June 10, 2018 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Ruddy Duck Pair
Ruddy Duck Pair

A Short Stay at Malheur NWR, Oregon

Since I had to be in Bend, Oregon on the 11th for my six month progress appointment with my oncologist, I figured I would split up the drive from Jackson Hole to Bend by staying a few days at the Narrows RV Park and driving around the Malheur NWR and perhaps try to find some of the wild horse herd up on Steens Mountain.

Rainbow Over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
Rainbow Over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

As per normal, weather was in and out, mostly rainy and grey, but with a few moments of sun here and there.

Common Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk

Three Common Nighthawks spent the day sleeping on top of the split rail fence in the campground, right behind my campsite. I was able to approach to within five feet of them without disturbing them, probably could have reached out and touched them if I had wanted to.

Trumpeter Swan and Rainbow
Trumpeter Swan and Rainbow

There are a couple of non-migratory Trumpeter Swans that breed and spend the year here at Malheur.

Ruddy Duck Pair
Ruddy Duck Pair

The Ruddy Duck Drake is one of my favorite ducks to shoot, just love that ridiculously blue beak.

Being a little late in the spring to find much here in Malheur, and that certainly was the case, I took a drive about 20 miles up the gravel road from the south entrance to the Steens Mountain Loop, hoping to maybe spot the wild horses up there. Usually when I am here in the spring, this loop road is still closed due to snow, but at this time the southern portion of the road was open up to and a little beyond the campground. From the north, the road was only open to Gate #2.

Anyhow, I never saw any sign of the horses but I was pleasantly surprised by the condition of the road, at least as far as up to the campground. I just might try staying up there next time I come here and be able to spend more time looking for the horses.

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June 4, 2018 Grand Teton National Park

Reflections on Jackson Lake
Reflections on Jackson Lake

Scenics From Grand Teton National Park

Spending two weeks here in the spring, one has the opportunity to fully appreciate just how beautiful this region is. Though half my days were gloomy, overcast, and rainy, the other half were, at times, just incredibly, drop dead gorgeous.

Jackson Lake Reflection
Jackson Lake Reflection

Fog lifting from the valley reflected in the calm waters of beautiful Jackson Lake.

Teton View From Campground Exit Road
Teton View From Campground Exit Road

The scene as I exited Gros Ventre Campground in the morning revealed the promise of another great day.

Teton View From Campground Exit Road
Teton View From Campground Exit Road

 

Teton Pronghorns
Teton Pronghorns

In the evening, returning to the Gros Ventre Campground along Kelly Road, I was sometimes accompanied by small groups of Pronghorns and always by wonderful views of Grand Teton.

Lupines and Grand Teton
Lupines and Grand Teton

Lupines were starting to bloom in numbers in select areas of the park this last week.

Grand Teton
Grand Teton

The arrow leaf balsam root were approaching peak bloom.

Grand Teton
Grand Teton
Paddleboarding on Jenny Lake
Paddleboarding on Jenny Lake

Sure wouldn’t want to take a spill from the paddle board since the lake water temps are only in the low 40’s.

Fog Rising Grand Teton
Fog Rising Grand Teton

Springtime snow melt produces a wonderful waterfall, not to be seen during fall visits.

Spring Runoff Grand Teton
Spring Runoff Grand Teton
Spring Runoff Grand Teton
Spring Runoff Grand Teton
Morman Farm
Morman Farm

Mormon Row landscapes taken at 6 AM or before in order to avoid the crowds of photographers that would otherwise be included in any of these panoramic shots.

Morman Farm
Morman Farm
Morman Farm
Morman Farm

There were promising mornings when I arrived too late, as in 6:30 AM or so, and already there would be a couple of vans or buses unloading folks here.

Morman Farm
Morman Farm
Red Hills
Red Hills

Painted red hills east of the town of Kelly, just a few miles from Gros Ventre Campground. There is a National Forest campground up there but the road to access it is in just horrible shape, one I would not want to subject my motorhome to.

Beaver Pond Reflections
Beaver Pond Reflections

Reflections from Schwabacher Landing

Grand Teton Reflection
Grand Teton Reflection

Of course, any scenics from Grand Teton National Park would have to include shots taken from Schwabacher Landing and the reflections of Grand Teton in the beaver ponds along the backwaters of the Snake River.

Grand Teton Reflection
Grand Teton Reflection
Grand Teton Reflection
Grand Teton Reflection
Trail Ride
Trail Ride

What a great way to spend a day here in Grand Teton National Park, a trail ride out along the Snake River.

After these folks crossed the road I proceeded south down the highway and came across a young woman trotting her horse north towards this group. She was riding just twenty feet or so from the highway. After slowly passing her, in my rearview mirror  I saw her flying through the air and landing in the grass off the side of the road and I could see her horse bucking like a rodeo bronco out in the center of the highway. Fortunately there were no cars coming when the horse was bucking, riderless, out in the road. I was moving very slowly when I passed her and she seemed like a very confident rider and was a fair distance off the shoulder of the highway as we passed, but I worry that perhaps I somehow spooked her horse and was the cause of this mishap. As they disappeared from view in my mirror, I did see her rise up from the grass and walk out into the road towards her bucking horse, so at least I know she survived the mishap.

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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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