Saturday, June 09, 2018

Yellowstone 3 - Head Sticks

I was going to have a title about horns, but a quick bit of education has enables me to understand the animals featured this time mostly don't. Have horns that is.

Still let's start with one that does.  In my pre-reading for the trip I saw pics of bighorn sheep, and they didn't really grab me.  I mean at the end of the day they are sheep, and just because I live in Wales I'm not welsh so there is no cultural attachment.

However when we found some bighorn rams I was quite impressed, and ended up taking more shots than I would ever have expected.  I think the excitement of having to scale a cliff face and balance precariously to get the shots added to the fun.















Well OK I exaggerated a little.

We only saw a couple of distant females - little big horns maybe?

On the last evening we went searching for pronghorn, the worlds second fastest land animal, but didn't find any.  We did see a few more bighorn sheep though in the blue light


and also a small group of mule deer.  My wariness of bumping up the ISO on my 7DII meant I messed up most of those shots though.

Now mule deer and elk (wapiti) have antlers, not horns.  I was beginning to think I wasn't going to get an elk shot of any note - a few uninspiring snaps of cows and a bull down in a river,



but again on the last evening we got the chance to snap a bull against the hills.  These are red deer on steroids, with bulls weighing up to 330kg.  They were long thought a sub-species of red deer, but in fact they are a separate species.

In Europe when we talk about elk we don't mean wapiti, we mean moose, and we had a few views of these impressive beasts as well.



Monday, May 14, 2018

Yellowstone 2 - biffalo buffalo bison

Other than the tame elk camping on a hotel lawn the first wildlife we had a chance to snap were a Yellowstone specialty - it's said it's the only place in the United states where bison have lived continuously from prehistoric times (which is a bit shocking really).  Our first look was a herd moving down a valley and we hoped they might keep coming to the cameras, but they had obviously seen us and held back.

One of the iconic shots to aim for is the 'herd walking through snow straight at you', and that's what we had hoped for.  We had one other chance but short of lying on top of a well known wildlife photographer and guide I wasn't going to get the low angle needed!  The other classic bison shot is a 'hoar frost' shot, but sadly we never got the temperature low enough for that.  We did have low enough temperatures for the ice supply at the petrol station to provoke a smile though,

and we did have a pretty covering of snow

so it was the snow we relied on to add some drama, and one day we had enough falling for me to realise I had no experience of trying to work effectively in a snow shower.  I got some good snaps of flakes, but I did manage some pictures of the bison as well.





I spent ages trying to make something of this next shot.  When I took it I was pleased to have found it, but I just can't get it looking right. I guess you just can't force a picture.

The bison feed by sweeping their heads through the snow to get at the dry grass beneath


and when a few go through they leave obvious signs they were there - here a fox stops for a look at a bison trail.

Although they have a bulky appearance - a male can weigh 2000lbs - I was taken by their skinny ankles.

In fact they are surprisingly nimble - when I saw this one about to climb out the stream I expected it to haul it's way up, but in fact it just trotted up with  what seemed minimal effort

and I read they can run at 35 mph, hurdle over 5 feet and swim well. We only saw them knee deep in water however.


They can also lick the snot from their own nostrils, which is fairly cool.

They have a reputation for being grumpy, and certainly you could see some attitude at times.

Like our red deer, the magpies used them as a feeding station.

I really enjoyed the bison, although I kept calling them buffalo, and could have spent more time with them, but there was so much else to see.  There are more bison to come, but for now here are a few other snaps.