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When Evidence Becomes Fact

Return to the Beartooths
by Dan Hartman

April 23, 2016

     On the 7th, Cindy, Kelly and I had driven all the way around to Sunlight Basin and the foothills of the Beartooths.  We had found sign that there were going to be two great gray nests, but hadn't actually found them.

     Well, two weeks later and Cooke Pass is still closed.  I'm dying inside to know if there are indeed two great gray nests.  I just couldn't stand the suspense anymore, so Cindy and I drove the 325 miles backwards circle to once again get 15 miles from our cabin.

     I couldn't believe how different the landscape looked.  Where I had to wade through two feet of snow two weeks ago, now was only a stroll through the sage.

     As we approached my Beartooth nest, I peered through the spruce branches.

     She was there!

     I thought she would be, but it felt good to know for sure.  This is her third year in a row at this particular nest.  I've never had a nest used more than two consecutive years.  So this is a record for me.

       We climbed back down to the car and drove back towards Cody.  In Sunlight Basin we parked where we had found the other great gray owls.  (Two weeks ago.)  One was found hunting, the other chirped from up in the forest.  Two feet of soap suds snow would have made climbing the steep slope next to impossible.  But today only deadfall made the going tough.  The snow was all but gone.

     We didn't find any snags, but mistletoe (witches broom) were plentiful and I feared it would be in one of those ugly masses we would find the owl.  One by one we checked them out.  Empty.  Presently we found ourselves standing on a flat shelf that ran acoss the timbered slope.  A large aspen grove lay to our left.  what a beautiful spot!  I happened to look to my right.  There in the fork of a large spruce sat a hawk nest.  A tail hang out over the edge.

     We got her!

     Circling around, we finally gained a view of her face.  She was sleeping.

     It seemed so easy.  But, if he hadn't been hunting as we drove by, we would not have found her.  Even then, if he hadn't caught something to take to her, we wouldn't have found her.  (I've often watched owls hunt for hours without catching anything.)  For that matter, if she hadn't chirped, we might not have found her.

     We drove on in to Cody for the night, then stopped by our great horned owl nest the next morning.  She was sitting up high in the nest.  The chicks have hatched.

     Late in the day as we returned to our cabin, we stopped to walk in and check our boreal owl nest.  To our amazement, she was sitting outside beside the cavity!  How about that!  Then off in the forest a couple hundred yards distant, two pygmy owls began to call.

    I love Springtime in the Rockies!!!


View slide show

Boreal Nest

Great Gray Owl Nest

Great Gray Owl Nest

Great Gray Owl Nest

Golden Eagle

Great Horned Owl Nest