Mama Bear & Cubs

At the northern end of Moose Wilson Road in the Grand Teton Nation Park, there is a special place I often go to very early in the morning. I try to go there an hour or so before sunset as well. There’s a large pull-out area for cars to park. Directly below the parking area is Sawmill Pond. Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen moose, elk, osprey fishing, six different black bears and a variety of ducks and other animals in that area. I keep missing the Great Grey Owl though!

It’s well-marked with a sign that states that this area is frequented by bears and your safety cannot be guaranteed. Most people stop and stay just a few minutes especially if they don’t see an animal right away. Some will hike a short distance from the parking area while a few of us will hike a mile or so along the ridge. I like to do it an hour or so before sundown because the sun is in a perfect spot should I see elk or moose.

Two weeks ago I hiked out there a little more than an hour before sundown. I had heard three elk bugling and was hoping to get a good environmental shot of at least one of them.  After about an hour, one of them showed himself and I got this shot. I got lucky again!

Bull Elk showing himself
Bull Elk showing himself

The sun was about a half hour from setting so I headed back. About 200 yards from the parking area, I saw a couple who were clearly in distress. The woman’s eyes were wide open and she was making gestures indicating a big bear and  two small bears were close by. The man was on his cell phone trying to explain in his broken english that they were in trouble because the bears had crossed the trail right in front of them. They were afraid to move and didn’t know what to do.

I told them they were safe with me. I had bear spray and would walk with them to their car. I knew this bear was not interested in us but trying to find food. We are not their prey. She was most likely looking for berries for herself and her cubs. The folks were quite relieved when we got to their car as they continued to thank me over and over again.

By that time, a ranger had come and of course, a horde of people showed up as well. As the ranger and I talked, I kept watch for the bear. I saw it coming toward us. Now, the next few pictures are not of the quality I would like but, I’m posting them anyway. You see, we had to keep moving back because she was coming towards us so it was a little tricky trying to get the shots I wanted. I was also trying to help the ranger with crowd control. (Well, that’s my excuse….. 😉)

Female Black Bear coming towards us
Female Black Bear coming towards us. The little bit of brown on the right is one of her cubs.

Here she is looking back to be sure they were following her.

Are you coming?
Are you coming?

This is a picture of her second cub. We noticed that it was limping and following at a slower pace.

I'm coming too!
I’m coming too!
Just hobbling along
Just hobbling along…..

Mom stopped coming toward us and decided to go back down to the pond area which is 35 yards below the parking area.

Coming out of the brush
Coming out of the brush

She continued to go along the edge of the pond right in front of us. While it was only about 35 yards away, the ranger felt we were safe as long as we stepped back just a bit.

She continued to go to our left towards a berry bush.

Hmmmm this may be good!
Hmmmm this may be good!

She then reached up to sample some of the berries.

That's about as high as I can reach.
That’s about as high as I can reach.

Cub #1, the non-injured one, climbed right up into the bush. It was fun to watch as it swayed around a bit. I was wondering if the small branches would support its weight. Well, they did and it did not fall.

I think there are some up here Mom!
I think there are some up here Mom!
Whoooo, it's a bit shaking up here!
Whoooo, it’s a bit shaking up here!
OK, now I've got it!
OK, now I’ve got it!

Soon, they seem to have their fill and started to move off behind the bush where we could no longer see them.

Time to move on...
Time to move on…

The next thing we noticed, mom was crossing the pond.

I wonder what's on the other side.
I wonder what’s on the other side.

A minute or so after mom made it across, cub #1 swam across too.

Just about there!
Just about there!
Made it!
Made it!

Well, where’s cub #2?.  It finally caught up to the area where mom and #1 had been but they were not in sight.

Hey guys! Where are you?
Hey guys! Where are you?

Soon #2 disappeared behind the berry bush. We couldn’t see it. All of a sudden, we heard it softly calling out to mom. It got a little louder and then even louder. It almost sounded like it was crying.  Saying, where are you MOM! Then it stopped. Next, we saw this.

They have got to be over here..... I hope!
They have to be over here….. I hope!

Yup! It swam across the pond in just about the same area as mom and #1 did.

As it got on the other side, mom came out from the trees to greet it.

Where have you been?
Where have you been?

She was there after all making sure #2 was safe and ok. She was being a really good Mom!

I was starting to worry about you, little one!
I was starting to worry about you, little one!

And then, they went off together into the woods.

Time to go find #1.
Time to go find #1.

Everyone was relieved to see them together again. I hope they find enough food to make it through the winter especially cub #2. If it does, with that drive to survive, it’s going to be an awesome adult bear.

I hope to see you next year little one!

Well, that’s my National Geographic experience for this year. I hope you enjoyed the trip with me.

Thanks for coming by!

Bill

 

Koala, is it a Bear?

Nope, the Koala is not a bear. It is a marsupial mammal.

Most of the time they are asleep when people come to see them at the Kansas City Zoo. I was very luck this morning to catch them not only awake but eating and moving around. It was so very cool!

Having Breakfast
Having Breakfast

 

Just another bite
Just another bite

They eat only leaves and bark from eucalyptus trees. There are over 600 types, or species of these trees, but Koalas only eat the leaves and bark from 12 of them. The Kansas City Zoo has them specially brought in to be sure they have the right type.

Oh he's taking my picture. I'd better give him my best side.

Oh, he’s taking my picture. I’d better give him my best side.

