Spring is a wonderful time for watching wildlife. Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks are less busy, animals are moving around and coming out of hibernation, or returning from their “winter homes.” Check out the below gallery of some of … Continue reading →
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.
Friday was our first Yellowstone National Park excursion of the year as the South Gate opened for business. It was an extraordinary day with great geyser and wildlife sightings.
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.
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.
The snowy weather throughout today seemed to contradict some of the Spring wildlife sightings that were taking place at the same time.
Mountain bluebirds have made their return along with red-winged blackbirds and the largest bull elk have dropped the antlers that they worked so hard to grow last year. Each Spring, we hope that our pair of bald eagles that nest on Spring Creek Ranch will return for another attempt at nesting, and yesterday I was happy to observe both adults perched on the nest. I’ll continue to watch this nest to monitor the pair’s progress. The largest (but, not heaviest) owl in North America is the great gray owl and we are fortunate to be one of the few regions that this owl calls home. We actually found two on today’s safari and I really liked how this one looked thanks to the surrounding snowfall. Moose were also on the move today and we ended up with a total ten moose sightings throughout the day.
Today’s excursion was a classic winter wildlife safari here in Jackson Hole with sightings of bighorn sheep, many bald eagles, coyotes, mule deer and thousands of elk. Our local wildlife is very well equipped to deal with snowy days such as today, as this moose photograph suggests. The snow landing on the fur of this moose isn’t melting which tells us that there is a substantial temperature gradient between its skin and outer-most fur which keeps it comfortable even in extreme conditions.
This moose can be determined to be a bull by the presence of its ‘pedicle’ which is the part of the skull from which the antlers grow. It can be seen just in front of the ears. The blizzarding snow surrounding this moose was captured by stabilizing the camera and setting it to a very slow shutter speed. Other interesting sightings from today included a northern shrike and large flock of sage grouse.
Wildlife watching began early on today’s safari since we encountered a red fox hunting within about a minute. This fox has been seen frequently around Spring Creek Ranch lately, taking advantage of the vast undeveloped land within this property. Another highlight came toward the end of the safari when we found this bald eagle perched in Grand Teton National Park. The warm, sunny weather today enhanced the experience even more.