All photos by
Tim Springer
Christine Baleshta

    On Thursday an offshoot of the Druid Peak pack made their appearance and we were able to view them many times over the remainder of the week. This group of three consisted of big black 302M, Gray 286F and 302Ms younger black brother. 286F was supposedly the Druids' alpha female since the death of 42F and had 5 pups this year, but had abandoned them to the rest of the pack and spent the summer with 302M. We wolf watchers conjectured on her "moral looseness." Such anthropomorphizing is useless, but for us unavoidable. She DID seem to be extremely happy and playful nipping and charging, wagging her tail and climbing on 302's back. Probably the happiest wolf I've ever seen.(Got rid of the kids and has a new boyfriend)
    I spent considerable time watching and photographing the hawks and ospreys this trip. The ospreys had nests in the Lamar and along the Yellowstone river off the Tower road, so easy to locate each day. Hawks were abundant on the Blacktail Deer Plateau, at Mount Washburn, and in Hayden Valley. I kept trying to photograph them in flight and had to learn a few things about exposure compensation (dark bird/light sky) and the futility of photographing flying birds on gray days( the sky turns out white by the time the feather details show up). But it was loads of fun and I did manage a few decent images (decent for me, that is).
    This trip we also saw Sage grouse, sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, peregrine falcon, mergansers, bald eagles, golden eagles, pronghorn, bison, mule deer, moose, badger, beaver, kingfisher, Canadian geese, red banded flickers, western tanagers, coyotes, chipmunks, but no Uinta ground squirrels (they are already hibernating in August!). August turned out to be a good time to view animal young and we saw immature ospreys, grebes, mule deer, black bears, grizzly bears, coyotes, and sandhill cranes. Dad and I kept waiting for the clouds to roll out so I could get some pictures of the thermal features with a nice blue sky but that didn't happen much this trip so we did the best we could.
    The bears were quite generous to us, however. The first full day there we saw 13 bears, including a number of black bear sows with cubs and in the evening, a grizzly running off in the distance. The sows tended to be in the Tower to Petrified Tree area, but we did see a few of them, including the grizzly, in the Lamar. We had one viewing of a black bear sow with two cinnamon cubs on the Blacktail Deer Plateau road which was excellent, but it was difficult to get a picture since they had their heads down in the deep grass most of the time.
    One evening we came upon a crowd of folks at the Hikers Bridge turnout watching something. It turned out to be a large collared grizzly boar making his way along the far edge of the meadow along Soda Butte Creek. He came upon some (lucky?) hikers who scrambled back up a short hill and waited for him to decide to pass. He didn't pay them any attention but kept going where he was going and eventually he disappeared into the Lamar Valley. It was interesting to watch him appear to not care the slightest that the hikers were there and not allow them alter his behavior nor direction at all.
    The real gift of the trip though was the bison carcass. We saw a large number of bears and at least four different wolves at that site. One early morning we arrived at the carcass and saw in the dawn light two adult grizzlies feeding together. We then noticed some smaller lumps around them and it turned out that they each had 3 cubs! Then 200 feet away from this group we noticed another grizzly with one cub, so all together we had three sow grizzlies with 7 cubs for a total of 10 grizzly bears! Awesome! Then I heard Ranger Rick mention a wolf and soon Geode pack number 391F graced us with her presence. A small brownish gray she was just wonderful, enabling many people to see their first wolf in the wild. Finally, a double rainbow appeared in between us and the animals to complete the overpowering visual spectacle. Welcome to Yellowstone!
    One of my favorite things about going to Yellowstone with a spotting scope is that you can show people their first glimpse of a wolf or a bear. People come to the Park just praying for site of a bear or wolf and when they finally get to see one they become just like children filled with awe and wonder. I can't tell you how many times people have told us that we've made their trip by letting them see something through our spotting scope. It's very rewarding for us and the folks are always very kind and highly appreciative. At one point Dad and I had around 35 people gathered around with a line 6 deep to look through the scope. The people were from Switzerland, Germany, Taiwan, Italy, and the U.S.
    Everyone there with a scope helps everyone else out and friendships are made on the spot. Wildlife spotting information is exchanged and often we get tips as to what wildlife is where which helps immeasurably. Nice folks everywhere in the Park.
    Rick McIntyre and company have helped us all to see the wolves and we will never be able thank them enough. This trip we even saw Rick leave his Swarovski scope with a 9 year old wolf lover so she could continue to watch the wolves while he drove to check on another location. Nice guy.
    Another great trip with my Dad enjoying the Park's wonders and looking forward to coming back with him next year. Maybe we'll get a little fishing in then.

Author - Tim Springer
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2004