Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rhody Goes West: Bison, and Eagles, and Bucks, Oh My!

Well, I may have saved the best for last.  

As you can tell by the title of this post, this post is about all of the wildlife that we saw while we were in Yellowstone National Park.  It started literally about ten minutes after we entered the park on the first day, and was practically non-stop until we were exiting the park.  

Since there were so many animals that we saw, I wanted to dedicate an entire post to them, especially since they ones that Rhode Islanders definitely don't see frequently, or at all for that matter.  I'm not really going to go in the order in which we saw the animals, but instead, I am going to categorize by the animals.  

So, here we go.  Within ten minutes of driving through the entrance to the park, I got a neat little alert on my phone, from an App I downloaded called YNP Wildlife, where park visitors can use the GPS on their phone to upload data on wildlife sightings.  Now, while you may be thinking that this is genius for wildlife seekers, it is. But, this is the only alert that I got - but by no fault of the app. You see, there are about three places within Yellowstone National Park that have cell service, which means that the entire rest of the trip, I drained out my phone battery waiting to get into a cell area so I could find wildlife. So, I don't recommend that this app be used - not because the app isn't great, but just because there is no service in Yellowstone, so you can't use the app.  

This first alert was for a herd of antelope that were along side the road by a creek.  There must have been about twenty of them feeding in the grasses. There were cars lined up and parked along side of the road, and some people were trying to get as close as possible to get pictures. We didn't get out of the car, but this was a warm welcome to the park, especially since the wildlife was one of the things I was looking forward to most.  


A few days later, we ended up coming across more antelope, this time though, they were very young and were much lighter in color.  The markings on them are so neat, and while the picture below isn't very clear thanks to my camera having an absolutely awful digital zoom, you can still see the markings up along it's breast and neck.  This little one was running in the field with it's mother, heading towards the other females in the group that were laying in the shade under some trees.  I really wish that we had been able to see some males, because the long straight antlers that have the same markings as the skin are so cool.


Onto some other four-legged creatures now.  Everywhere you go in Yellowstone, you are sure to come by either one of these or an entire herd.  What are they?

American Bison.  And they are everywhere.  They also don't care at all about where you are, because if they're in a spot that makes them happy, they're not going to move, for the most part.  This is both awesome and scary at the same time.  The awesome part is that you are able to get pictures like these.




The not so awesome part, and the part that is scary is that you don't know if being that close will actually scare them or make them angry, and there's no way to tell if they will charge or not.  

While these animals may look small outside of the car window, they actually are not at all, and if I were standing next to them, the top of their back would be at about chest level.  So, for size comparison, I took a lovely picture for you - of their poop.  You see, it was everywhere, because they are everywhere - duh - so you had to avoid it on the hiking trails, on the roads, and even on the grounds of the hotels and campgrounds.  So, just to show you how large they are, and how large their poops are, here you go.  Enjoy.  Oh, and by the way, that's my husband's foot, and he wears a size 11 shoe, so that's not a small foot or poop.  


The herds of bison were everywhere and ranged from just a handful to hundreds.  When driving by the open fields, you could see small black specks in the grasses and in some spots there literally were hundreds of bison.  




I must tell you, I took probably over a hundred pictures of bison.  There were so many, and I was so interested in them. Plus, they are really weird looking if you stop and think about how low their heads are and how small the rear end of their body is compared to the front. It really makes you wonder how they don't just tip over onto their heads.

Moving on - while deer are everywhere in the United States, it's not often that you see a large buck in New England.  Especially one with 6-points on each side.  To us Rhode Islanders, this is a very uncommon sighting, and this guy was just hanging out on the side of the road with a buddy.  I took this picture out the window of the car, and you can actually see the curb of the road in the lower left corner. Like the American Bison, he really didn't care that we had pulled up next to him and that he was being stalked by about fifteen people on foot.  


He was so beautiful and elegant, but can you imagine walking around with two giant antlers on your head? I can't even begin to think how many trees he's probably bashed his head into because of the size of those antlers.  

