June 20, 2018 Seabeck, Washington

Juvenile Bald Eagle
Juvenile Bald Eagle

Hood Canal for Bald Eagles

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

I visited the Hood Canal in my first year on the road and was absolutely amazed at the number of Bald Eagles gathered here to take advantage of the annual Sculpin spawn amongst the oyster beds here at the mouth of Big Beef Creek in Seabeck.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

Unfortunately that was not the case this year. I was told that the number of eagles gathering here has been diminishing every year and I never saw more than five eagles at any one time over the four days I was here. In 2014 there would be as many as 60 eagles present at any one time, and back then I was told that I was there at a ” bad ” time, since there used to be over 100 gathered there during May and June.

( Since I don’t have any great eagle shots from this visit, you can see some of the eagle shots taken here from 2014 if you visit the following blog posts:

May 19, 2014     and   May 20, 2014  )

Bald Eagle
Attack!

Bald eagle diving down to persuade a heron to drop it’s catch.

Bald Eagle and Great Blue Heron
Bald Eagle and Great Blue Heron

There did seem to be as many Great Blue Herons here as there were in 2014, just not as many eagles, and the herons most likely were quite happy about the reduced number of eagles, so that now they could swallow their fish without the constant threat of theft from the eagles.

Bald Eagle Theft
Bald Eagle Theft

Still, on occassion, an eagle would spot a successful heron catch and swoop in to steal the fish.

Juvenile Bald Eagle Harassing Heron
Juvenile Bald Eagle Harassing Heron
Juvenile Bald Eagle with Sculpin
Juvenile Bald Eagle with Sculpin

You can just see the tail of the sculpin this immature eagle stole from one of the herons.

I again stayed at the Scenic Beach State Park in Seabeck as I did in 2014, but could only get a site for Monday through Thursday as the campground has every site reserved for Friday and Saturday. That happens to be the case for almost every weekend during the summer months, not only here but at pretty much every desirable state park here in the northwest. But since there aren’t any eagles here to photograph anyway, I won’t be disappointed that I have to move on come Friday.

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June 2, 2018 Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton Bison
Classic Western Scene

Last of the Wildlife Shots From Grand Teton

This park is proving to be a great spot for wildlife photos in the spring. I had been visualizing a shot such as the one above since I arrived here and heading back to the campground the other day, here they were, a small group of bison heading down to the Morman Farm area and needing to cross the road just as I was passing by.

Pronghorns
Pronghorns

And farther up the road, on the same day, this group of female pronghorns, grazing amongst the Arrowleaf Balsamroot flowers. I had really hoped to finally get some shots of some pronghorn fawns but I guess I am just a little too early for that as these gals look like they are still a week or so away from having little ones.

Bear #399 and Cubs
Bear #399 and Cubs

I briefly ran into Bear #399 and her cubs again, though this time only for a brief moment as they crossed a meadow and quickly disappeared into the woods.

Retreating Elk with Calf
Retreating Elk with Calf

Finally I have seen a new born elk calf, though I couldn’t get a decent shot of it as mom hastily retreated when I appeared on the scene. At least I know that they are giving birth at this time, though I have seen very few elk cows out and about recently.

River Otters
River Otters

Jackson Lake Dam Outlet

I spent some time at the outlet below the dam on Jackson Lake yesterday and was surprised at the amount of activity there. I had stopped just to watch the shore fisherman and see what they were catching ( small Lake Trout and some Cut throat Trout ).

River Otter
River Otter

While watching the fisherman casting from shore I noticed a pair of River Otters diving in the rushing waters coming out of the dam. Unfortunately I missed getting the best shots as the pair would catch a fish, dash ashore and climb the bank, then rush across thirty feet of open ground to some bushes, where they would be mobbed by three young otters they were delivering the fish to. All quickly disappeared back into the brush to eat and then the adults would return to the river to fish again.

Common Mergansers
Common Mergansers

Also actively fishing the churning waters were a small group of Common Mergansers, here seen resting on shore before heading out into the rapids.

Common Merganser Pair
Common Merganser Pair
Common Merganser Pair
Common Merganser Pair
Common Mergansers
Common Mergansers

They concentrated their efforts at the edge of the rushing waters exiting the dam, most likely picking off fish that were stunned as they came through the dam.

