trip report day 6

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    Posted by michael in tucson ( on August 01, 2005 at 21:15:11:

    6-3-05 Day 6

    Karlie and Hayden are still sleeping soundly so I head off by myself. The usual AM elk and deer are it seems even more numerous today. They include an elk calf with a group of cows at Warm Springs and over twenty deer before I reach Round Prairie. The bull herd is again out at Round Prairie. At Dorothyís I get to see the sow grizzly with three, year old cubs that others have told me about this week. When I first glassed them all four bears were standing on all fours, showing a side view. I moved past thinking they were grazing bison, but then the brain, slow to work this AM, struck an odd chord and I swung back with the binoculars. The cubs appear to be almost as big as mom. I get out the scope and settle in to watch. They are in an open green area on the side of Amethyst Mountain and easy to observe with the scope. Mom is all business as she forages over the green slope. The cubs do the same but often stop and get up on hind legs to look around. I was the only one here at first but now there are others and I share the scope with several who have never seen a grizz before much less four of them. Everyone is appreciative and excited. While others are using the scope I check out some agitated cow elk on Jasper Bench. The cause of their agitation is a pair of coyotes. The coyotes are persistent, and are in continual motion to keep away from the charges of several cows. I guess that there are calves around and eventually
    I spot one that seems glued to mom. The elk finally convince the coyotes to look elsewhere for food and the pair moves off to the east. Turnabout seems fair, and now I watch as a pair of sandhill cranes chase off a cow elk. My guess, they are protecting a nest, or I am looking at a carnivorous elk. The cranes jump at the elk , open their wings wide, and are loudly vocalizing at her. The elk soon has enough and sets off on a mad dash here and there. I spend a bit more time watching the bears and then head to Slough.

    At Slough I climb the hill and say hi to Emily and Rick. The den area is active. There are four adults visible and three black pups above the den. I watch the pup interactions and suddenly there are wolves everywhere. They have a classic wolf rally with lots of adults and pups joining in on the tail wagging, licking and lots of dominance and submission. Soon the adults begin to move uphill led by the alpha male 490. I realize how big this wolf is when I see him standing next to the others. I watch as eleven wolves move up the hill. The gray male 453 limps a lot on his bad back leg. He kind of hops up the hill but doesnít appear any slower than the rest. Then they all stop at a rock outcropping and I can see them begin to howl. Soon the sound of the howling rolls across the valley. I can hear the sound of puppy howling intermingled in the concert. What a treat. The adults continue on their way eventually lost to sight to the southwest. A gray baby-sitter leads seven pups away from the den to the northeast. As the pups follow, they do puppy stuff, falling down, wandering from the others, running to catch up and plowing into another pup. Eventually they reach a rock which they all decide to climb. Problem is they wonít all fit on the rock, so a wolf pup game of King of the Hill ensues. Pups get pushed off, fall off and roll off the rock. There are four pups still visible at the den and I suspect that there is another adult baby-sitter around somewhere but canít find it. Wow! I have seen twelve adults and eleven pups this morning. It is now 9:00 AM and I head back to Silver Gate. It is quiet as I head east and I think about what an amazing three hours of wildlife viewing I have had.

    After breakfast and cleanup Hayden is ready to go and see some animals. We stop at a pullout west of the Institute and sit on some rocks to watch pronghorn and bison. Once we are sitting quietly lots of ground squirrels make an appearance. Hayden loves to spot them and gets really excited when he is seeing several at once. When they run around he just laughs and laughs at them. We stop at Lamar Canyon so that Karlie can see the owls and are told about a supposed golden eagle nest at the west end of the pullout. While I go in search of this elusive nest (more on this nest later in the trip), Hayden and Karlie walk down onto the flat above the river. Hayden finds an elk jawbone which he quickly decides must go home with us. Time to explain that he can enjoy what he found but has to leave it in Yellowstone. We work very hard at explaining but the tears still come when he has to do it. I am sure we will continue this lesson over the next few years.

    There are several cars pulled over in Little America, so we make a stop. There are a pair of consorting black bears along the treeline south of the road. We set up the scope to get a better look. It is soon obvious that the male is a cinnamon colored bear and the female is black. We watch them and share the scope with people. We give Hayden a look but he isnít able to see the bears. At Phantom Lake there is a crowd of people with lots of big camera lenses. I guess badger den and even though we do not stop (absolutely nowhere safe to park), I find out later that my guess is correct. There are some bid elk bulls at Blacktail Ponds, which are also garnering a lot of attention. We slow down and admire as we drive on. The big bulls are also resting near the road between Wraith and Undine Falls.

    In Mammoth I go looking for the Great Horned owlís nest. I am hoping that Hayden will be able to see them. I find the nest easily and can see one adult and one big chick, but they are hard to pick out in the foliage of the tree, and then it starts to rain so I forego having Hayden take a look. We decide to head to Gardiner to pick up some needed groceries. On the way to and from we see elk and pronghorn. By the time we get back to Mammoth it has stopped raining for now and we head to the Upper Terrace to pay a visit to Canary Springs. This has always been a favorite for Karlie and I. We have watched it ebb and flow over the years, but today it becomes even more important. Hayden absolutely loves it. He insists that we view every portion of it and take our time doing it. He is very animated as he tells us about the waterfalls, the fast water, the bubbles, the colors, the steam. And he has questions. Why is there steam? Why is it orange, yellow and green? What happens to the plants? Where does it come from? Seeing Canary through the eyes of my son, has made it special forever. After all of that we have to eat an early dinner at the Grille, and then we are on our way back, and Hayden is out for a late well deserved nap.

    The bull elk have moved toward Wraith and are up eating as we pass by. At Elk Creek we stop and watch two bull moose as they eat along the creek, where two days ago we watched the black bear and two cubs. When we get to Slough, Hayden is still sleeping. Karlie takes the scope and heads up the hill while I wait in the car with Hayden. When he wakes up he and I head up the hill. It is a hike filled with discussion of bison and elk poop, holes dug in the ground, pretty little flowers, and at the top the bones of an elk. Karlie has been watching three adult wolves and six pups near the den. When I get a chance on the scope a fourth wolf appears, this is the female called Stripe. She spends some time licking and playing with the pups. A large grizzly appears above the den site and works his way across the hillside moving to the southeast. When he is gone from sight, we decide to head back.

    It is almost 9 PM and has been a long day, but Yellowstone has a bit more to show us this day. Just west of the confluence, I spot a bison acting very erratically as it runs back and forth on the bank above the river. As it runs it trails something from its posterior end. After looking for a bit, I realize that I am looking at the remains of a very recent birth. Just as I figure this out, Karlie spots a bison calf trying to climb the cutbank from the river. The calf tears up the dirt and gets to the top only to bump into the cutbank overhang. It can reach that far but then falls back. It does this at least four times as we watch in the gathering dark. The cow calls loudly to her calf, and it bawls back at her, but to no avail. If the cow would come down to the calf or move a bit to the west there is a small creek that flows into the river, perhaps the calf could make it up there. It is now quite dark and we can barely see the two bison with the help of the binoculars. We leave and head back to the cabin with the final result unknown. June 3, 2005 has been a very remarkable Yellowstone day.

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