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- Yellowstone In Winter
- Animals/Birds of the Badlands, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks 2016
- National Parks Landscapes 2016
- Animals of Yellowstone/Tetons/Badlands 2014
- Yellowstone/Tetons/Badlands Landscapes 2014
- Animals of Yellowstone/Tetons/Badlands 2012
- Yellowstone/Tetons/Badlands Landscapes 2012
- Animals of Yellowstone 2011
- Yellowstone/Tetons Landscapes 2011
- Yellowstone Textures
- Custer State Park, SD
- Great Smoky Mountains NP
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Utah National Parks
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On an evening drive through Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge (Iowa) we of course, saw Bison and Elk, but I was really thrilled to see several Ring-necked Pheasants in the fading light. (Photos from the car.)
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Here is a short video of wildlife, waterfalls, geysers and thermal features taken during our five-day trip to Yellowstone National Park in mid-January 2020 with the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) photo tour. (At the end of this, YouTube will probably take you to a page with a whole bunch of videos that aren't mine. Sorry. Just reload the page or click the back-button to get back here.) See also the Yellowstone in Winter photo gallery linked from the previous blog post.
We've been to Yellowstone National Park several times in the Summer and Fall, but being there in the Winter is a different experience. Just getting there can be a challenge. You could fly to Bozeman, MT and rent a car and then drive an hour and a half to Gardiner or West Yellowstone, MT, but we choose to drive from Iowa, and yes, we ran in to snowy roads both directions.
We stayed in Gardiner, MT, at the North entrance to the park for two nights. The first day in the park we drove the only road open to public traffic which is in the North part of the park from Gardiner and Mammoth Hot Springs through the Lamar Valley to Silver Gate and Cook City. Sometimes called the 'Serengeti of Yellowstone' the Lamar Valley is a great place to see wildlife year-round. We did see elk, bison, Bighorn Sheep, and three moose, but missed the coyote that several others reported and no wolves this time.
Then we drove to West Yellowstone, MT, where I participated in a three-day Winter photography tour sponsored by the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA). There were twenty one photographers and three guides in three snow coaches. The snow roads in the park are not plowed, but rather packed down by a groomer and used by specially designed snow coaches - a small bus with giant balloon tires or treads like a snowmobile. The snow roads are only open to guided tours or guided snowmobile groups, but the wildlife use the roads also. Orange and yellow stakes along the side mark the edge of the road. The snow coach drivers were great at helping to spot wildlife and finding a place to park to safely get out and take photos.
We had three great guides with many years experience of photography in the Yellowstone and Grand Tetons area - Michael Francis, Jeff Vanuga and Trent Sizemore. We went with a different guide each day and got a different photo experience with each. Cold, snowy and windy, we ventured out each day to the geyser basins, rivers and waterfalls, for scenic photos, and all along the way watching and stopping for any wildlife which was mostly Bison, Trumpeter Swans and ducks. We saw fresh tracks of a bobcat, but couldn't locate the cat, and watched a long-tail weasel running across the top of the deep snow about sixty miles per hour, but didn't get any photos. The highlight was a stampede of several hundred Bison right down the middle of the snow road past our snow coaches, and the many thermal features steaming in the fresh-fallen snow. It is a beautiful place in the Winter without the crowds of the rest of the year.
Our last day in the park Suzanne and I took another snow coach ride on a sunny day with a group that for the most part was on a sight-seeing, but not photography tour. It was a beautiful sunny day. We saw more of the thermal pools and geysers and got to see Old Faithful erupt (it happens about once every 90 minutes). In addition to more bison we saw three Coyotes that day. (but still no wolves, bobcats or foxes). Despite the misses it was a good trip and I'm anxious to go back again.
I took a short drive through the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City, IA, looking for birds ( which were unusually scarce) and came face to face with this Bull Bison. You can drive through the Bison enclosure and if you're not careful you could have Bison right up to your car. This photo was take from the car with a telephoto lens while the Bison was still some distance away.