Sunday, 6 September 2015

18th August - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming - Day Two

Our last day in Wyoming started as many of the others have with an early start, again before sunrise.  We had until lunchtime to further explore the park then it was a four and a half hour drive south back to Salt Lake City.  The plan was once  again to head out and into the park on the Moose - Wilson Road, whether or not we would get a repeat of yesterday remained to be seen but we were going to give it a go.

The sky was overcast with occasional breaks in the cloud allowing one or two stars through, as we headed north east along the Moose - Wilson road there was light in the est from the rising sun, but it seemed a lot gloomier than yesterday at this time, and that is saying something.  We passed the Ospry nest where there were no Ospreys, and then onto the gravel road, moving slowly we checked all the Aspen trees but with no luck.  For me this goes to show how lucky we were yesterday.

Back out of the wooded area we came across a small group of Elk crossing the road, two went over but others held back.  This female was then calling from the middle of the road, probably to summon a youngster through.

We waited but nothing moved, so we then slowly moved forward in case anything decided to make a break for it, it may be a young one, but these are big animals and would make a mess of any car.

The sky was turning red, and due to the fact there was no owl this morning we were travelling through parts a lot earlier than yesterday.  We pulled over to check a flooded meadow beneath a sharp drop just in case any
Moose had decided to spend the night there, but it was empty.  The sky though was looking impressive.

We turned onto the park road, and headed towards the Tetons, the range looked completely different this morning  the smog having got worse, we were so lucky to have had yesterday.

A parked car by the side of the road caused us to slow down, and the occupants indicated across the sagebrush, Just outside the forest there was a stage Elk, resplendent in an impressive rack of antlers.

He watched as I took photographs, still in the gloom, but the persons in the other car decided to walk down to get closer, and this was the sign for the Elk to turn and head back into the pine forest.

I turned my attention to the rising sun that was blood orange-red in the clouds, the colour probably enhanced by the dust and smoke in the air.

A little further on and we came across a group of Pronghorn by the side of the road, the closest we have been able to get to them.

They are called Pronghorn because of the forward pointing horns, none of which unfortunately can be seen here, this one looks splendid in the morning light.

This youngster was very close to us, there is a bit of a Llama look about it.

We made our way to the Oxbow Bend, we were about 45 minutes earlier than yesterday, however with the hazy visibility it was a completely different scene, but there was still a substantial mist on the water.

And still a reflection in the water, but maybe not as spectacular, and with strange cloud patterns in the sky.

Looking to the east it was even more misty.

A fallen branch with pine cones had fallen in the water, one of the cones having frost on the surface, the temperature being just above freezing.  The fall of the branch created a nice reflection once again in the water.

In the short time I had turned from the view of Mount Moran had changed once again, the wavy patterns of the clouds now reflecting the water.

We left the Oxbow bend, and turned down to Cattleman's Bridge, stopping halfway to work to the edge of the water to get a view of the Pelicans on a sand bar in the water.

The sunlight and the mist was creating some lovely scenes around us.

This Blue-winged Teal silhouetted against the golden water.

Just as I was about to turn back to the car this Pelican flew past.

With the area renowned for being a good spot for the special wildlife species it had been a little disappointing that we had not seen anything other than birds.  This was sort of rectified this morning as across from where I had parked the car there was a large herd of Elk.

We drove down to the river and parked, an Osprey was perched high in the tree, and out on the river stones was a Spotted Sandpiper.

In the middle of the river a single White Pelican slowly swam away from us into the mist that was hanging over the water.

We sat and had breakfast, and as we did you could see the mist clearing as the air temperature increased with the rising sun.

Breakfast finished we decided to set off again, this time we were going to follow a trail alongside Pacific Creek that would take us up to Two Ocean Lake.  Early on along the gravel road we passed an overlook of the creek, a perfect spot for any bear or Moose, but as has been the way in these "perfect" spots there was nothing there, just a beautiful view.

The drive took us through clumps of Aspen and pine, and eventually we reached a car park that was empty.  When we stepped out of the car we were greeted with silence save the occasional call of chickadees.  This was a pretty remote spot, and we were the only ones there so as we walked to the shore of the lake we made sure we made a substantial amount of noise.

Two Ocean Lake, is a glacially formed lake and was named for Two Ocean Pass many miles to the north-east where Atlantic Creek flows east and Pacific Creek flows west. Two Ocean Lake only flows into Pacific Creek so the name is a misnomer.   

There were little groups of ducks on the water, a couple of Buffleheads, and these Ring-necked Ducks.

Two Spotted Sandpipers flew across calling in amongst the mist that was over the water.

Every so often the silence would be punctured by strange calls that sounded familiar, they were quite guttural and were coming from the far bank, then I saw two Sandhill Cranes fly across and realised why they were familiar calls, we had heard them before as the cranes flew over. 

In the pines close by there were Mountain Chickadees and a few Golden-crowned Kinglets, these are very similar to our Firecrests and just as difficult to pin down to photograph.

As the sun became a little higher it began to pick out the vegetation that was just emerging from the surface of the lake, it was also catching the American Wigeon that were feeding in the shallow water.

