Early June in Yellowstone

Saturday, June 8, 2019
Yellowstone National Park

View of the snow frosted mountains at Swan Pond
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Trumpeter swan and Sandhill crane at the Island Park spot I call Swan Pond
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From about 2012 till last year Cheryl, Shanna, Regina, Katrina (Regina’s daughter) and I would visit Yellowstone on the first weekend in June. It was always lots of fun. Last year, Regina moved to New Jersey and our car felt a lot emptier. It’s quite awesome to have an all women road trip. So this year I had to add someone to our car.

Snow frosting on Antelope Flats
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Sandhill cranes on Antelope Flats
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First I asked Suzy (an aunt) who goes birding with us when she can, but circumstances had her cancelling. This would not do. I brainstormed with Shanna, after all we have lots of men in our life are fun to hang with, but we really wanted the all girl group. I then brainstormed with Cheryl and we knew we were asking the right person when both of us started smiling and got really excited. Kristin, Cheryl and I have been working together off & on for too many years. I kept my fingers crossed because Kristin’s schedule is crazy busy. I had little hope that she’d be able to come. It felt like winning the lottery when YES she could come and would be bringing her daughter Danielle. Hooray!

Osprey all fluffy in the lightly falling snow
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Golden mantled ground squirrel, too close to get the focus right with the big lens. I really needed to swap lenses but then I know he would have scampered away before I managed that trick.
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Goregous Western tanager
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All of us (excepting Shanna) voted for leaving at 7:00 a.m. This overruled Shanna and for a moment I thought she might back out. But the lure of Yellowstone was too much. The weather threatened to snow/rain on us, but we were undaunted. After all, a lot of my best birding has happened when it’s been lightly raining. We did try to leave at 7:00 but first had to swing by the library to pick up stuff. As we passed the house Shanna realized she hadn’t moved her car for the lawn dude. Then I remembered (thanks Cheryl) that I wanted the big tripod and spotting scope in case we were able to get to the mountain goats. I felt like we had a real keystone cop exit from Pocatello.

Uinta ground squirrels
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A NEW BIRD FOR ME! Warbling vireo. No close-up because he would not hold still enough for fine focusing.
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We did get on the road by 7:30 so that’s a miracle. Yellowstone was all freshly washed and beautiful. The weather was intermittently rainy, cloudy, snowy, and sunny. Until the drive home we were fine. It was awesome, there were so many birds out and an amazing number of the Uinta ground squirrels. We laughed and talked and looked at animals and scenery and breathed the amazing fresh air. Danielle is fabulous at spotting birds, particularly those in flight. We saw 5 Bald eagles, which is more than I’ve ever seen in one day in the park. I think Kristin and Danielle are going to join us again next year.

One of the five Bald eagles
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I promise there’s a Yellow rumped warbler (Audubon’s) in this photo. You can see his bright yellow bits. He would not hold still for proper close-up photographs. This is as close as I can crop it and still keep him as a bird.
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The only sad part of this trip was that we did not go to the Mountain goat area. But, that’s balanced by the Bighorn sheep we did see and they are rare for us. They were very, very scruffy, between their lack of cooperation in looking good they were also in an impossible to pull over location so no photos for me.

Elk doe and adventurous fawn. This fawn staggered (he had difficulty with his long legs) up the hill quite a ways from his mama.
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Pronghorn aka Antelope
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At 6:00 the weather was started to turn on us and I really didn’t want to drive home in storm/rain/snow & dark. I don’t mind one or the other but both… No thank you. We usually stop for dinner in West Yellowstone but not today. The clouds were too dark and menacing and I’m really glad we grabbed drive through food and kept going. There was a vicious rainy snow from West almost all the way to Rexburg that was no fun. This direct drive home got us there by 9:30.  Way earlier than I had originally expected.

Requisite and intentional Bison photo
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Another Mama and baby Elk. The mama maneuvered her fawn so that the photographers that were trying to get close were on one side and the baby and river were on the other. I really love having a big lens that lets me get close while still physically quite far off in my car.
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We also thought we saw grizzly bears which was very exciting. It was only when I got my photos loaded on my computer and zoomed in that I started to realize that the bears were actually bison. There was a ridge that made it so you didn’t see the legs of the bison only their backs. The definitive photo was one where the bison tail is sticking up. No doubt bison not grizzly. So very sad.

Grizzly bears!! They were so far away that the really did look like bears.
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Here is a cropped in photo. We were terribly excited when the third dark brown lump appeared. Two cubs for that mama is what we were thinking. WRONG.
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But again, I could not tell with my binoculars at all. It was only with the big lens that I had a hope and I find that focusing on something that far out is very difficult.

Christmas tree with a Mountain bluebird tree topper and two Yellow rumped warbler ornaments.
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Bison baby and mama also the last photo op of the day
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I’m going back to Yellowstone in a couple of weeks with my crew: Shanna, John, & Bill. Maybe I’ll get to see bears then.

— Jenny

Birds

  1. European Starling
  2. Black billed magpie
  3. American Crow
  4. Rock dove
  5. Red tailed hawks (7)
  6. Bald eagles (5)
  7. Common ravens
  8. Swainson’s hawk
  9. Mallards
  10. Cliff swallows
  11. American coots
  12. Tree swallows
  13. Trumpeter swans (4)
  14. Sandhill cranes (51)
  15. Lincoln sparrow
  16. Violet green swallow
  17. Caspian tern
  18. Brown headed cowbird
  19. California gulls
  20. Chipping sparrows
  21. American robins
  22. White crowned sparrows
  23. Osprey (2)
  24. Mountain bluebirds
  25. Canada geese
  26. Common mergansers
  27. Warbling vireo
  28. Brewer’s blackbirds
  29. Dark eyed juncos – Oregon race
  30. Macgilivray’s warblers
  31. Yellow rumped warblers
  32. Olive sided flycatcher
  33. needer needer bird
  34. Wilson’s flycatcher
  35. Western tanager
  36. Lazuli bunting
  37. Gray jay
  38. Ring necked duck
  39. Yellow headed blackbirds
  40. Red winged blackbirds
  41. Killdeer
  42. Cinnamon teals
  43. geebee geebee geebee geebee bird
  44. Canvasback
  45. Cassin’s finches
  46. House finches

Mammals

  1. Bison (69)
  2. Yellow bellied marmot
  3. Golden mantled ground squirrel
  4. Elk plus 2 fawns (30)
  5. Pronghorn (7)
  6. Mule deer (9)
  7. Grizzly bears (3)
  8. Big horn sheep (4)
  9. Uinta ground squirrels (too many to count)

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