Foliage Reports: September/October 2021

Jackson Hole & Grand Teton National Park

Each year, my email box fills with people wanting me to tell them when “peak foliage” will occur. Traditionally, that happens sometime between September 25 and October 5, but that depends a lot of where you are in the valley. And, each year is different, so it always a matter of averaging several years. The links I am supplying at the top of this page should help you make your own determinations.

Changing Leaf

Click Here to see 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019,

& 2020 Foliage Reports

During September, I’ll work on two pages simultaneously. This September Foliage 2021 post will contain more specific information about the ever changing foliage status in the area. The September 2021 Daily Journal for JH and GTNP page will contain some foliage information, but will focus more on wildlife and landscapes. You’ll want to go to both regularly.

Archived Resources: September Daily Journals

September 2021 | September 2020September 2019 | September 2018September 2017 | September 2016  |  September 2015   | September 2014:  | September 2013:

Fall Season Feature Posts

Click this link to find a variety of Feature Post from earlier years!

Foliage Scale 2015

Foliage Scale 2020

 Note: Peak Fall foliage is not a one day event! It evolves over several weeks. Some areas go first, then lose leaves while others are just beginning. You should be able to find colorful foliage anytime from around the 10th of September to the first week in October.

Science of Fall Colors

Click the link above to view an informative page written by the US Forest Service

Please take a minute and register to sign up to follow this site. I’d love to have another couple hundred new subscribers from the group visiting the site this fall. MJ

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September 11, 2020 – Saturday

Sleeping Indian Willows

Sleeping Indian Willows: Many of the willows along the Gros Ventre River are nearing peak, but there are other zones a bit behind. This photo was taken September 10, 2021.

Schwabacher Landing

Schwabacher Landing: Taken September 10,2021. The cottonwoods along the Snake River have patchy areas of yellow. Willows and the ground cover are turning. Note the relatively clear skies on Friday. Haze and smoke can fill in on any day this year. Be patient and persistent, and you may hit a great morning.

Gros Ventre Willows

Gros Ventre Willows:

Mountain Maples

This group of Mountain Maple trees were photographed September 9, 2021. The Maples in the Snake River canyon are not quite ready, but these photos taken along the Palisades Reservoir were farther along.

Mountain Maples

Mountain Maples: The aspens in the same region are still green. Still…it’s time to head down the canyon!

Mountain Maples

Mountain Maples:

As of September 11, 2021 a few friends are telling me Oxbow Bend is “just” beginning to change, but is far from peak. When I drove south to get to the Mountain Maples, I observed that most of the Aspens and Cottonwoods along the roadway towards Hoback Junction have not been changing much.

With gasoline hovering around $4 per gallon this year, I haven’t been driving north that often. If you are so inclined, you are welcome to donate to this site to help me afford the extra gas costs this year. Click the link in the navigation bar if on a computer, or at the very bottom of the page if you are using a phone or pad. Thanks to all that have already donated a few $!

Black Bear

Moose-Wilson Road Comments:

Normally, we see Black Bears along the Moose-Wilson Road, and they look even better as the leaves on the Black Hawthorn bushes turn from green to orange. Over the past few years, and worse again this year, the Park Service has all but closed the road to photography. There is only a .5 mile section of the roadway in the prime bear zone open to roadside parking, and with the berry crop thin in that area, about the only photos you will get there will be “drive by shooting”. The photo above was taken out the window as I was lucky to be “forced” to be stopped by the Wildlife Volunteer. When the line of traffic cleared, I had to stop shooting and move on.  You can still park at the Sawmill Pond overlook and have a chance to see a bear. If you go early enough, you should be able to get a parking spot at the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve and possibly see a bear in that area. The Preserve might also be a good place to photograph tight shots of leaves and berries.

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Remember, this is the Initial Entry for the 2020 Foliage Reports. I will be adding more photos and updates fairly often throughout the foliage season.


Best of the Tetons Photo Tours

I offer year round photo tours in Grand Teton National Park. Seasons are changing! Book now! Click the image for additional information.

