April 2019 Daily Journal for GTNP & JH

750line

Early April Notes:

The first day of Spring (on the calendar) was on March 20th, but most of the valley still looks like Winter! We had several warm days at the end of March, which began melting the heavy snow pack on the valley floor.  Elk will eventually leave the National Elk Refuge, and expect Wolves to follow them. When the migration begins, you can often see more wildlife in a single day than any other month of the year.  Moose are often in the river bottoms at this time of the year, but many are moving back to the sage flats.  Hawks, Eagles, Falcons, and Kestrels have been spotted in March. Songbirds are also beginning to move through the valley. Bohemian Waxwings have been stripping the berry trees in town. I would expect April to be very active this year.

GrizzliesOther Wildlife for Early April: I didn’t see as many Mountain Goats in the Snake River Canyon this year as in other years, but that may have been a result of the heavy snow pack. Still, I would expect to see a few through the middle of April. April is also a good month to see Grizzlies in Grand Teton National Park. Watch for Foxes, Marmonts, and Badgers. Trumpeter Swans will be leaving the valley at some point. Other birds, like White-faced Ibis might be seen for a day or two before they move on north. The Bison I photographed with frosted faces last month are still around, but are seldom next to the steam now.

Sage Grouse

The area at the Sage Grouse’s traditional lekis still mostly snow covered. Around 20-30 of them have been hanging around the Kelly Warm Springs area lately. Possibly, they are using the Kelly areas as their lek this year.

Roads: The Moose-Wilson Road and Teton Park Roads usually open on May 1st. As of March 31st, Antelope Flats Road is still gated. The Teton Park Road (Inner Park Loop Road) is open to walkers, runners, & bikers (no vehicles) until May 1st.

Weather: While days should be much warmer than in January and February, a passing storm with heavy snow is always possible. Most of the fresh snow usually melts in one day in the valley floor.

The first week or so of April should resemble April 2018 Daily Journal for Grand Teton National Park & JH : Also, check out the Monthly Overviews for JH / GTNP

Daily Updates Archives:

April 2018:April 2017:Apr 2016:April 2015:Apr 2014:

April 1st  – Monday

Please take a minute and register to sign up to follow this site. I’d love to have another couple hundred new subscribers from the group visiting the site in March and April! MJ

Subscribe to Best of the Tetons!

Receive email notifications of new posts.

Mountain Goat on Rocky Ledge

 Mountain Goat on Rocky Ledge: Captured near the mouth of the Snake River Canyon. Nikon 500 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens, Handheld. 

Ocean Sunset

Darla and I will be out of town for the first week of April…on a cruise ship in the Caribbean.  I’ll try to post a photo or note off and on while out of town, but will be back in the Park as soon as we return. For now, check out the April Daily Journals for the past five years!

Ft. Lauderdale

Ft. Lauderdale: For this trip, I took my Nikon D850 body along with a Nikon 24-70 and 70-200mm lenses. I have a lightweight tripod and a couple of Lume Cubes. Tomorrow, we’ll be in Grand Turks for a day in the sun.


I offer year round photo tours in Grand Teton National Park. Seasons are changing! Book now! Click the image for additional information.

Client Comments: “As a published and passionate photographer, I recognized Michael Jackson’s extraordinary skills as a photographer. Today I learned more about composition and creative technical ideas than I ever could have imagined.” G.S., Jackson Hole

Note: Some of the Summer slots are filling. BOOK NOW for September tours! If you are interested in a tour/workshop, Let me know ASAP. 

April 2019 Daily Journal for GTNP & JH

750line

Early April Notes:

The first day of Spring (on the calendar) was on March 20th, but most of the valley still looks like Winter! We had several warm days at the end of March, which began melting the heavy snow pack on the valley floor.  Elk will eventually leave the National Elk Refuge, and expect Wolves to follow them. When the migration begins, you can often see more wildlife in a single day than any other month of the year.  Moose are often in the river bottoms at this time of the year, but many are moving back to the sage flats.  Hawks, Eagles, Falcons, and Kestrels have been spotted in March. Songbirds are also beginning to move through the valley. Bohemian Waxwings have been stripping the berry trees in town. I would expect April to be very active this year.

GrizzliesOther Wildlife for Early April: I didn’t see as many Mountain Goats in the Snake River Canyon this year as in other years, but that may have been a result of the heavy snow pack. Still, I would expect to see a few through the middle of April. April is also a good month to see Grizzlies in Grand Teton National Park. Watch for Foxes, Marmonts, and Badgers. Trumpeter Swans will be leaving the valley at some point. Other birds, like White-faced Ibis might be seen for a day or two before they move on north. The Bison I photographed with frosted faces last month are still around, but are seldom next to the steam now.

