Monday, January 4, 2010

Where The Buffalo Roam...And Pronghorn...And Moose...and Prairie Dogs....

From the frigid waters of the Slough Creek we emerged refreshed and relaxed. We decided to drive the length of the Northeast Entrance Road toward the park entrance, just to check out the scenery. This is canyon land, the Soda Butte Canyon to be exact, and the road is bordered by tall sandstone cliffs. It was pretty, but I wanted more wildlife. The day was starting to wind down and cool off, so we headed back toward the Lamar Valley, hopeful for some good wildlife viewing.

One of the first things we saw as we re-entered the valley was a heard of bison. What a classic scene! I half expected Indians on horseback to come charging through the valley after these bison.

The Lamar River flows between the two bison.

At one spot where we stopped to take some bison photos, this little fella emerged and proceeded to much some flowers right outside the car window. I don't think I realized it at the time, but this is indeed a prairie dog. All creatures, even the vilified prairie dog, can find refuge within the confines of the park.

What a sweet pair, this cow and calf, laying on the valley floor. Mom's shaggy winter coat is holding on still, her head rested on the haunch of her youngin' while it nurses.

Farther down the road we came upon three pronghorn grazing right along side the road. This is apparently not typical behavior for them, they tend to stay farther away from us and the roads than many of the other animals. But there they were, less than 100 feet from the shoulder. I pulled the car over and started shooting from the driver's side through he passenger side window. I did not want to disturb them by getting out of the car but Lisa insisted. Glad I did.

One of the two females looked pretty rugged. I wondered if she was ill, or perhaps aged. They grazed along unconcerned about my presence.

Pronghorn butt! A few years back I did a drawing of a young giraffe from behind, head up and turned to the left. It was a unique angle, and I have considered doing a series of animals from behind. I got several good shots on this trip alone!

The third member of this group was a handsome male, who stayed a bit farther away from the road than the girls. I love the tall grass moving with the wind in the background.

I took some shots of him, then some more of the ladies, but I really wanted a good one of the male. He had moved a bit closer to me, and I was hoping he would lift his head again. Now, I heard all sorts of people making all sorts of noise trying to get an animal to look their way, to no avail. I was not about to whistle or clap or click my tongue. I stood patiently, leaning on the back of the car, waiting. Then, more to myself than to him, I whispered, "just one more time, just look up one more time, come on, one more shot....", that sort of thing. And I'll be damned if he didn't hear me, hear the soft psst psst psst of my whisper. He picked up his head, turned to face me, and pricked his ears forward. I nearly fell over with delight!

What a moment. Not only did I get the shot I wanted, but I felt that I'd made contact, on some level, with this animal. It noticed me, and while it will not remember me, I will always remember him.

As we made our way south along the Grand Loop we neared Mt. Washburn. Here again we encountered a large group of folks with scopes and binoculars. We pulled over to see what they were watching. Turns out that not more than five or ten minutes before our arrival a lone wolf had trotted past. Had we not stopped for the pronghorn we would have seen it. In addition, there were two grizzly bears moving across the slope of a butte, but they were several miles away and could only be seen with a powerful scope. The real attraction, however, was two bull moose down in a copse of trees. Again, they were quite far off, but when one of them finally moved out into the open, I took a few shots.

Don't see him? Not surprised. It's the dark blob in the middle of the image. Below I've blown it up for you. Still looks kinda like a blob, but there's no doubt it's a bull moose. Finally!!

As the sun went down and the light began to fade we started the long drive back to the hotel. Along the way we encountered what I think is a Greater sage grouse, walking down the side of the road. It was getting dark but I managed one shot that was not too blurry. I must say that for all the time we spent out of the car on the trails we saw far more wildlife along the roads.

While we drove the sun went down behind the Washburn Range, awash with reds and pinks from the smoke of Idaho wildfires.

This was another spectacular day, filled with amazing places and magnificent wildlife. But the following day would prove to hold the most magical moment of the trip, one that still brings tears to my eyes.

Next: Day 5, the Hayden Valley and Mt. Washburn.


  1. The beauty you captured awes the senses...Nature, so raw but so gentle, almost you're neighbors...and the first and last photos are especially breathtaking...!!

  2. The Lamar Valley, Slough Creek (where I took my sons flyfishing in the second meadow many times, the Tetons hiking and fishing Jenny Lake, Sigurd Olson (a fellow Minnesotan) and his legacy the BWCAW where we paddled for many years.....
    What a great blog, I enjoyed your pictures and thoughts of places and ideas from my past. OK I'll admit in my "senior" years I've somewhat degenerated into a semi-couch potato. Thanks for sharing what I enjoy so much. :)