May 23, 2014

We were hoping to see some wild horses near Lander.  We stopped at the BLM office and picked up a map.  We went to Green Mountain, BLM Road #2411.  We traveled 6.7 miles, but only found pronghorn antelope and pretty flowers, including Indian Paintbrush and a mountain bluebird.  We came to two different gates that were closed until June, so we’re out of luck here.

We really had a wonderful trip.  Now to get home and look at all of the photos we took. We’ve already decided that we will go back to Yellowstone in June!  ~  Mary & Mark

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May 22, 2014

Well, we took a day off and went to Bozeman Camera, yesterday.  They were very helpful.  By the time we left, we had bought a new Canon 6D camera with a  EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS II and a 2x teleconverter.  This camera will fit my hands better and should make a difference with the focusing.  We will be selling my other Nikon camera and a couple of lenses to compensate for the purchase.  Yay!  Now I just need to learn what the different settings are on this camera.

We drove over to Alum Creek and took photos of a cinnamon grizzly, then headed over to LeHardy’s Rapids but only saw a marmot, so we headed back to Alum Creek and took more photos of the same grizzly, but it was farther away.  We went from Canyon to Norris and saw a coyote hunting in the snow.  She pounced on a uinta.  She chomped on it without putting it down once.  That was the first time we had ever seen a coyote hunt.  Later, upon looking at the photos, we could see that she was a nursing mama.  We wonder where the den and pups are located.  We hadn’t stayed to see where she headed off to.  Although, it was probably well hidden, away from the paparazzi.  We drove over to Midway Geyser Basin and took photos of Grand Prismatic Spring.  It was so beautiful.  Then we headed over to Old Faithful.  We had lunch in the cafeteria and let my battery charge by our table.  Then we headed out of the park and stopped at the Oxbow Bend on the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park.  We stopped and took some photos of trumpeter swans.

We’re heading home and stayed at the Pronghorn Lodge in Lander, WY.  It’s right on the river, so it’s a pretty location. We had a good meal at the Oxbow Restaurant next to the hotel.  Tomorrow, we’ll drive home.   ~ Mary & Mark

Places we have seen Bears and more

Siting List:  Grizzly, Coyote, Hawk, Marmot

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May 20, 2014

We drove to Sedge Bay where we saw yellow-bellied marmots…mating!  Spring is in the air.  We drove over to LeHardy’s Rapids and saw a large grizzly in the snow on the bank of the Yellowstone River.  He was heading away from us into the woods so we enjoyed the moment and headed over to Alum Creek. Looking west we saw a grizzly that was very far away.  As we were trying our best to get a long distance photo, another photographer showed up and suggested that we take a  look at the grizzly down on the creek!  It’s funny that we did not see what was much closer us because we were so focused on what we saw in the distance, which really was an unattainable photo.  It reminded me of the Helen Keller quote, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”  The close grizzly even had a reflection in the creek!  Then we noticed a grizzly sow and two large cubs (perhaps 2-years old) farther away.  Dale had told us that grizzly cubs stay a year longer with their moms than black bears because they have so much to learn about being a predator.  (black bears stay 2 years; grizzlies stay 3 years)  Then we spotted another larger grizzly not too far from them, but still too far for us to get a photo.  We could also see two coyotes on a snow field, in the distance.  We’re glad we have good binoculars.  Above us, we saw a young bald eagle fly and we tried for a photo of it.  It was interesting how many critters we were seeing in the large valley around Alum Creek.  We decided to go check out Floating Island Lake where we saw a coyote, a couple of sandhill cranes, and some ruddy ducks, which were in full breeding color with their blue bills. Some women told us that the coyote had killed a marmot and was looking for another underneath the log it was standing by.  We headed up the hill and saw a black bear in the clutter of felled trees at Elk Creek, but decided to head on to Rosie’s Meadow see if White Patch or the three cubs were there.  No luck, so we turned around and headed back.  We noticed that the black bear from Elk Creek had moved down to the meadow and decided to go back to Floating Island Lake and to take more photos of ruddy ducks and coots and then we headed over to Blacktail Deer Plateau where we saw another black bear lying on a carcass to guard it.  We decided to head over to Rainy Lake.  Great luck!  White Patch and the three cubs were there.  The cubs are about the size of a football, and so incredibly cute!  We stayed from 3:30-8:00 PM taking photos.  They played and rough-housed while mama foraged.  I had no idea that cubs were so rambunctious.  The adult bears seem to always be grazing or digging up roots.  I got a chance to talk to my new friend, Sherri, while taking photos.  We discussed my camera issues (ergonomics and blurry photos).  She was really helpful and had some tips for me.  She said she there was a store in Bozeman that is really helpful, and we might want to go talk with them.  After Mark and discussed it, we decided to go to Bozeman tomorrow.  ~ Mary & Mark