Sage Grouse

The area at the Sage Grouse’s traditional lekis still mostly snow covered. Around 20-30 of them have been hanging around the Kelly Warm Springs area lately. Possibly, they are using the Kelly areas as their lek this year.

Roads: The Moose-Wilson Road and Teton Park Roads usually open on May 1st. As of March 31st, Antelope Flats Road is still gated. The Teton Park Road (Inner Park Loop Road) is open to walkers, runners, & bikers (no vehicles) until May 1st.

Weather: While days should be much warmer than in January and February, a passing storm with heavy snow is always possible. Most of the fresh snow usually melts in one day in the valley floor.

The first week or so of April should resemble April 2018 Daily Journal for Grand Teton National Park & JH : Also, check out the Monthly Overviews for JH / GTNP

Daily Updates Archives:

April 2018:April 2017:Apr 2016:April 2015:Apr 2014:

April 1st  – Monday

Please take a minute and register to sign up to follow this site. I’d love to have another couple hundred new subscribers from the group visiting the site in March and April! MJ

Subscribe to Best of the Tetons!

Receive email notifications of new posts.

Mountain Goat on Rocky Ledge

 Mountain Goat on Rocky Ledge: Captured near the mouth of the Snake River Canyon. Nikon 500 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens, Handheld. 

Ocean Sunset

Darla and I will be out of town for the first week of April…on a cruise ship in the Caribbean.  I’ll try to post a photo or note off and on while out of town, but will be back in the Park as soon as we return. For now, check out the April Daily Journals for the past five years!

Ft. Lauderdale

Ft. Lauderdale: For this trip, I took my Nikon D850 body along with a Nikon 24-70 and 70-200mm lenses. I have a lightweight tripod and a couple of Lume Cubes. Tomorrow, we’ll be in Grand Turks for a day in the sun.


I offer year round photo tours in Grand Teton National Park. Seasons are changing! Book now! Click the image for additional information.

Client Comments: “As a published and passionate photographer, I recognized Michael Jackson’s extraordinary skills as a photographer. Today I learned more about composition and creative technical ideas than I ever could have imagined.” G.S., Jackson Hole

Note: Some of the Summer slots are filling. BOOK NOW for September tours! If you are interested in a tour/workshop, Let me know ASAP. 

Wintering Bison in GTNP

An anomaly—or the new norm?

This year, a herd of around 40 Bison are wintering inside Grand Teton National Park instead of moving south onto the National Elk Refuge. I’ve lived in Jackson Hole for over 32 years and don’t recall still seeing Bison in Grand Teton National Park in March. This appears to be a learned behavior. After 12 years of the Bison Hunt on the National Elk Refuge, some of them are finding they are safer staying north of the Gros Ventre River.

On opening day of the Bison Hunt years ago, I was standing one one of the overlooks along the Gros Ventre. This was early in the morning and I was looking for Moose in the area. I heard gun shots on the Refuge, then watched as a herd of Bison blasted across the Gros Ventre River at break neck speed. It would have been fantastic photography—with water splashing everywhere and the animals in a panic. The next year, I was dutifully set up along the river on opening day (well out of the way). I waited and waited. Nothing! No gun shots and no Bison, even though the highway was lined with hunter’s horse trailers and plenty of hunters on the Refuge ready to blast them.

Bison are apparently quick learners.

I found this online 2007 article: Bison Hunt Begins in the National Elk Refuge. A recent article in the Jackson Hole News & Guide documents how a remnant herd herd of Bison were being pushed from the north part of Grand Teton National Park down the highway to the southern zone: Bison Learn to Avoid Hunters. The article has a graph showing how the bison herds are delaying their migration south until later and later each year. Here’s a quote from the article:

“Going back a dozen years, Game and Fish records show the first bison movements south onto the Elk Refuge came in September and October. In the 2012 through 2016 timespan, a December arrival was much more likely. For the last two years the migration has been put off until the middle of January, at the earliest. …Jackson Hole’s wild bison are now essentially arriving into the area where they can be hunted when the hunt is ending.”

