Grand Teton National Park: Day 5
June 8, 2011

Only one thing can make a person more tired after two consecutive five o'clock wakeups: a third. After the beautiful sunrise the prior morning, I set out once again to experience the glory of a Grand Teton morning. There were no clouds to fill the grayish blue sky, but I continued with the backup plan to head straight to Cattleman's Bridge Site.

There was little traffic in the park and elk took the opportunity to graze more freely. Before I reached the river access point, elk appeared on both sides of the car as they enjoyed an early meal. It was essentially still dark outside, and at ISO 800 I only got 1/20th of a second of shutter speed, and thus was unable to photograph them despite the short range.

Upon reaching the river, I was greeted by the juvenile bald eagle as it flew high above the mist-covered water. Ducks, mergansers and geese were the only ones out and about on the river this early. The fog presented a mysterious setting for the common mergansers as they swam up river picking at the underwater vegetation for fish. As the sun brightened, the fog rose as illuminated streams of smoke. On the other side of the river sat an adult bald eagle, well camouflaged in the trees. Throughout my visit there, it stayed in the tree giving me no opportunity to photograph it. As I watched it moving about its nest, I heard a fledged common raven calling out through the forest; it was sitting on a branch close to the water. As I focused on it, an adult arrived and fed it a warm regurgitated breakfast. The river warmed, and a first wave of gnats rose from the water. A while later, a second wave of mosquitoes complemented the first and formed a cloud of annoyance.

The same residents appeared after a while: an American white pelican, a double-crested cormorant and a few osprey. The osprey circled my area many times peering through the water for fish to feed its young. During one pass, it hovered for a second, flipped upside down and pulled into a dive. Emerging a second later from the river empty handed, it shook itself of the cold water and flew off. Despite my inability to photograph the dive, I was happy to have seen a hunting osprey. All my previous sightings were of it flying or landing, making this ever more special to me.

I was on a time crunch to catch my flight back home, so I made my way to Signal Mountain Lodge, once again, to eat breakfast. The swallows were flying out above the lake but none returned to the nest next to the restaurant. Just outside the lodge, a female and fledged American robin approached me hoping for some food. I photographed it but did not feed it and soon it flew away.

It had been a nice short trip to the Rockies and I was happy to have gotten some photographs. I am not sure if I would have liked a longer trip since this one was just five days and I was already worn out.