Places we have seen Bears and more

Siting List:  6 grizzly, 5 black bear

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May 19, 2014

We left from Gardiner and headed to some of the usual places that we look for wildlife.  The road over Dunraven Pass still hasn’t opened yet for the season, so we took a typical route where we drive past Mammoth Hot Springs,  then go on through Swan Lake Flats, south to Norris, and east to Canyon.  We scan the terrain for signs of wildlife or see if there are other photographers stopped with big lenses on tripods.  As we were driving through Hayden Valley we saw a couple of grizzlies.  One had red ear tags and was with some ravens.  It was digging in the snow looking for something to eat.   It’s interesting that the grizzlies ignore the birds.  I wonder if they communicate to each other?  The other grizzly was on a hillside.  After spending some time with them, we continued south to Fishing Bridge and over to Mary Bay.  We checked out the area around the Lake Hotel and Bridge Marina, and didn’t see anything so we headed back to Hayden Valley to see if the two grizzlies were still there.  One looked very dark and it was too far away for photos.  The brown grizzly that we had photographed earlier was still foraging, so we stopped to take a few more photos with the crowd that had assembled there.  All of a sudden the grizzly started running and the ranger, that was keeping order and enforcing the 100 yard limit, was yelling at everyone to get in their cars.  We took some good photos of the grizzly kicking up snow while it ran. They can run 40 miles per hour, and it was the first time we had ever seen something like this happen.  It was fantastic.  Later, across from Elk Creek, we saw a large black bear and were able to answer the age-old question, “Do bears poop in the woods?”  The answer is yes and we have the photo to prove it!  We went to look for Rosie (aka White Patch) and her cubs and didn’t find them, so we went to Lamar Canyon and to look at the osprey in their nest.  Then we were off to see if we could find the black wolf but didn’t have any luck, but were happy to see a coyote.  A bald eagle and a bunch of ravens were tolerating each other while sharing a carcass by the Lamar River.  We headed on to Ice Box canyon and spotted a dusky grouse by the road.  Then we decided to head back to Rainy Lake where we saw a black bear, but it was amongst the branches of a downed tree and we decided not to take photos.  After talking about which way to go, we decided to head out to Little America, past specimen Trailhead and took photos of bison and their red dog calves and also saw some pronghorn antelope.  Then we got lucky and saw a badger amongst the sagebrush.  It’s a first for us!  As we headed back, we took a few more bison photos and headed back to Rainy Lake and took photos of the black bear that we had seen earlier, before we called it a day.  It’s a lot of driving and looking.  Sometimes we get lucky and see wildlife.  We always hope to get some good photos, but are always happy to have the opportunity to just spend time watching their behavior.  And, if we don’t see wildlife, the scenery is wonderful.  Today was another incredible day in Yellowstone!  ~ Mary & Mark

Places where we have seen Bears and More

Siting List:  2 grizzlies, 2 black bears, coyote, bald eagle, osprey, bison, badger, pronghorn

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May 18, 2014

Dale picked us up at 5:30 AM and we headed over to Mud Volcano where we saw a grizzly munching on grass before it moved over onto the snow.  After a few photos we discovered another grizzly in the valley by Mud Volcano, so we stopped and took a few more.  Then we heading over to Steamboat Point, when I saw a grizzly crossing the road.  Dale pulled over and we got out our tripods set up. This big boar was coming towards us!  (It was 7:48 AM.) He was on the shore of Mary Bay, walking through the steam created by underwater thermals.  We were safely next to the vehicle, higher up, on the shoulder of the road.  He was getting closer and walked right by us, but didn’t seem interested in us.  He came so close that our lenses were too big and we could only get closeups of him as he passed by.   Once he got past our vehicle he climbed up the shoulder and crossed the road.  We were packing up our tripods to move the car farther down the road to see if we could get more photos of him, when we realized that there was another grizzly coming from the same direction, running, as if she was hot on his trail.  She looked so happy and eager.  She looked at us as she trotted by, as if to ask, “have you seen my boyfriend?”  Later, we would discover that this was the grizzly known as Blaze for the lighter colored fur on her sides. We have no idea of the name of her boyfriend, but I’ve decided to call him Beau.  We took a bunch of photos of her and after she crossed the road, we packed up quickly and high-tailed in the direction that were heading.  We got to the large pull-off area across from Mary Bay and set up our tripods and waited, hoping they would show up.  The big boar ambled into view and  seemed oblivious to the fact that there was a sow trying to catch up to him.  Eventually, Blaze appeared and we saw him turn and look at her and start heading towards her, sniffing.  It was now 8:00 AM.   He tapped her with his paw and she rolled over into a submissive position.  She got up and he mounted her and they mated for 22 minutes, right there in front of us…maybe 50 feet away.  Many cars had stopped and joined us in photographing Beau and Blaze.  I was surprised at how quiet and tender their mating was.  We took hundreds of photos and chatted with the other photographers about what an amazing experience this was.  When the mating was over,  they stayed together and wandered somewhat close to each other up the hillside to graze on grass.  Eventually they parted, and we headed down the road.  This had to be a once in a lifetime experience!

