Autumn in the Tetons & Yellowstone - p 2 of 2

 

24 Sept 2015

Now at the Elk Country Inn in West Yellowstone, MT, we have a pre-dawn breakfast at the Running Bear Pancake House.  Then we run over to the park, reaching the road along the Madison River at first light.

This is considered one of the top spots in the world to photograph elk.  If you don't believe me, just ask any of the other 3,488 photographers who line the road to photograph this herd. 
   Its patriarch bugles from time to time, a message to other males and to the dozen or so females in his harem.

 

 

 

 


 


 

 

 

 

 

Bull Elk

Mammoth Hot Springs  

 

 

 

25 Sept 2015

After 2 mornings of this, we carry on to Mammoth Hot Springs, taking a walking and a driving tour around the springs. 

It's amazing what happens when hot water saturated with calcium carbonate boils up from the surface and then cools.  The crowning touch is color, mostly due to thermophilic algae.

 

 

The most reliable spot to photograph Pronghorns is in the western end of the Lamar Valley.  These two females may be gossiping about the dominant male who is quite bossy about where they can and cannot graze.

Just as bison are not buffalos, pronghorns are not antelopes.  They are in a different family, the Antiliocapridae.   Through convergent evolution, pronghorns occupy the same ecological niche as true antelopes of Africa and Asia.

 

Female-pronghorns
Male-pronghorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

The male in turn seems quite proud of himself, since he has a harem of eight or ten females.  He walks with a certain style, an elan appropriate for one of his status. 

  

 

 

 

A Black Bear sighting in Yellowstone sets off a frenzy among the tourists that must be seen to be believed - cars screeching to a halt, parking willy-nilly on or off the road, people swarming out of them and up the slope to see that bear.

This one, in the hills west of the Lamar Valley, retreated into the rocks where it could safely view the pandemonium below.  We were just as eager as any tourist to see and photograph it.  Which is ironic because we have close views of  these guys in the backyard at our New Mexico cabin every few weeks in the summer.

The Bear
Bison-in-Lamar-Valley  

The Lamar Valley is the top wildlife area in Yellowstone.  Its herd of bison lives here year-round, even in winter when the snow is two feet deep.

The Lamar is also the place to see the bison's chief predator, Gray Wolf.  They in turn attract a clique of "wolf groupies" who daily scan the valley for a wolf.  One of the groupies, who'd been doing this for fifteen years, let us view one behind a rock through his spotting scope.  It was so far away that it could not be seen at all through binoculars.  But the groupies don't seem to mind the wolves' shyness.

 

27 Sept 2015

Now beginning the long trek home, we stop at Le Hardy rapids in the Yellowstone River just north of where it flows out of Lake Yellowstone.  A family of Dippers has found this spot to their liking, with a ready supply of insects and other invertebrates on which they feed.  

 

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Dipper.jpg (410442 bytes)

 

Merganser-pair-in-river  

 

 

Also here are half a dozen Common Mergansers.   LIke many birds who flock together, they don't seem to get along very well.   Even out in the river, they'll launch an attack on each other.

 

The mergansers were surprisingly adept at negotiating the wild river rapids.  Their reward was an occasional small fish.   This fish actually wiggled out of the bird's beak a second after I took the photo. Merganser & fish

End