Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Seeing Stumps

We've been in Yellowstone for more that a week now, and before that, we were in Rocky Mountain National Park. This means that a large portion of the day we're constantly scanning the horizon for wildlife. After a while, you get trained to see colors, sizes and shapes that have a high chance of being something interesting.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of false positives as well. Driving up through Hayden Valley from Fishing Bridge to Canyon, there's an old tree stump that looks a lot, from a distance, like a coyote in the meadow. We've driven past it dozens of times, and every single one of those times, my eyes latch on to it, with my brain taking a few additional seconds to remind me that it's just a stump.

Another peril in Yellowstone comes from the 1988 fire, nearly twenty years ago. There are still great numbers of hillsides covered with dead trees, some with a new crop of pine growing up in place, some without. But as those trees fall over, their blackened root system upends and appears roughly the size and shape of a black bear. Lots more false positives to work through.

But in spite of it all, the real wildlife is out there, and bringing us new experiences daily. The highlight this morning was a Great Gray Owl, an impressive, massive bird. More photos will eventually come, but we're having internet connection issues and it's hard to get them uploaded.

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