Gray Ghosts of the North Woods

After seeing the Marten at Dan and Cindy’s I didn’t think that the day could get much better, but I was wrong. Later that afternoon Dan invited me to tag along with he and his daughter, Cassie, to look for a Great Gray Owl he had seen the day before up towards the Beartooth’s.

20130608-121506.jpg
The weather didn’t look very inviting though as rainclouds moved in. As we got up towards where he had seen the owl the rain showers increased. Then Cassie spotted the owl perched in a dead snag across the meadow. Suddenly a rainbow appeared and then a double rainbow – perhaps a good omen?

20130608-114516.jpg
When the rain stopped we hiked over to the meadow. I stayed to watch the owl while Dan and Cassie circled through the woods to see if they could maybe spot a nest.

While I watched, the owl made two attempts to catch something, but failed both times. After the first attempt it flew directly towards me and landed in a lone pine out in the middle of the meadow with the mountains as a backdrop. Some days you just get lucky.

20130608-114926.jpg

A day outside the park

Made an early morning trip into the park to look for some wildlife highlights for my group in a few days but headed back through the northeast entrance by mid-morning. I stopped in Silver Gate at the home and gallery of my friends, Dan and Cindy Hartman, wildlife photographers and naturalists extraordinaire.

20130607-140142.jpg
Dan was up in the Beartooths photographing pikas, but Cindy mentioned a pine marten had just been in the trees out front. A quick look around and I found it.

20130607-140339.jpg
Martens are members of the weasel family, larger the our mink, smaller than our otter and found in forested habitats. They have beautiful brown fur with a bushy tail and orange patches on the throat. Their large paws allow them to run on top of the snow. They hunt voles, mice, small birds and eggs and are very efficient predators.

20130607-140738.jpg
The Hartmans often have martens hanging around their house, lounging in the trees and working their wood pile for a meal. This marten proved to be very cooperative and made itself comfortable in a hollow snag. We watched it for 30+ minutes while it yawned, napped, and made use of every nook and cranny in that snag.

20130607-141204.jpg
When she finally woke up and began to hunt she worked her way around the house and into the forest where Cindy thinks she may have young.

If you are in the area, visit the Hartmans at their gallery, Wildlife Along the Rockies, in Silver Gate just outside the northeast entrance to Yellowstone. You will undoubtedly learn something, see some interesting birds at their feeders, and you can buy a beautiful wildlife print. And you might even get lucky and see a marten.