After we dropped Curtis and Jeanie off at the airport in Knoxville at 5:30 this morning, Kenny and I decided to head up to the Smokies (since we were already half-way there). Unfortunately, none of the restaurants in Townsend (the last little town before entering the park) were open at 6:15 when we passed through there, so we drove on to Cades Cove and waited for the ranger to open the gate and ate granola bars and drank Power Ade (not exactly my idea of a good breakfast!). It was pitch dark and raining hard when we got to the parking area by the gate, but soon there were 4 other vehicles waiting to get in. The ranger finally opened the gate at 7:45. It didn't take long before we spotted 4 huge 8-point White-tail deer bucks sparring in the field. We laughed when 3 large tom turkeys strolled by and interrupted them! The lighting was absolutely terrible so none of the photos I took through the spotting scope came out. :(
Later as we drove through the cove, we saw some more tom turkeys. At this time of the year the males and females don't mix, that only happens during breeding season. We enjoyed watching the big guys cross the road.
We saw lots of deer in the fields, including this buck and a doe. I was a little surprised to see them paired off already. All the others we had seen were in herds of all males or all females. This guy looked pretty young in comparison to the others we had seen earlier.
The squirrels were very active, many were collecting walnuts.
It never ceases to amaze me how dumb some people can be! I was amazed to see these 2 guys approaching this well-armed buck in the field near the Cades Cove visitor center. I yelled to them that they were "pushing their luck", greatly embarassing my husband! People don't realize that many more people have been killed by "Bambi" than the "Big Bad Wolf". Their hooves and antlers are very sharp and they know how to use them!
I was very excited to see a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker woodpecker (Sphyrapicus varius) while we were walking along a trail at the visitor center. It was only the second one I'd ever seen. The bad light plagued me and I wasn't able to get as good a photo as I would have liked. The other photo I have of one was taken at my bird feeder a couple of years ago.