Between Meeteetse and Thermopolis, WY, we stopped at the Gooseberry Creek Rest Area; my luck with lifers in such random areas as rest areas and gas station parking lots is well-documented, and we were weren't disappointed at this rest area!
First, I just saw my old friend the Black-billed Magpie:
After Thermopolis, we drove on through Wind River Canyon, a beautiful drive:
cliffs were formed BEFORE the dinosaurs, before the continents as we know them, when the absolute earliest lifeforms scuttled around the seafloor! I was pretty much blown away.
I came back to myself, though, when I saw these:
Sometimes, AB's crazy-mad bird skillz amaze me. She was driving, going around 80mph, and she stood on the brakes and said, "BIG BIRD!" We whipped around and found a Golden Eagle, perched majestically on a rocky cliff on the roadside! Unfortunately, he took off before I could snap a photo, so this was the only evidence:
Later, AB showed her skillz again when she saw this raptor perched upon an old tin barn:
Okay--I'm thinking it's either a Rough-legged Hawk or something else. But rough-legs have a white tail with a black band. Plus rough-legs winter in Wyoming, and it was only early August. This isn't a rough-leg, right?
On to Swainson's but the face is wrong. Swainson's would have white above and below the beak.
WHAT THE HECK!??? Help! I bet it's just a freaking color variant of Red-tailed, and I'm over-thinking. Or under-thinking. Or focusing on too few details. I don't know! I'm not looking for a lifer here; I just want to improve my raptor skills. They get rusty so freakin' fast. I've been so focused on songbirds that raptors are just not that important for me. Still, they frustrate me!
Hmph. Speaking of songbirds, there was a little yellow-colored warbler there as well:
This was the only photo I got before he flitted off, completely oblivious to the raptor. No telling what he was, though there are several possibilities. This was the middle of the Wyoming plains, no boreal habitat for miles.
Finally, we arrived -- with no signs or other notice -- in the Thunder Basin National Grasslands. I was expecting something like the Pawnee National Grasslands, uninhabited and undeveloped: pure prairie. I didn't get that. It was a lot of ranches, oil drilling, and coal mining. I was really disappointed.
There were TONS of Pronghorned Antelope:
My expectations were ridiculously high; for some reason, I thought I was going to see a big sign that said, "Burrowing Owl: 30 yards east, hang a right at the pronghorn, can't miss it!" What I saw, however, was miles of prairie and small hills, always interrupted by mines or drilling or ranch houses. I was so bummed out. It was just so developed.
Still, I did see this little Horned Lark:
I also saw this:
Perhaps the most exciting thing I saw was this:
The unspoiled part: