Two Amazing Wildlife Encounters & Rainbows :-)

You never know that you’re going to find when in Yellowstone National Park during the springtime.  Fresh off my dusky grouse encounter from the day before, we had another encounter, which was a first for me … a beaver.  Normally I get images of a beaver swimming around in the water.  Usually it’s at dusk, so the light is not great.  When they’re swimming around, it’s usually just the face.  Not this day.  Sure, it was making its way through the water, but then something magical happened.  It swan to and climbed upon the shore.DSC_4140-2It even turned around for us and posed in front of some beautiful yellow wildflowers.  It began to groom itself … dipping its front feet into the pond and then pouring it over its head and then seemingly wringing its head and face.DSC_4166-2Then it began scratching on its belly. DSC_4173-2It clearly developed an itch at some point as it began to scratch itself in the front with its right paw and simultaneously on its back with its left paw.  As I was photographing it, I couldn’t help but want to reach out and give it an assist.  LOLDSC_4220-2Even got the back feet involved in the scratching.DSC_4449-2This beaver sure wanted the attention of all of the cameras focused on him/her.  After some time of photographing, we decided that we had enough and moved on to other subjects.DSC_4411-2Every time I spot a rainbow, I know that it’s a special sighting… and this one was a truly spectacular one.  I just loved the way that it was so brightly illuminated all of the way to the ground.  Just makes you want to venture over to look for the “pot of gold”._DSC0302-2Winding down on our last day before leaving the Yellowstone area, we had to of course take one last trip through Lamar Valley.  At some point, I noticed this enormous bird swoop by.  Stop the car!  I got out and ventured towards I saw it flying, not being sure of what it was.  I walked down the embankment a bit and decided to sit down and calmly check things out.  As I scanned the landscape, I initially saw nothing … then there it was … a gorgeous golden eagle.DSC_4659-2I couldn’t believe it when it spotted me and just continued on having its lunch of some type of ground critter.  DSC_4662-2It tugged at the unfortunate prey and pulled it apart.DSC_4697-2A magpie came in and tried to be an uninvited dinner guest, but the golden would have nothing to do with that.  It stood up tall, spread it wings (with its 6-8 foot wingspan) and chased down the magpie, who quickly “peaced out”.DSC_4728-2After most of its lunch was consumed, it quickly launched itself into the air, which in itself was impressive to witness.DSC_4766-2DSC_4768-2DSC_4769-2Eventually it flew onto the hillside on the other side.  Gosh, it was one of the most beautiful birds that I had ever seen.  Reminded me a bit of an immature back eagle, but with its size, there was no mistaking it!DSC_4797-2At the end of our day … and our Yellowstone trip, there it was.  That gorgeous rainbow re-appeared, but this time I could compose it such that you couldn’t mistake where we were when it graced us._DSC0298-2As we drove through the town of Gardiner, MT, it provided us one last special treat.  In fact, if you look closely it was a double rainbow.  A perfect ending to a perfect trip.  Good sightings, varied wildlife, lots of firsts (including my first tick … don’t ask, it could be a blog in itself … yikes!), and the company of great friends and laughable moments that are still fresh in my mind.  Life is good!_DSC0290-2

Hope that everyone enjoyed our images, stories, and memories from springtime in Yellowstone NP.  I know that we’ll be repeating this one again soon.

Next Up:  Let’s head up to the Palouse

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.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

 

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

 

 

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

Third Time’s A Charm – Yellowstone NP

NOTE:  This blog was written in conjunction with my winter Yellowstone NP trip.  It was Part 3 of 4 total blog posts.  Recently, I happened to notice that it never was actually published.  Since I’m currently in the middle of an important work week, I thought it would be a good time to share it.  Hope that you enjoy.  🙂

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As we entered our 3rd day in Yellowstone NP, we were treated to lots of steamy landscapes and a light magical dusting of snow, all with full bluebird skies.

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Whether it was the backlit trumpeter swans floating on the river or the sparkling bokeh serving as the perfect background for icicle-laden pine needles, it was absolutely amazing.

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On this morning, we not only photographed mature mated pairs of trumpeter swans, but also were fortunate enough to get shots of sub-adult swans as well.  It was quite interesting to see how their appearance transforms as they mature.

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On our way south in the park, we stopped at Norris Geyser Basin to take in some of the sights.  I must say that this area was absolutely stunning in the winter time, as the thermal grounds combined with the cold air made for some fascinating atmosphere.

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Again, it was amazing weather … which made for stunning images and an enhanced experience for the observer.

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We were treated to an awesome, though fairly distant, sighting of a red fox.  At first we thought it was a coyote, but I was pleasantly surprised.  We photographed it as it hunted on the open expanse of snow.  OK, I do believe that I might have squealed with delight with its antics … sit …leap straight up … dive head first … whip the hind legs over its head … land its hind legs … and pull out its head from the snow, hopefully with a tasty morsel.  A bit different than your typical coyote mousing scenario and probably more entertaining.

