Wildlife on the Trails Harriman St Park and Yellowstone

Share your latest adventure in Yellowstone.

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Wildlife on the Trails Harriman St Park and Yellowstone

Post by karenandbill »

We thoroughly enjoy seeing the wildlife as we drive the roads in and around Yellowstone/Grand Teton and Island Park. But when we hike a trail and see wildlife, it adds something a little extra for us. It's hard to explain, but there is a feeling of oneness with nature out on the trail that you don't get from the car. You don't see wildlife nearly as often as you do from the car, so maybe that adds to it as well.

Anyway, we had two hikes recently where we saw some stuff from the trail, so we thought we would share. We discovered Harriman State Park last year during Covid when the national parks were closed. There is a nice variety of habitats which lends itself to a nice diversity of wildlife. Driving in we pass a large pond which is great for migrating waterfowl in the spring. Bill noticed a large "duck" which turned out to be a Common Loon as he suspected.

ImageDSC_0130 by William Reinke, on Flickr

We also spotted several species of ducks including Eared Grebes.
ImageDSC_0180 (1) by William Reinke, on Flickr

Once on the trail we passed several smaller ponds one of which had this pair of swans which we presume nest there.
ImageDSC_0152 (2) by William Reinke, on Flickr

After the ponds we walked through a wide open meadow. A red-tailed hawk posed for us on a pole before flying away as we tried to get closer for a decent photo. then there was a bluebird house with some activity going on.
ImageDSC_0166 by William Reinke, on Flickr

ImageDSC_0173 (1) by William Reinke, on Flickr

ImageDSC_0174 (1) by William Reinke, on Flickr

The mountain bluebird probably let us get this close because this squatter (a tree swallow) was just waiting for a chance to take over.
ImageDSC_0162 by William Reinke, on Flickr

As we were watching the birds we caught sight of two coyotes trotting, no running, through the meadow ahead of us. They were likely spooked by us as they stopped at the top of a ridge to look at us and then proceeded to go on over and out of sight.
ImageDSC_0161 by William Reinke, on Flickr

ImageDSC_0160 by William Reinke, on Flickr

We then hiked through the meadow to the trees where the mountain starts to climb. As we came up over a small knoll, we could see two coyotes again. Karen thinks they were the same two that circled around behind the ridge. Bill thinks that they were two different ones. Since I (Bill) am writing this report, I'm right. They were two different coyotes.

We were deciding how far to go when something made our decision for us--a couple fresh grizzly tracks in the mud heading the same direction we were. So that was our turn around point!

Yellowstone hike
A few days earlier we had been out in the north end of Yellowstone and hadn't seen much. A couple of moose were in round prairie watching a pair of bull bison challenge each other, which is rather unusual for this time of year, and our first red dog had just been born.

ImageDSC_0122 (1) by William Reinke, on Flickr

ImageDSC_0124 (1) by William Reinke, on Flickr

So we decided to look for a trail to hike without much snow. We found one that looked pretty good and started out. We had two bull bison early on-one was particularly intimidating as it gave us the "stare" which caused us to take as wide a berth as possible around him. We saw a couple of Sandhill Cranes fly off announcing our presence to the entire region. A footprint in the snow that looked to be from a mountain lion got Karen's attention. She then spotted a herd of elk on the hillside. We then saw a very slim red-tailed hawk that had Bill fooled for identification until it flew off.

Then the snow started becoming more of an issue. We wanted to make a ridge with a beautiful overlook so kept on, postholing through some sections. I was a bit ahead of Karen when I made it to the top of the overlook. I began scanning the area when I saw a "coyote" start moving down below. Nice, I thought. Then I quickly noticed, not a coyote, that's a wolf and there were at least four others also visible! I called Karen up and she was able to see them briefly before they went into the trees. She had the camera but they were gone before she had a chance to take a shot.

Heading back, we took a slightly different route to avoid more of the snow and we saw these fresh wolf tracks. Karen says they were probably laughing, watching us posthole through the drifts instead of taking the easier route like they did. :lol:

ImageDSCF9857 by William Reinke, on Flickr

ImageNikon October 2020 106 by William Reinke, on Flickr
Heading back we saw a beautiful woodpecker fly and land on a tree. It had a stunning black and white wing pattern with some red showing on the head. What made it unusual to us is that it had a bright yellow belly. We have seen a number of yellow-bellied sap suckers over the years with a pale strip of yellow at most. But this was a brilliant, almost goldfinch, yellow. Turns out it was a Williamson's Sapsucker, a first-timer for us.

ImageDSCF9858 by William Reinke, on Flickr

A bald eagle, another red-tail, a mountain bluebird and a large herd of bison well off the trail finished off the hike back. We were exhilarated as we drove back home. About five years ago hiking in the Tetons, we saw a black wolf come out of a group of trees and look right at us. We thought that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To have it happen again was truly amazing.

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Re: Wildlife on the Trails Harriman St Park and Yellowstone

Post by Dorothy »

What a great report and super photos! Thanks! We past Harriman State Park on our way to Yellowstone a lot -- drove in a ways one time, but didn't think we had time to stop long enough to make the entrance fee worthwhile, so didn't go in, but these photos (and report) makes me want to create enough time to stop for a while. We love to see different birds (a loon is on our "really want to see list" and love uncrowded wildlife viewing possibilities (that's why we frequent wildlife refuges -- they're free and there's seldom anyone around! We see SO many fun things).

Thanks again for the photos and the report. Can't wait to get up to Yellowstone (and the surrounding area) this year!

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