Wednesday, July 31, 2013

New Deer Developments

I thought I'd posted enough deer images and told all I wanted about the deer family that inhabits my woods.  I was ready to move on to a new subject, when yesterday morning I had a new visitor, this large doe.  She showed a dominant stance right from the beginning, and chased off my regular doe when she arrived to feed.  The pecking order between them was obvious.

Shortly after my doe fled, this buck sporting new velvet antlers arrived.  They shared the deer block, but were wary the whole time.  They watched me vigilantly as I photographed them through the window, their postures alert and ears cocked forward.  Several times the doe deserted the block for the safety of the woods, but she always returned to join the buck.  I had mixed feelings about them sharing the feed block with my regulars so I let my presence be more overtly known and they left after a while.

Shortly after these new deer left the feed block, the fawns arrived with the mother doe.  You can see how much the larger fawn has grown.

The smaller fawn shows growth too.  Both eat the greenery as much as they eat from the deer block.  After the visit from the buck, I wondered about the gender of my fawns.  I noticed they both have brown spots on the tops of their heads that might be antler pedicles, which are the small growth areas from which antlers eventually grow.  Perhaps these fawns are young bucks.

But both fawns still prefer the nourishment they get from their mother.  With their larger sizes, they lift her off her feet as they try to simultaneously nurse.  Is the doe sticking out her tongue to register dislike or to reflect the precarious balance she's experiencing?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fawns Developing Independence

While the doe visits my deer block at least once a day, her fawns don't come with that regularity.  But when they do, they all share a "family meal" together.

The smallest fawn still tries to nurse occasionally, but recently it appears as if the doe is discouraging that behavior by pulling away or collapsing her hip to make nursing more difficult.

Recently, I'm seeing more independence from the fawns.  Here they visit the block without their mother.  I sometimes catch a glimpse of them as they romp and crash through the woods surrounding my house.  One day as the larger fawn fed alone at the deer block, the smaller one ran headlong laps around and around the empty cottage next door.  I was waiting for it to flop down on the ground with exhaustion, as my dog does after she's been running full tilt in our back yard.  But that didn't happen.  When the small fawn had its fill of running, it just sauntered over to the block to replenish its energy stores.  Not even panting.

While the fawns feed at the deer block, I see them grazing on the woodland greenery too.  Watching them grow and gain more independence has been a highlight of my summer.  I've been worried that their crazy behavior might cause them to cross the street without heed, but I can see they are already developing some street smarts by waiting for a car to pass before crossing the road.  In the deer literature I've been reading, I've learned that if a fawn survives the first couple weeks of life without being taken prey, they have a pretty fair chance of reaching adulthood.  Comforting, yes?

Friday, July 19, 2013

My Doe Visitor

It's not uncommon for me to see deer near my home since I live in the woods and feed them during the winter.  On June 11, this doe started hanging around, just outside my fenced backyard.  I could even be in the yard with my Golden Retriever Oakley and the doe would walk along beside me.  She didn't bolt as deer typically do when I'm out with my dog.  On several occasions, she even lay in the soft grass outside my study window.  This behavior continued for several days; I knew it was the same doe because she had a hairless patch of skin on her left shoulder.  I had to wonder if she was okay.      

I don't know why she chose my land, perhaps because I'd fed her there over the winter, but on June 30, my doe appeared again, but this time with her new fawn.  I watched in awe as the fawn nursed, feeling somehow a part of this moment.  It's hard not to become attached to the deer that come to my land.  I learn to recognize the regulars as "individuals."  One will have a heavy mane that looks like bangs, another a dark coat. Two years ago, when I first started feeding critters in the winter, I was visited by another doe and her yearling.  I took hundreds of pictures of them in the snow.  My brother, also a photographer, teased me by asking when I was going to buy a leash for it.

Imagine my surprise, and delight, when a second twin fawn appeared on July 8!  I'd put out a food block (not a salt lick) for the deer, partly for nutrition for them, and partly for selfish reasons to keep them around.  I could see one fawn, which I presumed was the new one, was smaller than the other.  Both fawns bore the signature long legs and big ears.  The doe continues to frequent my food block a couple times a day.  Sometimes she brings her fawns, but often she comes alone.  I imagine nursing two fawns requires enormous energy.  The squirrel seems to be enjoying the food block too.

Here in Northport, and across much of the country, we've just been through a near record-breaking heat wave, which has not been conducive to typical summer outdoor activity.  I've spent more time indoors in the air conditioning than I care to admit.  I've wondered what the critters do to survive such hot weather.  Apparently, some have the right idea.  My doe returned to my land, this time without her fawns, and promptly found the coolest spot, tucked under the shade of hemlock boughs.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sunsets, Sunrises, and the Northern Lights

I love photographing sunsets, sunrises, and the northern lights. The light at sunset and sunrise is softer than at mid-day, when the sun is high in the sky and casts harsh shadows.  And every sunset and sunrise is unique.  Some have soft colors and little definition, while others have intense drama, such as this blood-red sunset taken at Christmas Cove.

This sunrise, taken at the Bight, has drama too, but the colors are softer and less intense.  I especially enjoy sunrise photography because the world is so quiet then.  There's little traffic noise at that hour and the only sounds I hear are the wakening birds and the subtle lapping of waves against the shoreline.

  But for me, the most exciting photography subject of all is the Aurora Borealis, commonly known as the Northern Lights.  I captured this image at North Beach in my neighborhood.  Here in Northport, we are at the edge of an area which has potential for viewing auroras.  It's not an exact science, however.  Checking websites such as and the Aurora Forecast ( give me an idea when it looks promising for viewing the lights.  This coming Wednesday, July 17, for example, is forecast to be one of those days for active auroras. To actually see the lights, however, you've got to put in the time, typically between 10 pm and 2 am, and hope the skies are clear and the moon's not too bright.  Probably nine times out of ten I go out and wait for the lights to appear, and nothing happens.  For the one time I'm able to capture an image like the one above, it's worth the wait.