"Must See Yellowstone"- Spring is on the Way
March 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment
This is the final entry in the "Must See America" series and the first for the year in "Must See Yellowstone". By the calendar, Spring has arrived, and in some places I'm sure it has! But in Yellowstone, while the roads begin opening for the "summer" season in mid to late April, Spring is highly subjective as to when it begins. Winter weather can linger into May, so weather typically isn't a good indicator of Spring. Wildlife is a much better indicator and there are several wildlife migrations and behaviors that indicate Spring's arrival. The first of which is the arrival of the bluebirds. They migrate through the park in large numbers and several stay and nest. As such, they have already arrived in Yellowstone this year! So what can a visitor in April and early May expect? Well, many people visit in early Spring to see bears, particularly grizzly bears. Grizzlies being coming out of hibernation in mid March, but dont' become reliably viewable until mid April. Due to the snow pack, they stay lower in elevation until mid to late June or early July, feeding on fresh green vegetation, roots, tubers, rodents and winter kill. The best places to view grizzlies during this time frame tend to be along the northern range (between Mammoth Hot Springs to Tower Junction), from Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris Junction, and around Old Faithful. Depending on snow pack, other areas of the park may be good too, but roads in those areas, such as through Hayden Valley, aren't open until around May 10, which is a bit beyond the time frame for this entry. Please remember, grizzlies are large, powerful animals and should not be approached for any reason. Enjoy them from the road side, photograph from your vehicle if the bear is close, don't disturb the bear from it's natural behavior, and obey any rangers that may be present.
The other big draw in late April to early May are the baby bison. Cow bison are already showing huge bellies as the birthing season is almost here. Bison calves start to be seen in early April and cows give birth through the whole month. By early May, nursery herds in Lamar Valley and on Fountain Flats can have 30 or more little orange bison calves running, sleeping, or nursing. Bison calves are orange balls of energy, running, leaping, and playing. But then, just they can just drop and nap for an hour or so, soaking in the sun. Because they show so much diversity in behavior and personality, they are fun to watch and great photo subjects. The best places to find baby bison are in the nursery herds. The two most reliable to see are in the northern range and they move from Litte America (between Tower Junction and Slough Creek Campground) into Lamar Valley, or the Mary Mountain Herd which can be found on Fountain Flats.
Other fun photo subjects can be found in early Spring as well. Migrating bird species are a popular draw, especially with birders. As mentioned at the start of this blog, western bluebirds are a harbinger of Spring and as such, are a common sight. Sandhill Cranes also migrate through the park with many staying to nest. Elk, deer, sheep, and antelope are present and are migrating towards summer ranges, though they typically don't have babies with them until later in May or June. Late April and early May typically aren't good times for landscape photography. Skies are often grey and rain or snow can be expected. That's not to say great landscapes can't be found, but typically, those wanting classic landscape images will find late June a better time when flowers are blooming and summer thunderstorms create amazing light. But I'll talk about this time frame in a later entry. So stay tuned for more summer "must sees" from Yellowstone National Park!
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