet obviously together.  Again, look towards the bottom third of the frame … her about 1/3 from the left side (harder to see) and him towards the right of the frame.  Do you see it?500_6383-EditYes, it was an UNREAL day for this wildlife photographer!  A once in a million (or even more) opportunity.  Though I’m quite aware that these images are far from “wall hangers”, they hold the most prominent space in my heart and in my mind.  Sometimes, it’s not just about the image gained on paper … but rather the one etched in your soul.  Remember:  It’s a journey in the experience … not just a one-time image.  Yep, it was one of those experiences that no one can take away.  Not just seeing a mountain lion, but 2 … not just seeing it walk about, but witnessing it on a kill, sharing the kill with a female … and then leaving the scene together.  I do believe that we were witnessing some MOUNTAIN LION romance as well.  I truly do.  I went home feeling so unbelievably blessed to have been so fortunate.  ❤

Thanks so much to Tom, and our good friends Jen and Travis, for sharing this encounter with us … and of course to all of the others who were present as well and shared your scopes and behavioral knowledge with us.  We are truly bonded forever by this mind-blowing experience.  🙂IMG_6676

Before I forget, I wanted to share one lesson that I learned by this encounter … ALWAYS keep shooting … for I would have missed so much of the sequence of events, which aided in telling the story … or at least confirming it.  🙂

Next Up:  Can you say “Baaa”?

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

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

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Winter Wildlife In The Tetons

A favorite location to visit in the winter, spring, and autumn is Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  Late this winter, we did just that … made the now 7 hr drive into Jackson, WY, which is one of the gateways into the park.  The week before it received several feet of snowfall, so we knew that we would be treated to perfect winter landscapes.  🙂IMG_6598We spent a total of 4 days there and were treated to an incredible sampling of wildlife (including birds) sightings and photo opportunities, as well as amazing sunny skies for landscapes.

On this trip, we met up with our good friends, Jen & Travis, and it wasn’t long before the first wildlife was spotted … a “winterized” lone coyote.  By “winterized” I mean that it possessed very thick fur and it was quite healthy looking as well.  As the coyote tried to make his way through the deep snow, a raven came along to harass it a bit.500_2797The bighorn sheep were seemingly everywhere along the cliffs and mountainside.  As per usual, the rams seemed to be grouped together and relaxing in the sun.500_4165-Edit-EditThe ewes were more active … in full swing of grazing … and made great portrait images a pleasure as they paused every now and then.850_0736In addition to the usual mule deer, we were also treated to some of the white-tailed deer as well.  Sporting much smaller ears and white under their tails, they possessed such sweet faces and expressions.500_4281Moose were plentiful as well.  Seemed like all of the wildlife was quite happy with the sunshine … especially after the winter storm from the week earlier.  500_4370A moose cow and its calf made their way across the road and into the wilderness right in front of us.500_3341-EditA photographer’s dream happened when we spotted a gathering of moose near the Teton Range landscape.  As we waited it out, they eventually positioned themselves perfectly in the foreground and away we snapped images.  We were thrilled!_DSC4788-Edit-Edit-EditWhile Jen and I got images similar to those above, Tom & Travis waited patiently in the vehicle.  This bull, sporting simply winter nubs, decided to approach the truck and pay them a visit.  They took this image from inside looking out with their cell phone.IMG_1832Ever have a mid-day moment when the action begins to slow down?  Well we did, so we decided to grab a quite bite.  As we prepared our sandwiches we wished for something cool to come along.  As I brought my sandwich to my mouth, I see this handsome ram making its way towards us through the deep snow.500_4722Sandwiches down, we grabbed our gear and took images as he politely obliged us by giving us some pauses and poses.  What a thrill for us, as he never altered his path much and gave us some close views.  🙂500_4770Later we ventured outside of the Tetons and went to search for mountain goats nearby.  Of course, one must stop for scenery captures along the way.  It was such a picture perfect day!_DSC4742-Edit-EditYep, there they were … though being in the sun for the better part of the day, the snow had melted off, making the scene a bit less than ideal.  Such gorgeous thick creamy white coats they possessed.500_6886As they skillfully navigated the boulders and cliffs, this one took the time to take care of an itch that was clearly getting to it.  LOL500_5159Of course my favorite images are when they reach an outcropping when they have little else to do but pose for the lens.  500_5065-EditOne day we found the moose down by the water which always makes for fun shots.500_6684500_6698.jpgSo it was quite the successful trip of wildlife viewing … moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, elk, white-tailed and mule deer, coyote … to name a few (quite sure that I’m missing something).  However, nothing could have prepared us for what we witnessed on our 2nd and 3rd day.  Stay tuned …. and check back in a a few blog posts.  Trust me, it’s worth it.  :-O  Until then, I’ll leave you with another landscape from the picturesque Tetons!_DSC4864