The sad news is that on August 7, 2015, Mr. Crosby, a five-year employee of Yellowstone National Park went off-trail on a hike and was killed and partially eaten by Blaze and at least one of the her two cubs.  He wasn’t carrying bear spray, despite recommendations to do so.  A trap was set and Blaze and her cubs were captured.  Blaze was euthanized, and cubs (both female) were sent to the Toledo Zoo, where they have been named Cody and Montana.   More than 125,000 people, unsuccessfully, tried to save Blaze from her fate by signing petitions. Another petition, unsuccessfully tried to get the cubs to a rehabilitation center (that was waiting for them) so that they could eventually be released into the wild.   We hope the Toledo Zoo takes good care of the cubs, despite a past error when a rare bear was starved in a zoo mistake there in 2000.  As I reminisce, I think of how happy Blaze looked, when we saw her chase and mate with her Beau.  We discovered, that she bore two cubs in late January or early February of 2015, which we photographed from a distance  in May of 2015.  We were so happy to have had the opportunity to see the outcome of that chilly day of courtship on May 18th; and then the sorrow of finding out what happened to Mr. Crosby.   We were saddened for everyone involved.  There were no winners here.  Personally, I can’t imagine Mr. Crosby would have wanted Blaze to be killed.  I believe he knew the risks.    See the articles: Yellowstone Regrettably kills Blaze and Outrage in Yellowstone

We headed back towards Steamboat Point and saw a grizzly at the top of a hill.  The lighting was terrible, so we didn’t take photos.  We wondered if this was the grizzly known as Raspberry, as this was her territory.  We hoped she would come down the hill, but it wasn’t meant to be.   We headed back to Hayden Valley and saw a grizzly with red ear-tags, but it was farther away than we would have liked, so we only took a couple of photos before heading back to Rainy Lake where we saw a cinnamon-colored black bear.  Then we headed up to the meadow and saw Rosie and her three cubs.  They were moving away from the road, so we headed to the Yellowstone Picnic Area where we took photos of a bachelor herd of seven bighorn sheep.  They were beautiful!

Today was our last day with our photo tour with Dale Franz.  The cost of this tour was $2,635.  I had hoped that he would work with me a little more to teach me how to improve my technique to get better photos, but it wasn’t that type of class.  He had taken us to the best places and gotten us in position to get some great photos.  But he had also used those same opportunities to take photos with his expensive camera and bigger lenses instead of watching and teaching us.  He didn’t know our Nikon cameras very well, so it was hard for him to help us with our settings.  Yesterday, he had figured out what he thought our problem was with focusing, and had turned off the “high ISO noise reduction” setting on our cameras.  We think we are doing better with it.  My right thumb has also been hurting from taking so many photos and Dale thinks it’s because of the ergonomics of my Nikon with my small hands.  I have a longer reach to “back-button focus” than he has does on his Canon.  This could be an ongoing problem, so we’ll have to think it through.  I’ll be taking a lot of ibuprofen for the rest of our trip.  All in all, I’m certain, that if we hadn’t taken this class with Dale, we wouldn’t have seen half of the animals that we saw, including the beautiful wolf and the mating grizzlies, so it was worth the price we paid. Now that the tour is over, we know where to drive in order to see more wildlife. We’ll have fun practicing and hope to see more bears…and other critters!  ~ Mary & Mark

Places we have seen Bears and More

Siting List – 6 grizzlies, 5 black bear, herd of bighorn sheep

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May 17, 2014

Dale picked us up at 5:30 AM and we headed out into the brisk morning.  Brrr.  It was 39 degrees, so we were bundled up against the cold.   At 6:43 AM we drove past the same black bear that we had seen at Blacktail Deer Plateau eating the carcass.  In Lamar Valley, just past the buffalo ranch we saw a large crowd gathering.  It’s the easiest way to know that there is something good to see.  There was a black wolf!  She has a limp and is collared and is known as #889F.   She had been down by the river and now was coming towards the the crowd.  What luck.  I can’t believe how close we were.  She was running right towards our vehicle and passed by us, within 15 feet.  It seemed like a once in a life time opportunity. (The sad news is that she was killed in the fall of 2014 during the wolf hunt.  There’s a lot of animosity between wildlife photographers and hunters.)

