I arrived in Yellowstone in the late afternoon on June 23. My reservations called for one night at Roosevelt followed by two nights at Canyon. However, I decided that I needed at least another day and checked to see if any rooms were available. Fortunately, a space had opened up in the Old Faithful Inn, and I extended my stay by a day. However, even a week would have seemed too short.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Monday, June 24: I spent the day entirely within Yellowstone. By the afternoon I was looking at and photographing the scenery, especially the Yellowstone Gorge (or as they call it, the "Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone".)
In the morning I headed west from Roosevelt Lodge to Mammoth Hot Springs, and then south. It was cold, with the car reading 42 degrees before the day started warming up. At Mammoth I got a lifer, Clark's Nutcracker. By the time the day was over I had run across them a couple of times. Somewhere along the road I saw Mountain Chickadee and a Hammond's Flycatcher (ID by call...the best kind for empids!). I should put in an ad for Apple's iPod MP3 player here. I've loaded mine up with all the bird songs on either Stokes, plus some others. Anyway, when confronted with a calling bird, it only takes a few seconds to whip out the iPod and dial it up. With the live bird in one ear and the recording in the other, it is easy to verify songs. In this case, it ruled out Dusky (who has a similar call, and was the expected bird there). I added some more waterfowl, bringing the trip total to 173 (today's total was 48).
I've noticed that things don't always go according to the Birder's Guide to Wyoming. Some of that is due to changes in the area. Some of today's discrepancies were due to weather. The book describes all of these ponds, stuffed with waterfowl, on the road from Roosevelt to the NE entrance. I didn't recall seeing these on the way in, so I went back to check. They are all grassy fields! It's evident that the drought out here has had an effect!
Two of the locations flagged as best are closed right now. These are off the main road, and evidently the gravel road there is in disrepair. This may make it tough to get Blue Grouse in Yellowstone.
I spent the late afternoon at the Yellowstone Gorge (Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone), mostly on the north rim. I took both the Red Rock Point and Brink of the Lower Falls Trails. Although they are short, you have to walk back up a total of about 1100ft between them. Additionally, I walked between the trails, so I got a good workout.
After dinner I went to Artist Point on the south rim where I took more photos.
|Gorge||Gorge Detail||Lower Falls|
I also got to see Black Bear today, and took some photos (they didn't turn out well). I was caught in a bearjam that might have been for grizzly, but didn't get to see it (I understand that many of those caught in these traffic jams don't get to see the animal.) Day total: 48 bird species. Trip total: 173 species.
Canyon Lodge, Yellowstone, WY
Sylvan Pass and Mammoth Hot Springs
Tuesday, June 25: On Tuesday, it was 40 degrees as I made several stops along the road from Canyon to Fishing Bridge, turning up Gray Jay near LeHardy's Rapids. I also made a scenic stop at Mud Volcano, and various buffalo stops in the Hayden Valley (it was either stop or hit them!). The young buffalo were being escorted across the road by the adults. Various waterbirds were present in the Fishing Bridge area, including Western Grebe and Barrow's Goldeneye. I tried to turn grebes into Clark's, but to no avail. Scanning the shoreline revealed Marbled Godwit and Spotted Sandpiper.
From there I turned toward the east entrance, going as far as Sylvan Pass, which is rocky, not sylvan. It's named after nearby Sylvan Lake. One of the stops yielded White-crowned Sparrow (a trip bird). On the way back I took the road up to Lake Butte, which gives a wonderful view of Lake Yellowstone and the mountains beyond, including the Tetons. Some people there were feeding pretzels to some Least Chipmunks. This attracted a Stellar's Jay, and then a Clark's Nutcracker. I also noticed a female Western Tanager in the neighborhood (not interested in the pretzels!).
From there, I went to Lake Hotel to try to extend my Yellowstone stay by a day. They had 3 rooms available for Wednesday night, including one in the Old Faithful Inn, which I took. Since I would be going there anyway, I decided to go elsewhere on Tuesday. I turned around, went back to Canyon, and then took the road to Norris. There was another buffalo stop in the Hayden Valley. This time a whole herd was crossing the road. At one point I was completely surrounded by buffalo! I was glad they didn't stampede! Midday was spent in the Norris Geyser Basin, where I saw Echinus erupt.
After that, it was off to Mammoth Hot Springs, with its travertine terraces. Many pictures were taken at both Norris and Mammoth. It was about 5pm when I was done. I headed back to Canyon via Tower. Somewhat south of Tower was another traffic jam. A ranger stopped and started directing traffic which meant that those of us at the end of the line got to see the Black Bear.
After dinner, I decided I was tired and went to bed early, without even writing up the day's events. I did take time to notice the buffalo in the yard of the cabin across the street. Tuesday's total was 47 species, with a trip total of 182. Day total: 47 species. Trip total: 181 species.
Canyon Lodge, Yellowstone, WY
Wednesday, June 26: Today was a non-birding day. After a brief bit of birding near the South Rim Trail, I headed for the Hayden Valley hoping for some good mammal photographs. I had just started when I noticed a car pulled over, and two cooperative bull elk. I took some shots of buffalo crossing the river in the early morning river fog. Don't know if they'll come out, but they have the potential to be pretty good. Again, there were buffalo in the road, both headed down and on the way back. I stopped to look at some White Pelicans, and noticed several California Gulls. I was starting to look at them when they all took off. The reason? A coyote was headed straight for them. I got some pictures of the coyote too, but it could have been closer. On the way back to Canyon, the buffalo that were crossing the river were now proceeding down the road. They seemed to know the rules of the road as they were all in the right lane! It was about this time that I heard my only new trip bird for the day—Olive-sided Flycatcher (#183).
My big plan for the day was to hike up Mt. Washburn (highest point in Yellowstone at 10,262 feet). I started at 8:40 and had returned to my car by 12:20. The Clark's Nutcrackers that were hard to find a few days ago seemed to be everywhere. I added to my mammal list: Pika, Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, and Yellow-pine Chipmunk. The last ID was helped by a guidebook I got yesterday: Mammals of the Rocky Mountains. It illustrates some of the species not properly covered in the Peterson series guide (Yellow-pine Chipmunk and Uinta Chipmunk come to mind). Other mammals today were Least Chipmunk and Yellow-bellied Marmot, along with the usual dogs and humans (rather too many of the latter at Old Faithful). I missed Bighorn Sheep by 30-45 minutes atop Mt. Washburn.
After lunch, I went to the Old Faithful area. It erupted right on schedule. I also saw Castle erupt (the Energizer Bunny of geysers), as well as some lesser geysers. I spent a long time waiting for Grand (the largest regularly erupting geyser), which was forecast to erupt between 3-7pm (no, I didn't get there at 3). I waited until 7:30, and it still hadn't erupted. Although it has a somewhat very schedule, this was overdoing it even by its standards.
After dinner I saw someone almost gored by a buffalo grazing outside the Inn. A teenager, I think. He walked right up to it, I think with the intent to harass it. The buffalo was not amused, and made a warning pass with its horns. Fortunately, the kid jumped back at this point, and the buffalo resumed grazing. Day total: 37 species. Trip total: 182 species.
Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone, WY
Upper Geyser Basin
Thursday, June 27: Today I spent the morning looking at geysers, seeing Old Faithful erupt 3 times, Daisy twice, and Riverside once. I was hoping to see Grand, but it was again off schedule and I was too far away to see it when it went off. Mostly, this involved a lot of walking (4-5 miles) and much standing around waiting for something to happen. Kinda like birding!
Then I drove to Jackson. On my first try I got a motel room for 3 nights. Then I drove around a bit, checked a few marshes, etc. One highlight today started with a squawking pair of Ravens. I stopped to see what was up, and found they were harassing a Golden Eagle. The eagle had a prey item, and I assumed that the ravens were trying to get the prey item. However, when I scoped the eagle, I found that this wasn't a matter of food, but of blood! The eagle had taken a raven!
I saw only 36 bird species today. There were two new trip birds: Trumpeter Swan and Cinnamon Teal, bringing the trip total to 184.