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The post Foliage Reports: September/October 2021 first appeared on Best of the Tetons, Area Info & Photography.

Moose Velvet Period — The End of the Beginning

Beginning sometime in June, bull Moose begin regrowing the antlers. The bulls would have spent the winter months antlerless. I typically don’t spend a lot of time with the Moose at that time of the year. Their June coats are usually mangy and shaggy—far from photogenic! Gradually, through July, their winter fur is replaced with a sleek, summer coat and their new antlers begin to take shape.

Moose Group

On numerous occasions, I’ve overheard tour guides telling their clients that Moose are “solitary” animals. Especially during the time they are growing their velvet covered antlers, I’ve found them to be quite social. Normally, a group will consist of two to six bulls, but will occasionally include a cow or a cow and calf. Possibly, this behavior gives them extra security with all the extra eyes and ears—alert for predators or other kinds of danger. I guess the guides read about the solitary nature of Moose in a book, but I find it to be an incorrect statement for our Wyoming Shiras Moose in and around Grand Teton National Park! The guides never like it if I challenge them on the statement even if, at the time, they are looking at four bulls together.

Sparring Bull Moose

During this late summer period of antler growth, their primary jobs are to stay safe, get fat, and protect their velvet covered antlers. Smaller bulls will occasionally “faux” spar, but their antlers seldom actually touch.

Running Bull Moose

Moose often move slowly through a scene, grazing along the way, but they are deceivingly fast. At times, the younger bulls can be playful.

Shoshone

By late August, the bull’s antlers are fully formed. At this point, the tines underneath the velvet are actually pointed and sharp even if they look blunt and rounded. For many bulls, the “time of velvet” is about over and it’s time to “turn the page”.

Duplex with Bloody Velvet

The velvet strip period  is the “end of the beginning”. It marks the end of the antler growth and the beginning of the rut. This “transition” is not pretty! Interestingly, the short period attracts a lot of photographers from all over. Capturing a bull Moose stripping seems to be a “badge of honor” or a “feather in their photographic cap”. In reality, few of the photos will ever be printed and displayed on the walls of the photo buying public. When my wife sees one of these photos, I can always expect her to respond with, “Eeeewwwwwwww, that’s gross!…we’re not putting one of those on our walls!”

Hoback with Velvet Strips

It is always amazing to me how the blood and minerals passing under the velvet layer miraculously form the distinctive shape of an antler. In fact, each bull’s new antlers resemble the pattern they’ve had for years. If still in their prime, the large bulls can add a tine or two each year. By mid-August, it is possible to identify many of the larger bulls. Some sort of genetic coding supplies the instructions for the oozing supply of antler nutrients. It’s mind boggling!

By the time bull start stripping their velvet, I have already spent a solid month, or more, following the bulls and documenting their antler growth. I feel as though I have developed some sort of “one sided” relationship with them. I’m compelled to see the changes through, even though, in an odd way, it feels a bit like ambulance chasing! I’m on a quest to see blood!

Hoback with Velvet Strips

I’ve never seen much of a pattern to it. A small bull might strip on the same day as a large bull. Another small bull might be the last one to strip their velvet. Around here, the span of time for all of the bulls to strip is only about a week.

Shoshone

If a bull waits until the right moment, the velvet comes off in large sheets. Their velvet can be essentially stripped in 15 to 30 minutes. Other bulls miss “the” moment and the velvet dries on the antlers—requiring them to scrape vigorously for a week or longer. Shoshone, seen above, is a pro at it!

Hoback with Velvet Strips

During the velvet stripping time, I tend to like the portrait shots over the full body shots, but of course, I shoot both. I use either a 200-600mm or 60-600mm zoom lens at this time of the year to give me both options.

Sheridan Moose

Sheridan Moose

As you can see in the preceding two photos, their simply more drama in the details of the ragged antlers when zooming in on their head and rack.

