There were thousands of Canada geese hanging out this week at Loveland’s North Lake Park, where the ice was thin and getting thinner fast thanks to balmy temperatures (it’s been in the fifties much of the week). The image above is a small portion cropped out of one of the photographs I took there. Wish I’d had a tripod and a longer lens to do this justice.
Picking my road trip back up where I left off: On Day 3 I took the Beartooth Scenic Byway from just southwest of Red Lodge, Montana, to Yellowstone. I’d heard how beautiful this route is, and even though the day was foggy, rainy, and finally snowy, what I’d heard was true. This is, according to Wikipedia, the highest-elevation road in Montana or Wyoming, and somewhere recently I read that the rocks exposed at Beartooth Pass (elevation 10,947 feet) are Pre-Cambrian, making them some of the oldest exposed anywhere in the lower 48 states. The drive is through glaciated terrain. Near the top of the pass is a large plateau with many small alpine lakes. It started snowing as I drove across the plateau, and at the pass itself the view was totally obscured. The wind was up and the temperature was down to 28 degrees, so I didn’t venture out of the car.
The weather gradually cleared as I descended the west side of the pass. Aspens, a waterfall, and distant peaks made this a beautiful drive. The highway, which begins in Montana and then dips down through Wyoming, curves back up to Montana and the small mountain town of Cooke City, where it was snowing. Heading out from Cooke City, you come to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
Almost as soon as I entered Yellowstone, I spotted two bison near the road. I was delighted. Well, little did I know that two bison were nothing compared to what was coming: whole herds! Buffaloes on the road, even. Buffaloes spread all across the Lamar Valley, where the snow had stopped, the sun had come out, and the meadows looked golden.
As I got close to Mammoth Hot Springs, I could see steam rising from the far-off terraces. In town, elk were hanging out on the grounds of the local clinic. A couple of weeks earlier, a tourist had drawn the ire of a bull elk here and narrowly escaped injury. I parked at the clinic for a few minutes, where this bull elk was bugling and keeping his little harem pointed in the direction he felt was suitable. The sign in the clinic window, which I didn’t notice until I was looking at these photos, reads: “Elk present?!?! Use back door.” This elk certainly looked and sounded like he didn’t want to be trifled with, and I took this photo through the windshield. Tomorrow: Hot springs and geysers!
This peacock pheasant looks nearly spherical because of its position, my camera angle, and the fact that its feathers are probably plumped up as well. This was an open enclosure, so some of the pheasants were down on the walkway. People don’t seem to alarm them much; after all, zoo visitors are constantly walking through their home. After this shot, birds will fly away from this blog for awhile and I’ll turn to other things.
That bright blue eye!
Another bird species that inhabits the Amazon rainforest. I finally had the luck of getting a catchlight in the eye, because this enclosure was so well lit.
This little tropical fellow (only the males boast the brilliant turquoise-and-jade plumage) has a most excellent name. The word cotinga comes via French from the Tupi, an indigenous people living in what is now Brazil. (Interestingly, Tupi is also the name of a software program for 2D animation whose logo is very reminiscent of cotinga plumage.) There are several other species of cotinga, too, all of them gorgeous and apparently much sought out by bird-watchers.
Some good news: Wikipedia says that the spangled cotinga is “not considered to be threatened because of its wide distribution.” It lives in the rainforest canopy, however, so I hope this status continues despite deforestation, which does threaten some other cotinga species (again, according to Wikipedia). No bird species should be lost if it can possibly be helped—but especially not such a beautiful one.
I probably shouldn’t post something this blurry, but I liked the spunkiness of this lovely duck. He/she lives in a walk-through room in the Denver Zoo bird house, with roommates that include members of several other bird species and even a couple of sloths slung like bundles of rags high in the branches of a tree.