Dull gray skies, light drizzle – anywhere else this kind of weather would be ‘gloomy.’ But Yellowstone is not just anywhere. The skies can change instantly and seem to transcend adjectives. Just wait a few minutes and something new will happen.
But I’m not much into waiting. Hence, landscape photography is not my thing because I don’t have the patience to unravel a tripod and fret over exposure settings.
Fangs and claws and talons are what I’m after. Here is a quick sample of what I’ve been lucky enough to stumble across so far.
Great Horned Owls
A beautiful female from the Lamar Pack was trotting along a ridge on her way back to the den. Because the pack has pups there is no stopping or hiking in this area, but I was able to drive slow and snap off some shots through the window of my car.
There are many dedicated aficionados in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley who sit on rocky slopes all day watching for wolves with their expensive, high-powered scopes. They know all the individual wolves by name and can recite their genealogy and history.
They are the “in-crowd,” so to speak – and get the jump on the rest of us by having phone communication with each other as well as a scanner that can eavesdrop on Park Ranger conversations.
‘Ranger Rick’, seen below, has a GPS tracking device to keep tabs on the small percentage of wolves in each pack who are fitted with collars that send out location signals. Wolf lovers have learned to stay close to Rick🙂
I was hanging out with some of them my second day in the Park and got to witness an extraordinary event between two wolves from rival packs.
Normally, members of the Lamar Valley Pack and the neighboring Molly Pack will kill each other on sight.
A young light-colored female from Lamar, I’ll call her Juliet, was trotting along the eastern side of the Lamar River. You can see that she is wearing a collar.
On the opposite side of the river just happened to be a strapping black male, I’ll call him Romeo, from the Molly Pack. Can you spot him way off in the distance?
They sniffed, stared, howled at each other – and then Romeo plunged into the icy river. Everyone gasped and expected the worst.
They were way too far away to take decent pictures, but it was a thrilling relief to watch them seemingly make friends, flirt and play. (It’s not mating season for wolves this late in the year.)
Romeo, a bit skittish, as if he knew this was a forbidden encounter, departed first, leaping back into the swift-moving river.
Juliet on her way back ventured a bit closer and I was able to get a half decent shot of her with my 400mm lens.
By now after all the excitement there was such a long line of spectators that she had to cross the road much closer to humans than a wolf ever likes to be.
Then, like the wild and curious so often seem to do, she stopped and gave us a parting look.
Blondie apparently had the hots for Blackie. She gave him a whiff and that was all it took; he obediently followed her up the hill and into the trees.
The next day early in the morning I chanced upon a black bear just starting to rip into a mule deer carcass.
And just think – I’ve only been here one week and I still have at least two more months (until it gets too cold for this Southerner) to go! What new wonders are still waiting for me just around the corner?