Friday, July 2, 2010

Bear and Cranes

Yellowstone, April 27: This is a follow up to my Yellowstone post, The Black Bear at Floating Island Lake, posted June 25, 2010

7:45 AM: 35 degrees. Windy. Poor light. Another cold morning. We’re tempted to turn around and go back to town. Black bear sleeps on his carcass. Two sapsuckers drum in the distance. The wind whistles in my open window. It is too cold to sketch outside, so I’m scrunched in the backseat, and I’ve mounted my scope on the car window.

The cranes have been feeding on the eastern slope. One flies towards the island, swoops around and lands on the island. I hear deep churring. The other is still on the far shore. The crane on the nesting island soon flies to join its mate on the eastern slope.

Bear gets up. Pees. It is a boar. Feeds a little. Gets a drink. Life is pretty mellow for him. By sleeping on his elk carcass, he can relax while he guards it.

8:55AM: Both cranes are flying. They land on the island. Lots of churring. She soon settles into serious nest building. Finally! We keep hoping they’ll nest on the island again, where we can watch them. Often she has laid at least one egg by now. He spends more of his time preening than nest building.

For over an hour “Broken Toe,” the female, has been nest building while her mate preens. Now she stretches her neck way out toward shore. So nice of her to give us warning that she is about to fly. Off she goes to the western slope. The male finally goes thigh deep and harvests a few more bulrushes before following her.

I haven’t bothered to mention that a pair of Canada geese joined the pond menagerie about twenty minutes ago. Now that the crane’s island is empty, they come ashore on it to preen. Bad idea! Both cranes fly back to their island. Mad splashing ensures. The geese quickly get the message.

Broken Toe immediately flies back to shore to resume feeding, but her mate stays on the island.

Probably another twenty minutes have passed. Broken Toe has been feeding along the shore and the male dozes on the island. Ten minutes of nest building must have worn him out. Meanwhile she needs to eat enough to insure she can lay two large eggs.

Broken Toe is awfully near the bear, maybe 30 feet from him! The bear suddenly wakes up and takes an interest. The male crane is also on alert. The bear gives a short chase, enough to send Broken Toe flying a few feet. Her mate quickly joins her.

The bear comes down to the edge of the pond for a drink; he goes a step too far and loses his footing! He acts as though he didn’t mean to get half wet. If a bear can look embarrassed, he does. Pretty soon he returns to his carcass. Both cranes slowly feed along the shoreline, getting closer and closer to the bear, as if testing him … but not quite as close as Broken Toe dared to go when she got chased. The bear pays no attention.

All is well. The cranes finally head up slope to feed out of our sight. The geese have chosen a half submerged boulder to preen on. Bear has had a nice feed. It appears there is still a fair amount of meat left on the hind legs.

Late morning we finally get some sun, but it is even windier and doesn’t feel any warmer. We’ve stayed over four hours at Floating Island Lake ... and to think we almost headed back to Gardiner because the weather was so dark and chilly. It has been a wonderful four hours. So much happens when we stay put.
April 28 and 29 --- Snow days. We stay in town.


  1. You make it come alive! Thank you. Thoroughly enjoyed the visit!

  2. Lovely, informative post Elva! And I just LOVE your Crane sketches! they are such precious birds...