Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Montana & Wyoming - Part 2

Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872 and is said to have been the world's first national park. Situated primarily in the US state of Wyoming, it also extends into Montana and Idaho. It covers an area of almost 9,000 square kilometres, not quite twice the size of the Algarve (5,412 sq km), but more than big enough to try and cover in just a week!

Although we were mainly concerned to see the wildlife, especially the birds, first time visitors were equally interested in the park's many geothermal features - geysers, fumaroles, mud pots and hot springs. Most people will have at least heard of the 'Old Faithful' geyser but roughly half of all the world's 1,000 or so geysers are in Yellowstone so there was much else for us to see. Also, the scenery is really spectacular with lakes, rivers, mountains and canyons as well as huge areas of forest, so endless opportunities for photography.

During our 12-night tour we managed to see 28 species of mammals and most of those were in Yellowstone. On several occasions we saw Grizzly Bears, including on one occasion a mother with four cubs. We also saw several Black Bears and Coyotes, lots of Bison and Elk, Mountain Goats, Bighorn Sheep,and many smaller 'critters', mainly chipmunks and ground squirrels.

Birds included the easily seen wetland species such as American White Pelican, Sandhill Cranes and lots of ducks; raptors such as Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle; stunning Mountain Bluebirds and several woodpeckers. The 'star of the show' was probably a female Great Grey Owl on a nest that contained at least two chicks.

The view across Lake Yellowstone

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

What are all these people waiting for?

'Old Faithful' - so-called because its irruptions, although not the tallest or largest amongst Yellowstone's geysers, are the most regular and predictable - always draws a crowd.

Norris Geyser Basin


Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

Barrow's Goldeneye - the most numerous of the ducks that we saw, 250 in one flock.

A wily Coyote

Black Bear

Bison - once numbered more than 20 million in North America but now only about 30,000 remain in conservation herds; about 4,000 are in Yellowstone.

Mountain Bluebird - seen almost everday on our tour.

Uinta Ground Squirrel

Yellow-pine Chipmunk

Great Grey Owl

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