This morning I find frost on my windshield, but the heater melts it off quickly as I load the car.
It's another clear day, 28 degrees, with a bright quarter moon in the sky.
As I get lower into the valley a really cool fog has formed, hugging the river. As I round the curve past the confluence, it seems to spread out and creep toward the road. Long, misty fingers reach out, threatening to engulf the road and and my approaching car. It gets closer and closer and then pfftttt! it wafts away.
My first stop is at Hellroaring, where I learn that 755M was seen at first light at Blacktail Ponds. So I continue west. When I reach Blacktail Ponds the lot is full, with overflow parking on the south side of the road. I find a safe spot, and join the throng.
Luckily, 755 is still in sight. I find him quickly, sitting on his haunches about a third of the way up the hill across from the carcass. He rests there in the cool morning sun for a while, and every once in a while he turns his head to the east, as if either hearing or seeing something.
Hmm, wonder it is?
After a little while, he moves higher on the hill, at first he remains visible, in and out of sight among the trees and bushes, but then he beds down near a boulder, just out of view.
I check in with Becky and Chloe who were here early. There were two bears on the carcass at first light, which is one reason why there are so many cars here. In fact, I think every visitor to the northern range of the Park, is here in this lot right now! After the bears left, 755 came in for a brief feed, then moved off.
There is continued activity at the carcass itself; three coyotes are currently in view at the moment, along with the ever-present and always-entertaining ravens. To the east we have a male sandhill presenting his courtship dance to a female. So far she does not seem interested.
I scope here a while, it's still fairly early, so I head back to Hellroaring in hopes of spotting other wolves. Laurie is here, and says she heard some faint howling a bit earlier.
The consensus is that the Junction Butte wolves are a bit to the east from here, so we end up at Lower Hellroaring. After scoping for about 15 minutes and seeing nothing, Bill H suddenly waves to us from the end of the lot. He has them!
Sure enough, I see them a long ways away - several wolves romping over the terrain from west to east. Eventually I see five of the six, three blacks and two grays, when they slow down and congregate around the trunk of a tree with a boulder at its base.
They stop and sniff all around the area, then promptly bed down.
A woodpecker staccatos a tree behind us. Once the wolves bed down, I see the third gray arrive and sniff one of the others before he, too, beds down. This site is a very L O N G view, and once the wolves are bedded, they just look like rocks or shadows under that tree.
As people pull up and ask to see what we're seeing, it's very hard to convince them that these tiny shadows are animals we saw moving a half-hour ago! I think that less than half the people who looked in my scope believed me!
After about an hour of showing bedded wolves to Yellowstone visitors I take a break and head east again, to try to find the elusive Easter Bison. In Little America, I do find plenty of bison, but not the mom and calf I am searching for.
Nevertheless, bison can be very entertaining at times, and I find one herd especially amusing. This group of about fifty animals is moving downhill, past a shallow melt-water pond. Several of the younger animals get quite frisky. They gallop down the hill, then pivot to head-butt whoever is closest. Others run right into the pond, splashing and grunting loudly. Others continue on their way, trying to ignore the youngsters.
Two young bulls start a fight in the water, sloshing and splashing and having a good time.
I also find a small herd of elk walking warily between two other groups of bison, skirting a bison-dotted hillside, moving toward the Peregrine hills.
Eventually I return to my spot at Lower Hellroaring and find the Junction Buttes again, still bedded, although they've changed positions a bit. Then I get distracted chatting with some visitors and when I check again, they are gone!
I have to admit over the radio that I have "lost my wolves", so I go back to the high Hellroaring lot, hoping it might be a better vantage point to re-locate them. I am able to find the tree with the boulder, but I do not find any wolves.
Kim and Joyce arrive and set up along with me. Just as we are about to give up, Joyce finds a black. He's in the flats, somewhat close to where the carcass was yesterday. We are pretty sure this is the pup, but suddenly we all lose him (how do they do that?)
Shortly thereafter, Kim finds our consolation prize, a bear! So we forget the wolf and watch the bruin. He has emerged from some trees below the pass and has spooked a small group of elk which had been in that area. The bear does not chase the elk but ambles slowly and deliberatedly to the west.
Eventually he turns sideways and we all see his hump. A grizzly! My first of the year! We call Bill H to let him know, paying him back somewhat for his great spot of the Junction Buttes this morning.
On my past the confluence tonight, I have to catch my breath when I see the willows in golden-hour light. They are simply stunning!
Today I saw: a blue bird, bison, a grizzly bear, coyotes, sandhill cranes, elk, 7 wolves including
755M (former Lamar Canyon) and all six Junction Butte pack members, and the spirit of Allison.