Today was "on your own" day for all the MPEGers.
The rain was back today for most of the day. We headed to the northern part of Yellowstone today to try to avoid as much as the rain as possible as the rain was tracking south of Canyon-Norris Road. We had some periods of no rain and just overcast skies but no blue sky at all today. The moderate/heavy rain limited the landscape ops but boy, the cool wildlife was plentiful but mostly in the Northern part of the park.
We (Jared, Jack and I) started by driving from West Yellowstone to Madison (one adult bald eagle was at the Madison nest in a nearby tree) then to Norris to Swan Lake Flats to check on the Grizz mom and her 4 cubs. The bear watchers there told us the Grizz Mom and the cubs crossed the road at 6:30 am but were not in sight at that time we were there at 8:45 am.
We went to big horn sheep country looking for some Rams but not one sheep found. We drove on to Tower and came upon a huge crowd at the Tower Bridge. Upon arriving, we learned that a black bear (about an hour prior to our arrival) had killed a elk calf for breakfast. The bear was sitting under a tree by the Yellowstone River next to his kill taking a nap but looking up occasionally at the crowd on the bridge.
The fun part of this event was watching a common raven trying to be very wily to get his share of the kill without the bear seeing him....fun stuff! We left there after taking many bear pics and proceeded towards Lamar Valley.
We stopped at Slough Creek and Jared spotted a bald eagle in a tree by the creek. We walked towards the creek and and snapped a few pics of my fav subject. While there, we were made aware of a golden eagle's nest on a nearby cliff. We spent about 30 mins there photographing the golden eagle at the nest . He flew to a nearby tree and then back to the nest, thus capturing a few in-flight shots. That was the first golden eagle I have photographed to date. IMHO, this was the highlight of the day. See pic.
We proceeded on to Lamar Valley and saw nothing exciting (bison, pronghorn). We back tracked and headed to Canyon via Dunraven Pass. It was very foggy in the Pass and still plenty of snow on the ground there. See pic. BTW, the Columbus MPEGers had a good day with some very nice Grizz sow and her two cubs!
We arrived in Canyon and came upon another large "jam" and this time it was the well known Black bear sow and her 2 cubs feeding along the road. A few photogs were photographing a coyote on a carcass (MPEGer Marty Belan got soaked but he was there to get those images) We got several nice images of the three bears in Canyon.
After eating a late lunch in Canyon, another bear was seen at the Fishing Bridge area but the rains picked up (heavy at times) again and we decided to head back to the hotel so we can meet up with everyone for dinner at 7:30 pm.
On the way to the hotel, we came across yet another "jam" at the Madison River just west of the road junction to Norris. The crowd was watching a Elk cow and her calf starting to cross the Madison River. The calf was following his mom into the river when we arrived. (All the creeks and rivers here are swollen with heavy current because of the snow melt and rain). As the calf was following his mom, the rapid water current was sweeping him downstream! The crowd was silent and I stood there thinking I was about to watch a elk calf drown before my very eyes...... I never thought about taking a picture...I was frozen .. watching this play out in front of me.... the calf was calling to his Mom for help as the cow elk looked helplessly at her calf....being swept downstream.
The calf eventually managed to swim towards the shore to climb out of the river (the crowd started clapping!). The calf ran to his mom (obviously scared) and immediately got a drink of milk!
This was the most dramatic part of the day..... Amazing.
Trust me, in Yellowstone, you never know what you will witness at any moment..... Yellowstone is Wild by Nature!
Tomorrow, Monday, June 7, we are headed up north again to avoid the predicted rain for Monday. The weather for rest of the week looks pretty good. Tuesday will be "Tetons Tuesday" as all of us will spend the entire day in the Grand Teton National Park. Three members depart Wednesday morning and the rest of us depart Friday.
Four more days of sheer photography bliss!