We headed out and found an osprey nest at Lamar Canyon and then we headed on to the Yellowstone picnic area , where we took photos of a some bighorn sheep. Beautiful.  There was also a raven that was quite tame and willing to pose for a photo, and then I was lucky enough to get a photo of a pair of mountain bluebirds.

On the way up to Calcite Springs we saw a cinnamon-colored black bear.  There was a mob of people by Rosie’s Meadow and the Park Ranger was motioning for us to move on.  So we drove up and parked up in the lot by Calcite Springs and we saw a black bear with three cubs – Rosie!  The cubs were climbing up and down a tree.  Two of the cubs were wrestling and having a lot of fun and a shy cub was hanging out closer to mom.  Fantastic.  There was a lot of giggling going on amongst the photographers while the sound of shutters clicked.  When there’s a lot of photographers (as there usually is) the sound of shutters clicking is reminiscient of typewriters.  It’s amazing how many people have expensive camera equipment.  After we had spent some time there, we headed back to Blacktail Deer Creek and Mark was able to see  a black bear scratching his back on a tree.  After lunch, we went back to our hotel for our agreed upon afternoon break and we took the time to look at the photos we had taken.  A lot of them were blurry, so we were wondering if it was an equipment problem or a technique issue.  We’ll be talking about it with Dale.  After our break, we headed back  to Rosie’s Meadow and the the bear and three cubs were still there.  The cubs were adorable and it was so fun watching them.  The two rambunctious cubs had climbed a tree and the shy cub was hanging out with mom.  After a while, Rosie went up to the tree and was leaning up against the tree with a longing look.  Even though we couldn’t hear any sound, she must have been quietly calling the cubs, because they came down and she nursed them sitting against a tree.  Wow!  Then we went back to Elk Creek and saw two more black bears, but we didn’t take photos because of the distance.  This area is crowded with numerous fallen trees.  (Perhaps it’s because in the big Yellowstone fire in 1988?)  We headed  over to Lamar Valley to take photos of bison.  The baby bison are known as red dogs.  It’s so sweet to see them nursing and running around.  There were some older bison that were play-rutting and being wild.  It was really cool.   We went over to Mammoth Hot Springs and saw a cinnamon mama black bear with two cubs.  One was cinnamon and one was black.  What a day!  ~ Mary & Mark

Places Where We have seen Bears and More

Siting List:  black wolf, 12 black bears, osprey, mtn. bluebirds, big horn sheep

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May 16, 2014

Dale, our photographer/guide picked us up at 5:30 AM, and we headed out into the chilly morning.  There was a bit of a drive to get to the areas where he thought we would have the best luck in finding bears.  We saw our first grizzly at Hayden Valley at 7:06 AM at the Narrows.  She was different shades of brown and beautiful.  Next, we headed over to Bridge Bay and saw a great gray owl.  It was the first time we had ever seen one!

The next grizzly we saw was at Steamboat Point near Indian Pond.  It was browner than the first grizzly we had seen.  We took photos of it and of a bison taking a dust bath.  Then we drove over to Mud Volcano and saw a male grizzly grazing in the grassy area.  We drove a couple of miles up the road and saw another grizzly with red ear-tags in the snow at Hayden Valley.  There were ravens and a sandhill crane that were pretty close to it, but they didn’t seem to be concerned with the bear.  The grizzly was occupied digging up roots and looking for ants and caches that were stored by uintas or pocket gophers .  We went back to Gardiner for lunch at Cowboy’s Grill.  The breaded pork tenderloin was really good.  After lunch, Dale took us to Rosie’s Meadow.  It’s just below the parking lot for Calcite Springs.  Black bears have been raising their young there since the 1920’s.  The bear that takes up residence there is always known as Rosie, because of proximity to Roosevelt Lodge.  We saw Rosie grazing in the green grass!  We headed on and saw another black bear at Elk Creek.  Then we went out to Little America (between Specimen Ridge and Slough Creek) and saw some very playful baby bison, which are known as red dogs.  They were nursing and being rambunctious.  We also took photos of some pronghorn antelope in the late afternoon sun.  We headed back and saw a black bear lying on a carcass  at Blacktail Deer Plateau.  It was hunkered down under a tree, so after we watched for a bit, we decided to call it a day.  ~ Mary & Mark

Siting List:  4 grizzlies, 3 black bears

Places we have seen Bears and More

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