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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September 6, 2016 Leaving Estes Park, Colorado

Bull Elk Reflection
Bull Elk Reflection

One Last Trip up the Mountain

Today is the day I leave Rocky Mountain National Park and make my way to the Tetons in Wyoming, but since checkout time isn’t until 11 AM, I figured to do one last trip up Trail Ridge Road to see what I could see.

Why One Does Not Speed Up Trail Ridge Road at 5AM
Why One Does Not Speed Up Trail Ridge Road at 5AM

I always wonder what people are thinking when they zip by me in the dark while I am heading up the mountain . The speed limit is posted at 35 mph, but in the dark, I feel it is a little foolhardy to run at that speed when the forest comes right to the edge of the road and I always encounter deer and elk grazing right on the side of the road in the early morning darkness.

This guy probably weighed in at about half the weight of the Prius and would have come crashing down on my windshield had I hit him and taken his legs out from under him. He was pursuing a few cows that I had slowed for that were grazing on the shoulder of the road and didn’t seem concerned that a car was heading his way.

Above the Clouds
Above the Clouds

At the top of the mountain, I was truly above the clouds! Kind of a tough shot, shooting directly back into the sun, but it felt like a shot one would take out the window of a plane.

Above the Clouds
Above the Clouds
Above the Clouds
Above the Clouds

After a bit, the clouds moved up and out of the valleys as if they were being sucked up by some enormous vacuum in the sky.

Bull Elk and Harem at Dawn
Bull Elk and Harem at Dawn

A shot of the only elk I encountered at the top of Trail ridge.

Young Bulls Sparring
Young Bulls Sparring
Young Bulls Sparring
Young Bulls Sparring

These two young bulls, pretty decent sized animals in their own right, were grazing along the side of a trail on the east side of the summit. Graze, then spar, graze then spar, I followed them along the trail for a ways, wondering if they would ever get real serious in their shoving matches … they didn’t.

Young Bulls Sparring
Young Bulls Sparring
Young Bulls Sparring
Young Bulls Sparring

Pretty neat to see them butting heads from this close, but not really hardcore fighting, probably need another year’s growth before they will be seriously challenging any of the old bulls for command of a harem of cows.

I returned home and broke camp at 11 AM and headed east through the magnificent Thompson Canyon on Route 34, picking up Route 287 in Loveland and heading north. This road quickly got me bogged down in heavy traffic with lots of traffic lights, so as I slowly moved towards Fort Collins, I took the first opportunity to head a little east and get on I-25 north to avoid the congestion and slow going on 287.

Crossing into Wyoming, I stopped at the impressive new Wyoming Welcome Center for some maps and brochures before picking up I-80 west to Rawlins where I pulled off and overnighted at Walmart where I also got my provisions for my next extended stay at the Gros Ventre Campground in Grand Tetons National Park.

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September 3, 2016 Estes Park, Colorado

Cow Elk
Cow Elk

Strange Morning, Great Day

Saturday’s forecast had called for clear skies and beautiful weather, so I was a little surprised to see clouds obscuring some of the stars as I packed my gear in the Prius and left the campsite for Trail Ridge around 5 AM.

Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
The Start of a Strange Morning on Trail Ridge

As I started the climb up Ridge Road, I stopped for a couple sunrise shots, made more impressive by the threatening skies moving in.

Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge

There was a weird red/magenta glow in the sky as dark clouds began to dominate the skies the higher up the road I climbed.

Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Trail Ridge Rainbow
Trail Ridge Rainbow

As I neared the top, I stopped and hopped out of the car as a fairly bright rainbow suddenly appeared out of the gloom. I was so close to the rainbow, I couldn’t get the entire thing in a photo even with a 20mm wide angle lens, felt like I could just about reach out and touch it at times.

Trail Ridge Rainbow
Trail Ridge Rainbow

The rainbow increased in intensity as the wind began whipping rain sideways, and, unfortunately, right in my face as I attempted more shots, covering the lens, and me, in rain and forcing me to retreat to the car.

Trail Ridge Rainbow
Trail Ridge Rainbow

I raced farther up the road hoping in vain to escape the windblown rain so I could get more shots of one of the most intense rainbows I have ever seen, but as I drove on, the rainbow faded and eventually all but the tail end disappeared before I could get out of the driving rain.

Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
From Trail Ridge
From Trail Ridge

By 8 AM, the rains stopped, the clouds slowly lifted and the good weather promised for today started moving in.

Bighorn Sheep
Bighorn Sheep

On my way back down the mountain, I spotted four Bighorn Rams grazing on the slope above me, but unfortunately, there was no nearby pullout and the Saturday morning stream of traffic coming up the mountain made it impossible for me to get any decent shots.

Bighorn Sheep
Bighorn Sheep

Since these guys were the only Bighorn Sheep I had encountered in my two weeks here, I was more than a little disappointed, to say the least.

Bull Elk
Bull Elk

By the time I returned to the valley floor, the wonderful weather predicted for today had fully arrived. And with it my first opportunity to shoot some nice bull elk basking in the early morning sun.

Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Two Bull Elk
Uneasy Peace

This actually was my first opportunity to shoot elk with some wonderful golden hour light, all my previous encounters have been in the dim light of dawn or duck, or in complete shade.

Two Bull Elk
Uneasy Peace
Bull Elk Sparring
Bull Elk Sparring

These two younger bulls would alternate grazing and semi serious sparring sessions.

Bull Elk Sparring
Bull Elk Sparring
Bull Elk in Retreat
Bull Elk in Retreat

One of them finally tired of the game and headed across the meadow at a full gallop.

Chapel on the Rock
Chapel on the Rock

Later in the afternoon, I took a short trip back down Route 7 to get some shots of The Chapel on the Rock. I liked the dark clouds setting off the sculpture on the hill above the chapel. When I was here several years ago, I remember this building being surrounded by water, actually appearing to be built on an island, so something has changed here in the last few years.

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September 2, 2016 Estes Park, Colorado

Elk Cow and Alpenglow
Elk Cow and Alpenglow

Rocky Mountain National Park

Yellow-bellied Marmot
Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmots here in the higher elevations of the park are numerous and fairly unconcerned with humans approaching, so not a terribly challenging wildlife subject, but cute nonetheless.

Yellow-bellied Marmot
Yellow-bellied Marmot

I get a kick out of how they seem to love sunbathing in the first of the sun’s rays each morning.

The Sentry
The Sentry

They live in small colonies and usually one will assume guard duties while others forage.

Yellow-bellied Marmot
Yellow-bellied Marmot
Young Bull Elk
Young Bull Elk

High Country Elk

Two Young Bull Elk
Two Young Bull Elk

I have gotten a lot, and I do mean a LOT, of elk shots over the past few days. They seem to be moving down from the mountaintops this week and I have run into several groups heading down to their winter feeding grounds in the valleys below.

Two Young Bull Elk
Two Young Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem before Sunrise
Bull Elk and Harem before Sunrise

Four Elk CowsFour Elk Cows

Young Bull Elk
Young Bull Elk
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem

I have seen several large, very large bulls, escorting their harems down the slopes. A few of them are probably the largest I have ever seen.

Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk Bugle
Bull Elk Bugle

A full 14 points on this guy! And that bugle was very, very loud. This shot was taken at very close range … from the safety of my car.

Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Young Bull Elk
Young Bull Elk

Needless to say, one must be very alert to when driving around up here these days as the elk are needing to cross the roads on their way down to the valleys below.

Scratching Post
Scratching Post

That post he is scratching his head on is one of many that were just put out this week to guide the snow plows … guess that’s a sure sign summer is over.

Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk Charge
Bull Elk Charge
Uh-oh!
Uh-oh!

These shots just above may look quite alarming, but they were taken with my 600mm lens, and although it may look like I was in imminent danger, I wasn’t, his charge was actually directed at one of his harem, not me.

Bull Elk Bugle
Bull Elk Bugle
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk Bugle
Bull Elk Bugle

Early morning, before all the cars and people get up here, the bugling elk are something to hear. I arrive at the top just at daybreak when the elk are most active and am very glad that few people are ambitious enough to get on the road by 5:30 to catch all the action. As I am leaving the park at 10  or 11 in the morning, I pass long, long lines of cars at the entrance booths, usually a hundred or more, plus a steady bumper to bumper crowd all the way back to town.

Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Cow
Bull Elk and Cow
That Time of Year
That Time of Year
Bull Elk
Bull Elk

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