Saturday, September 1, 2007

Always wear a helmet when approaching moose

[Bison, Grand Teton National Park, August 29, 2007. Photo by Don Freiday. Click to enlarge the photos.]
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) is an amazing place, and though I'm missing Cape May while preparing for and conducting NJAS's tour to the region (which starts tomorrow), it's great to be in such big, wild country again. Amazing sights abound and stack one upon the next. In this category is the extraordinary scenery spiced with charismatic megafauna, such as a herd of bison grazing in front of the Grand Tetons.
[Always wear a helmet when approaching moose. August 28, 2007, Grand Tetons, by Don Freiday]

Still megafauna but perhaps less charismatic than bison and bears are the 2 million plus people a year who visit the GYE, including Harley riders who think nothing of approaching sleeping bull moose for a close photo.

On our tour we will try to get out of the "front country" and away from the crowds. We hope to see some wildlife interactions, such as rutting behavior by ungulates, or hunting by large predators. We've seen 6 wolves so far while scouting, members of the Druid Peak and Hayden Valley packs. Co-leader Sean Grace and I examined 4 wolf kills yesterday. All were large bull elk, a common target for Yellowstone wolves.

[Two of North America's smartest animals eye each other up: Common Raven and Coyote. August 29, 2007, Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Don Freiday.]

The GYE isn't particularly birdy by Cape May standards, but it is the west, and species like Black-billed Magpies, Brewer's Sparrows (which I've been studying for the day one shows up at the Meadows) and Townsend's Solitaires are routine, and are spiced with some special birds such as Dusky Blue Grouse, a member of the recent split of Blue Grouse (the other new species is Sooty Blue Grouse, of the Pacific Northwest).
[Dusky Blue Grouse, Signal Mountain, Grand Teton National Park, August 28, 2007. Photo by Don Freiday.]
We met our group tonight - fun people, several of whom have traveled with NJAS before. I asked if anyone was hoping for anything in particular on this tour. The answer came loud and clear: "Wolves. Grizzly bears. Moose." Thankfully, one person named Old Faithful as being on her want list - that one, I think, we can guarantee!

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