Snow Blower

A mid-sized herd of Bison opted to stay in the Elk Ranch Flats area this year. As described in the JH News and Guide story, several agencies worked together to push them south. Highway 89/191 was closed most of one day and part of another during this move. This photo shows the Park Service removing the snow from Antelope Flats Road. They created a path from the Highway to the East Boundary Road. The Bison used the open road to make their way to the Kelly Warm Springs.

Bison Herd

The Bison rut usually occurs in August. For many years, you would see Bison in the grassy pastures and sage flats north of the Gros Ventre, around Kelly, and along Mormon Row. In recent years, more of them are moving and staying at Elk Ranch for much of the summer—as seen in this photo from last September. Back when we could still drive the river road on the west side of the Snake, you could find large numbers along the river bottoms and in the sage covered zones. Bison are generally less common in large numbers in the southern portion of the Park anymore. That’s my experience anyway, and the News and Guide article supports it.

Bison Bull

Okay, as a photographer, I am not complaining about having an additional winter subject! The group of 40 are offering some unique photo opportunities this year. Normally, we’d have to go to Yellowstone and take a snow coach or guided snowmobile tour to see them by the steamy geysers. This year, frosted Bison are only 18 or so miles from downtown Jackson at the Kelly Warm Springs. My first photos of the Bison at the Kelly Warm Springs were taken on March 1st.

When they first appeared, I had expected them to be at the Warm Springs for a day or two and then move on. Some did, but the 35-40 have been hanging around.

Frosted Bison

These two Bison were sleeping next to the Warm Springs. That morning, a light breeze was pushing the steam across them. Others, farther from the bank, were unfrosted.

Frosted Bison

If you are hoping to get photos of Bison with frosted fur, and don’t want to go to Yellowstone, I’d suggest getting to the Kelly Warm Springs very early on a cold morning. The frost melts quickly once the sun hits their fur.

Two Face

This cow was frosted only on one side. Each day is different!

Steam

On a still morning, steam from the Warm Springs creates a layer of fog around the zone. It’s definitely a “different” look at a relatively common subject!

Steamy Bison

As the early morning golden light hits the area, watch for rim lighting and back lighting. Conditions change quickly.

Steam and Bison

There were a few bulls at the Kelly Warm Springs early in March, but from what I can tell, the remaining Bison are cows and calves.

Frosted Bison

This calf was likely born in June or July. By this time of the year, they are relatively independent, but stay with the herd.

Frosted Bison

Seeing a frosted Bison like this one might make you think they are miserable, but their thick fur insulates them. They’ll often shake off some of the frost once they stand up, but the morning sun does the bulk of the job.

Rolling Bison

You’ll often see Bulls rolling in the dirt in the summer but they will occasionally roll in the snow. They spend most of their time foraging for food, however.

Bison Calf Portrait

Bison use their head, strong shoulders, and neck to brush away snow to get to the grass. They will often have a layer of snow on their face, even if they are not otherwise frosted.

Bison at the Kelly Warmt Springs

As March of 2019 has progresses, the herd is venturing farther out from the Springs. Most of what happens is similar to watching paint dry. There isn’t much action and it seem all they do is eat. I am always watching for something unique.

Bison

The Bison are eating mostly grass they expose from under the snow, but they also munch on the willows around the pond.

Bison in Pond

The Kelly Warm Springs pool isn’t very deep at its deepest point. I seldom see them standing in it but occasionally one or two cross it.

Bison on Incline

The hill on the north side of the Kelly Warm Springs is now offering some additional food sources. I always watch for an animal on an incline…it’s much more dynamic!

Bison in Gros Ventre

Some of the initial herd moved down the road and across the Gros Ventre, leaving the 40 that seems to be content to hang around the springs. This year’s deep snow definitely slowed them down!

Steam and Bison

While in the Kelly area in March, watch for Foxes, Sage Grouse, Coyotes, and Bald Eagles. The area is also known to have Badgers. As the month progresses, keep an eye out for Mountain Bluebirds. Trumpeter Swans, Common Mergansers, and a variety of Ducks also find the warm waters. As Elk migrate off the National Elk Refuge, Wolves may be visible for a few lucky photographers. As I mentioned earlier, seeing Bison in the Park at this time of the year is very unusual. By this time, most of them will have moved to the northern section of the Elk Refuge—out of view for the rest of the Winter season. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t expect Bison to be at the Springs next winter, but I could be wrong. As they say, “You have to get ’em while the gettin’s good!”

If you are not going to my March 2019 Daily Journal for GTNP & JH , you should! It already has 16 days of photos and comments!

