Jackson Hole is famous across the planet as one of the best locations for wildlife and landscape photography. Our naturalist programs make the most of this by offering photo safaris twice per week throughout the year. This week, we explored Grand Teton National Park with cameras, tripods and lenses to find historic barns, abundant wildlife and expansive mountain views. Taking advantage of our Spring wildflowers, we took a 20-minute walk to find this meadow of daisys with the majestic Teton range providing the perfect photographic backdrop (seen in the image below).
One of the packages that we are currently promoting here at Spring Creek Ranch focuses on the fact that June and July is a wonderful time of year to see wild newborn animals. Appropriately, our safaris have had excellent sightings of these particularly cute critters during the past couple of weeks. Each of the images below were taken on recent wildlife safaris and include (from left to right) a grizzly bear cub up a tree, a bison calf, elk calf, coyote pups playing and a moose calf (with a very protective mom nearby.)
Last week’s wolf and bear safari was an extremely successful weekend of wildlife watching throughout Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. We were able to find many grizzly bears, black bears and a solitary gray wolf. Although these predators were the focus of this excursion, we also had great sightings of bighorn sheep, moose, river otters and many other birds and mammals.
We were lucky enough to watch eruptions of Old Faithful, Beehive and Grand geysers; all beautiful and unique in their own way. One of the highlights of the day was watching a sow and cub grizzly bear digging for unknown food resources in Hayden Valley. The image shows the picturesque Upper Geyser Basin with Beehive erupting in the background.
I am always thinking about the relationships between humans and wildlife, and ended up thinking about patriotism as a result of seeing these American kestrels on today’s safari. Most of us would associate the bald eagle with the U.S.A. since it is our national symbol and they do look really cool and majestic.
Nonetheless, the American Kestrel is not only the only bird-of-prey with the word ‘America’ in it but also actually displays all of our red, white and blue colors. These little falcons are quite small and easily mistaken for a robin or other medium-sized bird, but are as deadly as any other raptor. The male (on the left) is a bit more colorful, but the female also has charismatic markings.
This month is outstanding for wildlife watching in general, but one of the highlights is the unique courtship behavior by our local sage grouse. Males and females gather in specific areas called leks, and the males work very hard to impress the female grouse by prancing around, raising their sharp tail feathers, beating their wings and inflating their yellow air sacs on their neck. Throughout this entire display they are vocalizing loudly with a voice that is unlike anything else in nature. We have seen this behavior several times on recent safaris and this image was taken earlier this week.
I’m also happy to report that the bald eagle nest on Spring Creek Ranch’s property remains active and the female was observed today laying low on her nest, likely incubating eggs. This nest has had varying success in fledgling eaglets in recent years, so we remain hopeful that it will be successful this year.
It is a relatively quiet time in Jackson Hole in terms of people but one of the best times to view wildlife. Ground squirrels have finally emerged from their long hibernation, migratory birds such as bluebirds, cranes, red-tail and Swainson’s Hawks have returned and the large hoofed mammals are on the move toward their Summer ranges.
Today, we watched a pair of coyotes chasing bighorn sheep, a porcupine foraging in an open meadow, and a northern shrike along with over a dozen moose, thousands of elk and mule deer. Elk and moose aren’t typically found in the same habitats but we were fortunate to observe both (the two largest members of the deer family) side by side as they browsed and migrated through Grand Teton National Park.
Lots of moose activity has been seen on recent safaris and this moose was particularly entertaining to watch as it eagerly browsed on a spruce tree. Spruce are probably not a moose’s favorite food, but long Winters limit available forage and require them to diversify their diet. Moose are often the highlight of a wildlife safari since they are so unique looking and seem to have a lot of personality. Signs of Spring continue to take place and today I saw my first Osprey which had returned to Jackson Hole after its long migration South (often as far away as South America).