This morning the still-dark sky looks slightly overcast but I can see a little sliver of a moon. The birdsong here is insane and I love it.
Jeff tells me a single gray wolf crossed the road just as he was pulling in. Rick has told him all the collared wolves are back in the den area. So I head to Hitching Post to try scoping from here.
I hear a meadowlark trilling nearby and I'm tickled when I find it, perched in the sage. But I only have it for a minute as it quickly flies off. Then a badger runs by in the sage, very close, and disappears into its hole, or one of them. A little later a hawk flies over head.
I can't figure where everyone is this morning, until I discover that my radio is not working properly. I belatedly discover that most people were at Footbridge, watching a gray and the two black yearlings cross the road and the river, heading south. Oh well.
A drizzle begins, in fact, we have intermittent rain all day, which actually I welcome after the sun burn I got yesterday! I decide to drive east to see the upper valley and perhaps to look for goats.
I stop at the Soda Butte Picnic area and scope the high cliffs in this area but do not find any goats - or sheep for that matter. A lady nearby sees a ground squirrel and calls it a rabbit. Her husband looks at her funny and we all have a good laugh over it.
A red-tail hawk soars by, hunting low just above the sage.
I drive up to Laurie's and lug in my stuff. I putter around, getting organized, and re-charging my radio. The rain becomes heavy and is soothing to listen to. I decide to take a nap and try to catch up on lost sleep.
Around 6PM I head out again. I stop at the Confluence and climb the hill above it. It's such a beautiful view from up here - there is still so much water in the confluence. There are several other small groups of folk up here - I would never climb this hill by myself!
But since the Lamars so frequently go out towards Cache Creek, this is a good spot to see them coming and going - if they ARE coming and going that is.
I find a grizzly near the eastern foothill of the rendezvous area, and several pronghorn as well as the usual sandhill cranes and many bison with calves.
Around 8PM I am thrilled to find a wolf. A single black way out there. It's one of the Lamar yearlings. There is a young man up here, Jason, I think. He has great eyes and helps me keep an eye on this wolf as it comes in. The wolf passes through a bison herd.
A few of the bison make agressive moves towards the wolf, but the wolf avoids them easitly. I think the wolf is just traveling and not really interested in the calves, but the bison mothers are rightfully on their guard.
The black wolf curves around the shoulder of Dead Puppy and enters the area of new growth on that side. Jeff is at Footbridge and he confirms the wolf is now in view from there.
So I pack up and head to Footbridge. I am eager to see if my black wolf shows up again. There are lots of people here and very soon I hear excited whispers. A gray wolf is in the creek corridor, attempting to cross. Then there is another gray and now a black!
This is a regular crossing corridor for them (480's crossing) for them and the road is closed to stopping or walking between here and the Soda Butte Cone. But the wolves are quite visible and it's hard to expect cars NOT to stop when they see a wolf walking towards them.
Rick has to call other rangers to help. One of the grays seems bolder than the others. Ah, that's because she is 820F, a two year old. I get a nice long look at her and remember seeing her in April. The shape of her head and her almond-shaped eyes remind me of 471F, which makes sense because 471 was her aunt.
The other gray and the black are not as eager to cross. They roam around the creek corridor, giving everyone a thrill. There is a bull bison asleep on the cut bank for almost the whole time, while the wolves wander nearby.
I notice that each of these wolves look full, so it is quite possible they went out Cache Creek way to visit a carcass. I'm pretty sure 820 has already crossed the road so I concentrate on the other two. Next to cross the river is a black yearling. She pauses in the water and laps up a long drink. There is something so cool about watching a willd animal cross a wild creek.
The black gets across safely and then the second gray. Up they go, heading towards the pups.
Then we have another treat. A very large herd of bison has moved into the sage flats south of Footbridge, coming from the middle flats. They are heading slowy east. It's a very large herd, easily 500 animals, spread out in all over, in dozens of slow-moving lines of bulls, cows and calves. All mooing and gruntin in a bison symphony.
The setting sun has turned the cliffs of Mt. Norris to a brilliant orange/gold, and the magic hour light spills onto the sage, turning it golden, as well. Through this living light moves the herd, bison after bison after bison. You get goose bumps watching it, and you can't help but think about how many bison there once were, on the American plains years ago, and what a timeless sight this is.
Once these animals numbered in the millions. Good lord, how on earth would you get out of their way?
And then someone notices another wolf. A black! In fact, this is MY black, the one I saw found from Confluence hill. He's heading home, too, just like his siblings. (Note: this wolf is not a male, but a very large female, but I didnt know it then!)
He is much longer limbed and seems "bolder" than the other black yearling. He threads his way through the bison herd and splashes across the creek. I watch him cross the road, and I suddenly see 820 again. Aha, she didn't cross before, but she does now, even walking right along the pavement for a while. I wonder if she was waiting for the yearling? Both wolves are now on the north side and I watch them head up to the den area.
The black is carrying a leg in its mouth. Hah! A treat for the pups. How cool.
The bison herd is still moving but the light has dimmed. People start to pack up and leave, but we are all smiles. What a ga great night!
On my drive east, two deer bound across the road in front of me just as I reach Round Prairrie. No one is behind me so I stop to watch them move across the meadow. I realize they are white tailed deer, not mulies. Their coat color is far more golden in color; they are long-limbed and very nimble, and as they move across the meadow, I see their white tails, raised up behind them like flags of truce. One is a doe and the other is a fawn - it still shows a few spots.
TODAY I SAW: a badger, a grizzly bear, bison (with calves), sandhill cranes, two white-tail deer, elk, pronghorn, 4 wolves (all Lamar Canyons - 820, Middle Gray and the two black yearlings) and the spirit of Allison