The Yellowstone Phenology Project: 8-22 Celebrating 100 Days!

I started this project on May 9th during a time when it seemed like winter would never end. Grizzlies were scavenging in icy water, and bighorn sheep still clung to low-elevation haunts on the National Elk Refuge. Bison had thick, bleached coats that were felting and matting together. Bluebirds glowed like neon signs in storefronts, providing the only chromatic in a landscape devoid of color since November. Soon, birds of prey were hatching in stick nests and young mammals of all stripes were being born into a world of lush, green grass thriving between snow patches. An almost fantastical density of wildflowers followed. For us, a scene from "The Sound of Music." For the flowers, the narrow window in which this climate would allow growth, flowering, and seeding.

Now, as the flowers fade and the grass browns, bison are roaring and stomping in the Serengeti-like grasslands amid buck pronghorn that viciously defend their territories. The high peaks are as warm and as dry as they will get this year, so mountain climbers summit the Tetons in queues.  Experienced gardeners are harvesting beets, carrots, squash, and maybe tomatoes. That is, if the moose, elk, deer, and pocket gophers haven't eaten the summer's bounty first.

Signs of autumn are everywhere already. Ground squirrels are scarce, having already begun an eight-month hibernation. Pine squirrels are collecting douglasfir cones by the dozens to prepare their winter middens. This morning in the dark, a bull elk bugled in the chilly, organic air, foreshadowing next month's adventures.

Here are the highlights of where we've been so far. I'm looking forward to the next couple months of this project. Thank you all for your support so far, and I encourage everyone to share this project with others!