Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Soltice in Yellowstone

June 20 from Yellowstone:  Tomorrow will be the longest period of daylight for the year.  And while it will be sunny, it won't be terribly warm.  Today reached the mid-70's but tomorrow the expected high is 66F with a low of 32F. Since a criteria for my summer work locations is that they be areas which don't get hot, I am happy.

I treated myself for my birthday with an overnight at Chico Hot Springs, north of the park.  I drove there in snow.   It began the night before and snowed for most of the trip, until I arrived at lower elevations near the park entrance.  Chico is a resort in Paradise Valley.  the Main hotel was built in 1900 and is an elegant old building.  Two pools, one is a large swimming pool  which is generally in the 90 degree range and a soaking pool which is around 103 degrees. are outside behind the old inn.   I arrived and soaked, relaxed for a bit and then had a truly sumptuous dinner in the pleasant dining room.  The restaurant at Chico is considered one of, if not the best, restaurant in Montana.  My meal certainly lived up to their reputation.  And the service was just as memorable.

Satiated, I opted to walk about a bit after dinner, rather than soaking again.  In the morning, I was the first one into the soaking area and had it to myself for a short while.  A few others arrived but it remained quiet and peaceful.  A great breakfast followed.  

 It was the perfect way to celebrate another year.  It was most convenient that my birthday fell on my "weekend" off.   After Chico, I headed to Bozeman for all my city activities and errands, including hair cut, shopping, visit to Bozeman Camera Store for a thorough cleaning of my camera.  

June is the arrival time for most of the elk calves.  It is also a great time for all kinds of wildlife and wildflowers.  Included here are a sampling.   My friend, Jackie and I, were looking for a Peregrine Falcon nest in a crevice of the rocks in Firehole Canyon that I had been told about.  We didn't find it, and I hear that it is almost impossible unless you see an adult bird fly in or out, or someone who has seen that occur is with you to point out the spot.  But we did spot an wapiti (elk) cow clearly ready to deliver.  There is a photo of her here.  The next morning I returned on my photo tour and guests were treated to the site of she and her calf, still on wobbly legs, on a ledge on the far side of the river.   Although easily visible, and we could not have asked for better light, the location was high and safe for the newborn.   I don't photograph on my tours, but returned in the late afternoon and got some photos of the calf.  The conditions and the location of the calf was not as good as it had been in the morning when it moved slightly further from the mother, trying out its long legs, but I am delighted to have the photos of this less than a day old elk.  Wapiti is a Native American term for elk and means "light" or "white" rump which is most appropriate.

Elk cow in the evening

Elk cow and her very young calf the next afternoon

Last season I only saw one moose in the park.  I was delighted to see this bull early in the season.  I figure I have a greater chance of seeing more  after this early season as the months go by.
Co-workers were kidding me as I had seen no bears during my first several weeks in the park, while they were reporting all kinds of sightings.  But I was just saving up.  I saw the moose, and 5 grizzzlies within an hour and within a mile of each other.   This mother  with her two cubs of the year was nervous.  I figured there was male grizzly nearby.   She stood ,checking, then ran with her cubs following as fast as they could.  She stopped again, stood, and then continued running.

Cubs tumbling over themselves as they worked to keep up

Mother grizzly stands for another look at another bear approaching.  If you enlarge this photo you will see a Sandhill Crane at the far left just before the tree line

This handsome coyote was behind a log barricade in a small parking area.

Pine Martin, member of the weasel family, in a snag.

Wildlife on the travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs in the northern part of Yellowstone

Yellow Bellied Marmot

Early morning sunrise on a foggy morning.  This large grove of "bobby sox trees" is near Firehole Lake.  The trees drowned when hot mineral water from ever changing routes of geothermal waters changed and flooded this forest.

Osprey in flight.  I was waiting for Grand Geyser to go off when this osprey flew over.  It was a long ways away and I  didn't think I could get a photo but, while not great, I zoomed it up a bit and it is clear enough to see the bird's markings. 

This time of year the Mountain Bluebirds are in breeding plumage.  The males are a brilliant blue.

Great Blue Herons are  one of my favorite birds.

Harlequin ducks.   These are beautiful little ducks.  They were a long ways out in the Yellowstone River so I hope you can see them well enough.  Click to enlarge

Barrows Golden Eyes, swimming in an opening of otherwise still frozen Sylvan Lake

Meadow Lark near Chico Hot springs

The old hotel at Chico.  Newer accommodations are adjacent to it, but I stayed in the old part, which is more in my budget.

abandoned trucks in Old Chico, a mile or so beyond the hot springs resort.