Next Up:  The birds of the Tetons

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

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

 

Living Free

Towards the end of winter, we decided to take a mini-vacation and drive over to Jackson, WY and Grand Teton National Park.  It’s a trip that we do generally a few times a year, but each year is so very different and 2018’s winter trip was mind-blowing.  The next few blogs will share some of the images and stories from that trip.

But first … on our way into Jackson, WY, we made a stop to see the wild horses outside of Rock Springs, WY.  The fabulous 24-mile adventure into the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop trail, on BLM land in WY to be precise.  It can be accessed there or in Green River, WY.

500_2136Approximately 1500 head of wild horses call that property home.  They are truly wild … untamed.  Many are descendants from those that lived there on cattle ranches during the 1800’s.500_2224When we first drove in, which was in the later afternoon, we were worried that we might not find any of the horses, but we quickly realized that would not be the case.  500_2289-EditFirst we found a solo horse or two … not really sure why they weren’t part of any particular band.  They were all so beautiful and free.  That concept appealed to me and I found their presence exhillerating.500_2231-Edit500_2298-Edit-EditThere were mares, stallions, and some young ones as well.500_2336I wanted to add that here, though we didn’t see any, there are also other wildlife spotted such as deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, rabbits, coyote … and an assortment of hawks, eagles, and sage grouse.  We did see a male northern harrier that fly next to our truck for quite some time … guess he knew that I couldn’t capture an image in the low light.  Such pesky buggers otherwise.  LOL500_2288On this particular day, it was quite windy and that wind was blowing through their manes and the sage brush as well, as well as called out in the air, and it heightened our experience.500_2475-EditMost endearing to me were the mare and colt encounters.  So beautiful, nurturing, and loving … yet so free to be.  🙂500_2718I took many of images, but chose just to share a sampling.  Before long, the sun began to quickly descend into the early night.  The temperatures also began to drop … remember despite the lack of deep snowfall, it was still winter.

One of my favorite shots, and one to bid adieu with, was this horse, which with another were getting quite frisky and began to jump around as it trotting off into the distance.  Nothing like kicking up your heels in joy!  Why not, we should all live so freely.  🙂500_2625Next up:  Birds of the Tetons

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

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

It’s Just A Little Grouse … Or Is It?