March 2019 Daily Journal for GTNP & JH

“March comes in like a Lion, out like a Lamb”

750line

March 1st  – Friday

If you have been watching the February 2019 Daily Journal for GTNP & JH, you will already know that February was an unusually snowy month for Jackson Hole. Many of the major roads and most of the secondary roads have been closed due to the heavy snowfalls and blowing snow. As of mid-day March 1st, the valley is finally coming out of the stranglehold. US Highway 89/191 had been closed for four days, but is now open. The National Elk Refuge Road had been closed even longer, but it is also open again.

 Oxbow Bend

After several big storms in February, Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park might best described as a “Winter Wonderland”. I made a morning run to the northern portion of the park this morning. I never expect to see a lot of mammals in that area. , Most of them move south (Kelly area and National Elk Refuge) for the Winter. There are always “chances” to see River Otters, Ermine, Coyotes, and Foxes, but I never count on it. Going north usually means putting on your “landscape hat” (but keep a camera body and telephoto lens ready for wildlife). In late September, would expect dozens of photographers on either side of me while at this spot at Oxbow Bend! Nikon D850 and Nikon 70-200mm lens, Handheld

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle: I took this photo yesterday along the highway. Today, I drove around 100 miles and never saw an Eagle. I mention this here to illustrate how much difference one day can be over another. (Actually, that is the case all year!) Nikon D850 and Nikon 200-500mm lens, Handheld.

Willow Flats Pano

Willow Flats Pano: Snow is roughly 3-4 feet deep in most areas right now, covering most of the sagebrush, underbrush, and even some of the buckrail fences! This morning, I saw only a handful of tourists/photographers after I got off the highway at Moran Junction and passed through the station. In other words, the Park is quiet and relaxed. After a few storms, the Park is noticeably pristine!  Nikon D850 and Nikon 70-200mm lens, Handheld.

Colter Bay

Colter Bay Pano: Taken from the shore line at Colter Bay. Nikon D850 and Nikon 70-200mm lens, Handheld.

Snake River Overlook

Snake River Overlook: I was out early enough this morning to be able to capture the spectacular colors, but there were absolutely no clouds over the mountains. They can form rather quickly, however. Nikon D850 and Nikon 24-70mm lens, Handheld

Elk Refuge

National Elk Refuge: A few Elk are often visible from the Elk Refuge Road, but if you really want to get up close and personal, consider taking the Sleigh Ride into the herds. Nikon D5 and Nikon 200-500mm lens, Handheld.

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep: Bighorns are usually dependable subjects through most of the Winter. Lately, they have been staying on the wind blown ridges, but I would expect to see them coming down again in March. Nikon D5 and Nikon 200-500mm lens, Handheld.

Blacktail Butte

Winter has many Faces: Expect additional storms in March! I never trust the weatherman too far out, but more snow is in the forecast for the middle of next week. I like to get out during storms when I can. This photo was taken a couple of days ago!

Early March Wildlife:

Bears are hibernating! Moose bulls have lost their antlers, along with Mule Deer. Moose have been spotted more in town and around the edges of town. Elk will be visible every day on the Refuge. Most bulls will keep their antlers for the month. Wolves haven’t been seen much at all this year. Watch for them later when the Elk start migrating off the refuge. Foxes have also been elusive this year. I was able to find a lot of Great Horned Owls in January and February, but they haven’t been seen lately. One or two Great Gray Owls were seen in February, and will possibly be seen again in March, but they are not dependable at all. Bison have been moving down from Elk Ranch Flats. A few have been hanging around the Kelly Warm Springs. Watch for Swans and Ducks in Flat Creek when it’s warm enough to open the water. Eagles should be visible at times, especially as we see a few more Winter kills. A Great Blue Heron has been hanging around north of the Visitor’s Center. Bighorns are usually visible on the National Elk Refuge. Mountain Goats haven’t been seen much in January and February, but should be coming down more in March.

Best of the Tetons Photo Tours

I offer year round photo tours in Grand Teton National Park and winter tours in the National Elk Refuge. A winter trip offers opportunities you won’t find in the other three seasons! Book now! Click the image for additional information.

Client Comments: “As a published and passionate photographer, I recognized Michael Jackson’s extraordinary skills as a photographer. Today I learned more about composition and creative technical ideas than I ever could have imagined.” G.S., Jackson Hole

Note: Some of the Summer slots are filling and I am beginning to fill slots for September. If you are interested in a tour/workshop, Let me know ASAP.