Hoback with Velvet Strips

I’ve heard people suggest that some bulls eat the hanging velvet, but I am not quite sure that’s the case. I’ve never seen one eat it after it was clinging to the willows, but I suppose that doesn’t mean it never happens. Instead, I believe the bulls are simply using any means the have available to them to remove the dangling velvet. They do, however, shake their heads vigorously in a effort to lose the loose velvet.

Hoback with Velvet Strips

Whether Hoback knew it or not, this was THE time for him to strip. Large sheets of velvet were ready to fall off.

Hoback with Velvet Strips

But, he missed the window! For the bulls that miss their opening, it can take a week or so to scrape their shreds of velvet. They stop regularly to eat the willows and other leafy plants.

Evening Hoback

Silverberry grows along the Gros Ventre River and is another food source for the Moose.

Hoback with Velvet Strips

The outer velvet usually strips off easily, but the more hollow shaped inner paddles take a little more effort.

Sheridan Moose

I took this photo one morning…then…

Sundance

…found the same bull the next day. Overnight, he had finished removing all but a small amount of velvet.

Sheridan Crossing

Bulls will continue to thrash willows and branches for much of the fall and throughout the rut period. I’ve heard some people suggest they do it to show discontent, but again, I think that’s a bogus statement. They do it to finish cleaning their antlers, to attract cows, and to let other bulls know they are in the area.

Sparring Bulls

Once their velvet is stripped, actual “sparring” can begin. Call it “practice” for what might someday a battle for keeps. In 15 plus years of photographing Moose, I’ve only seen one serious battle and it lasted only 10 seconds. That day, the smaller bull learned quickly who was more powerful and backed off. A lot of the actual fighting must happen very early or very late. I see the broken tines and even large chunks of antlers missing soon afterwards and say, “Dang, I wish I could have been there”.

Wyoming’s Shiras Moose are the smallest of the Moose species. During the antler action weekend, I see some of the antlers from the huge Alaskan bull Moose and can only imagine the beast that hosted the huge antlers. The documentation I can find on Shiras Moose suggests they have about a 15 year life cycle. My wife has been working in the nursery at the Jackson Hole Presbyterian Church for over 25 years. She often sees young adults she took care of as toddlers in the Sunday nursery many years ago. She tells me she is proud to see them as young adults, but it makes her feel way too old. Knowing I have been photographing the Gros Ventre Moose for at least 16 years, the odds are almost 100% that I photographed some of our current largest bulls when they were “toddlers”. It make me feel old, but I am equally proud of “my boys”!

Shoshone

For this bull, Shoshone, the “end of velvet” marks the “beginning of the rut”. He’ll soon lose the shred of velvet near his eye and polish off the patch of velvet on the back of his left antler, but he’s already ready to start courting the cows. Up until this point, he has had no interest in any cow, though some of them seem to pick the largest bull and hang with them. Even at this stage, it is not uncommon for the large bulls to tolerate a smaller bull in his area. A bull can catch the scent of a cow at an incredible distance, even with the wind, and can travel miles to get to them.

Shoshone and Challengers

By late October, the rut is over, but the Teton bulls still assemble in groups to spar and enjoy each other’s company. One year, I counted 24 antlered bulls in an area about the size of a football field.

Three Bulls

By mid-December, and going into January, the majestic bulls start dropping their antlers. By that time, many of them have broken tines from battles I never got to witness.

Shoshone

It’s a sad time for me, but there’s always “next year”…and the Bighorns are probably in the rut on the National Elk Refuge!

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Best of the Tetons Photo Tours

I offer year round photo tours in Grand Teton National Park and Winter tours in the National Elk Refuge.  Book now! Click the image for additional information.

The post Moose Velvet Period — The End of the Beginning first appeared on Best of the Tetons, Area Info & Photography.

Moose Velvet Period — The End of the Beginning

Beginning sometime in June, bull Moose begin regrowing the antlers. The bulls would have spent the winter months antlerless. I typically don’t spend a lot of time with the Moose at that time of the year. Their June coats are usually mangy and shaggy—far from photogenic! Gradually, through July, their winter fur is replaced with a sleek, summer coat and their new antlers begin to take shape.