 

No, wait a minute. Maybe this pose is better
No, wait a minute. Maybe this pose is better

 

So there!
So there!

 

Yes, there are two of us!
Yes, there are two of us!

 

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Come on now. I’ve just got to be the cutest thing you’ve seen today!

Koalas are mostly nocturnal. They spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping or resting in trees, curled up gripping the limbs with their feet. But you have to admit. They are just adorable when they’re awake.

In the Aboriginal language, the word Koala is thought to mean “does not drink”

I know, I know…… I’m one lucky person but you can be as well. My suggestion is to go to the zoo early in the morning. You just might get lucky to see them awake too.

I hope you enjoyed them. I know I did.

Thanks for stopping by!

Shawnee Mission Park Animals

Well, this is the time of the year when I start planning for my annual trip to the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. This will be my seventh consecutive year of going. Normally it’s just me, my camera, my tent and bear spray. This year, however, I’ll be staying in a motel. We’ll see how well that goes….

I never get tired of going there because there are always new areas to explore and different animals to photograph. But you know, you don’t have to go that far to get some great shots of animals. As a matter of fact, I never get tired of going to Shawnee Mission Park which is only 8.5 miles from my front door. It’s a great place to practice before going to one of the big parks. I thought I’d show some of the animals I’ve been fortunate to see and photograph while in SMP.

It’s a rare day when I don’t see deer. Below are a few of my favorite shots….

White-tailed Buck
White-tailed Buck
White- tailed Buck
White- tailed Buck… These two were very close to each other when I took these photos.
Sometimes they're easy to see...
Sometimes they are easy to see…
Sometimes you have to look very carefully
Sometimes, you have to look very carefully to see them….
Sometimes they will stay looking back at you
Sometimes they will stay looking back at you….
Sometimes you get really lucky to see and photograph something unique
And sometimes, you get really lucky to see and photograph something unique.

Of course, there are a variety of birds to see and photograph as well.

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
American Robin on a very cold day
American Robin on a very cold day
Eastern Bluebirds
Eastern Bluebirds
White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Summer Tanager
Summer Tanager
American Crow
American Crow
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk in flight
Red-tailed Hawk in flight
Red-tailed Hawk looking back at me
Red-tailed Hawk looking back at me

Sometimes if you know where to look, you get very lucky and see things like this…

Red-tailed Hawk and its chick
Red-tailed Hawk and its chick on their nest.
Flying in with breakfast for its chick
Flying in with breakfast for its chick.

Along the stream way in the park, it’s very common to see these too….

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron taking off
Great Blue Heron taking off

I know, I know, not everyone likes them but if you’re real lucky, you my get to see some of these too…

I'm pretty sure this is a Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi)
I’m pretty sure this is a Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi)
Copperhead
It is a Copperhead!
Copperhead up close. Yes, it is venomous.
Copperhead up close. Yes, it is venomous.

There are other mammals to be seen, like these….

Muskrat
Muskrat
Look close. Yup, it's a sleeping raccoon!
Look closely. Yup, it’s a sleeping raccoon!
Opossum, the only North American marsupial.
The Virginia Opossum is the only North American marsupial.
Come on now, it is kind of cute don't you think?
Come on now, it is kind of cute don’t you think?
Now, I think it's just too cool posing for me!
Now, I think it’s just too cool that it’s posing for me!

With a keen eye you may get to see these….

Coyote in the grass
Coyote sneaking away in the grass
They wouldn't let me get too close
They wouldn’t let me get too close.
These hear you coming from a long way off and start running away quickly
These hear you coming from a long way off and start running away very quickly.

One has to be very lucky and have a lot of patience to observe these at their nests.

Male Red-bellied Woodpecker looking out of the nest. Is he waiting for the female?
Male Red-bellied Woodpecker looking out of the nest. Is he waiting for the female?
Male Red-bellied Woodpecker
Well, there she is!
Leaving the nest
Leaving the nest!

Well, we cannot forget these!

Male Mallard
Male Mallard taking flight
Honestly, I think the female mallard is just as beautiful as the male
Honestly, I think the female mallard is just as beautiful as the male.

Those who know me, know that I have a great affection for owls. Yes, if you pay attention, you may get lucky and see them too.

Great Horned Owl on the nest
Great Horned Owl on the nest
Barred Owl hunting for its young during the day
Barred Owl hunting during the early morning.
Even though it saw me, it didn't see me too concerned
Even though it saw me, it didn’t seem too concerned.

Of course, these aren’t all the animals I’ve seen or photographed in Shawnee Mission Park. Even though there are no bears, elk or wolves there, it’s a great place to practice your wildlife photography skills before going to the National Parks. Of course there are no guarantees that you’ll see wildlife each time you go out. To increase your odds of seeing them, be sure to go very early in the morning. I always go before sunrise and get into place before the animals start to bed down or hide.

The next best time is an hour or so before sundown. The animals tend to start moving around again at that time. The light is best during those times as well. I actually prefer early morning to sundown because there are fewer people in the park.  If you wait until late morning or mid-day, the light can be very harsh especially on a sunny days. It makes the shadows very dark and one tends lose detail in them. That being said, I love to photograph anytime it’s cloudy. The light is soft and sometimes the animals are still roaming around.

Even if you don’t live close to Shawnee Mission Park, I’ll bet there’s a park close to you that has more wildlife than most people know about. You just have to go out early and see for yourself. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of these critters. Good Luck searching for them in parks close to where you live.

Thanks for stopping by!

Bill