Tuesday, August 15, 2017

the Prairie Goat

Pronghorn are one of my favorite western animals.  Technically goats, rather than antelope, they still remind me of photos of African gazelles.


We watched two of the rams half-heartedly sparring.

There was a small herd of pronghorn that would hang around just outside of Gardiner where we were staying.  These were mostly does and kids.



Nothing says Yellowstone quite like animals going through their baseline behavior in the middle of the road.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Grouse and leps on Mt Washburn

One of the hikes I've done most frequently in Yellowstone is the trail up to the firewatch station on Mt Washburn.  It's a little under 3 miles up and almost entirely above the treeline.

Most of the Dusky Grouse I've seen in my life have been along this trail.


The scattered stands of trees that extended up some of the sheltered gullies held some concentrations of other western songbirds, first a female Cassin's Finch,

As well as some little flocks that were mostly young Audubon's Warblers mixed with Mountain Chickadees.


Really though the alpine wildflowers (and butterflies that went along with them were the highlight of this trail).

This is Colorado Alpine, a butterfly only found above the treeline in the central Rockies:

Milbert's Tortoiseshell gets my vote for most impressive North American lep.  It can be found in Michigan but I've only seen it in the Rockies.

This is Phoebus Parnassian, my first parnassian of any kind.

Fritillaries are pretty common out west.  I think the first one is Callippe and the second is Zerene, but both could be wrong.


Painted Lady can be certainly be found in Michigan, but not usually in a bed of lupine.

Finally on the butterfly front I think this is Christina's Sulphur (though the pics of the underwing are more important from an ID standpoint)

A couple other pics that don't even have butterflies on them...


If you want a sense of scale of the place, the fire station is the little blurry dot on the highest point to the left of Ginger's shoulder...

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Geyser basin livin'

You'd think that a geyser basin would be a pretty intense place to be flying around what with the boiling water and aresenic laden springs (some of which were filled with a skim of dead bugs).  But, that didn't stop a number of birds from going about their business in a pretty extreme environment.

These western tanagers had the easiest time of it.  They were just in some of the brush around the parking lot of one of the basins.

The adult male looks to be about 1 year old based on somewhat limited orange on the and quite faded brown flight feathers.

This mountain bluebird went one step farther.
 It went down to drink from what had to be a pretty salty source.

Of course if you don't want to drink the salt water you can always live in a salt cavern.


Finally a young killdeer who felt that the runoff from another one of the features in Mammoth was the place to find bugs.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Wolves and Elk and Bears oh my.

Well I'm back.  July was a bit of a slow period even before taking the family to Yellowstone, but I'm back now.  Hopefully will even get a few local birds in but we'll see what migration brings.

I've been fortunate enough to visit Yellowstone several times over my life.  The very first trip my parents took me on was to Yellowstone when I was 4 years old, well before the fires that changed the park.  We went back when I was in grade school soon after the fires.  Ginger and I went back about 15 years ago as the second growth thrived.  But whether the spruce stands were primeval or in second growth however, elk were a constant.  This time?  We saw just one bull, and aside from some cows in the town next to Mammoth, just this bull.  He was a nice one though.




Why didn't we see many elk?  Well, one reason was the next creature, one I've never seen before outside of a zoo.
It's pretty distant admittedly.  Gray Wolves have been re-introduced to Yellowstone.  They're monitored pretty heavily and most if not all are radio-collared.  We drove out the Lamar Valley on our first morning and pretty quickly found a line of people with scopes and pick-up trucks with long radio antennae.  There were 4 wolves sheltering in the shadow of the big rock, occasionally they would stand and circle out.

A herd of buffalo went past, you can see the big herd bull walking out towards the wolves screening the herd somewhat.
The wolves stayed put and the bison ambled unconcernedly past.

Dense clusters of roadside people (and harried rangers herding the tourists) revealed the next two animals.
A (brown morph) Black Bear was resting deep in a roadside thicket.  I never would have seen it, likely even if I'd walked past yards away.  It would sometimes stick its head up, but for the most part we watched it just rest in the thicket.  When we went past that afternoon the crowds were still there; it had been content to rest all day.

Ten miles to the south we spotted rangers walking purposefully out of trucks with scopes looking again about a mile away.  This time it was a Grizzly.  It was a speck in a far meadow, but as we headed back to the hotel that night it had moved to within about a quarter mile of the road.
 The hump of the shoulder is visible above, the somewhat scooped in face below.  Black Bears lack the hump and the snout projects more or less straight out from the forehead.

I would have been pretty happy to see one bear over the course of the week and wasn't at all sure we'd find a wolf; we'd found all three the first day!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Baby blues

I found a trio of young Cooper's Hawks while returning from a bike ride the other morning.  They didn't go far and were still present when I doubled back with the camera.


The birds were on the ground initially and would have made decent pics but were teed up when I returned.  It was pretty dark so the above pic is the only one that's worth anything but it turned out pretty well.  I'm guessing it won't keep the blue eyes very long; by the fall they'll be ivory or yellow.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

of Forster's and Fillets

Well, it's been a long time since I've had a post up.  I'm not going to claim this one will be memorable.  The gulls have gotten pretty accustomed to people on the beaches and I was able to walk right up to a Forster's Tern that was in with them.  They usually don't allow much of an approach, but with just one it must have decided that if the gulls were sticking so would it.

 It's hard to get the eye to show up with the black cap.  Even at super close range I was only sort of successful.

The bird flew but didn't go far.
I just cut off the left wingtip which was kinda unfortunate.

The only other birds that could have been of momentary interest were the Fillets.  They're like willets, only fake.
A couple weeks ago my peripheral vision kept turning juvenile Ring-billeds, the first brown gulls of the season, into Willets.

They get an Iceland or Mew gestault with their stubby bills.

But apparently even with less than a month of time outside the nest they get bored.
 Two different birds yawning.
Yawn.  When does fall start?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Lawrence's Warbler

Brad Anderson found a Lawrence's Warbler at Chikaming in the last day or so and given it seemed like a good place to troll for a Blue Grosbeak Chikaming seemed like a reasonable place to visit.

There was no Blue Grosbeak but the Lawrence's popped up trailside without making any effort for it.  It was pretty dark.



There was a female Blue-winged sticking in this same area as well.

Interestingly when both birds were in the dark they seemed much whiter underneath.  I actually thought the Blue-winged was a Brewster's initially.

Here's the Lawrence's in shade; it could completely pass for a Golden-wing.

There was a pair of Chestnut-sided's in the same clearing, the female was carrying food.

They only gave chip notes; no song.  It'd be interesting to go back and record the male at daybreak.