Day 4 June 3, 2014
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Silver Gate, MT
Sunlight reflects off the mountains in Silver Gate after late afternoon rain. The temperature has dropped and I shiver as we stand on a neighbor's balcony. We heard about moose twins in Silver Gate from a friend and there one stands, staring at us through tall reeds, a moose shape at the edge of the meadow.
"What did you see today?" our friend asks us, and I list the birds and animals in my mind, knowing it is incomplete:
3 Junction Butte wolves - 890M, 907F and another gray yearling
A red fox in the meadow across from Yellowstone Picnic area
A moose at Elk Creek
A sandhill crane on her new nest near Floating Island Lake
Pika at Hellroaring
Osprey nest in Lamar Canyon (w/osprey)
Red-tailed hawk - Lamar Canyon
Grizzly sow and coy on Junction Butte
Moose - Silver Gate
The day begins with three Junction Butte Pack wolves at Slough Creek- the black alpha male, 890M, 907F, a light gray yearling with a GPS collar and another gray uncollared yearling. They are scavenging on an old carcass near the creek. 890M walks up the rocky slope on a diagonal while the yearlings gnaw on bones and bison graze nearby contentedly. 890M is headed toward the Junction Butte den and it will take him a while. This is our first sighting of this pack, formed about two years ago when the Mollie Pack split up, and we know little about them except there are eight wolves in this pack and an undetermined number of puppies born this spring.
When 890M disappears, we move to the other side of Junction Butte. Across the road from Yellowstone Picnic area a red fox buries itself in the sage. All that can be seen is its red orange head and brown-tipped ears. The fox is not hunting, but lying fairly still and Tim wonders out loud if it could be guarding a den. The fox beds down deeper and doesn't move from her spot.
We try Tower Road again, looking for the black bear sow and 3 coy. The road is lined with vehicles and photographers waiting for their shot, crowded off the road into the grass and trees. The bears, hidden in the thickly wooded hillsides, seem to be moving farther and farther up the slope. Again I marvel at the sow's tolerance.
At Hellroaring we search the mounds of rock looking for Pika and weasels. One Pika chirps at us from the scree, a tiny rabbit creature with mouse ears. Fly catchers flit among the bushes. The fields are filled with phlox, balsamroot, larkspur and forget-me-nots. Wind and gray clouds threaten rain so we delay hiking. Instead we park at Wrecker turnout to look for big horned sheep and wolves. On the very top of Junction Butte a grizzly sow forages with her cub of the year, their shapes unmistakable. The tiny cub follows its mother around closely as she moves between trees and around rocks. She has moved the cub once to Specimen Ridge, but returned here to avoid a boar. Even at this distance, we are lucky to see this intimate interaction between mother and cub.
We spend the rest of the afternoon driving Lamar Valley, visiting the osprey nest and owl's old nest (which is now inhabited by a Red-tailed hawk) and walking around Pebble Creek campground. The campsite is not open yet, so we have it to ourselves. The creek roars past us in the narrow canyon where pine trees jut out from rocks. It rains on and off the rest of the afternoon. We hike to Lost Lake near Petrified Tree and it rains on the way back. Not as many wildflowers as last spring yet, but still green and peaceful, long grass swaying in the wind. Days are long, maybe too long - it is light until 9 p.m. By 2 or 3 p.m. we are tired and a little grouchy. We stop seeing this place.
Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer
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