In the past few days we have literally seen thousands of animals on our safaris. Many of these were elk and bison migrating North, but we also were able to see many moose, deer, bighorn sheep and bison. This morning we had a nice view of a newborn bison which looked absolutely tiny next to its mother.
This close-up image of a long-billed curlew shows this bird’s unique bill which allows it to forage for invertebrates in open meadows and wetlands. Shorebirds like this are typically associated with coastal areas but this species thrives in mountain valleys such as Jackson Hole. Another exciting bit of local wildlife news is that today’s observation confirmed that Spring Creek Ranch’s bald eagle nest remains active with the female dutifully incubating egg(s) in preparation for our upcoming 2010 mother’s day.
Each of our wildlife safari excursions offers unique wildlife sightings and today’s full-day trip was no exception. The vast majority of raptors (birds of prey) have migrated South of Jackson Hole, but we were able to view four species of raptors throughout the day.
Northern Harriers and Red-tailed hawks are unusual to view in winter months here, but we had great sightings of both earlier this morning. Rough-legged hawks and bald eagles were also seen including this eagle who had recently scavenged on the National Elk Refuge. Other interesting sightings from the trip included close views of elk, moose, bighorn sheep and mule deer.
Our wildlife safaris are offered year-round and I keep a log of sightings from every trip that we have ever done with an approximate count for each species.
On one of last week’s safaris we counted one of the highest number of bighorn sheep ever recorded on the National Elk Refuge: 61! As the snow keeps falling more and more animals are moving on to the Refuge including thousands of elk, bison, coyote, bald eagles and bighorns.
“My wife and I went out with you on a photo safari on Tuesday, January 19, 2010. Thank you for a great time and help with photographing the wildlife. Got some great pictures and got some great tips. We are already planning on coming back hopefully in the Summer. Thanks again!” –J. Marlow
Every wildlife safari offers both expected and surprising sightings. Today we were fortunate to watch a golden eagle perched near a group of rocky mountain bighorn sheep. After scowling at us for 20 minutes, this enormous predator flew off demonstrating its impressive agility and majestic presence. After sightings of coyote, elk, moose and mule deer we traveled to an area where a porcupine has been spending time.
This porcupine appears to be young and very cooperative for observation and photography. These medium-sized rodents have a very low reproductive rate which is compensated with a low mortality rate, since very few predators are willing to risk confrontation with their thousands of specialized quills.
On a typical Yellowstone National Park excursion we are able to see several geysers erupt throughout the day, but on this week’s trip we were able to observe a total of five. During our day, we watched Old Faithful, Beehive, Lion, Great Fountain and Clepsydra erupt.
Our wildlife sightings have also been consistently strong during our safaris and moose have been especially cooperative lately. There were several moose laying along the Snake River the other day, but this female proved to be the most photogenic.
Shortly after returning to Spring Creek Ranch after a successful wildlife-watching safari, an incredible thunderstorm rolled across the valley and provided spectacular views of intense clouds and constant lighting strikes.
Sitting almost 1,000 feet above the valley floor of Jackson Hole, we were right in the middle of this storm and were able to safely observe (and photograph) all of the action.