Iím out at 5AM today. Itís 37 degrees and I hear the usual wonderful birdsong.
As I drive west, things start to look foggy. It lies pretty thick from Round Prairie through the Confluence and on to Mid-Point. It looks a little clearer as I reach the Institute so I stop here and find my friend, Barb M!
We scope together: the valley is clear but the benches and mountain slopes are still shrouded. I look for the elk and calf group but donít find them. I hope this means they all got across safely.
We hear a radio report of wolves from Boulder so we head there.
Boulder is full so we park at Boulder east and walk the rest of the way. Once we are atop the hill we meet up with Missy & Andy plus Susan & Reve and learn we are a bit too late for the main event. Several of the Junctions were seen to the north earlier. Susan says she thinks they got a pronghorn fawn. The only wolf still in view is alpha male 1047M. Iíll take it! Heís near the Buffalo Ford, eating what remains of a smallish carcass.
There is still some wispy fog around but we watch him for a good 10 minutes. We also see sandhills, pronghorn and bison.
Susan says the rest of the pack has already moved east over Momís Ridge and are now out of sight.
When 1047 finishes, he, too, heads east, carrying a small leg in his jaws. Susan says he is taking the same route the others took.
Right after 1047 leaves the carcass a coyote shows up, confusing some of us at first who think it is a gray wolf. But itís a coyote.
We lose 1047 then Missy finds him again, further east. He no longer has the leg in his mouth so he probably cached it.
We decide to move on to Slough, since we are pretty sure he is headed that direction. We park and walk out to Bobís. No sooner are we set up when 1047 appears, just to the left of the Marge Simpson tree. Boy, he got here fast! We happily watch him travel along the river flats, past a few bison & willows, stopping here and there to sniff things, sometimes to gobble something.
Heís in clear view, relatively close and the day has turned fine. I get to talk with Jeremy a while and catch up on his life since he graduated. He is such a sweetheart.
We keep 1047 in view as he passes the lower end of the diagonal forest, then on to the horizontal forest. He finds something tasty to eat in the meadow just east of there (below the zig-zag willow line). He stops a while and then lies down, becoming very hard to see.
I am hoping heíll continue east so I can follow him to where the pups are, but this does not happen today. He moves a little further into a meadow with yellow flowers and decides itís a perfect spot for a nap.
Jeremy heads west to the Blacktail but Barb, Missy & Andy and I stay here a while, having a wonderful time. We see several elk and I find a colt with one of the adult sandhills.
Around 9:30, Barb and I decide to head west. Itís 48 degrees but to me it feels more like 68. We stop at Floating Island Lake where we find yellow headed blackbirds, plus some cool reddish chicks which belong to a pair of American coots. And we see a black bear at Lower Hellroaring.
We arrive at the Childrenís Fire Trail lot, where we find Rick, Susan and Reve. They are looking south for Eight Mile pups. They report some earlier activity but nothing has moved for a while. Barb and I get oriented to the area. Itís in a totally different spot from where I saw The Prospectís pups last year Ė or was that 2 years ago? Itís also further away, almost to the mountainside of trees.
After about 15 minutes, Rick sees movement. We stop talking and concentrate. There!
At first I see a black adult moving from right to left past the tops of trees. Then I see black dots streaking towards the adult. Itís the pups! Five black pups run to greet the incoming adult, who lowers his/her head depositing food. They are all on a bright green slope, with thick trees behind and thinner trees in front.
After they eat, the pups romp around with each other. They are so cute, running uphill and down. I lose the adult and one by one I lose the pups. But now I know where to look!
I have managed a two pack day!
Andy and Missy get here just in time to see them. When the wolves are out of view again, we talk about what we could do next. I suggest heading to Calcite to see the various nests Iíve heard about.
So off we go. We have three bear jams on our way up for a total of 5 black bears (2 cubs). At Calcite, we see the great horned owl nest with one adult and two fluffy owlets. Barb gets out her massive camera and tripod and gets some good shots. Then we try the peregrine nest that you can see from a pullout further south. We find three chicks there and just as we are about to leave an adult flies in so we see a feeding.
The day has warmed up to 65 and itís now high noon.
On our way back down, we repeat two of the three bear jams. Then at Petrified Tree we have a badger jam. Itís a mom with kits, of which I see three. Barb gets some shots but the mid-day lighting is a bit harsh.
Our next stop is at Slough. People are looking south up on Specimen Ridge. The Junction sow with her two coy has moved over here. She walks her cuties across a patch of snow. One of them slides down on his butt, then scrambles back up to mom.
Iím back at Silver Gate before 1PM. I have a shower and a nap. I have offered to make dinner for Barb and Dorothy L who is staying just across the road near the Bannock.
We have a nice time and consider staying in tonight but eventually agree to take a mini-venture down to Baronette to see goats. We end up seeing three total, including one male who accidentally drops 8 feet (or more) into a narrow chute. He lands fine but is now in such a pickle that Dorothy and I canít watch anymore. Only Barb has the nerve to stay with it, and he does eventually make his escape.
Back to Silver Gate I go, and hit the hay.
Today I saw: 3 badgers (including 2 kits), 5 black bears (including 2 cubs), 3 grizzly bears (including 2 coys), yellow headed blackbirds, bison, coots (and chicks), 3 sandhill cranes (including one colt), a mule deer, elk, 3 mountain goats, 3 great horned owls (including 2 owlets) 4 peregrine falcons (including 3 chicks), pronghorn, 7 wolves from 2 packs, including 1047 of Junction plus 6 Eight Miles (including 1 adult and five pups) and the spirits of Allison & Richard.