Yellowstone National Park is known probably most for its wildlife … bear, elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, coyote, wolf, fox, deer to just name a few.  It’s also home to some fabulous birds, such as bald and golden eagles, falcons, a variety of hawks, owls, and many species of ducks and other water birds.  Then there’s the grouse.
_DSC0032Such a sweet bird … resembling that of a chicken.  I remember one winter having such a great time photographing a grouse, though now that I think about it, while photographing it that grouse flew down from the roof of the outhouse … almost into my lap!  I was amused that year.  Little did I know that I was about to have another grouse encounter._DSC0024See, this beautiful dusky grouse was located by coincidence as we stopped to photograph something totally unrelated in the far distance.  The grouse was walking around on the grassy landscape and started making its way towards us.  As usual, I started talking softly to it as I happily snapped off some shots of it.  As it neared, it walked over to some flowers in the grass, picked them off, and proceeded to eat it.  The flowers complimented its bright yellow eyebrows.  So pretty.  Such a wonderful photo op, I thought._DSC9936I distinctly remember telling it how adorable it was and how I loved what it was doing.  I was in a squatted position and it began to come near me.  That’s when I noticed that its eyebrows were changing colors and I got caught up in the moment of wondering why.  I remember another photographer also nearby taking shots … but they were much more selective.  _DSC9957Then all of a sudden gave a call out … then rushed me … and OK, don’t think I’m crazy, but it jumped at me … making contact with my shin.  I was totally startled, jumped up, and that’s when I heard the clicking of another camera.  I noticed it was the other photographer nearby and then saw that he was laughing.  I asked if he had seen it and he responded that he did.  I then asked if he had gotten a shot of the “assault” and again he said he did.  He then told me that I wasn’t the first that it had attacked.  LOL_DSC9974This grouse then would give a shrilled call out, that I can only compare to the call that the velociraptor does in Jurrasic Park movies.  OK,  by now I’m trying desperately to vacate the area, but of course, this guy kept following after me._DSC9983All the while, its eyebrows continued to grow a deeper shade of orange …_DSC9981… to an eventual reddish color.  He would act as though he lost interest in me, then would eye me from a side glance, and rush me again!  I wasn’t alone either, as he seemed to prefer women.  He never really went after Tom or the male photographer having fun at others expense.  LOL_DSC9926_DSC9997At some point, he began to flare up his feathers and go into courtship mode.  See, they have a patch of violet-red skin on their neck surrounded by white feathers.  I wished he had turned just a bit more to show it off better, but I clearly didn’t want to hang around any longer._DSC0005I’m not sure if it has a nest nearby or if it was simply protecting its territory.  Either way, I got the message quite clearly.  As I turned to leave the area, it gave me a final glance.  It truly was a fascinating, though I must admit, a bit frightening of an experience.  Tom of course didn’t believe that it made contact with me, but Jen saw it for herself.  We laughed the rest of the day and many times since over this encounter.  I think that it goes without mention that these images are all cropped for detail.  Just making sure that’s clear.  🙂  _DSC9996

Next Up:  Lunch with a golden eagle and more from Yellowstone NP

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

The Glorious Tetons

Except for our very first afternoon in the Tetons, our winter visit to Grand Teton National Park had remarkable weather.  Actually, truth be told, I would have preferred a bit more clouds for the landscape images, but hey, I certainly wasn’t complaining.  To me, there’s nothing like the sight of the almighty Tetons … so rugged and iconic, easily recognized and distinguished from other mountain ranges._DSC4753We visited a favorite sunrise location, but we were several hours too late.  Still, the beauty of the snow, river, trees, mountains, and bluebird sky, along with the fresh cold air, made my heart go pitter-patter._DSC4785Speaking of my heart going pitter-patter, so it did also when we first sighted our friend, the red fox, as it sat down nicely right next to our vehicle and did its best to mesmerize us with its stare.  There’s something so very cool about fox … their stare, their expression, their movement on the landscape._DSC7240I guess all of its staring and our clicking away was boring him, as before long it gave a big yawn, showing off its pearly whites._DSC7295After taking a break next to us for some time, it decided to venture off.  We silently begged it to stay for its “unofficial photo shoot”, but it had places to go and things to see/do.  _DSC7670Or so we thought….

As I was trying to find out where the fox ventured, to my surprise, I caught a glimpse… right in my side mirror.  Sitting right behind us on the snowplowed road, it sat motionless, probably surveying its surroundings for someone else to grace with its presence.

