Headed out early this morning to do the same trip around the upper loop road and down to Hayden valley but in the reverse order of Saturday’s trip. Today was one of those days where I cover a lot of ground, at the proper time of day, but just pretty much come up empty. I may have set some kind of reverse record for wildlife sightings in Hayden Valley. I traversed the entire valley north to south and then again south to north and saw but one lone bison in the distance, no elk, antelope, bison herds, wolves, bears, or coyotes. If you have ever been to the Hayden Valley, you know how rare it is to have it virtually empty of wildlife.
I did manage to find these swans to photograph. I was excited to see some Canada Geese floating downstream towards the swans, for I seem to recall that the swans are extremely territorial, and will drive off other birds such as the geese. I was ready for some action! But these guys seemed like they were the best of friends.
I was rounding a sharp corner and saw this young black bear cub all but in the road grazing on the curbside clover. With no mother in sight and other people stopping and getting within 6 feet of the youngster, for once, I was almost hoping a ranger would come along and break this up before the cub was startled out into the road and struck by a car. At times, his head was only a foot or so from the pavement and he acted as if he didn’t even see or hear the cars only a couple of feet from his head whizzing by, and he was completely oblivious to the growing crowd of people all but reaching out to pet him. I hope he survived this, but with no mother and this lack of fear of traffic and people, it probably doesn’t look like much of a future for this guy.
Lastly, a couple more bison shots. I got a kick out of this guy, once again using the centerline of the highway to negotiate his way down the road. They do move at a very slow pace while traveling on the highway, but they can seriously unnerve you as they pass by at only a couple of feet from your vehicle.
Especially if you are on a very narrow gravel road, such as the one to the fire tower, and you encounter a fellow like this coming down the road as you head up. At least he was using the shoulder of the road, I assume because there was no yellow centerline on the gravel road.
Once again, I traversed the upper loop road from Mammoth to Tower, out to the Lamar Valley, and then on to Hayden Valley, then back to Norris, then home to Mammoth Campground.
I encountered a couple of bison jams along the way and a few scattered elk. Though unable to get any photos of him because of the distance, I was able to observe the grizzly that has been camped out on a carcass on the far shore of Swan Lake for the past three days.
I got a few nice predawn shots of the bull elk in town, controlling his ever growing harem of cows, going out over the hills to drive a stray back to the harem if she wandered too far to graze.
In the late afternoon, while I was at the computer processing today’s shots, I heard a bull bugling just outside the campground and it sounded like he was heading my way. Sure enough, I looked out the windshield and there he was cutting through the site directly in front of me and heading for the main road. I gathered up my camera and shot out the door after him and managed to get a couple of decent shots of him before he disappeared over the hill, apparently looking for some company.
Woke up to more rain and threatening skies this morning. Off to the southeast, towards Lamar Valley, there appeared to be a somewhat lighter sky, so, suffering from a little cabin fever from yesterday’s rainout, I decided to chance it and head to Lamar Valley. As I drove through town in the rain, I noticed they had all kinds of traffic barricades up and “elk” control rangers and volunteers all around the common, where there were several cows and calves bedded down on the lawn, with one bull wandering the sidelines. Things apparently are continuing to heat up, elkwise.
The turn in the weather may be what is prompting the elk to move into town in greater numbers. As I headed toward Lamar Valley in the rain, I noticed that the peaks of the higher mountains now had a mantle of white.
No wildlife to be seen on the way to Lamar, with the exception of a few bison herds, bedded down in the meadows. Nothing in the way of wildlife in Lamar either, again except for the bison.
The sun flirted with dark, threatening skies and there was a dramatic bit of lighting on the hills above the valley.
Then the skies opened up and it poured for half an hour or so, then broke just enough to reveal a rainbow. It attempted to form a double rainbow, but didn’t quite make it. This is the third rainbow I have had the opportunity to photograph here in my two weeks in Yellowstone, if only I could have gotten a bison or elk instead of the car for a focal point.
( As always, just click on any image for a larger, sharper version. I do apologize for these shots being a little flat, but there was very little light to work with at 7 AM this morning. )
Out by 7 AM , went through town and scouted for Elk a few miles west of town. Found one large harem being closely bunched and guarded by a large bull, but unfortunately they were just a little too far off for photos. On my way back home I encountered two bulls sparing, I don’t think they were real serious about their little battle, since there were no cows around to fight over, though the jousting did intensify the longer they went at it, so maybe it was a turf war? Either way, it looks like things are starting to heat up around here, but I may have to speak to the fight promoter and have him schedule these bouts about an hour later when there is a little better light.
This guy has a very distinctive profile, according to one of the rangers, he broke his nose last year butting cars, a habit more than a few of these guys have. After watching these bulls for a a week or so, I find it amazing that more people aren’t injured by them here in Mammoth.
There are a lot of people, some doing some pretty stupid things, sharing the sidewalks and roads with these guys, and they are aggressive and move really fast! Plus what I have witnessed so far is before their hormones kick into high gear since the rut is barely starting, no mating has occurred yet.