Moose Group

On numerous occasions, I’ve overheard tour guides telling their clients that Moose are “solitary” animals. Especially during the time they are growing their velvet covered antlers, I’ve found them to be quite social. Normally, a group will consist of two to six bulls, but will occasionally include a cow or a cow and calf. Possibly, this behavior gives them extra security with all the extra eyes and ears—alert for predators or other kinds of danger. I guess the guides read about the solitary nature of Moose in a book, but I find it to be an incorrect statement for our Wyoming Shiras Moose in and around Grand Teton National Park! The guides never like it if I challenge them on the statement even if, at the time, they are looking at four bulls together.

Sparring Bull Moose

During this late summer period of antler growth, their primary jobs are to stay safe, get fat, and protect their velvet covered antlers. Smaller bulls will occasionally “faux” spar, but their antlers seldom actually touch.

Running Bull Moose

Moose often move slowly through a scene, grazing along the way, but they are deceivingly fast. At times, the younger bulls can be playful.

Shoshone

By late August, the bull’s antlers are fully formed. At this point, the tines underneath the velvet are actually pointed and sharp even if they look blunt and rounded. For many bulls, the “time of velvet” is about over and it’s time to “turn the page”.

Duplex with Bloody Velvet

The velvet strip period  is the “end of the beginning”. It marks the end of the antler growth and the beginning of the rut. This “transition” is not pretty! Interestingly, the short period attracts a lot of photographers from all over. Capturing a bull Moose stripping seems to be a “badge of honor” or a “feather in their photographic cap”. In reality, few of the photos will ever be printed and displayed on the walls of the photo buying public. When my wife sees one of these photos, I can always expect her to respond with, “Eeeewwwwwwww, that’s gross!…we’re not putting one of those on our walls!”

Hoback with Velvet Strips

It is always amazing to me how the blood and minerals passing under the velvet layer miraculously form the distinctive shape of an antler. In fact, each bull’s new antlers resemble the pattern they’ve had for years. If still in their prime, the large bulls can add a tine or two each year. By mid-August, it is possible to identify many of the larger bulls. Some sort of genetic coding supplies the instructions for the oozing supply of antler nutrients. It’s mind boggling!

By the time bull start stripping their velvet, I have already spent a solid month, or more, following the bulls and documenting their antler growth. I feel as though I have developed some sort of “one sided” relationship with them. I’m compelled to see the changes through, even though, in an odd way, it feels a bit like ambulance chasing! I’m on a quest to see blood!

Hoback with Velvet Strips

I’ve never seen much of a pattern to it. A small bull might strip on the same day as a large bull. Another small bull might be the last one to strip their velvet. Around here, the span of time for all of the bulls to strip is only about a week.

Shoshone

If a bull waits until the right moment, the velvet comes off in large sheets. Their velvet can be essentially stripped in 15 to 30 minutes. Other bulls miss “the” moment and the velvet dries on the antlers—requiring them to scrape vigorously for a week or longer. Shoshone, seen above, is a pro at it!

Hoback with Velvet Strips

During the velvet stripping time, I tend to like the portrait shots over the full body shots, but of course, I shoot both. I use either a 200-600mm or 60-600mm zoom lens at this time of the year to give me both options.

Sheridan Moose

Sheridan Moose

As you can see in the preceding two photos, their simply more drama in the details of the ragged antlers when zooming in on their head and rack.

Hoback with Velvet Strips

I’ve heard people suggest that some bulls eat the hanging velvet, but I am not quite sure that’s the case. I’ve never seen one eat it after it was clinging to the willows, but I suppose that doesn’t mean it never happens. Instead, I believe the bulls are simply using any means the have available to them to remove the dangling velvet. They do, however, shake their heads vigorously in a effort to lose the loose velvet.

Hoback with Velvet Strips

Whether Hoback knew it or not, this was THE time for him to strip. Large sheets of velvet were ready to fall off.

Hoback with Velvet Strips

But, he missed the window! For the bulls that miss their opening, it can take a week or so to scrape their shreds of velvet. They stop regularly to eat the willows and other leafy plants.

