Since it is quite a tramp up to the Pebble Creek great gray owl nest, I decided to combine hiking with various groups, mostly college, with checking on the nests progress.
A little background. This nest was first used in 2005 when Cassie and I found two chicks but didn't actually see the nest. The next year while hiking with Clemson I finally discovered the mistletoe nest. It was not used again until 2010 and as luck would have it, Clemson was once again with me when we found the nest occupied this year on May 27th. By the way she sat it appears she's still on eggs.
June 6 Casper College was with me this evening when we approached the nest. We had already come across two black bears in the meadows below. First a beautiful Cinnamon, then in the next opening a small black. At the nest the owl seemed to be sitting higher. Chicks hatched? This was confirmed an hour later when the male arrived with a gopher and the female preceeded to shread it and feed unseen chicks under her feathers. It was raining off and on so we started back down, running into a third black bear in the first meadow.
June 13 Melissa and her group of kids from North Carolina were my hiking partners this morning. It had been a week since I'd checked the Pebble Creek nest so I was anxious to see if chicks were visable. We arrived at 8:30 and apparently had missed a feeding because at one point she fed the chicks but we still couldn't see them.
June 15 I decided to take a break from Pebble Creek and instead took Parks Collins and his group from North Carolina up into the high meadows above Calcite near Tower. A great gray nest up there was active in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2001. So it's been inactive for twelve years but I have another nest this year that's being used after eight years of inactivity. So you never know, besides I have a pygmy owl nest up there also that needed to be checked. Well, both were empty although there was owl sign in the area. (white-wash and pellets) We did come across a few song bird nests in the aspens and found bear sign from the sow and three cubs.
June 16 This afternoon I headed to the Pebble Creek nest with a group from Defenders of Wildlife in tow. We came across lots of bear sign including a bed with a dozen scats nearby. At the nest, the female sat quietly preening now and then. I was surprised the chicks were still too small for viewing. They should be around two weeks old.
On my off days I visit a bluebird nest in the Beartooths. As I ventured deeper in the woods one afternoon a commotion erupted just ahead of me. I knew what it was instantly and froze in my tracks. A grizz was killing an elk calf and the frantic cow was barking and crying out in rage. As much as I wanted a look at the scene, I knew better. Grizz are dangerous when they're in the killing mode and the angry confused elk could be just as bad. Besides, I didn't have my bear spray or camera for that matter. I stood quietly listening as the screaming and barking continued. Finally after ten minutes or so all became quiet. Then, farther off a final bark from the frustrated cow.