With it being so remote we decided against walking the trail you could never be sure what you were going to meet, so instead we returned to the car, and decided to follow the road back to its furthest point.

We decided to take our time, we were alone there was no one else and we could stop when ever.

As we drove slowly we would flush small songbirds from the sagebrush, these were White-crowned and Chipping Sparrows plus a few Dark-eyed Juncos.  At one spot we stopped as there were many birds in the trees.  We could also hear tapping which belonged to a woodpecker, and I found this Red-naped Sapsucker at the top of the tree.  You can just make out the red on the forehead, and under the bill on the throat

However this was not the bird tapping, but we finally found that one at the base of a tree, and I think this is a Sapsucker too.

A little further on a strange shape by the side of the road caused me to stop. It was a Grouse, a Ruffed Grouse.  It stood there lifting its leg very slowly as if trying to decide whether to cross or not.

Finally it slowly made its way across the road, and into the vegetation by the side of the track.

It was then I realised that there was in fact another one on that side of the road.

The journey then was dust and Aspen trees, although there was nothing in them other than a Red-tailed Hawk that flew off when I got out of the car.  The trees though can look quite spectacular, like our silver birch.

More cars started to appear, and our isolation was threatened.  As we reached the end of the trail we realised that there was not much to see, we had even driven out of the park boundaries.  We turned around and headed back.  On one corner a soaring raptor caused me to stop.  It was a Red-tailed Hawk, and it circled above me, a rather tatty looking adult.

Then a young bird appeared constantly calling, this flew up to perch on a dead tree where it kept calling probably demanding to be fed by the adult bird.

We made our way to the Oxbow bend for one last time, walking down to the water's edge we we could see some quite large fish in the water.  These were not the Cutthroat Trout I had hoped for, but look like a Mountain Sucker.

All along the edge of the water Yellow Warblers and Yellow-rumped Warblers were catching flies, there were plenty of flies about, and every so often a bird would launch out across the water and return back to its perch.

This is a female Yellow Warbler

The Yellow-rumped Warbler getting close to the action.

And also quite close to me keeping an eye out for insects.

As well as the warblers there were several American Robins, and at least one Cedar Waxwing in the bushes.  The time was moving on, and we had to start the long journey back to Salt Lake City.  We set off south through the park, intending to make our way out along our favourite road, the Moose - Wilson.  As we turned on to the road we could see ahead a gathering of cars at the over look where this morning we had looked for Moose. 

It was clear there was something of an attraction so I pulled in and got out of the car to have a look and saw a Moose with a calf feeding below.

We got out of the car and tried to find a good spot to view them without the tree branches in the way, which was not an easy feat.

We eventually found a good spot, and the calf did not seem to be interested in feeding, but Mum did.

It could be that something was said between them at this point as the calf began to move away from its mother.

And then waded across the pool towards the other side.

The water getting a little deep for it as it approached the far bank

The Moose is the largest species in the deer family.  Moose typically live in boreal and the mixed deciduous forests of the Northern Hemisphere in temperate to subarctic climates. Moose used to have a much wider range but hunting and other human activities greatly reduced it over the years.   Their diet consists of both terrestrial and aquatic vegetation, but is usually found feeding on willows.  They can dive up to 18 feet and stay under water for over a minute to feed on aquatic plants.

Moose are mostly diurnal, active during the day. They are generally solitary with the strongest bonds between mother and calf.  Although moose rarely gather in groups, there may be several in close proximity during the mating season which is between September and October.

Female moose have an eight-month gestation period, usually bearing one calf, or twins if food is plentiful, in May or June.  Newborn moose have fur with a reddish hue in contrast to the brown appearance of an adult. The young will stay with the mother until just before the next young are born. 

While we were watching the Moose, below us there were more Yellow Warblers and Yellow-rumped Warblers, but also this Warbling Vireo, that came quite close.

I can give testament to the fact that there were a lot of insects as I picked up several nasty bites.

It was time to move on, and as we left we could just see the ears of the moose calf on the other side of the bank as it settled down for an afternoon nap, whilst mum continued to feed in the water.

Our journey would now take us through the Tetons, and then down through Idaho to US state Highway 15 all the way to Utah and Salt Lake City.  The journey follows the valley of the Snake River, and in places we could see Ospreys and nest platforms along side the river.

Leaving the Snake River we entered into open prairie which was covered as far as the eye could see with wheat.

Away into the distance golden fields contrasting with the blue sky and distant mountains.

In some places we passed potato fields , but the majority were cereal, and they were being harvested with huge harvesters kicking up more dust into the air.

We arrived in Salt Lake City around 17.30, our hotel was at the airport as we had a relatively early flight next day to Boston.  We had a drive around and could see the downtown area, but concentrated on getting essential supplies and filling up the car for its return tomorrow. 

As we set off for dinner the sun was setting, and just like this morning the dust in the sky was creating a bright red sky away to the west.  

Tomorrow would be a travelling day, the time difference meaning that we would get to Boston around 16.00, and then we had a two hour drive out to Cape Cod, our next adventure was going to involve even bigger animals than those we have been seeing.

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