White Pelican
White Pelican

A pair of White Pelicans were also working the same area.

White Pelicans
White Pelicans
Trail Obstruction
Trail Obstruction

One morning I noticed a few large Bison Bulls as I was driving the main road in the park and pulled off and parked and headed down a trail through the willows to see if I could get a closer shot of them. As I rounded a corner of the trail, I ran into a trail obstruction, in the form of the aforementioned Bison. The three bulls stared at me as I looked around for the safest way out of this situation. Two of the bison turned and jumped over the fence you see on the right, clearing the top rail with their front legs but loudly crashing the rail as their bellies came down on the fence. The third bison simply stood his ground, so I retreated back to my parked car.

Grand Teton Bison
Grand Teton Bison
Grand Teton Bison
Grand Teton Bison

You just can’t appreciate just how large these animals are until you are face to face with them. Very powerful animals.

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May 31, 2018 Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Great Grey Owl
Great Grey Owl

More From the Tetons

Absolutely lucky that someone else had spotted this Great Grey Owl not far from the park road since he was perfectly camouflaged against the bark of the pine where he was perched. If not for the photographer already shooting this bird, I never would have stopped.

Great Grey Owl
Great Grey Owl

He changed perches a few times …

Great Grey Owl
Great Grey Owl

… including this spot that yielded the perfect shot.

Great Grey Owl
Great Grey Owl

Soon others stopped to check out this large, beautiful bird, and as so often happens, out came the cellphone photographers, racing closer to the owl, eventually scaring him farther and farther away until he was out of their reach.

Disheveled Pronghorn
Disheveled Pronghorn

The Pronghorn is usually one of my favorite subjects, but not this early in the summer as they shed their winter garments for their summer wear.

Indian Paintbrush
Indian Paintbrush

Out at the end of Flat Creek Road, on the far side of the National Elk Refuge …

Indian Paintbrush
Indian Paintbrush

… I found a hillside covered with Indian Paintbrush.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot and Indian Paintbrush
Arrowleaf Balsamroot and Indian Paintbrush

Mixed in were several patches of Arrowleaf Balsamroot.

Wildflowers, Stormy Skies
Wildflowers, Stormy Skies

And as I was setting up and taking these flower shots, I thought I heard something behind me, about 50 feet away down a steep embankment along the Flat Creek.

Newborn Moose Calf
Newborn Moose Calf

Moving a little closer to the top of the bank, I saw this obviously fairly recently born moose calf, wobbling along behind his mother.

Newborn Moose Calf
Newborn Moose Calf

Mom had spotted me and was leading her newborn to a more sheltered area across the shallow creek.

Newborn Moose Calf
Newborn Moose Calf

She had to turn and offer encouragement to her calf to entice him to join her in crossing the creek.

Newborn Moose Calf
Newborn Moose Calf

Eventually safely across the creek and feeling a little safer having put some distance between us, they laid down to get some rest. I do not think I missed this calf’s birth by more than a few moments, probably the smallest moose calf I have ever seen. Wish I had some better, closer shots, but Mom wanted to remain in the willows and out of sight of predators and I certainly wasn’t going to push her and her young one out into the open.

The Tetons

The Magnificent Tetons

Grand Teton
Head in the Clouds

Since I was able to spend a full two weeks here this spring, I could patiently await blue skies or puffy cumulous clouds to set off the dramatic snow capped peaks of the Tetons.

Oxbow Reflections
Oxbow Reflections

As usual this year, I had my share of rainy and overcast weather, but I also had some just gorgeous blue sky days. So on gloomy days, I searched for wildlife, and when the sun came out, I looked for flowers and mountain shots.

Spring in the Tetons
Spring in the Tetons

The Jackson Hole area has become one of my all-time favorite spots to visit. I usually am here in the fall for the moose so this was my first time here in the spring, and the crowds were smaller, though still too many people for my tastes.

Spring in the Tetons
Spring in the Tetons

As usual, I stayed at the Gros Ventre Campground and it was definitely less crowded than in the fall, in fact, they still had two loops of the campground closed while I was there.