Caution:  Objects in the mirror might be closer than they appear.  🙂_DSC4795Sure enough, up the snow bank it jumped, back to where we found it._DSC7993Gosh, I sure love them.  They seem to personify the sly, intelligent nature that they have been known for.  Seems like they’re always calculating its next move as well as moves by others (wildlife or humans) around it._DSC7308Yes, it lives in a place where I can only dream of living.  This winter playground for outdoor play and adventure, as well as being the home of so much beauty and wildlife, I don’t think that anyone could miss living in its grandeur._DSC4825As if this beautiful location wasn’t enough, it was even better to have met up with such good friends as well to enjoy it with.  Thanks to Jen, Amy, and Scott for sharing the magical Tetons with us.  Needless to say, the day was filled with lots of laughs.  🙂IMG_0621Of course, the nighttime dining in the nearby town of Jackson is always much anticipated for Tom and I.  I always take images for some strange reason of my food when I travel and this appetizer was a highlight … for those of you who LOVE brussel sprouts, these were AMAZING!!!  The same could be said for the wine and local craft beer.IMG_0596Though we love to photograph the larger wildlife, that doesn’t mean that I would pass up on some of the birds.  We came across some gorgeous mallards which were feeding on the aquatic vegetation nearby._DSC7816Every so often, one would take off and of course, I had to take a chance at capturing the action.  On this trip, I left my trusty Nikkon 300mm f/2.8 lens at home.  In its place, I had just acquired the new Nikon 200-500mm lens, so I put it to the test._DSC7834Though it focused in on the flying mallard much slower than my prime lens, I was quite pleased with its sharpness once it locked in.  How incredibly beautiful the colors of the adult male mallard was._DSC7837_DSC7841I loved how it flew low to the snowy landscape and I was able to capture its shadow as well._DSC7848The trumpeter swans made an appearance as well.  Love it when a duet passed nearby to where I was shooting from.  You have to appreciate their beauty and grace._DSC7870So we took one last drive by and glance at the iconic Oxbow Bend, as seen in the winter, before we ventured on our exit from the park.  Took a few moments to absorb it all again.  It will have to last me for several months … probably until the fall explosion of color._DSC4793As we drove on our way back to Salt Lake City for our departure back to south Florida, I couldn’t help but see this amazing sunset image in the distance.  Though I know that there are a few power lines present, and some would find that the wind-powered generators are ugly (though I personally do not), I still was taken by the beauty of the colors and clouds.  It was a fitting sight and image for the finale of our amazing winter trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons.  Can’t wait to get back out there in the spring.  🙂_DSC7893Hope that everyone enjoyed a recount of our memories.

Up next:  More sandhill cranes … parents and colts … so cute!

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

The Silence & Beauty of A Yellowstone Winter

As I mentioned in the last blog post, sometimes the heat comes early to south Florida, and I have to get away to cool down.  Tom always goes out west with his buddies on an annual snowboard trip in January, so what better time to meet up with him on a side trip to Yellowstone NP.

