On my recent trip to Wyoming, one of my goals was to get some new flight photos of trumpeter swans. Although some swans will nest in the Yellowstone Ecosystem during the summer, a large number of these beautiful swans travel from much farther north to winter in the open waters around Yellowstone. Many of the rivers and ponds in the Yellowstone Ecosystem stay free of ice because of the abundance of hot springs in the area.
A few years back I decided to take the western route to get into Yellowstone in the winter. Because all of the entrances to Yellowstone are closed in winter, except the north entrance near Gardiner, Montana, any trip into the park can be a long one, and dangerous depending on what the weather decides to do.
The western route starts in Jackson, Wyoming, then over Teton Pass (not for the faint of heart), down into Driggs, Idaho, up past the West Yellowstone entrance and then on to Bozeman, Montana to finally loop back down into Livingston and then Gardiner. It is a beautiful drive weaving through open farm fields and thick forests of the Targhee and Gallatin National Forests.
On that trip I just happened to time it right when I drove through the small town of Island Park, Idaho and found dozens of trumpeter swans along the Henry's Fork River. But I was on a mission to get to Gardiner before dark, and had lost a lot of time due to a storm causing white-out conditions near Ashcroft, Idaho so I couldn't stay to photograph the birds. I vowed to come back.
Last year I planned a trip to Island Park only to find out I missed the birds by about a week so I canceled the trip.
So this year I tried again. I found lots of swans but I may have been a little early - there was still a lot of ice-free water so the birds were pretty scattered. But I did manage to find a few cooperative birds - adults and cygnets - willing to pose for some take-off shots.
So, as with all nature photography, weather plays a big part, timing is important but can't be controlled, and you have to make the most of the situation presented to you - and have good snow tires :)