At least not when it’s your own kids. The doe and her twins from last year visited the backyard again on a rainy, cold morning for a little breakfast snack.
I haven’t seen them in a long while, but on this rainy morning, a couple of visitors stopped by.
A couple of hours later, I heard gobbling in the backyard, and found a tom Turkey taking shelter from the rain under my deck.
Lately, the White-tailed doe and her twins have been spending their mornings under the evergreens in the neighbor’s yard where the sun tries to bring a little warmth to the day. This seems to be a temporary “deer yard”, a safe place to rest while digesting their morning feed.
I suppose the twins will stay with this doe until she has her next set of fawns in the spring. In the meantime, she can teach them what’s good to eat in this winter world of vanishing food supply.
While the deer and the birds struggle to survive in our continuing cold, snowy weather, I am escaping for a couple of weeks to a warmer climate. If there is an internet connection, I’ll post some photos from “down south”.
Brown lumps in the snow turned out to be the doe and her twins of last summer resting after a breakfast of stems. She seems to be the only surviving adult in the backyard now. And it’s clear from what she and her offspring are browsing on that there isn’t much available in the backyard this year.
Strangely enough, the deer didn’t help themselves to the feast of sunflower seeds that the squirrels scattered under the bird feeder. Missed a good meal there, dear deer.
It was a brisk -12F (-24C) this morning when the deer visited the backyard.
Although the sun came out later, it didn’t do much for the air temperature. The deer chased each other around, but spent most of their time nibbling on the stems of buckthorn (good riddance!). So far, the winter cold doesn’t seem to have dampened their spirits any.
Continuing on the theme of what animals do to survive winter cold, it can be just as much of a problem being large as being small in intensely cold weather.
When you are big-bodied, there are few places to take refuge from cold temperatures and wind chill, which increases the rate of heat lost to the cold environment. In addition, large-bodied animals would need a large amount of food per day to maintain a warm temperature, and winter is typically the most difficult season in which to find it.
Their heavy winter coats insulate their core, but lots of surface area of exposed extremities could be vulnerable to high heat loss. At sub-zero F air temperatures, even large-bodied deer will have to expend energy to stay warm. Daily food consumption is too meager to support that expense, so deer have to dip into the fat reserves they built up in the fall eating energy-rich foods like acorns.
The White-tailed Deer strategy for surviving winter cold is a conservative one — reduce energy expenditures to conserve body fat. They let their extremities chill to the same temperature as their environment, so little heat is lost there. They eat snow (for moisture), which lowers their core temperature and heart rate, and thus their whole-body metabolism. They reduce their daily activity, spending less time foraging, which also saves some energy. In short, deer coast through the winter relying on their fat reserves, hoping for an early spring (don’t we all!).
I was surprised to see there were actually two bucks in the small deer herd in the backyard. They were not particularly antagonistic toward one another and not really exhibiting real aggression. Their behavior was more like the shoving matches of two brothers.
They both seem a little under-developed as bucks go, so perhaps they are just yearlings. Lack of aggression may mean the rut is mostly over, with male hormones waning, or perhaps these two are siblings and recognize each other. In any case, this face-off didn’t amount to much.
The deer were frisky in the backyard this morning, the younger ones racing around like little kids. Then suddenly all the action stopped, and all (except one) looked in one direction.
And this is apparently what they were staring at, or anticipating the arrival of.
And this is what the buck did for the next few minutes.
Specialized glands on the lower part of the doe’s leg (tarsal glands) give off a particular scent when the doe is in heat, indicating when will be receptive to the male.
He wandered off in their direction a few minutes later, so I assume they didn’t smell quite right, or he would have been in a bigger hurry to catch them.
My new habit is to get up before sunrise, just to see if the color can possibly be any better than it was yesterday. Today was cloudy, but there were visitors in the backyard that drew my attention. In fact, not just my backyard, but my neighbors’ backyards as well: the local deer herd of 3 does and their 3 offspring were dining on bird seed and other delectables.
The things you see when you get up early!
My daughter convinced me to try a different photo-editing program called Lightroom 5 (Adobe). It’s easier to master than the full-scope Photoshop program, but has more fine controls than the PS Elements program I was using. One of the nicest features is covering up all the annoying distractions in the images, like twigs that stick out in odd places, or power poles and phone lines in the middle of the photo. So here are a couple of my first attempts at animal portraiture using Lightroom.
I was out stalking deer the other day, and found three does in the way backyard, but they were too shy to come out from behind the vegetation. (Even in suburbia, deer must know when hunting season starts.) To keep them from running off, I hid behind a tree and tried shooting through a maze of twigs and dried stems, thinking I could edit the vegetation out. That proved impossible.
Of course, it now takes me 10 times as long to edit a photo, but hopefully the results will be worth it.