DAY NINE - Thursday, December 29


A PIGMY OWL

Itís much colder this morning: only minus 3. There is some frost on the car but no new snow.

My first stop is a Footbridge to check on the bison carcass. Still nothing.

I check the Institute carcass, but nothing there. I move on to Slough but find it quiet here, too. I drive further west and join Kara at Straightaway. Our friends from last year, Dora and Rhonda are here. We have a lovely reunion but bemoan the lack of wolves.

But we scope anyway, finding numerous elk & bighorn up on Specimen.

We hear a report over the radio of wolves headed to the Institute carcass but they are then identified as coyotes.

After a while we head to Boulder to check the likely spots. No sooner do we arrive when Rick calls to say there is something at Blacktail. I drive that way, listening for updates along the way but hear nothing.

Finally I spy a lot of cars parked in the lot with the skierís bathroom. I recognize Calvin & Lynette. It appears Iím too late, though. Earlier today they found the 8 Mile wolves on an open slope to the north of here, in a spot roughly across from the S curve lot. Bird activity indicates they probably have a carcass in the little gully there. A total of 14 were seen, moving from the carcass area, then across the open snow to the north. Unfortunately, they are now out of sight.

I set up anyway, convinced that in a pack with so many yearlings, at least one might come back for a second breakfast. Rick drives to various spots, trying to find an angle from which they may be seen, but is not successful.

So I content myself with watching carcass area. I find three coyotes and a lot of ravens. One of the coyotes picks up a leg assembly dropped by one of the wolves.

At least I have a chance to distribute my Christmas cookies to the group!

There is a bit of wind today but not as bad as yesterday. The day has warmed and we are now officially above zero!

There is talk of a winter killed animal at Blacktail Ponds so I drive down there to investigate. There is indeed something dead here, but well under the ice. Most likely a bison. It is, alas, fairly normal for at least one of them to break through the ice every winter and drown.

I find three coyotes and several industrious ravens at this spot, dipping their heads deep under the icy water, coming up with bits of whatever is trapped underneath.

Itís certainly an area to watch in the coming days.

I had hoped that my leaving the pullout would draw the wolves back into view, but this time it doesnít work! Rick comes by and admits he has not been able to locate a spot that offers a view of the bedded 8 Miles. So he and I are both wolfless today.

But the sun comes out and the temps reach a toasty 12 degrees!

Jort mentions a pigmy owl is visible at Christmas Bear, so a few of us head that way. Iíve never seen one, so I am curious. We do have luck with the owl. Itís so tiny, almost all head and eyes! It sits, very stern-looking, at the very tip of a tall fir tree. I get a photo. This is a first for me!

We show a few other people who pull in but eventually the owl flies away. So I head back east. I join Kara and scope from Hellroaring for a while, because you never know. We see lots of bison and a few elk but no wolves.

Next we hear a report of wolves on Jasper Bench and otters visible from Dorothyís. We know we will not get there in time but we go anyway.

The drive is gorgeous because the sun has come out in full. As expected, though, by the time we get to Dorothyís there is only one car in the lot and the people are not the ones who reported the sightings.

There is a coyote on the carcass, though, so we watch that a while.

We scope the whole river corridor, looking for otters but they must have gone back upstream. My next stop is a Footbridge. Kara is here watching the moose across from the Cone. Rick pulls in and asks for our help finding the Lamars.

Although Little T has not been seen since the "Prospect Invasion", I think she found her family the next day. I think 926 knew where she was when she led the boys southeast on Christmas Day. But since she does not have a collar, it's hard to be sure. yehn. But they know this territory well and wolves are exceedingly resourceful and hardy.

Rick asks me to wait at Lower Baronnette while Kara is stationed further west. Rick wants us to spot for oncoming cars in case he has to step into the road. I enjoy being by myself in this beautiful spot as darkness descends. I donít hear any howling nor do I see any wolves but I learn that the Lamars are somewhere just east of Round Prairie.

Now back to Silver Gate I go.

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, 2 moose, a pigmy owl, bighorn sheep and the spirit of Allison.




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