Yellowstone - Ravens, Herons, and Other Creatures Worth Stopping For

Sept. 18, 2023  |  Yellowstone National Park, Montana

I heard the fall colors in Colorado are running late this year, so I'm lingering up north for a few days in Yellowstone and the Tetons. I'm trying to give daily updates here as I go.

When driving into a National Park like Yellowstone I try to do everything I can to be ready for an encounter with nature. I have one camera attached to the big wildlife lens and another setup with a shorter zoom. I strategically place my tripods at the ready and actively scan the field of view for wild animals and interesting light. I also lookout for the pile-ups of cars that usually accompany a wildlife sighting. Yesterday, there was a big traffic jam next to a group of pronghorn antelope. There were a bunch of does prancing around a pond with one buck hanging at the edges with a romantic look in his eyes.

In Lamar Valley the wolf watchers were out in force with binoculars and spotting scopes, but the packs were way out in the distance. The bison were active around the road and attracted plenty of admirers. There was one gathering at a pullout that seemed especially promising. I was looking for moose and they are known to frequent that area. I stopped and ventured out with my gear. When I got to the crowd of eager naturalists I asked a woman what they were looking at. She shrugged her shoulders and said, "I think it was a great-blue heron." That wasn’t quite what I had in mind. We have a neighborhood heron that flies by our house every night. They are such a familiar species to me that I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed.

I have come to expect this phenomenon when wildlife viewing at national parks. Sometimes you come across a veritable amphitheater of people gathered around what seems to me like the most common of creatures. Through the years, I’ve seen people mobbed around ducks, osprey, rabbits, pelicans, and now great blue herons.

Instead of being annoyed, I actually love this. I love that when we enter the gates of a national park, we are so ready to see something that the threshold to stop and behold natural wonders is paper thin. It's such a contrast from our daily lives.This morning, I stopped to photograph a mating pair of ravens. Truth be told, I stopped to go to the bathroom, and there happened to be some ravens nearby. I set up my tripod next to the parking lot where the ravens were preening each other on a fence post. I was fascinated by their interactions. Before long, a huge bus pulled up next to me, and fifty nametag-adorned tourists stepped out and gathered in uncomfortable proximity to me and my raven photo shoot. One of them asked me what I was photographing. When I told him it was the ravens, he said with a disappointed harumph, “Oh. It’s just ravens.”

I’m glad it only took a day in the park for me to go from one side of that conversation to the other. Ravens are pretty amazing. They can mimic a human voice. They are whip smart. Great blue herons are awesome too. I saw one eat a 15 lb bass whole in one big gulp. Ravens, herons, osprey, rabbits, pelicans, and all the rest of God’s creatures are worth stopping for.

See below for some of the other photos I took yesterday in Yellowstone.

Related Posts