Yellowstone Reports

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Strange Week

Hit and Miss
by Dan Hartman

July 7, 2020

     I had a strange week last week.  It started off with me missing a sequence I've tried to film for years.

     I was on Beartooth Pass at dawn, with bad weather rolling in and out every few minutes.  At times you couldn't see 30 feet because of the dense fog, then it would open up for 15 minutes or so.

     I walked out to an over look and was bothered because I didn't bring along my equipment.  I mean what if a wolverine appears out of the fog?

     Well, I got to where I can look over a rocky slope and I spot a tail disappearing in the rocks, then out pops a face.  It's a marten!  Only the second I'd seen at this elevation. (over 10,500 feet)

     I looked at him and said, "I'll be right back," and ran to my car.

     Five minutes later, I was back.

     The marten was nowhere to be seen.

     I set up and began scanning the rocky field below.  Twenty minutes later there he is, off to my left.  Before I could find him in my view finder he was gone.

     I knew I should have grabbed by zoom lens instead of my fixed 300. Then I could have found him easier, then zoomed in tighter.

     But, I was afraid to leave again for fear I might loose the little fella.

     Fifteen minutes later, he was coming my way from my left, this time carrying a pika.  Once again before I could find him in my camera, he disappeared into the rocks.

     Over the next hour I would spot him every dozen minutes or so, but always to briefly to film.

     Now, if I had been shooting stills, I would probably have gotten some shots, but filming takes about five times longer to get rolling.

     I was standing here scanning left and right, when I visioned how perfect it would be if the marten would climb a large rock below me and give me a long look with a pika in his jaws.  Also I was thinking, I should run back to the car and get the lens I should have brought (120-300zoom).

     Suddenly the marten came out of the rocks carrying another pika and he was headed for the rock I had just mentioned.

     I  swung my camera and it shut down.  I looked up and there's the marten looking back at me.  I'm trying everything to get the camera running again.  Turning it off and back on, taking off the lens and putting it back on, everything short of punching it with my fist!

    Suddenly it came back on and the marten was gone.

     Just then the fog rolled back in and completely hid the entire scene.

     My camera's done this before, usually brought on by damp conditions.  But this was a bad time.

     I moped for the next couple days, then Cindy and I decided to go check out a golden eagle cave nest that's on the other side of the Beartooths, about a two hour drive away.

     We got there around 8:15 in the morning, set up two cameras and settled down to wait.  The nest is so large you can barely see the eagle chicks head.

     Around 9:00, a huge strange shape appeared to our right drifting slowly towards the nest.  At first I even thought it was a large drone.  I mean the shape just didn't register in my brain.

     Suddenly it clicked!  It's an adult carrying something big!

     Several slow seconds slipped by as the eagle drifted in, never flapping its' wings once.

     Then, there it was, slipping into the nest with a young coyote!

     Everything about it was incredible.  The slow gliding approach, the shadow on the rock face, the coyotes body drooping from the eagles talons.

     Golden eagles nests are special, if only because you never know what's going to happen next.  And the huge size of North Americas largest raptor is truly impressive.

     Two days later, my daughter, Kelly, and I were driving back from the Beartooths when I spotted something dark moving through the sage and wildflowers, some fifty yards downslope. At first I thought wolf!  But quickly realized it was a grizzly.  Then out of the tall grass pops a couple spring cubs standing on their hind legs to see their mother.  When they dropped back down, they vanished.

     Then I hear Kelly whispering, "there's three cubs"!

     For the next ten minutes, I filmed the family in the high grass and sage.  It was tough because you could only see the cubs when they stood.  But that's what made it so cool.

     I've always said, "You miss what you think is the best thing ever, something better will come along".  If you are right back out there looking.

NOTE:  Golden Eagle images are screen shots from my video.


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Golden Eagle Approach

Golden Eagle Approach