From the first time, 2 years ago, when I visited Yellowstone NP in the dead of winter, I knew how incredibly special it was … the silence, the cold, the lack of visitors, the winter wildlife … all make for an experience that you won’t soon forget.  There’s something so beautiful about encountering the wildlife in the snow, such as this healthy coyote, with its thick winter coat._DSC6085Some areas of the park in early February were already starting to have sporadic snow cover, which allowed the bighorn sheep to be able to dig in the sparse snow cover and find lichens and new shoots of grasses to feed upon._DSC5227_DSC5304The rams seemed to be out in force too this year._DSC5719I’ve always been fascinated by bighorn sheep, especially their eyes, which are so hypnotic to me.  They are often locked on us, while they graze or simply chew on the hillside._DSC5324When photographing wildlife out in the wilderness, sometimes patience is required.  For this particular image, I remained in place and tried to stay calm and relaxed, hoping for him to climb higher to the crest of the hill, so that I could get that amazing blue sky as the backdrop to show him off.  Yes, patience can sometimes be rewarded.  🙂_DSC5154Bighorn sheep have horns, which I like to refer to as curls, which they keep lifelong.  Consequently, those horns carry the story of the life that the sheep has lived, including all of its battles.  I often stare at them and wish that I could be privy to the animals life history._DSC5344This year, we found a lot of fox roaming around.  Most were hunting near the roads or off on the trails, mousing in the deep snow, or resting along a log.  However, this red fox was spotted in the crack of high rocky landscape … an unusual sighting for us for sure.  _DSC5454Reportedly it was hanging out in the area for a bit, then disappeared for a few days after a coyote was found hunting nearby.  We were sure happy to see that it returned just in time for us to observe and photograph it._DSC5473It would give us so many expressions and poses, but one thing is for sure … it sure was quite comfy way up there._DSC5495The eyes of the red fox are also quite beautiful and I get so excited when our eyes meet as they travel past us.    _DSC5569On one of our days, we were having a wonderful sunny early morning … until it turned cloudy, windy, and cold … until it turned into blizzard-like conditions.  It was like someone would open and close the “wind tunnel door”.  It made me appreciate what these animals have to endure during the winter months and how difficult their survival was._DSC5721Massive in size, but slow in movement (unless perturbed) is the bison.  They were seemingly everywhere along the valley road and would often be spotted walking the road … otherwise known as the “path of least resistance”.  Otherwise, they could be spotted off in the distance in search of food and running water._DSC6152An image that I really wanted to capture this winter was that of the bison, with its face covered in the snow, so incredibly iconic of Yellowstone in the midst of winter.  I was amazed at how the snow would cake up on their fur … though it was caked up on the photographers who were braving the snow and blowing wind as well._DSC6188Bison are actually quite smart in that in their search for food, they swing their heads from side to side as they made their way through the snow, making a clearing for them to try to find some food to eat._DSC6208When they would lift their heads, that iced-over face image is the result.  I think that I accomplished my goal of the snowy faced bison.  🙂_DSC6231-2As we were leaving, a coyote appeared and seemed to be inquisitive as to why we were leaving so soon.  Don’t worry there Mr. Coyote … we’ll be back for several more days._DSC5391In the winter, the sunset comes early … and spectacularly.  The perfect ending to a perfect few days so far in the north end of Yellowstone NP in the winter … I think my favorite season.  With all of the “eye candy” I saw today, I know that I’ll have sweet dreams tonight._DSC4030Next Up:  More images and stories from Yellowstone NP … but from the West Yellowstone entrance.

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Our Last Teton Hurrah!

We stayed 3 days in Grand Teton NP, but of course, each day is substantially different that the one before … or the next for that matter.  Coming in from Jackson Hole, we immediately pass by the Elk Refuge, which was no longer covered in snow and the elk were largely leaving already.  However, there was a juvenile bald eagle hanging out in the area.

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We observed him for quite some time.  The light was far from optimal for capturing its beauty, but we sure got some fun poses and behaviors from it.  How fascinating those talons are!

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When we first arrived to GTNP, the Antelope Flats was fully closed, but by day 3, it was partially open.  I wanted to photograph the famous Moulton Barn in the snow cover, so we went as far as we could on the road, then hiked in the rest of the way.  I was a bit surprised to see the the snow cover was missing in some areas … still it was so beautiful and particularly fun, especially since you could “hear” the silence … yes, we had it to ourselves.

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Along the way, we came across numerous ice patches in the gravel road.  I was fascinated by their beauty.

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Their geometric shapes were so interesting and each one was unique.

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Some of the frozen ice patches were frosted and opaque, while others were clear and full of bubbles.

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At one point, I noticed something fly by … it was quite beautiful … and to my shock, it was a mountain bluebird … already in mid-March!  Yes, it had been a mild winter and we later learned that this was the beginning of their sightings.  I felt so privileged to be able to partake in their beauty.

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Of course, that wasn’t the only bird that we sighted, as many species of duck and other water birds were present as well.

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This Canadian Goose had its own version of ice fishing … which we found quite entertaining and quite comical.  🙂

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We made a special trip to see the bighorn sheep again.  This time it was the ewes and the lambs and juveniles that we encountered first.  The herds were already up on the mountainside.

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Mama was teaching the young ones an important lesson in their survival skills … how to navigate those rocky cliffs and ledges … to evade their predators.

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I was thrilled to be able to witness them as they tested their skill, though I have to admit, I was probably more nervous than both of them put together!

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Stunned … that’s how I felt as they descended in almost a complete vertical fashion, down  the ledges and rocky landscape.  I know that they’re hooves are specifically equipped for such travel, but it’s still heart-stopping to observe.

