Itís very frosty this morning and only 9 degrees. I see a bright half a moon and several stars.
Just east of Pebble an owl flies across the road ahead of me. Oh, so cool!
There is beautiful fog in Round Prairie and the temp has dropped to 3 degrees!
The place to be today is Hellroaring Ė the fifth day in a row that Junctions have been seen here.
They are bedded on a knoll, just above the river, below the big basalt cliff. Several of them get up and start to move downhill to the west. Laurie helps me ID 1229F, leading a group of youngsters slightly west.
Two of them stop abruptly. They seem to have found something to chew on.
The rest of them follow a trail parallel to the river for a while. 1229F turns and enters the river corridor, going out of sight. Moments later a flock of birds explodes from the corridor. Aha! I bet there is a carcass down there and 1229 just flushed those birds.
The younger wolves enter the corridor at various points and go out of sight. I turn my scope back to the bedded adults, testing my ID skills. Itís pretty hard at this distance with them mostly not moving but I think I can pick out 907F and 1048M.
After about 20 minutes, the group of youngsters begins to re-emerge from the corridor. Several of them carry trophies of a bone or some hide.
Around 9:45 the wolves give us a nice howl, followed by a rally. The Alpha Female leads them north and slightly east and I we all enjoy seeing so many wolves on the move. They cross a wide swale and then a tree-filled knob. They skirt a snow-covered pond (well most of them skirt it Ė several youngsters walk boldly, and perhaps recklessly across it.) On the far side of the pond they climb another knoll and bed down again.
We speculate that this knoll is high enough to be seen from Lower Hellroaring. This is always of interest to those of us who come here in the cold months. Hellroaring is a very cold spot, with little sun and usually a chilly breeze and a hemmed in, tricky parking situation. In contrast, the double lots at Lower Hellroaring offer plentiful sun and plentiful, easy access parking.
The exodus begins. I get to the lower lot at 10:30 and re-locate the wolves quite easily. My high count is 18; I believe Jeremy has 20.
For the next two hours we watch them from this lot, chatting, snacking and enjoying the sunshine. The day has warmed to 24. By, 12:30 when I leave itís a balmy 34!
The wolves are mostly bedded this whole time, but there is always some movement to watch. Lucky for us, the many yearlings and pups are far more restless than the adults.
On my way back east I see 2 moose in the forest to the south at Elk Creek and two sweet coyotes trekking across the open snow just south of the ranch.
And, as usual, I see several big horn sheep at Confluence.
After a break in Silver Gate, Laurie & Dan and I deem ourselves so satisfied with our 5 hour Junction sighting that we decide to stay in for the evening and visit with each other.
Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, 2 moose, an owl, bighorn sheep, 18 Junction wolves (including the alphas, 907F, 1048M, 1229F, 1276F,
and many others, and the spirits of Allison and Richard.