Travel photography: USA
Wildlife - Small Game and Macro

October 1, 2016

Trip Introduction

This year I felt it was finally the time to do a big trip far away from home. On an epic two month long 8000 km road trip I set out to discover and photograph the American southwest. As you can imagine I brought home quite some material that I would like to present on this site over the next months. Due to the sheer amount of content I will split up my experiences into various articles and galleries.

My trip started and ended in San Antonio, TX and led me over a distance of about 8000 km trough the states of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California. (Map taken from

The USA differs from Europe in many ways. The first and probably most striking dissimilarity to any country in Europe is its massive extent. Due to its huge size basically every climate zone and every kind of landscape is present. Especially for photographers this means almost limitless possibilities – if you are willing to drive. Landscape photography was one of the most important reasons I travelled to the states and you can see my results in future articles.

American cities were typically carefully planned from their inception on a previously more or less undeveloped area. This reflects in their typical rectangular layout with streets in the directions of north/south and east/west. While this is very practical and easy to navigate it gives them a quite generic feel. In addition to the fact that they are comparatively young the unique flair of that is typical for European towns is mostly absent. This is also visible in my cityscapes that only make up a small part of my images of this trip. I will also post them in an article further down the line.

Wildlife on the other hand is abundantly present. For me it was amazing how many wild animals can be observed in the US that have gone extinct in most of Europe a long time ago. It just makes a huge difference that people did not have so much time to kill everything that moves (the normal human response to living things) than they had in Europe. The example that amazed me the most is that it is totally normal and frequent to look up to the sky and see large birds of prey while here in Europe any wild bird of prey is a rare and exciting discovery. Wildlife was the other main reason for my trip and that of course reflects in my pictures. I'm planning on releasing three wildlife-related articles in this series.

In this article I'd like to focus on smaller and less spectacular wildlife – to build up some excitement so to say.


While not as magnificent or impressive as larger species, rodents regularly provide some of the cutest pictures you can get.

A grey squirrel on a tree.
Especially the exotic species that do not exist in Europe are always of special to me. You can't imagine how excited I was when I met my first chipmunk.
In contrast to most squirrels, chipmunks have an avid social life.
There are over 20 different species of chipmunks in North America. This exceptionally small kind lives in Zion National Park.
The Pika interestingly belongs to the same family as rabbits and hares and is not a mouse.

Pikas are especially well known for their haying behavior. During the summer months the small mammals collect various grasses and weeds and pile them up in the sun for drying. The hay is then taken into the burrow as a food source for the winter months. Pikas do not hibernate and therefore need an ample food supply.

The Pika transports a mouthful of hay from the pile to its burrow.
Two prairie dogs on the lookout.
Although they are visually similar and belong to the same family, the ground squirrel is not to be confused with a prairie dog.
Standing on their hind legs for prolonged periods of time is typical so that they can see over the high grass.
Although they do spend most of their time on the ground as the name suggests they can climb on trees just like regular squirrels. This one is feeding on some blossoms.
A larger and especially in the Rocky Mountains very common type of ground squirrel is the yellow-bellied marmot.

Marmots live in colonies that consist of up to twenty individuals. They are hunted by a wide variety of predators and usually have one individual on the lookout which will whistle loudly to warn its family members.

Marmots are very social and playful animals and observing them is quite entertaining at times.
A mother with two pups.


Especially mule deer and white-tailed deer are very common and can be seen basically everywhere where there is woodland.

This young buck tried to hide in the bushes but I spotted him nevertheless.
This white-tailed deer is seeking shelter from the hot midday sun. Subject in the shade, background in the sun is a rare but good constellation during daytime since it helps avoiding harsh contrasts and often creates an interesting look.
A fawn looking for food.
Due to the close proximity to humans the deer loses its natural shyness and is not disturbed as long as you keep your distance. This one even gave me a wink for the photo.
Judging by the enormous ears I think it is quite obvious why it's called mule deer.


This was really not a birding trip to me and I just got some occasional snapshots. There will be some more birds (also in flight) in a later article.

American kestrel
Lark sparrow on twig
This is probably a Steller's jay but I'm not completely sure.

Bighorn sheep

Bighorn sheep are common in mountainous regions of most of the western United States. Especially the rams are characterized by their large horns that can reach a weight of up to 14kg.

A female with partial winter coat feeding and resting.
Head portrait of the same animal.
Small herd feeding on Mt. Evans


Warm climate zones are usually ideal for all kinds of insect life. I had the opportunity to take some macros and got a handful of reasonably good images.

Various species of dragonflies can usually be encountered whenever a lake or swamp is nearby.
A species that I wanted to see and shoot for a long time – the robber fly. Its rather large size and very spectacular looks makes it a superb macro subject.
The giant swallowtail is with a wingspan of up to 16cm the largest butterfly in Canada and the United States.

To be continued…

More wildlife images are going to follow in this series, but the next article deals with some typical southwestern landscapes to mix things up a bit.

Thanks for reading!

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