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When they decide to “haul butt” too, they can sure get up and go!

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I know that I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again … nature is so amazing!

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Of course, there’s so much more beauty in the landscape of the Tetons to explore as well.

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I didn’t want to leave, but we had to get back to Bozeman for an early morning flight the next day.  I noticed that a storm seemed to be coming, as the mountain range soon became shrouded by the clouds.  As we left the park and Jackson Hole, we started out towards the Teton Pass.  Wouldn’t you know it … it began to snow … a fairly heavy snowfall too.  I call it “divine intervention” … you know, making it OK to leave, for photography would become difficult for a bit.  Except for, that amazing beauty of the area in mid-snowfall … yes, that’s its own beauty.

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Until next year, when we will most surely return, goodbye Tetons!

Next up:  More birding in Florida

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

The Sights & Sounds of Yellowstone NP

One can’t visit Yellowstone NP and get an appreciation of what it has to offer in just one day … not even in the winter when most of the roads are inaccessible.  Even though we were a bit short on time, we spent 3 full days there.

Now wildlife abounds in Yellowstone and one of the more famous resident species is the elk.  Many sightings of elk were encountered, both the females and the males.  Of course, at this point, they had all dropped their antlers, but still had most of their nice winter coats.

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You had to be careful of them too, as they sometimes crossed the roads with very little warning.  Of course, when there’s one, there’s usually more, so the key is to proceed with caution.

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Entering the park via the Gardiner entrance, the first area of Yellowstone that you come across is the fascinating Mammoth Hot Springs area – the first of many thermal grounds within Yellowstone.

20150312-DSC_6091Viewing the thermal features of the park, it’s easy to forget it’s not all hot springs and geysers and that this was still winter.  Icicle formations hanging over the rivers were equally impressive this time of year.  Snap back into reality.

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Proving that yesterday’s bighorn sheep encounter wasn’t just a fluke, we ran into them again… over and over.  🙂

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I’m always fascinated with wildlife when I get to photograph them from their viewpoint, like in this image below.  What an amazing place that they currently call their home.  I couldn’t help but wonder what this big guy was thinking too.

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OK, you know how your pets love to bask in the sunshine?  Well, these sheep are obviously no different.  LOL

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Another first for us, though admittedly not an great shot, was not just one, but two juvenile moose – hanging out together in the vast expanse of Lamar Valley.

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One of the most difficult wildlife encounters I’ve ever dealt with was the story of a bison who had unfortunately fallen through the ice into a pond not far from the road.  We watched it struggling in a life or death fashion to try to free itself by climbing out of the partially frozen pond.  We could hear it gasping for breathe with each attempt … so did the predators out there as well.

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This curious coyote arrived on scene to check it out.  At one point it sat down, waiting for an easy meal, but soon must have sensed the time wasn’t right yet and retreated.

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I photographed that poor bison for hours, praying beyond hope that it would emerge victorious.  Tom sensed my sadness and though he was stronger, I’m sure he felt sad as well.  He didn’t want to go back the next morning (poor guy didn’t want to deal with me upset yet another day), but I had to have closure.  Again I prayed that it would be successfully freed.  Worst yet, I feared that it might be still struggling.  Sadly, it had perished during the night and a coyote was doing its best to begin to feast upon it.  Such is nature’s way and the circle of life.  It’s a tough life out there for wildlife … for that matter for all of us.  It was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever witnessed and it still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it.

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After that, I look at the bison differently … I know that sounds weird, but I do.

We encountered some younger bison learning how to jostle each other.  It’s all fun and games now, but one day it will be more about that status and superiority.

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These bison learn from a young age how to alleviate the many insect pests that congregate near their faces and in their fur.  A swift roll about on the dusty landscape is just what this bison’s doctor ordered.  LOL

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We did see wolf, but the sightings were mostly from afar.  The howling of the wolves was prevalent quite often and two of the packs intermingled at one point and were a cause for concern amongst the wolf-watchers.