Evening Hoback

Silverberry grows along the Gros Ventre River and is another food source for the Moose.

Hoback with Velvet Strips

The outer velvet usually strips off easily, but the more hollow shaped inner paddles take a little more effort.

Sheridan Moose

I took this photo one morning…then…

Sundance

…found the same bull the next day. Overnight, he had finished removing all but a small amount of velvet.

Sheridan Crossing

Bulls will continue to thrash willows and branches for much of the fall and throughout the rut period. I’ve heard some people suggest they do it to show discontent, but again, I think that’s a bogus statement. They do it to finish cleaning their antlers, to attract cows, and to let other bulls know they are in the area.

Sparring Bulls

Once their velvet is stripped, actual “sparring” can begin. Call it “practice” for what might someday a battle for keeps. In 15 plus years of photographing Moose, I’ve only seen one serious battle and it lasted only 10 seconds. That day, the smaller bull learned quickly who was more powerful and backed off. A lot of the actual fighting must happen very early or very late. I see the broken tines and even large chunks of antlers missing soon afterwards and say, “Dang, I wish I could have been there”.

Wyoming’s Shiras Moose are the smallest of the Moose species. During the antler action weekend, I see some of the antlers from the huge Alaskan bull Moose and can only imagine the beast that hosted the huge antlers. The documentation I can find on Shiras Moose suggests they have about a 15 year life cycle. My wife has been working in the nursery at the Jackson Hole Presbyterian Church for over 25 years. She often sees young adults she took care of as toddlers in the Sunday nursery many years ago. She tells me she is proud to see them as young adults, but it makes her feel way too old. Knowing I have been photographing the Gros Ventre Moose for at least 16 years, the odds are almost 100% that I photographed some of our current largest bulls when they were “toddlers”. It make me feel old, but I am equally proud of “my boys”!

Shoshone

For this bull, Shoshone, the “end of velvet” marks the “beginning of the rut”. He’ll soon lose the shred of velvet near his eye and polish off the patch of velvet on the back of his left antler, but he’s already ready to start courting the cows. Up until this point, he has had no interest in any cow, though some of them seem to pick the largest bull and hang with them. Even at this stage, it is not uncommon for the large bulls to tolerate a smaller bull in his area. A bull can catch the scent of a cow at an incredible distance, even with the wind, and can travel miles to get to them.

Shoshone and Challengers

By late October, the rut is over, but the Teton bulls still assemble in groups to spar and enjoy each other’s company. One year, I counted 24 antlered bulls in an area about the size of a football field.

Three Bulls

By mid-December, and going into January, the majestic bulls start dropping their antlers. By that time, many of them have broken tines from battles I never got to witness.

Shoshone

It’s a sad time for me, but there’s always “next year”…and the Bighorns are probably in the rut on the National Elk Refuge!

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Best of the Tetons Photo Tours

I offer year round photo tours in Grand Teton National Park and Winter tours in the National Elk Refuge.  Book now! Click the image for additional information.

The post Moose Velvet Period — The End of the Beginning first appeared on Best of the Tetons, Area Info & Photography.

September 2021 Daily Journal For GTNP & JH

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Welcome to September!

Please take a minute and register to sign up to follow this site. I’d love to have another couple hundred new subscribers from the group visiting the site this summer. MJ

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Warm Springs Road

September is often considered the “crown jewel” out of the twelve months.

I can tell this is true as my One-On-One Tours are usually booked months in advance. Why September? Well, it the most obvious transitional month. Leaves change from green to yellow, orange, and red. Most of the large mammals are in their yearly rut. Bears begin gorging on berries and other animals are gathering food for the long winter ahead. The large crowds are usually scattered back to their towns. Days are cooler, but usually not miserable. I could go on and on, but you should get the idea.

This year, September has a few caveats to consider and possibly “work around”.

