Shawnee Mission Park Animals

Well, this is the time of the year when I start planning for my annual trip to the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. This will be my seventh consecutive year of going. Normally it’s just me, my camera, my tent and bear spray. This year, however, I’ll be staying in a motel. We’ll see how well that goes….

I never get tired of going there because there are always new areas to explore and different animals to photograph. But you know, you don’t have to go that far to get some great shots of animals. As a matter of fact, I never get tired of going to Shawnee Mission Park which is only 8.5 miles from my front door. It’s a great place to practice before going to one of the big parks. I thought I’d show some of the animals I’ve been fortunate to see and photograph while in SMP.

It’s a rare day when I don’t see deer. Below are a few of my favorite shots….

White-tailed Buck
White-tailed Buck
White- tailed Buck
White- tailed Buck… These two were very close to each other when I took these photos.
Sometimes they're easy to see...
Sometimes they are easy to see…
Sometimes you have to look very carefully
Sometimes, you have to look very carefully to see them….
Sometimes they will stay looking back at you
Sometimes they will stay looking back at you….
Sometimes you get really lucky to see and photograph something unique
And sometimes, you get really lucky to see and photograph something unique.

Of course, there are a variety of birds to see and photograph as well.

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
American Robin on a very cold day
American Robin on a very cold day
Eastern Bluebirds
Eastern Bluebirds
White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Summer Tanager
Summer Tanager
American Crow
American Crow
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk in flight
Red-tailed Hawk in flight
Red-tailed Hawk looking back at me
Red-tailed Hawk looking back at me

Sometimes if you know where to look, you get very lucky and see things like this…

Red-tailed Hawk and its chick
Red-tailed Hawk and its chick on their nest.
Flying in with breakfast for its chick
Flying in with breakfast for its chick.

Along the stream way in the park, it’s very common to see these too….

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron taking off
Great Blue Heron taking off

I know, I know, not everyone likes them but if you’re real lucky, you my get to see some of these too…

I'm pretty sure this is a Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi)
I’m pretty sure this is a Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi)
Copperhead
It is a Copperhead!
Copperhead up close. Yes, it is venomous.
Copperhead up close. Yes, it is venomous.

There are other mammals to be seen, like these….

Muskrat
Muskrat
Look close. Yup, it's a sleeping raccoon!
Look closely. Yup, it’s a sleeping raccoon!
Opossum, the only North American marsupial.
The Virginia Opossum is the only North American marsupial.
Come on now, it is kind of cute don't you think?
Come on now, it is kind of cute don’t you think?
Now, I think it's just too cool posing for me!
Now, I think it’s just too cool that it’s posing for me!

With a keen eye you may get to see these….

Coyote in the grass
Coyote sneaking away in the grass
They wouldn't let me get too close
They wouldn’t let me get too close.
These hear you coming from a long way off and start running away quickly
These hear you coming from a long way off and start running away very quickly.

One has to be very lucky and have a lot of patience to observe these at their nests.

Male Red-bellied Woodpecker looking out of the nest. Is he waiting for the female?
Male Red-bellied Woodpecker looking out of the nest. Is he waiting for the female?
Male Red-bellied Woodpecker
Well, there she is!
Leaving the nest
Leaving the nest!

Well, we cannot forget these!

Male Mallard
Male Mallard taking flight
Honestly, I think the female mallard is just as beautiful as the male
Honestly, I think the female mallard is just as beautiful as the male.

Those who know me, know that I have a great affection for owls. Yes, if you pay attention, you may get lucky and see them too.

Great Horned Owl on the nest
Great Horned Owl on the nest
Barred Owl hunting for its young during the day
Barred Owl hunting during the early morning.
Even though it saw me, it didn't see me too concerned
Even though it saw me, it didn’t seem too concerned.

Of course, these aren’t all the animals I’ve seen or photographed in Shawnee Mission Park. Even though there are no bears, elk or wolves there, it’s a great place to practice your wildlife photography skills before going to the National Parks. Of course there are no guarantees that you’ll see wildlife each time you go out. To increase your odds of seeing them, be sure to go very early in the morning. I always go before sunrise and get into place before the animals start to bed down or hide.

The next best time is an hour or so before sundown. The animals tend to start moving around again at that time. The light is best during those times as well. I actually prefer early morning to sundown because there are fewer people in the park.  If you wait until late morning or mid-day, the light can be very harsh especially on a sunny days. It makes the shadows very dark and one tends lose detail in them. That being said, I love to photograph anytime it’s cloudy. The light is soft and sometimes the animals are still roaming around.

Even if you don’t live close to Shawnee Mission Park, I’ll bet there’s a park close to you that has more wildlife than most people know about. You just have to go out early and see for yourself. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of these critters. Good Luck searching for them in parks close to where you live.

Thanks for stopping by!

Bill