Coyote sightings, a lone coyote each time, were pretty common as well and always entertaining as they scrounged around looking for a quick and easy meal.

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We were very fortunate that our days in the park, though a bit chilly, were quite sunny and beautiful.  The eastern entrance of the park, towards Cooke City was quite snowy also, so it did intermittently remind you that it was winter.

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Our last wildlife sighting while in Yellowstone was on our last evening.  To our surprise, a bull elk was grazing all by itself under the canopy of the trees.  Even more surprising was that it still had its antlers … and a fine rack at that.   Go figure.  With that sun setting and that gorgeous golden light being cast upon the landscape as it did, it was the perfect way to end our day … as well as our winter Yellowstone NP trip.

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Well, until next visit to Yellowstone we said our goodbyes.  Who knows what the next visit will bring ???  Now, off for some snowboarding and skiing!

Next up:  Antelope Island State Park

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

 

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

2012 Review: PART 5 – Family Reunion – Yellowstone, Tetons, & Zion NP

Barely unpacked from AK, I had a family reunion to get to out west.  See, we decided to gather up the gang – Kelli & Mitchell, my mom & her husband Murray, and us – to spend some time together out in the great outdoors, appreciating each other’s company, as well as the company of lots of wildlife and beautiful surroundings.  Tom & Kelli took a road trip out west, stopping along the way to get their mountain biking fix, and met us in Salt Lake City.  After a brief stop in SLC, we ventured out to Yellowstone NP & Great Teton NP.  To my surprise, we were a bit late for the explosion of fall colors that we had enjoyed 2 years ago – same time, same place.  Oh well, didn’t matter because the trip more than made up for the lack of fall colors by the abundance of wildlife.  Bears, moose, bison, wolves, coyotes, pronghorn, and elk were plentiful!  The weather was crispy cool, OK maybe even cold at times, but this Florida girl enjoyed it immensely.  Tom & I would get up really early every morning and shoot, while the family took in a bit more sleep.

Family reunion

Family reunion

Bison battling it out for superiority

Bison battling it out for superiority

Bull elk readying for the rut

Bull elk readying for the rut

After spending several days trying to track down the elk in the very early mornings, there’s a few things that I can remember as if it were just a moment ago ….

1.  The sound of the elk when they bugle.  If you haven’t heard that amazing sound, you need to google elk and listen to their call.  It’s one of the most amazing sounds that you will ever hear.  For literally miles and miles you can hear the echo within the vast wilderness of the landscape.  So soothing ….

2.  Another sound ….. see we ran across many sightings of coyotes – hunting in the fields, running to and fro ….. but on 2 occasions, we saw them run back to what I figured out afterwards must have been their den, most likely with a meal, and you could hear the yips of their young.  I’m not talking a yip or 2, I’m talking about 1-3 minutes of continuous calling out.  That is another sound that if you’ve never heard it, you should.  I wanted to tape it on my video in my camera, but I was paralyzed by the beauty of their sound.  Big time smiles after hearing that one!

Three generations

Three generations

Moulton Barn, Grand Tetons NP

Moulton Barn, Grand Tetons NP

Enjoying the view from Signal Mountain, Grand Teton NP

Enjoying the view from Signal Mountain, Grand Teton NP

Yellowstone NP, WY

Yellowstone NP, WY

Several days were also spent in and around Park City also, as Mitchell joined us for an extended weekend or so.  Then off towards AZ and NM we went – taking a few detours along the way – some intended, some not.  What a beautiful country we live in!  One of our unintended detours involved St. George (we won’t go into that one), but things happen for a reason and the detour turned into a visit to Zion NP – so incredibly beautiful and a treat from the summertime visit we did several years ago – much less crowded.

Looking up at the tall stand of aspens kissed by autumn

Looking up at the tall stand of aspens kissed by autumn

Paria, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, UT

Paria, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, UT

Zion NP, UT

Zion NP, UT

Zion NP, UT

Zion NP, UT

While the beauty of the southwest was difficult to leave, we had a more definite destination.

Stay tuned for 2012 Review:  Part 6