One of the neatest things that we saw was while we were driving on a 7-mile nature trail, and it ended up being the only nature we saw on the drive, other than the trees, of course.

While I was sitting in the front seat, I heard a screeching noise, and as I looked to my left, I saw a bird diving down to the ground. It hid in the tall grasses for a few minutes and all we could see was the grass moving around, because it was so tall that the bird was completely hidden.  After about ten or fifteen seconds, I was able to get this shot, which couldn't have been better timing!


This bird, which I believe I have identified as a Red-Tailed Hawk, swooped down to catch this pretty good sized Linta Ground Squirrel, carrying it off to devour. It was one of the coolest things I have seen, and while some may thing that it is sad that this ground squirrel became dinner to a family of hawks, such is nature and the circle of life.

We ended up coming across one of those Linta Ground Squirrels on a hike in a meadow, so I snapped a picture hoping that it would help me with the identification of the little critter. It was actually kind of cute, especially with it's short little tail, but for a hawk, I can see why it would be considered a good meal, considering how good sized it is in person!


Staying with the bird theme, when we were in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone there were pillars of stone in one of the sections, where Ospreys had made a nest and two younglings sat.  The mother was sitting off to the side as if she was angry at her babies while the two in the nest were walking in circles and screaming out for her.  We had a really great view using our binoculars, but yet again, the digital zoom on my regular point-and-shoot camera isn't the greatest, so this picture is kind of grainy.  


Unknown to me, Yellowstone is apparently a natural habitat for pelicans, but not the kind that you typically see pictures of in Georgia or Florida. These are White Pelicans, which are smaller in size and completely white with a bright orange beak.  This photo was taken the second time I had seen the pelican. The first time he was swimming in this little pond, I had noticed him, but not with enough time to grab my camera and snap a picture.  The next day, as we were driving past that same pond, I kept a lookout, and when I saw him, we pulled over and I was able to grab a picture of him. He's a little difficult to see below, but he's in the right bottom corner, with his throat open, snacking on some fish. 


The last bird that we saw that is worth mentioning was the one that I was looking forward to seeing the most. Having never seen one outside of captivity, the Bald Eagle was high on my list.  I was able to see this eagle twice, and like my experience with the pelican, the first time I saw him, I was unable to grab my camera to take a picture.  This next time, though, I was ready.

He was absolutely beautiful.  I can't even explain how regal he was. Sitting on the branch of a pine tree, overlooking to river, waiting for a fish so he could have his morning meal.  


The binoculars were very useful, and watching him watch us was very cool to see close up.  I attempted to take a few pictures using the binoculars against my camera lens, so while you can see him closer, the quality didn't come out perfectly.  I really should invest in a better camera at some point.  


It was so cool to be able to see an eagle, especially since he was just sitting in the tree, not concerned with any of us.  I really wish that he was closer and had moved a little bit more, but seeing him was still perfect and fulfilled my wishes.

That just about sums up our wildlife experience in pictures.  We were able to see a few coyotes and actually a brown bear ran across the road in front of us as we were leaving the park, but it literally happened so quickly that I barely saw it and D didn't see it at all, so there's no photographic evidence.  So while I guess that counts as seeing a bear, I'm not sure that I actually count it, and D definitely doesn't.  But, I guess that's a lot better than coming in contact with a bear and getting mauled, right?! 

The only other animal that I wish we had a chance to see was a big-horned sheep.  You bet that I had my eyes on the rock cliffs at every moment possible, but those guys are quite shy and really don't like to be seen.  If only I had cell service though, because as soon as we got to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the YNP Wildlife app let me know that a herd of fourteen big-horned sheep were sighted in an area we were two days prior.  Figures, right?! Only my luck.

Which animals are on your must-see list?  Can you imagine if we had some sort of weird antler-like thing attached to our heads? How weird would that be?  

2 comments:

Michelle Martinka said...

You were SO close!!! Ahhhh! Your vacation photos are amazing!

Melissa Pezza said...

Oh my goodness! AMAZING!

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