Plus there was more, and more accessible wildlife here, than I had encountered in Yellowstone just the week before, with fewer people pursuing them. On one of the rainy days, I braved the crowds and visited several of the many fine art galleries in downtown Jackson Hole. So, fine wildlife art, beautiful mountains, a quiet campground, as well as plentiful wildlife, what not to like about the Grand Tetons in the spring.

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May 27, 2018 Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Bear #399 and Cubs
Bear #399 and Cubs

A Beary Good Day in the Tetons

Grand Teton N.P. Unsettled Weather
Grand Teton N.P. Unsettled Weather

I arrived at the Gros Ventre Campground in Kelly, Wyoming, just outside Jackson Hole, on Thursday, apparently bringing the unsettled weather with me.

Grand Teton N.P. Unsettled Weather
Grand Teton N.P. Unsettled Weather

Storm clouds, a bit of sun, rain, hail … just can’t seem to escape this kind of weather this year. Does combine at times to produce some dramatic shots though. The above image is the scene as I exit the Gros Ventre Campground on what turned out to be a very rare, exciting day in the Grand Teton National Park.

Bear #399
Bear #399

Bear #399

Bear #399
Bear #399

( For a little background of Bear #399, arguably the most famous bear in the world, click here.)

On Saturday of the Memorial Day Weekend, I had originally planned to just stay home and avoid the holiday crowds, but at 5:30 in the morning when I caught a glimpse of a little bit of sun through the storm clouds at sunrise, I decided I would venture out, hoping the holiday crowds might be sleeping in..

Bear #399
Bear #399

I drove about thirty miles north on the main road to an area referred to as Pilgrim Flats and couldn’t believe my eyes when I spied a very healthy looking grizzly with two large cubs grazing in the flats not more than hundred yards off the side of the road.

Bear #399 and Cubs
Bear #399 and Cubs

And more amazing yet, early morning golden light and no rain!

Bear #399 and Cubs
Bear #399 and Cubs

I was able to position myself with the sun to my back and couldn’t believe that the bears seemed very content to do their thing and were oblivious to myself and some other early morning photographers who were able to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.

Bear #399 Nursing Cubs
Bear #399 Nursing Cubs

When Mom stopped grazing and called the cubs in to nurse, I just couldn’t believe how fortunate I was to have abandoned my plan to stay home on this holiday weekend.

Bear #399 Nursing Cubs
Bear #399 Nursing Cubs

Don’t think I would want to ever see those claws up close and personal.

Bear #399 Nursing Cubs
Bear #399 Nursing Cubs

Very healthy two year old cubs and obviously, a very experienced mother.

Bear #399
Bear #399

After spending the better part of two hours with these guys, and with crowds gathering, I departed Pilgrim Flats and continued up the highway to see what else I might run into.

A Second Encounter with Bear #399 and Cubs
A Second Encounter with Bear #399 and Cubs

On my return south on the highway, about two miles north of where I originally encountered these bears, I saw them coming out of the woods heading down to a small pond and pulled over to see if I could get any different type of shots. But by this time traffic was getting very heavy and my stopping started a huge ” bear jam ” on the highway. Just incredible how quickly the road backed up and people stopped in the middle of the road, on both sides, people darting in and out of traffic, just chaotic, and not my cup of tea. So, I left #399 and her cubs to the holiday crowds and hurried home to get my shots on the computer to see if I captured anything worthwhile in my early morning encounter with this star of the bear world.

An Obsessed Mountain Bluebird

Female Mountain Bluebird
Female Mountain Bluebird

While I have had other birds, at other campgrounds, be attracted to their reflection in the motorhome’s mirrors, I have never run into one as obsessed as this female Mountain Bluebird.

Female Mountain Bluebird
Female Mountain Bluebird

She shows up at sunrise and returns all throughout the day to try and discourage this interloper she sees in the mirror, trying to intrude on her territory.

Female Mountain Bluebird
Female Mountain Bluebird

Other times I have observed this kind of behavior, it has always been a male bird and I have never seen one so aggressively fight off this perceived intruder. She was making such a mess of the mirror that I finally had to go and wrap a plastic bag over the mirror, whereupon she turned her attention to the other other mirror, that she had previously ignored. Now both mirrors are wrapped in plastic, but she still shows up several times a day to check on the intruders she knows must be there but that she can no longer see.

Next post, another bear encounter at the same location, but a different bear!

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