  • Covid 19 is still with us, and all of Teton County is under a Mask Requirement when inside businesses or while in taxis or tours.
  • The area is quite dry. The Fire threat level was recently reduced from Extreme to High, but that’s bad enough.
  • The region has been breaking attendance records, including the two National Parks. It’s still quite crowded, but not as bad as most of the summer.
  • Smoke and Haze can be an issue. Regional fires are pumping smoke into Jackson Hole on many days.
  • Gasoline is still holding at around $4.00 to $4.50 per gallon for Self-Serve Regular.

Shoshone Crossing Gros Ventre

Shoshone Crossing Gros Ventre:

I am taking a bit of a gamble in this initial post, offering up a few of my wildlife photos in a vintage film look. They looked good in color, but I wanted to mix it up some! I hope you enjoy them!

Shoshone

Shoshone:

The Moose rut happens in September, but before that kicks off, the large bulls will have to strip their velvet from their antlers. As of today, a few of them have already done so.

Hoback

Hoback:

Crows and Cottonwoods

Crows and Cottonwoods:

One of the most fun aspects of going out every day is the element of surprise! I hope I stay alert enough each day to see them. This was taken at a long distance in the Kelly area.

Crows

Crows:

When we first moved to Jackson Hole, Crows were uncommon, but not anymore!

Bison

Bison:

Traditionally, Bison are in the rut in August. This year, they were uncharacteristically “missing from action” in the southern portion of the Park in August. A large herd moved into the Kelly area yesterday. Some of the bulls are still courting cows.

Bison

Bison:

Bison

Bison:

You might notice the soft, layered effect in the background of many of the images today. The smoke and haze softens the backgrounds nicely, even if the Teton Range is often more difficult to see.

Bison

Bison:

Other Wildlife

I spent a lot of time along the Moose-Wilson Road this morning, all the time hoping to be able to include a photo of a Black Bear in today’s post. I missed several of them by only minutes, and the one I did see had his butt to me and headed deep into the forest. I took a few shots but would be embarrassed to post them. Elk are in the rut right now. They are more likely to be seen along the Teton Park Loop Road (Teton Park Road) in the Jenny Lake and String Lake area. Go EARLY! Moose are seen often along the Gros Ventre Road and around Schwabacher Landing. Some hang on the Moose-Wilson Road and a few are in the Oxbow area. You should be able to find Pronghorns in the Kelly area and also along the Teton Park Road. Grizzlies, including 399 and her four cubs, should be more visible in September.

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Sunset

Sunset:

To be able to include a sunset photo in today’s post, I had to take it last evening. I timed this one to capture the sun setting over Death Canyon. If you were to click on the August Daily Journal for 2021, you will find a generous spattering of sunrise photos that take advantage of the early morning sunlight coming through the smoke and haze. It happens almost every morning, and should continue through much of September. In other words, think about aiming east in the morning when the Tetons are obscured.

Wildflowers

Wildflowers:

It’s not too late to capture a few Wildflowers for 2021! 

Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush:

Leaves

Leaves:

Leaves and Berries are changing as we enter September, and will continue throughout the month.

Choke Cherries

Choke Cherries:

Gros Ventre Willows

Foliage Reports

I probably won’t make a specific Foliage Reports page until around the 10th of the month, but for now, I can say the willows and cottonwoods along the Gros Ventre River are shifting in color. I saw similar color along the Snake River near Wilson. I haven’t been too Oxbow Bend, but I wouldn’t expect much change there until quite a bit later in the month. NOTE: The photo above, and all photos in this initial post were taken today, except last evening’s sunset photo.

August 2021 Daily Journal:

If you didn’t get back to the August 2021 Daily Journal, Click Here to see the full page. It is absolutely LOADED with photos. August is an often overlooked month!

Help Support the Site?

If your are so inclined, I added a small section in the Navigation Bar to allow readers help me offset the rising costs of gasoline and web site fees. Several readers have made donations over the past few months…thanks to all of them!

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Additional Related Links and Pages

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Best of the Tetons Photo Tours

I offer year round photo tours in Grand Teton National Park and Winter tours in the National Elk Refuge.  Book now! Click the image for additional information.

The post September 2021 Daily Journal For GTNP & JH first appeared on Best of the Tetons, Area Info & Photography.