The colour of this day in Yellowstone was undoubtedly grey, but that is not to say it was dull; far from it. Having spent considerable time unsuccessfully probing sites from Canyon to Bridge Bay for Great Grey Owl the day before, this then became our raison d’etre for this day. While we were unreservedly grateful for having seen one a few days before, and the views had been unquestionably good, they were cut short when the owl took off earlier than we’d hoped, leaving us yearning deeply for more. We set off in chilly conditions back to the forest meadows near Canyon. Having found no sign of the “Grey Ghost” at the first meadow, we walked deeper into the woods, hoping to find it perched inside instead, and a known hangout for the species. This method failed too, and so Nick Athanas and I worked our way along the road to the next set of meadows. This constituted two meadows dissected by the road that runs through the park. I took one side of the road, while Nick took the other. I had barely worked my way down into “my” meadow, when I heard Nick’s raised voice summoning me from the other side. I hurried across the road and was quickly by Nick’s side, staring at an impressive grey shape perched on a precarious snag, which appeared barely capable of bearing the weight of this large beast.
Great Grey Owls are reputed to be fearless, something that was not evident from our previous sighting, but became apparent over the next two hours when we watched it showing absolutely no signs of anxiety from the comings and goings of various people reacting to a small crowd gathered in a roadside meadow, and then reacting more lucidly to the owl itself. As we viewed this magnificent owl within clear view of passers by, it did not take long for a small crowd to gather in its wake, which enjoyed watching it while snow fell gently around it, making it a sight to behold. However, once the owl moved into the woods behind, the throng soon disbanded, and after finding it sitting imperially within the forest, we had it all to ourselves for as long as we wanted it. This was the view I had craved, and I was thoroughly satiated. Forgive my fixation with this bird, but it stands head and shoulder above anything else I have seen this year, and ranks up there within my all-time top ten birds, so I am going to milk it, while I can!
The weather on this day was topsy-turvy, snow accompanying parts, while other parts were bathed in sunshine, with cerulean skies! In the middle of the day, within the higher reaches of the park, a sudden and particularly heavy snowfall, left some American Bison carrying a soft white burden on their hides, making for a magical scene.
At lunchtime we left the snow largely behind, but still experienced bone-chilling temperatures. Not what we desired for an open air picnic lunch in a campsite! We had not even managed to make our first sandwiches, when one of the local camp raiders – Grey Jays – swooped in and gobbled up some of our unintended crumbs. I had heard tales of this species being commonly referred to as “Camp Robbers”, due to their larcenous nature, but this was my first direct experience of it, which made for a great, impromptu, photo shoot!