Saturday, 18 January 2020

Texas and Yellowstone National Park - Yellowstone National Park Area 18th December (Day 9)

After breakfast in a small cafe next to our hotel, the Super 8 in Cooke City just outside of the north-east gate to Yellowstone National Park, we began our drive back towards Gardiner. Our first stop was in Silver Gate just outside of Cook City at a small art gallery where bird feeders are maintained. As we got out of the car the first bird I saw perched atop a Spruce was a cracking male Pine Grosbeak. And then a second bird, larger this time, and as I focused my bins on this bird what came into view was a stunning Clark's Nutcracker, a species I had dipped a couple of times in the States. I am a big fan of Jay's and Nutcracker's and so this bird was one of the main species I wanted to see on this leg of our trip. In the front of the gallery was a small feeding area and over an hour or so in the gloom of the Spruce tree's I recorded four Clark's Nutcracker at close range and a peak count (i.e. birds in view together) of 22 Pine Grosbeak. Other species here were three stunning Steller's Jay and the very cute Canada Jay which reminded me of a giant Azure Tit. My images from the site are rather dark but I quite like this effect, it replicates the low light levels penetrating the lower levels of the Spruce forest which, with the reflection from the snow below, was rather blue-grey in tone. My eBird checklist for the site can be viewed here.


Clark's Nutcracker - Silver Gate just outside North-east Gate to Yellowstone National Park

Clark's Nutcracker - Silver Gate just outside North-east Gate to Yellowstone National Park

Clark's Nutcracker - Silver Gate just outside North-east Gate to Yellowstone National Park

Clark's Nutcracker - Silver Gate just outside North-east Gate to Yellowstone National Park

Canada Jay- Silver Gate just outside North-east Gate to Yellowstone National Park

Canada Jay- Silver Gate just outside North-east Gate to Yellowstone National Park

Canada Jay- Silver Gate just outside North-east Gate to Yellowstone National Park

Steller's Jay- Silver Gate just outside North-east Gate to Yellowstone National Park

Pine Grosbeak- Silver Gate just outside North-east Gate to Yellowstone National Park

Pine Grosbeak- Silver Gate just outside North-east Gate to Yellowstone National Park

Pine Grosbeak- Silver Gate just outside North-east Gate to Yellowstone National Park

Pine Grosbeak- Silver Gate just outside North-east Gate to Yellowstone National Park

Pine Grosbeak- Silver Gate just outside North-east Gate to Yellowstone National Park

Hairy Woodpecker - Silver Gate just outside North-east Gate to Yellowstone National Park

From here we basically retraced our steps from yesterday passing back through the Lamar Valley. Shortly after leaving Silver Town we came across a magnificent male moose. He was initially crashing around in the Spruce before crossing the road right in front of the car, he paused before entering the forest once more. We stopped again for the Wolves but they were not to be seen. A few plays of the tape for Northern Pygmy-owl produced only Mountain Chickadee and Townsend's Solitaire. We stopped for more views of Bison along the roadside, these showed very well and it was actually difficult to find animals that were far enough away to photograph without just getting pieces of animal in the frame.

Moose - North-east Entrance Road, Yellowstone National Park

Moose - North-east Entrance Road, Yellowstone National Park

Bison - North-east Entrance Road, Yellowstone National Park

Bison - North-east Entrance Road, Yellowstone National Park

Bison - North-east Entrance Road, Yellowstone National Park

Bison - North-east Entrance Road, Yellowstone National Park

Bison - North-east Entrance Road, Yellowstone National Park

Bison - North-east Entrance Road, Yellowstone National Park

Bison - North-east Entrance Road, Yellowstone National Park

North-east Entrance Road, Yellowstone National Park

Our final stop before leaving the park was at Mammoth Hot Springs where we had a short walk to enjoy the spectacle. Birds here included a Townsend's Solitaire which was foraging around the hot springs.

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

Townsend's Solitaire - Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

Townsend's Solitaire - Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

Townsend's Solitaire - Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

Black-billed Magpie - Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

Just below the hot springs we came across a superb adult Bald Eagle perched beside the road, now I am not a massive fan of raptors but, what a bird! On the river below were two American Dipper

Bald Eagle - Entrance Road, Yellowstone National Park

Bald Eagle - Entrance Road, Yellowstone National Park

Bald Eagle - Entrance Road, Yellowstone National Park

Bald Eagle - Entrance Road, Yellowstone National Park

Bald Eagle - Entrance Road, Yellowstone National Park

American Dipper - Entrance Road, Yellowstone National Park

American Dipper - Entrance Road, Yellowstone National Park

As we left the park we again drove around Gardiner looking for a feeder that Steve once knew of but this was no longer present but we did have our best views of a fine immature male Elk. We then headed back towards Sage Lodge following Cinnabar Road where the only bird of note was a Norther Flicker and we saw more Bighorn Sheep and Pronghorn Antelope.

Elk - Gardiner, near Yellowstone National Park

Pronghorn Antelope - Cinnabar road, Gardiner

Pronghorn Antelope - Cinnabar road, Gardiner

Bighorn Sheep - Cinnabar Road, Gardiner

Bighorn Sheep - Cinnabar Road, Gardiner

Bighorn Sheep - Cinnabar Road, Gardiner

Bighorn Sheep - Cinnabar Road, Gardiner

Back on the main road we came across a road kill White-tailed Deer which was being tended by a superb immature Bald Eagle which showed well at close range. My eBird list for this location can be viewed here. We arrived back at Sage Lodge at around 15:00 and spent the rest of the day relaxing.

Bald Eagle - Highway 540, Pray

Bald Eagle - Highway 540, Pray

Bald Eagle - Highway 540, Pray

On 19th we had a relaxing day visiting Livingston and the Chico Hot Springs. On 20th we packed our bags and headed to Bozeman Airport where our 10:43 flight left on time and we were in Denver at 12:29. After checking in to our international flight we relaxed in the lounge for four hours before departing at 17:25 and landing at London Heathrow at 09:30 on 21st ready for Christmas chaos.

Links to Other Days of the Trip (Click to View)
10th December (Day 1) – Fly London Heathrow to Dallas (15:45 - 20:10).
12th & 13th December (Day 3-4) - Work conference with no birding.
16th December (Day 7) - Fly Corpus Christi to Bozeman.
19th December (Day 10) - Non-birding day.
20th December (Day 11) - International Flight.