Saturday, July 9, 2016

MacNeil Lyons: Yellowstone Guide Extraordinaire

Far away ... but what a beautiful voice.
It was mid-May, cold, very cold, and predictions called for rain. But, my guide for the day, MacNeil Lyons, had hot coffee, breakfast, spotting scopes and, most importantly, a knack for knowing where the animals were ... and where they would probably go next.

It wasn't until I reached Gardiner and started hearing people rave about MacNeil that I was sure I had made the right decision when I booked a guide for the day. But, it wasn't until we were out in the filed that I understood why they were raving.

I wanted to see wolf puppies so, after glorying in a spectacular sunrise, we went to a den site where I saw three gray wolves tending puppies (the ones we saw were black) ... including one being carried back to the den after wandering off. Then, two young wolves took off and wound up chasing five big horn sheep across a mountain ridge. Wilderness in action.

We watched bears play, a fox carry a scavenged leg across a field of sagebrush, eagles, bison, elk ... everything you hope to see on a day in Yellowstone. But, the most amazing part came when we stopped to watch a couple of wolves traveling through groups of bison along a ridge by Soda Creek. 

We were tracking them with scopes to see if they would cross the road when I heard it. Howling.  

We turned and saw the wolf in the photo above, apparently watching the two we had been following with our scopes. They began to communicate and I had the most amazing experience listening to them. I didn't even realize how much I had wanted to hear the howling until it began. Priceless.

In between incredible animal watching, MacNeil explained the Yellowstone ecosystem and told stories. He even offered a lesson on how to spot more animals ... which turned out to be as much about life as it is being successful in Yellowstone. Below is the brief version: (you can see the full article here).

MacNeil's Rule of 4Ps:

Patience: Be in the moment and focus on the subject at hand.
Practice:  Be familiar with the subject you are observing to anticipate its next movement and behavior.
Persistence – Don’t think you can experience Yellowstone for just one day with a “Top 10 List” of what you want to see and expect to see it.
Pays – If you are patient and you practice the above mentioned and are persistent, it just might pay off in a one-of-a-kind digital image or mental image.

The day with MacNeil turned out to be a critical element of the Yellowstone Howling book. I'm hoping the book will be "done" late fall and that I will have done justice to the incredible world of Yellowstone and to MacNeil's guidance.

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