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Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Snow and ice covered bison were also seen, as they traveled the bare landscape in search of food.

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Finally we arrived to the Yellowstone iconic location … Old Faithful Geyser Basin … home to Old Faithful.  Now I’ve been here numerous times before, including once in the winter, but I have never seen it so peaceful and believe it or not, uncrowded.  It was such a pleasure to observe the eruption, not just once, but twice.  Since we got to see it twice, we did the traditional viewing (nearest the lodge) and then from the vantage point of the opposite side of the geyser.  Both offered different views, though both were remarkable.

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The winds were really still, which was wonderful because often it’s not so still and the steam from the geyser hitting the cold air then drifts in the wind and makes viewing difficult.

Of course, hiking around in the basin was also a must-do and it was quite fulfilling as well. The landscape was crisp and refreshing and the bison were out in force, dotting the snowy landscape, as they sought the thermal grounds for warmth.

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On our way home from Old Faithful, we ran into another red fox.  This one was a bit closer, but nowhere near as active.  Gosh, they couldn’t have been cuter.  It made me wonder … “what DOES the fox say?”  LOL

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A day in Yellowstone wouldn’t feel complete without a bald eagle sighting…. and this one was sure a beauty.

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Ultimately our 3rd day was coming to an end.  Thankfully we stopped for a sunset shot, which I took advantage of.  See, sunsets are always a nemesis for me.  I really liked how this one turned out though.

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A perfect end to our day!  Only one day left … and I didn’t want it to arrive.

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

The Final Curtain Call – Yellowstone

Our last day in Yellowstone NP finally arrived.  I remember in the beginning, it seemed like four days would be plenty … I would have my fill of the cold … the snow coach … the photography.  What was I thinking?  Nothing could have been farther from the truth.

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Our day started with a group of elk in the middle of a side road near the river.  Before this, we had only seen small gatherings of elk.  This group seemed to have a dominant elk, which seemed to keep its eye on us.  They seemed quite inquisitive …

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… and quite entertaining …

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Before too long they bolted into the nearby brush – one at a time – as they leaped over smaller shrubs and trees.  They have a tough life ahead of them, especially in the winter and I hope that they remain safe.

Another wonderful bald eagle sighting was encountered, right on the roadside.  This mature eagle sat in the nearby tree and offered us some awesome shots.

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It too, got a bit bored with us, or tempted by something in its immediate surroundings and off it went, but not before clipping its wing on a branch, allowing a drift of snow to fall down around it as it took off to its next destination.

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Roadblocks seemed to be the theme today as we traveled throughout the park.  This time it was a herd of bison – all seemingly sunning themselves in the middle of the road.  They didn’t seem to be in a rush to get anywhere fast, so we became delayed by them.

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Of course, what do you do when you’re being held up by wildlife in Yellowstone?  You get out and begin to capture it.

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

It took some time, but eventually they got up, one by one, and began to move on down the road.  We took the opportunity to bypass them.

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Late in the day, we began to make our last drive from Madison Junction to West Yellowstone.  Along the river, in awesome light, we came across another group of elk, but this time they were bulls.

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We were totally enjoying our time shooting them, when all of a sudden, I heard Dan say … “someone said that there’s a bobcat down the road”.  Well, that was all that I needed to hear.  While the bull elk were gorgeous … I mean, a bobcat … AGAIN!  Off I ran, along with several of my fellow photographers.

Sure enough, it was our bobcat from our first day in Yellowstone.  Only this time, it was on the move!  I ran into the snow and began to shoot it, but found it hard to keep up.

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As I struggled making my way through the snow, I was not so gently reminded by my body and cardiovascular system, that I was from the flatlands of Florida, which was also warm and humid.  This environment was cold and dry and the altitude was obviously higher that what I was normally used to.  I was also not accustomed to trekking through the deep snow.  After some time, I made my way to the road, which afforded me the ability to keep up the pace of the bobcat.

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Several times this cat stopped in its tracks, as it was stalking a duck floating in the water.  I feared that we would witness carnage, but thankfully for me, that never happened.

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I couldn’t believe the beauty of this creature and the grace it possessed as it made its way down the river … to the exact location that we saw earlier in the week.  I truly felt blessed to have shared in its day.

I couldn’t imagine a better ending to our time spent in Yellowstone!  As we drove back to our lodging, I believe that collectively we all arrived with big smiles on our faces.  🙂  I know that I did.

