Urban Wildlife (My Return to Forest Park)

June 19, 2017

An American mink stops for a moment in Forest Park on its way to harvest another crayfish for its young.

After a year and a half hiatus, I returned to St. Louis’ Forest Park this morning to photograph urban wildlife. It was a beautiful morning at the park when I arrived a few minutes after daybreak. After a short walk to the waterway that meanders through the park, I spotted a mink running along the bouldered shoreline before it plunged into the water in search of crayfish. I watched the trail of air bubbles cross the creek toward me while I hastily set up my tripod. I knew from previous experience that when the mink emerged with a crawdad, it would be on a dead run back to its den. My shutter speed at ISO 800 was only 1/25th second in the early-morning light so I didn’t even worry about trying to get a shot. I would just enjoy the show.

A few seconds later, the mink emerged with a huge crawdad, much bigger than its head, and scurried full blast back to its den in thick, brushy cover. At that point it was time to get ready because minks are much more casual when heading out for prey than when returning with their catches. As expected, the furry critter came out of the creekside brush and followed the same path, this time stopping occasionally for a look around. During one of its pauses, I made the featured image at 1/30th second at 700 mm. It wasn’t razor sharp, but it was sharp enough. It felt good to be back in the urban wildlife game again!

Finding and photographing minks in Forest Park can be as frustrating as it is rewarding. They typically only show up at the fringes of the day when light is difficult, if not downright ornery, and they often cease their activity right when you are beginning to dial them in. After that, it can be hours before you see one again, if at all. It helps to have a decade of experience observing and photographing these sneaky little critters, but getting a decent shot always includes a healthy dose of dumb luck.

A belted kingfisher calls from a creekside perch in Forest Park.

After the mink disappeared as fast as it had materialized, I ran into another of the park’s common but elusive critters — the belted kingfisher. I hadn’t even pulled up from my shoreline set-up when one of the crested chatterboxes landed in a tree directly across from me. I made several images before the wily bird made me. My favorite shot is featured above.

A classic scene at Forest Park — a wood duck perched on a boulder.

As I moved down the creek, I spotted a wood duck resting on a boulder in a field. Although I have many similar images in my Forest Park files, I couldn’t resist capturing an image of the carefree woodie as it sat its perch of stone.

A fledgling barn swallow waits for breakfast atop a cattail.

As the morning advanced, bringing with it the harsh light I always dread, I started back to my car. Along the trail, I found a little barn swallow perched atop a cattail. A closer inspection revealed four other fledgling swallows on the surrounding cattails of small swamp area along one of the park’s trails. I watched for about 30 minutes as mama swallow brought a variety of flying insects to each baby, transferring the morsels to her hungry offspring from a hovering position overhead. I never made a great image of the transfer, so I had to settle on a portrait of one of the cute little barnies as shown above.

I only spent about two hours in Forest Park this morning, but I was reminded of how magical it can be for watching and photographing a variety of Missouri critters. I hope to make it back in the weeks to come as other locations become less inviting due to mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, and other unpleasant pests of summer. I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for looking,

Danny Brown

Email me at:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Website/Gallery/Print Information:  www.dannybrownphotography.com



3 comments on “Urban Wildlife (My Return to Forest Park)”

  1. For many reasons, that you know, this post delighted me even more than usual. I do not know when I will see a mink again…I did so, and had those lovely moments with a baby, thanks to you!

  2. A most enjoyable post. Great shots and an always interesting read. Thank you!

  3. Love looking at your photos on the Blog and reading all the helpful tidbits you add on the technical stuff.

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