I cannot begin to count the number of times I have been asked, "So, what did you see this morning?" Even those guests who would never consider rising with the sun to hike a couple of hours, wonder what is interesting enough to prompt one to participate in such a behavior. Granted, there are other photographers and nature lovers who visit the Greater Yellowstone area who are out there doing the same thing. But, for those of you who have not or cannot or are just not so inclined, I decided to put together a brief photo collage of some of the 'things' I have enjoyed thus far on my morning excursions.
While several of these photos have been taken with a little pocket digital camera, my 'best' pictures always come when I use the SLRs. However, carrying a heavy camera around my neck over hill and dale for several hours - along with all the other paraphernalia needed (plastic bag for flower specimens, bear spray for just in case, water bottle, extra lenses, monopod, etc) really is a pain in the you-know-what without a proper carrying system. So. . .I started thinking and scheming and musing.
Take a lot of time, mix in a good sewing machine, a couple of used backpacks, and a need for a better carrying option and out pops (well, not quite but, you get the idea) a solution. While this photo does not show any details (that will be the focus of a later post), you can see I have my hands free and my camera within easy access (right behind the yellow flower). Thus I now "have-camera-will-hike" (with comfort).
So. . .why start a post about all the glorious things I see and experience on a morning excursion with such a gory picture? Because, with the fires consuming the western states, I have been freshly reminded life is not all about life and beauty. Death and gore play a role too. This muskrat, food for one of our beautiful bald eagles, is a reminder of the darker side of life!
Bald eagles are glorious to watch, but they are definitely opportunists. Catch a muskrat today - steal breakfast tomorrow. At least that was what one bald eagle attempted to do a few days back. However, this Osprey proved to be far too tenacious. Furthermore, he showed his ability to outmanuever the eagle in flight. Their brief confrontation was amazing to watch!
On the other hand, watching the eagle consume the muskrat and attempt to steal from the Osprey gave new meaning to the phrase "a sitting duck". I have little doubt Mr. Eagle would love a baby duck appetizer! Fortunately I have seen these little guys and gals growing rapidly on the pond above the lodge. On last count, they all looked to have escaped the coyotes and foxes and raptors!
Water fowl - Raptors - and little song birds fill my hikes with visual and auditory delights. The cheery Finches and Juncos are common sights around the area.
Of course it is always special to see (and hear) one of our less commonly sighted feathered friends. So, when this Yellow Warbler led me on a merry chase along the lakeshore (in hopes of snapping its photograph), I was more than willing to follow.
However, this big boy was an even more impressive find. While we have enjoyed numerous Great Grey Owl sightings up near Hidden Lake over the last three years, every season I expect to be our last. I'm starting to think these birds mate for life - and he/she has lost their mate. For, never have I seen more than one.
Over the years I have learned a lot of people feel they have not 'seen' anything if they do not see wildlife. I have been guilty of the same philosophy myself. Thankfully I have learned there is an amazing world growing below knee-level. As a result I love 'seeing' things like these Gooseberry blossoms.
Even more amazing is all the things I see which, even after hiking over the same terrain numerous times, I had never seen before. Take these two flowers. The top (Starry Solomon) I have only seen this once. While there were numerous plants where I found the bottom flower (which I have yet to identify), this was the only place I've seen these before or since.
Even more striking flowers - like these White Mule's Ears - are not commonly seen around Elk Lake. However, if one happens to be in the right place at the right time - you just might find the unexpected (kinda like looking for wildlife!)
Really, that is the most challenging part of my morning excursions. Shall I look down in search of the glories at my feet - or up in search of the wildlife which just 'might' be over the next hill - like these beautiful bull elk I nearly ran into one morning or this lovely bunch of does which crossed the meadow just ahead of me on another early trek.
In reality, I know how blessed I am. It really doesn't matter whether I look up or down, near or far - wherever my eye happens to rest there is beauty. Be the day stormy and grey or bathed in the rosy glow of sunrise, this Montana Big Sky Country has a beautiful face!
Lady of the Lake