20-21 April 2014: We really hadn’t planned on making a trip to Yellowstone until the east gate opened, but Easter Sunday was glorious with Monday predicted to be just as nice. Yellowstone is huge – and going around Yellowstone takes even more time even despite the higher speed limits. Knowing that the drive would be a long one, we called to make a reservation and packed. We were out the door and on the road at 2:00 in the afternoon. All along the drive, things were greening up nicely.
There was an osprey on a nest – looking like it was working on it – between Linvingston and Gardiner. Finally, we arrived at 5:45 in Gardiner and checked in. Only one restaurant was open in town, The Yellowstone Mine, so that’s where we headed and decided to just hit the sack for an earlier start in the morning.
However, neither of us slept well, so the alarm was turned off for another hour or so of more sleep. We ended up driving through the North Entrance at a little before 8:00. We spotted a couple of Sandhill Cranes just south of Willow Park.
We stopped at Roaring Mountain to take a quick video (that will hopefully be shared in the thermal feature trip report on Geyser Watch if I can figure out video processing with this camera). At Roaring Mountain, I heard a woodpecker drumming on a tree somewhere on the hillside to the west – which repeated every 10-15, and up to 30 seconds. My guess would be a Hairy Woodpecker.
Just before we reached Madison Junction, we pulled over out of traffic to watch a coyote miss his (or her) mark and start dancing on the snow in an attempt to get a snack by making the critters beneath the snow move and make noise. Knowing the show was taking place at about the limit of the camera lens, I handed it to Mike since he’s more steady handheld while I watched through binoculars. It literally was skittering its feet along, then jumping and landing on all four feet, then pausing to listen, and dancing again. It knew a meal was under there – and knowing the persistence of coyotes, and our limited time today in Yellowstone, we decided to keep moving.
Coyote hunting near Madison Junction in Yellowstone – Click to enlarge
Just before reaching Fountain Flats drive, we saw an Osprey shaking the water off its wings after successfully catching a fish. The plan was to head to Old Faithful – in hopes they might have at least the bike path open which would allow binoculars to help see what was what. No such luck. There was still a good amount of snow and the ranger told me she didn’t know of any plans to move the carcasses – to just let the bears feed on them until they would be picked clean.
The path around Old Faithful was open, so we decided to stroll around. These flowers were blooming by the asphalt part of that path, and I’ve yet to identify them. I thought at first they might be very bright Spring Beauties, but the leave aren’t right. My really good flower identification books are still packed away in a box buried in a storage unit, so if you happen to know what they are, I’d very much appreciate knowing. I’m adding it in at a higher resolution, so click on it to see it larger. They are tiny little things, maybe an inch tall or so.
And here’s a screen shot at 100% – the reddish leaves belong to the flowers:
Next, we saw a Western Bluebird pair in trees near the Beehive Overlook. The two trees they were topping are both dying from thermal heat. Either there’s more energy in that area, or the roots have grown deep enough to reach the heat.
A little farther along, we began to hear the cry of Killdeer. It seems they’re planning on nesting not far from the boardwalk. We didn’t see any eggs laid yet in any of the photos taken, but we didn’t stay long, but just moved through to leave them in peace. I want to check on them later on to see if they chose that spot, or if they decided too many people would be walking by. They lay their eggs right in the rocks, no real nest to speak of – and the geyserite (all that white rock) closely matches their eggs.
Time was dwindling, so we watched an eruption of Old Faithful and headed out to Norris where I wanted to get some photos of Vixen Geyser – more on that and other geyser observations over on Geyser Watch in a bit.