Wildlife In and Around Yellowstone
Many people come to our area to visit Yellowstone National Park. I certainly understand why. We usually enjoy two visits annually to the Park - once in the spring and once in the fall. In fact, we know of many people who chose to live in this area in large part because of our proximity to YNP. So, when one takes a trip to Yellowstone the7 expect to be 'wowed' - and I've never known the Park to disappoint.
Thus when some friends came to visit recently, we decided to take a trip to the Park. It was a lovely day - and we all enjoyed the experience. However, out of pure curiosity, I decided to keep track of the wildlife I saw 'inside' the Park and the wildlife I saw 'outside'. The results may come as a surpise to you - they did, at least in part, to me. (Note: The 'outside the Park' animals were all spotted between Elk Lake Resort and YNP's west entrance.)
39 Canadian Geese
1 Trumpeter Swan
3 Sandhill Cranes
2 Bald Eagles
144 Bison (and 7 calves)
1 Bear (at quite a distance but still a bear)
Not too bad for a few hours in the Park. For those of you who wonder: We entered the West gate - drove to Madison Junction - headed south to Old Faithful - then backtracked a bit to the north to continue on to Mammoth Hot Springs. The Lamar was too far away for our time frame and we were told Hayden Valley was snow covered and thus not a good place to spot wildlife.
5 Canadian Geese
3 Trumpeter Swans
3 Sandhill Cranes
7 Bald Eagles
Numerous Hawks and Kestrals
Numerous Ducks and Ravens
About 35 Pelicans
3 Long-billed Curlews
2 Caspian Terns
About 12 Gulls
1 Blue Heron
Numerous Small Birds (Blue birds, Robins, Red-wing Black Birds, Chicadees, Juncos, White Crowned Sparraws, Meadowlarks, Magpies - to name a few)
That is amazing. I'm not saying YNP isn't worth the trip. I mean it when I say there is no place like it on earth. But I think visitors to the area miss much when they assume it holds the most or even the best the area has to offer. Outside of a bear sighting (interestingly enough a Grizzly sow and her cubs crossed Elk Lake Road two days prior to our YNP outing - about 3 miles from the lodge), there was more wildlife to be seen outside the Park, that day, than inside. Even if this was an anomaly, my experiences certainly have shown the entire Great Yellowstone Eco-system is a nature-lover's smorgasbord.
Now, for the 'photo record' (WARNING: I have a LOT of photos to share so this may be a slow upload):
We'd barely left the driveway before we ran across our first 'wildlife' - a pair of Long-Billed Curlews feeding along the road.
Next came the first of several Bald Eagles we were to enjoy that day. This one perched on the top of a small evergreen just a few yards off the road.
However, Moose sightings were to dominate a good portion of our trip out that morning. Not that we didn't see other wildlife, obviously we did, but one does not find three bull Moose hanging together every day of the week! Can you spot all three?
While two of three promptly left the photo-shoot, this guy hung around. I suppose he figured he was too well camouflaged for us to see.
Even after he finally decided to stand up and pose, he seemed in no big hurry to run away.
Of course where one finds bulls, the cows aren't too far away. Thus we caught a couple of cows close enough to photograph.
The Sandhills have been much quieter this year than normal. Those of you who have been around for awhile have probably read of my compulsion to stop and listen to the Sandhills whenever their haunting cry drifts down the canyons here at Elk Lake. However, I have heard few Sandhills yet this season. Perhaps it is the weather.
One friend who has spent many years photographing in and around the Park has suggested the birds are behind in courting and mating. Perhaps it is the odd spring. Be that as it may, here is one fellow who isn't going to be put off by a wet spring. However, it looks like he's going to have to try a bit harder to get her attention!
They came late, but they made it in the end. 'They' are the flocks of Pelicans which decend upon Henry's Lake this time of year. Here is one flock we found resting on the lake shore as we headed past.
A common reason for visiting YNP in the spring is to see the Bison calves. While I must admit I do not find adult Bison to be particularly 'good-looking' (albeit they are impressive), Bison babies are darling!
Bison always strike me as being out-of-proportion. After all, they boast a HUGE head on a normal-sized body. How big is their head? This cow's head makes her calf look even smaller than it is!
As I've mentioned before, our snowy winter followed by the cold wet spring has been hard on these animals. Here is one cow who managed to produce a calf yet appeared so hungry she wouldn't even stop to let her calf suck. This gives new meaning to the phrase 'grabbing lunch'!
If you look again at the Bison count I posted above, you will see how out-of-proportion things are this year. We saw at least 144 Bison but only 7 calves! That makes this little fellow almost a National Treasure!
No one could ever rightly accuse me of being a house snob. Try as I might, I always base my property preference on location, never structures. However, there is one building which I enjoy visiting - purely for the pleasure of enjoying its beautiful structure. While we rarely make the drive down to Old Faithful anymore, I thoroughly enjoyed re-visiting the newly restored Old Faithful Lodge.
The fireplace clock in the lodge has always fascinated me. While currently it is not in working order, I did manage to catch a brief segment of the lodge tour. Thus I learned it is slated for repairs in the not-too-distant future.
I also learned that this work of art was created by the same blacksmith (did you catch that - blacksmith!) who did all the original iron work in the lodge - such as the door latches and hinges on the entry doors. Obviously this artist was a very talented blacksmith.
Next time I visit the lodge, I hope to take in the guided tour. While I'm too much of a free spirit to find most guided tours interesting, the little I heard on our brief visit had me wishing for more time and a notepad. This old building has quite a history and an abundance of beauty and style!
Of course no trip to Old Faithful is complete without joining the crowds (which were a bit thin that day) to watch the Grand Lady of the Park show her stuff.
And, true to form, she did not let us down. In spite of the 'unpredictable' weather we've been enjoying above ground, things appear to still be working like clockwork below the surface - at least if Old Faithful is any indicator.
Soon we were back on the road eyes open for the next wildlife sighting. Usually, in Yellowstone, one can find the wildlife not by looking for the wildlife but by looking for the crowd of people. However, twice now we have spotted bears not by the crowd they've drawn but by noticing one person who is obviously intent on something. Thus we spent awhile watching this fellow feeding along the hillside in the distance (and, yes, it didn't take long for the crowd to gather).
That was about the end of the Park excitement for that day. However, on the way back to Elk Lake we did spot several small bands of elk grazing on the slowly emerging grass.
And while we cannot boast of a water-spewing Geyser, sulfer-laden steaming pots, boiling mud, or even gorgeously attired historic structures - and even though I think YNP is well worth the time and effort every time I visit - I still think I live in one of the most beautiful and impressive places in or out of the Park! Certainly this sunset over Upper Lake is a fine way to end such a lovely day!
Lady of the Lake