These are a bare few of my favorite animal photos from my various trips the past two years to National Parks, state parks, National Forests, and wilderness areas.
This first one was on a visit to Hanging Rock State Park in North Carolina. It’s an unusual area—a classic monadnock. The high area has lots of exposed rock, and some spectacular waterfalls. I had been hiking in the hot summer sun and visited this waterfall where I took a bath. After washing the sweat off, I noticed that the stream passed through a narrow grotto beyond the falls and so I walked down to take a look. Inside the grotto, on the rock wall, was this very tiny bird nest which contained a single extremely small egg. It could have been a hummingbird nest—I don’t know. But I took this photo and it remains one of my favorites.
This guy had one of the most symmetrically perfect racks of any whitetail buck I’ve ever encountered. He was in a field inside Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While certainly no record, he was just one of the most spectacular deer I’ve ever seen.
Continuing the deer theme, these were part of a small herd of extremely small Key deer that we saw on Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys. Endangered, these are a sub-species of the whitetail deer. Adapted to island ecology, these deer are very, very small. A fully grown buck is no larger than a medium-sized dog. This doe and fawns were very tiny, indeed.
This fellow was sitting in the Silver River as we were cruising under paddle-power toward Silver Springs. I've seen many alligators in my travels, but this guy just seemed more than others to want us to go swimming.
These big boys were sitting along the river in Rock Island State Park in Tennessee as we were paddling by. Later, while rock-hopping, I found out why they were gathered there. They were sharing an enormous gar-fish lying on the rocks.
We met up with this hawk (red-shouldered hawk?) while camping at Juniper Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest in Florida. He kept trying to steal the steaks off our grill, but the heat kept him at bay. The ranger told us that he was a particularly talented thief and generally got away with quite a lot of people food every day.