View from Old Chico with fresh snow on the mountains

Views from Paradise Valley, home of Chico Hot Springs and also the route between the north entrance of the park and Livingston, MT.

From West Thumb, this geolthermal feature is famous as a former place to cook ones freshly caught fish.  It was more of a tourist gimmick than a reality as most fish dropped in here on hook and line probably fell apart before being retrieved and eaten.

Evening view across marshy area due to the high snow melt this year.  This is near the old Soldier Station north of Gibbon Meadows.

Elephant Head is blooming.  Each tiny blossom has petals looking like elephant ears and the appearance of a trunk.

Larkspur against the snow.

Fringed Gentian is the park's official flower.  It is now blooming in many areas of the park.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

"SUMMER SEASON" in Yellowstone

Mid-May in Yellowstone can still look wintery.  These trees burned in the East Fire over 10 years ago.
  Summer can be elusive in Yellowstone.  This year seems like the coldest and snowiest  May I have  experienced in my eight "summers" in the park.   Today, May 30, it was 65 by 11:00 am and it feels downright summery, at last.  Those of us in the employee RV park have left our water running, very slowly, but running, all night to prevent the hoses and pipes from freezing.  The norm, until the last two nights has been 26-28 degrees;  the last two nights we have barely dipped below freezing and then for a short time.

  I had the text for this blog all written and loaded and then lost it.  Internet in the park is too slow to download my photos so I am sitting in West Yellowstone in order to write and publish my blog post.   I'm rewriting, probably not as eloquently as the first version, but it will give you and idea of what its like here.

   I don't mind the weather most people would call wintry.   It creates beautiful patterns, the bison stand out against it, I wake to silence.  The morning I swept 8 inches off my bus at 5:00 a.m. I was concerned about road conditions.  A single pair of tracks, already partially filled as the snow continued to fall,  led out to my pick-up point. But the snow was light and powdery, so driving felt as if the road were dry.  My historic yellow bus has great traction and its large tires, with duals in back, handles well.  Our first stop showed no signs of human habitation.  What a delight.   As the snow melted, water on the road began forming ice spokes on the hub caps and old fashioned "curb feelers."  By the end of my tour, this is what it looked like.   I don't take my camera on tours as there is no time for me, during that intense time, to shoot.  But I do have my phone with me and I got these three shots.

The campground is often a challenge at the beginning of the season.   This year I have a more open site than last year.  The actual site had been cleared and the berms of snow were melting.  Both the piles of snow showed in the next two photos are gone although some of my neighbors at the end of May still have snow behind and alongside their sites.

This is my picnic table, tipped on its side for the winter to keep weight off it.  My site this year has more sun that some sites and has melted a bit quicker than has the drifts for some of my neighbors.
A neighbors picnic table, either not tipped or fallen back on the level in winds before the snow buried it, is barely visible here.

May 13 and the ice is breaking up on Yellowstone Lake.  My friend and co-worker, Jackie and I spend a day on the east side of the park, enjoying the scenery and photographing.

The wind had blown floes of ice onto the beach at Mary Bay
From the overlook at Lake Butte we could see the cracks in the ice.

Fishing Cone in the West Thumb region.  The ice breaks up here a little before other areas of the Lake.  In the early park days, the tradition was that people dropped their freshly caught fish, still on the hook, into this cone to cook their dinner.  I suspect it cooked so fast that it fell off the bones before they retrieved it so folks did it for the novelty and not the practicality.

Evening light hits the snow above Swan Lake Flats.

Black Sand Basin is one of my favorite sites for early morning photography.  The steam and the Bobby Soxs trees intriques me.   Bobby Soxs trees are ones killed as water patterns change and healthy trees drown.  The drowned trees have pulled the hot, mineral water up into their capilaries.  Once the water evaporates, the minerals remain, preserving the roots and tree trunk.  The bottom 2-3 feet are white from the minerals so they look they are wearing white socks.

Another view of Black Sand Basin.
I love ravens for their character, intelligence, and their beauty.  The light was right to capture the iridescent blue of the feathers.  This one is devouring a gosling.   Canada Geese are attentive parents but the mortality rate is pretty high.

If you click on this to enlarge it, you can see the umbilical chord, dried and about to fall off, but still an indicator that this is a very young calf.