In sharing these images today, I am using the common North
American names for these animals. It was interesting learning about these
animals though because, the names are not consistent. Even in North America,
the Elk is referred to a Wapiti, from the Shawnee term Wa Piti meaning
White-rumped. Also, Elk are sometimes claimed to be the same as the European
Red Deer. However, mitochondrial testing in 2004 found that the much smaller Red
Deer is a different species.[i]
To confuse matters further, in Eurasia, the Moose is called an Elk.[ii]
The Pronghorn is sometimes referred to as an antelope but it
is not a true antelope. Unlike true antelopes, the keratin sheathing on its
horns is shed and regrown annually. The pronghorn is also the only animal that
has branched horns.
The Elk and the Moose are members of the deer family, which
means they have antlers made of bone. The pronghorn and true antelope, as well
as cows, sheep and goats have horns which have a bony center covered by a keratinous
Anyway, forget the confusion unless it helps in social
conversation and enjoy these magnificent animals.
Bison (Bison bison) are an iconic species at Yellowstone
National Park. As many as there are and as often as I see them, I am still in
awe of them. This trip was especially fun because of the large number of
babies. They were standing, sleeping, scampering about; all the things babies do.
For the first few months of their life, the baby bison have a reddish colored coat; many people refer to them as red dogs. The adults were losing their winter coat, so patches of fur were missing or dangling on many of them. Others had a beautiful coat that appeared gold in the sun.
Please click on caption to see images at higher resolution.
Here is a few shots of some wildlife we saw travelling through various places. The locations are listed with each image.
We hadn’t seen any bears in the wild for several years. Then, on one trip, we saw 2. Unfortunately, the one that got away, was a cinnamon colored one. Maybe someday I’ll be able to photograph one of those.
The tufa in Mono Lake are beautiful themselves but we got a rare treat – an osprey on its nest on top of a tufa.
Note: Click on caption to see image at higher resolution.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is another one of Yellowstone National Park’s iconic features. The steep, rugged canyon is cut through volcanic rocks that are colored by deposits of iron. It is being cut by the Yellowstone river which, in other parts of the park, seem calm and serene. But, in the canyon, it is a raging torrent. It tumbles down over Upper Yellowstone Falls (109’) then, after a short distance, tumbles over Lower Yellowstone Falls (308’). After the falls, the river flows its way alongside fumaroles and over cascades as it winds its way through the canyon.
Most of these images are from a recent trip. But I decided to include 3 from previous trips to give you some other perspectives of the canyon. They are Bottom of Lower Yellowstone Falls with rainbow like color, The Beam, a unique winter phenomenon and Lower Yellowstone Falls in Winter by the Light of the Full Moon.
Note: Click on caption to see image at higher resolution
The Grand Prismatic Spring is another of Yellowstone’s iconic hydrothermal features. It is the one that looks like a big orange and blue eye. The spring sits along the Firehole River in the general area of the Upper Geyser Basin where Old Faithful resides. It produces a constant flow of water that flows into and heats the Firehole River. To me, the Firehole River is the most fascinating of Yellowstone’s rivers. It flows from Madison Lake, on the continental divide, 21 miles to the Gibbon River at Madison Junction. What fascinates me, is that it travels through the Upper Geyser Basin, where Old Faithful is located, and past the Grand Prismatic Spring. Those and other hydrothermal features dump their water into the Firehole. This raises the temperature 9-18 degrees Fahrenheit.
The pool filled by the Grand Prismatic Spring is very shallow. It is colored by the brown. orange and yellow bacteria and algae that grow in its pool. The sun highlights its colored features and the water reflects the blue of the sky. Steam rising from the spring adds mystery to the landscape. Though you can appreciate the spring by just giving it a cursory walk-by, paying attention to the details and seeing how the light seems to make them change provides a breathtaking experience.
Yellowstone is known as much for its wildlife as its great geologic features. North America’s apex predators, the wolf, grizzly bear and the mountain lion all roam Yellowstone’s wild lands along side the bison, elk, moose, deer and other prey species. Sadly, many of the species we had hoped to see didn’t show and a few were too far away to get a good picture. But we did see some and what we saw was amazing.
In this post, you’ll see the pica, a relative of the rabbit that lives in higher altitude rock fields. You’ll see the pronghorn which is related to but is not an antelope and the mountain goat which is not a goat but, an antelope. Finally, the American Dipper; the only North American song bird that feeds underwater in stream beds.
The Swainson’s hawks we taken not far outside of Idaho Falls, ID on the last leg of our journey to Yellowstone.
I hope you enjoy these images.
Note: Please click on caption to see higher resolution image.
Yellowstone is full of hydro-thermal (Hot Water) features; features created when groundwater is heated by Yellowstone’s magma chamber and pushed up to the surface. The geyser, Old Faithful, is the iconic feature of Yellowstone. But that is just one of many. Near Old Faithful is the Grand Prismatic Spring and Morning Glory Pool; 2 famous hot springs. The travertine terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs are constantly under creation as the underlying hot spring bubbles up through a deposit of limestone. The Mud Volcano area has its bubbling mudpots and hot springs. Fumaroles that vent only steam abound.
The interesting thing is that all these features work the same way. A hot spring has a crack or “pipe” that travels underground to the surface. As water is heated, it expands and gets pushed upward. If the pipe has a constriction, it slows the water’s upward movement until enough pressure builds so that the water explodes out of the ground as a geyser. If there is no constriction, the water runs continuously. If there is a depression, the water creates a pool. If the hot spring doesn’t have a lot of water, it soaks the ground instead of forming a pool. If there is just enough water, it creates pool of bubbling mud. If the amount of water is very small, it forms a fumarole and vents only steam.
Hot springs encourage the growth of bacteria and algae that form mats on the beds of their pools and streams. These mats come in array of colors that make these springs breathtakingly beautiful. Mammoth Hot Springs, whose water flows through limestone, deposits calcium carbonate as the water evaporates forming huge terraces of travertine. In some parts, chemical impurities stain the terraces with beautiful color.
These hydro-thermal features of Yellowstone are a wonder to behold.
Note: Click on caption to see higher resolution image.