St. Louis’ Forest Park – An Urban Oasis!

November 23, 2012 (Thanksgiving Weekend)

One of many things I’m thankful for on this holiday is Forest Park. Although I only made it to the park a few times this year, during previous years I’ve spent weeks there. When the phrase “Urban Oasis” was coined, somebody must have had Forest Park in mind. Not unlike New York City’s Central Park, situated in the middle of a sea of asphalt, concrete and buildings, Forest Park consists of over 1,300 acres of forests, prairies, fields, lakes and waterways. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not totally naive. I understand that most of Forest Park’s natural features are man-made, but the wildlife that make Forest Park their home don’t concern themselves with such things. Most of them just go about their business of feeding, raising families and loafing, all of which provide a plethora of opportunities for a wildlife photographer—namely me!

The list of animals I’ve photographed in Forest Park includes: mink, muskrat, raccoon, fox squirrel, gray squirrel, Canada geese, belted kingfisher, mourning dove, great blue heron, great egret, snowy egret, green heron, black-crowned night-heron, yellow-crowned night-heron, wood duck, mallard, grebe, great horned owl, rusty blackbird, red-winged blackbird, blue jay, barn swallow, American robin, northern flicker, pileated woodpecker, common snapping turtle, western painted turtle, and many more. Of course I’ve seen many other creatures that I haven’t photographed, including Cooper’s hawks and barred owls. Many of the animals in Forest Park are very approachable, including the juvenile mink I’ve featured in this post. Every time I go to Forest Park, I expect to come home with a stunning image.

Although I go to Forest Park to photograph wildlife, I always enjoy my visits for other reasons. It’s inspiring to watch all of the joggers and bicyclists in their relentless pursuit of coronary fitness and tight buns. Also, I love it when complete strangers approach me to visit about my photography. My conspicuous camera equipment apparently serves as a welcoming beacon. Even though I only live 45 minutes west, some of them see me as a stranger from the country and wonder what I’m doing so far from home. Sometimes park visitors accidentally walk right in front of me, as I’m usually well hidden, and they are always overly apologetic. I explain that the park is for everyone and the area in front of my oversized lens is not a restricted zone. Simply put, most people I meet in Forest Park are just plain friendly.

Yes, I’m a big fan of Forest Park but as with any public recreational area it is meant for a variety of uses, all of which do not dovetail so smoothly with my plans. I always cringe when somebody lets their dog off the leash and it tries to run down wood duck and mallard ducklings in the spring, mama duck quacking frantically behind. Also, it seems that in recent years weekend events involving walking, running or bicycling for various causes have multiplied in number. Typically I arrive before dawn and by the time I’m ready to depart, my truck is blocked off by cones and boundary tape. When this happens, I just take it all in stride, sit on my tail-gate and watch the show. I remember one morning when I found myself gradually surrounded by a crowd of worshipers for an Easter sunrise service. I couldn’t resist singing along with the old-time hymns as I continued to photograph three baby great horned owls.  I convinced myself a long time ago not to be in a big hurry to get out of the park if I want to photograph there on weekends. The joggers, walkers and worshipers love the park as much as I do and there is plenty of room for everybody. As a matter of fact, I was just there this morning and everything was just dandy. What a wonderful way to start Thanksgiving day. I only wish those kingfishers had been a little more cooperative!

Juvenile Mink; Canon 1DMarkIV; Canon 500/4 L IS Lens; 1/80 sec @ f/4.0; ISO 400; RAW Capture; Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod with Wimberley II Head; Converted and Processed in Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP)

Happy Thanksgiving!


Footnote:  This morning at Forest Park a trio of hooded mergansers landed right at my feet, adding yet another Forest Park species to my list! I’ll get the images worked up and hopefully share one with you in the next edition since this post was already prepared.


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5 comments on “St. Louis’ Forest Park – An Urban Oasis!”

  1. Since I firmly belong to the Forest Park Forever Fantastic school of thinking, this post is GREAT for me! Thank you for the mink….it was because of you that I was able to observe them on so many occasions. Danny….along with Forest Park…you are one of the Treasures of St.Louis for me, with your incredibly open sharing of words and images!

    • Hi Deepa—Great to hear from you and I’m humbled by your kind words. I think of you every time I go to Forest Park. Take care.

  2. […] the blog of a photographer from my neck of the woods named Danny Brown.  In particular, it was this post of some photos he took at Forest Park in St. Louis.  I naturally “liked” the post, and […]

  3. Another beautiful creature. It sounds like your patience gets rewarded.

    • I’ve been photographing minks for several years there and sometimes the babies walk right across my feet in my hide in the spring. I really enjoy the minks!

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