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Honestly, I didn’t know what I expected from this photo tour.  What I found was obviously amazing photo opportunities (both wildlife and landscape), but even more pleasantly surprised was the amazing people that I shared this trip with.  I’m quite sure that many of them I will see again at some amazing place or another.  I also learned a lot about myself – most of which I won’t bore you with – but I encourage everyone to challenge themselves throughout life.  It’s always good to see what you’re made of.  🙂

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Thanks so much to Dan & Tanya Cox of Natural Exposures!  Your hospitality was truly wonderful – from start to finish!  Oh, I can’t also forget to thank Colter, tour assistant-extraordinaire!  You’re amazing!

Next blog post will most likely be something more local, so stay tuned.  Until then …..

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Another Day in Paradise … a.k.a. YNP Day #2

Waking up in the morning, I couldn’t help but wonder … what kind of things will present themselves today?  I mean, after yesterday, how could we possibly ever top all of that?  Will the weather remain as cooperative as it was yesterday?  So many questions yet to be answered.  Again, our carriage awaits … in the form of the Yellowstone snow coach, of course.  It really was nice … nicely heated for our comfort, especially on those early and cold mornings … roomy as well, as we each had 2 seats to work with, which was handy to keep all of our gear ready to spring into action … spacious yes, but intimate enough to engage in conversations and form friendships with fellow photographers.

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Birds once again were the first order of business.  The trumpeter swans were out in force and began strutting their stuff in the early morning hours.

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I was fascinated to see numbers of common goldeneye ducks – male and females – sharing the waters as well.

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Of course, bald eagles were not to be outdone.  It wasn’t long before we spotted and even more exciting, heard our first eagle of the morning.  It was truly lovely to see, as it was relatively an eye level shot and the calling of the eagle and then subsequent flight was a sight to see, enhanced by the snowy backdrop.  The sound of eagle calling out in the wilderness left me breathless.

The call of the wild

The call of the wild

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Of course, it wasn’t too long before we started seeing bigger wildlife, such as the female elk.  Several of them were together and feeding on whatever vegetation they could find underneath the snowy landscape.  It was so beautiful as they would look up with the traces of their efforts on their faces.

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Some young males were found sitting nervously in the sunlight, relaxing, but always on alert for an unwanted “visitor”.  Just love their snowy noses.  🙂

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Of course, there were more coyote sightings.  Seemed like everywhere we went we ran into coyotes.  Fun for us, yes, but that must mean a different story for the status of the wolves, which we never did see over the course of the week.

One of the coyotes we watched from afar, but before long it was nearer to us and just looked glorious in the midst of the sea of white that blanketed the immediate area.  It came to the rivers edge, looking for food.

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Each day, we stopped at the Madison rest stop and on this day we ran into my favorite dusky grouse.  Again, the park rangers were not pleased with her presence.  Eventually they trapped her and were preparing to introduce her, miles away, to an area where she would not be exposed to people.  Seems a bit unfair to me.  I’ll just leave it at that.

On this trip, there was never a shortage of food or drinks.  We were treated to magnificent lunches that I still think about, our hot beverages of choice, and a daily scrumptious yummy … guaranteed to keep your energy high and your blood sugar zipping … as if I needed something extra to keep me hyper!

Colter serving up our yummy of the day

Colter serving up our yummy of the day

More elk were encountered seemingly most of the day.  We enjoyed their natural grazing as they made their way up the river.

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Today was going to be more than wildlife we knew, since Yellowstone NP is also a landscape photographers dream.  So off to the geyser basins we went and actually we were treated to an active geyser erupting which usually only goes off 1-2 times daily.  Perfect timing in Biscuit Basin!

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The paint pots are always a fun place to visit as well, especially in the winter.

DSC_1106The winter landscape is perfect for creating that special mood and atmosphere.

_DSC5503One of my favorite drives in Yellowstone, no matter the season, is Firehole Drive.  It is home to the Firehole Falls … a winter’s landscape dream.

_DSC5650Once again, we stop at the Madison rest stop for a needed “bio break” and it’s confirmed that we no longer have a grouse visitor in the immediate area.  So sad.  😦  But we did have a parade of bison marching through and also a coyote, which apparently understands the road signage … LOL.

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A quick trip on one of the Madison area turn-outs also yielded yet another coyote sighting, as this poor coyote was deep in the snow as it ran up the hillside.

_DSC5709OK, so I have to admit … at first I thought … what are we going to do with 4 entire full days in Yellowstone in the winter?  I mean, we had seen so much the first day.  Now that our 2nd day was winding down, it happened … I began to be sad that my experience was 1/2 way over.  So, as a celebration to my trip so far, I toasted our trip so far with Moose Drool draft over dinner!

photoHere’s to the next 2 days!  Stay tuned for more blog posts on Yellowstone in the winter!

Winter Magic of Yellowstone NP

For several months, I had been getting the itch to return to Yellowstone National Park in the winter.  It finally culminated on New Year’s Eve, when Tom was making his plans to venture out on his annual month long snowboarding trip.  I thought … why should he have all of the fun?  I know that I didn’t have a month’s worth of vacation to spend, but could I have a month’s worth of fun in just 1 week?  The answer was an overwhelming YES!

That’s how I decided to join a group of photographers for a Winter in Yellowstone photo tour … then it hit me … NO SHERPA!  Yikes!  Well, it was more than time to pull on my “big girl panties” and so I packed my 48# camera bag carry-on (bless all of the men who helped me with my gear on and off the plane), my tripods, my winter clothes and off I went … looking like I was indeed going on that month-long trip, like Tom.  🙂

Arrival into Bozeman

Arrival into Bozeman

I arrived into Bozeman and was transported to West Yellowstone the following day (after literally about 18 hrs of sleep, yes, I had burned the candle before making the trek).  By the time I arrived in West Yellowstone, I already had felt a great comfort with the other members of my group.  Yes, it was the start of an amazing trip!

My arrival gift

My arrival gift

The day began with an early boarding on our snow coach.  As we all piled in, ourselves and our equipment, I distinctly heard a “holy crap” when my bag was hoisted inside.  It did get lighter as the week progressed.  A girl from south Florida into the winter wonderland of sub-zero temperatures of Yellowstone, just had to be sure to have everything she needed.

Snowcoach is the only way to go in Yellowstone in the winter!

Snowcoach is the only way to go in Yellowstone in the winter!

As we drove down through Madison, we immediately found several pairs of trumpeter swans on the river.  What a great way to get those image-taking fingers warmed up!

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We would pass more trumpeter swans, but we were on a mission to Hayden Valley, so we passed them up.  “Stop the bus” was called out for a coyote on the hillside, only to find out 2 things:  #1  There were several coyotes there, including 2 frolicking along the rivers edge right across from us & #2 The snow along the roadside is REALLY DEEP!  Of course, I found out the hard, but fun way!  LOL

I think I interrupted their play time by falling waist deep into the snow!

I think I interrupted their play time by falling waist deep into the snow!

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The coyotes were running around up and down the hillside, through the deep snow, in the absolutely gorgeous light!

Coyote making good time on its way down the hillside

Coyote making good time on its way down the hillside

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JUMP!

JUMP!

We stayed there longer than planned, but how could you leave these beautiful creatures when we were all having so much fun …

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A much needed bathroom break yielded probably one of the most bizarre situations of the week.  There was a dusky grouse who was hanging out at the rest stop, apparently making good use of the human’s crumbs.  Well, the park service didn’t like that and tried their best to make it leave.  Meanwhile, it entertained the visitors as it ran around, flew to the top of a nearby shack, tried to bury itself in the snow on the roof, and eventually flew down to the snow, amongst the visitors.  What a thrill for me and quite a beautiful bird.

Sliding down the snow covered roof

Sliding down the snow covered roof

So beautiful!

So beautiful!

Thanks Dan for capturing this image - she flew down to me!

Thanks Dan for capturing this image – she flew down to me!

What YOU looking at?

What YOU looking at?

Other birds along the way included some time spent with an American Dipper, as it would fly from the frozen river bank to the water and back … repeatedly.  The goldeneyes were also congregating nearby and plunging into the water as well.

Taking flight ....

Taking flight ….

.... touch down, just prior to the dive ....

…. touch down, just prior to the dive ….

.... flying back to do it all over again!

…. flying back to do it all over again!

"I will not be outdone by the dipper"

“I will not be outdone by the dipper”

"Look what I can do!"

“Look what I can do!”

Of course, no trip to Yellowstone is complete without visiting Yellowstone Falls … such an iconic sight to see, and even more beautiful when draped in winter’s snow & ice.  I don’t think that its ever looked more beautiful!

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The surrounding canyon views weren't too shabby either.

The surrounding canyon views weren’t too shabby either.

We got our first glimpses of the bison, as they notoriously carry around much frozen snow and ice on their coat.

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When we were having so much fun with the coyotes, I jokingly asked Dan if he could arrange a lynx for me.  He laughed and said that he would see what he could do.  Well, we didn’t get the lynx, but we did get the bobcat!  What a beautiful creature it was too!

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It didn’t do much, other than sit there … look at us … blink … turn slightly …. and close its eyes, but it didn’t matter.  I was jumping for joy with this sighting and I thought to myself … I can go home now!  Of course, I didn’t mean it literally, but I was thrilled beyond belief.

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How could our trip possibly get better?  Well, I was about to find out!

Stay tuned for more, as I will blog more about the magical winter experience I had in Yellowstone NP.

The end of a wonderful start to my trip to Yellowstone NP - winter-style.

The end of a wonderful start to my trip to Yellowstone NP – winter-style.

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