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Be Glad You're Not a Whitetail!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Baker, posing with my venerable Hinoki cypress, and my oldest Japanese maple, which has perfectly lovely leaves the size of a quarter. Amazing tree. Amazing doggeh, too. 

In an ideal world, I'd have had this post up by Mother's Day afternoon. I have noble intentions, but May is its own thing, and when it's overlain with the kind of barely contained chaos that is 2017, I'm lucky to squoze out one post a week.  I get up every morning and strain my eyes to see if there are any deer in the meadow. If there are, I throw on whatever clothes are nearby, coming up with some truly fetching ensembles, jam my bare feet into muck boots, and I steal from deck to shrub to tree  to ambush them with my long lens.



It's an entirely different thing from just taking pictures of pretty deer. It's more like an espionage mission. I'm gathering information. I want no I NEED to know who they are. Not just what they are.

This is challenging, but I have a wealth of clues to go on. I see two adult does. Both are heavily pregnant. They're the two animals on the right. The far animal has much of her summer coat (red) in, while the closer doe still has a lot of winter hair (blue).

There are two yearling fawns from spring 2016 to the left side of the photo. First, I need to determine the sex of the fawns. That may tell me who the moms are. So while I'm shooting, I'm blowing up my photos and peering at the backscreen. Bingo. I've got a doe (left) and a buck (right). See the little button on his forehead?



Now I take a closer look at the does. Man, they're about to drop their fawns. Heavy bodied and moving slowly. The doe in the foreground is in better condition than the red doe. Better filled out, better topline, no sway in her back like the red doe. The close doe has a beautiful topline.


I'm smiling now.  The red doe is older than the blue doe. Her back is swayed and she's thin around that big old fawn in her belly. But there's a distinct resemblance.  I'm pretty sure I have my beautiful Jolene and her mother here, and they're both pregnant. That doesn't happen much with people. Which sends me into a reverie about just how happy I am that I'm not a whitetail doe. I try to imagine being pregnant every May without fail, and cannot. Nope. We humans have a lot of follow-up with our babies. The pregnancy and that crucial first year is only the beginning for us.

Jolene in front, Grandma behind.


Jolene is still being trailed by last May's buck fawn, and she's fixin' to drop him a little sister or brother. You don't see a doe hang this low very often. I wonder if she's carrying twins again?



 Once I figured out the structure of this little group, I could divine who they all were. Seeing the buck and doe twins was the key to knowing who I had. They're the Blackbriskets! Grandma, Jolene, and Boy/Girl. I haven't named the twins as yet because I haven't gotten to know them yet, the way I know Pinky and Flag, Ellen's orphans.  And their black briskets aren't in evidence now. That's sort of a winter thing. It's tricky to identify individual deer, especially when they change coats with the seasons.


How do I know the twins are Jolene's, and not Grandma's? 
Well, they associate closely with Jolene, nuzzling and grooming her, and not with Grandma. 


Maybe Grandma's cranky when she's about to give birth. Weird sentence, I know. But we're talking whitetails, not people. Phew! 


 I study the photos to confirm my hunches. I'm still and always looking for confirmation for my hunches. I know from past explorations that Jolene has light brown scent gland tufts on her hocks, rather than black.  She's got a long face and prominent white eye rings.


Jolene also has a little notch in the outer edge of her right ear. I scrutinize several photos and can make it out in three of them. (Jolene to the left, her buck fawn to the right). Light tan scent tufts on her hocks, big white eye ring, square throat patch, notch in right ear border. Check, check, check, check. 


Here she is in February 2017, with the slight notch in her right ear. Marks like that tend to be permanent. 



It's hard to describe the joy that settles over me when I am able to reconnect with my friends.  Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jo-leeeeeene!

They all turn around to stare at me, giving me a last wonderful family portrait op. I love how Jolene and her ma are both looking over their shoulders!

 Buckfawn, Jolene, Doefawn, and red Grandma with her sway back. If I had to guess I'd say Grandma's gonna drop her fawn first. 
Or maybe she's got twins this time, too!

Stranger things have happened. I'm thinking of tiny stunted Ellen, who had her last twins when she was at least nine. You know I'll be watching for Pinky and Flag this summer.

And I'm thankful again that I don't have to drop a chile every May. I've got way too much to do.

My Mother's Day completely precluded blogging. I started the day with a slow birdwalk, netting 61 species, including 15 warblers--all within a mile radius of the house. Such is mid May in Appalachian Ohio.  I then did three loads of laundry and hung them out.  Charged the tractor battery and mowed the lawn. Continued emptying the greenhouse of its beauty to make these baskets and planters and lug them into place. Soo much more satisfying than having a pre-fab hanging basket presented! Then, because it was such a beautiful day and I was cruising on sunshine, I cleaned the pond, saving the lives of about 271 individual toad tadpoles as I went. Scoop out muck, pour into bucket, wait for taddies to surface gasping; net them out, return to pond. The muckstank was disgusting, as it always is in May. Now I've got it all out it, the water's clearing up and it's so nice to hear the fountain going!

 Here, I've just stepped out of the shower and asked to have my picture taken with some fruits of this glorious sunny workday. Not that I needed a shower.


I'd spent all day Saturday at Liam's last regatta. Somehow volunteered to tidy up the portolets, all 60 of 'em. Whew! But I did get to drive a golf cart around to haul the trash and spare bogrolls.

 Boyfaun is growing up, up, up. Lookit those gams! That shock of cornsilk on top! But no button antlers as yet.  I bought him a shirt with all the college oar insigniae on it. Very cool! Maybe his future college is on his shirt. It's a nice thought, innit?


  Miss Fifi sent me a strange Mother's Day snap using her trademarked dead-eye camera smile.  She makes me larf!!


 It was pretty much a perfect Mother's Day. Working my butt off is always my activity of choice when nobody's around to suggest I do otherwise. I wound up feeling like weary little Tilda Sixbuttons, who's still trucking around the front porch and doing impossibly cute things 24-7 while raising babehs she's got tucked in a hole somewhere.


Today, my knees, feet and ankles are hollering at me because I never get off 'em. And when I can't run around any more, I sit meself down and write a blogpost. Happy Mother's Day to all you hard-working women. Be glad you're not a whitetail!

8 comments:

Whitetail? I'm too busy being grateful that I'm not a bird. Having two or three sets of youngsters every spring/summer, and having to feed them several times an hour all day long?! Wildlife moms make human moms look like they have it cushy.

I love you. thanks for the wonderful read...

Happy Mothers Day Julie, she who mothers kiddos, baby birds, Chet Baker injured hummers, et al.

I've got a white nose doe ( she was a twin 4-5 yrs ago?) I see her regularly with last years fawn but not twin. Took a telephoto & it's actually white fur on her nose. Easy to spot. She's quite a beggar too. Stands outside backdoor till I come tunni g w/ bucket of corn.
Line your detailed observations. I had a granny once. Old looking & grey & finally arthritic?....

Love your names for all the creatures who share your land--esp. that chipmunk! Glad to be reminded how lucky indeed I am NOT to be a white tailed doe, obliged to drop fawns every spring. It's hard enough carrying the kiddo I am currently packing inside (due to drop this July). I am grumpy like grandma at the moment.

Perfect! Thank you Julie, you always amaze.

I have never seen a doe look that pregnant! Maybe our little black-tails hide their bellies better?

Thanks for this, Julie. I spent Mom's day post-op from what will hopefully be my last sipnal surgery. My youngest child, 28 and marrying in September, came to visit. The other 2 called and one sent flowers. I Facetimed withe our 2 grandsons in Europe. Talk abou Grannies birthing live young--- I was old enough to be my maternity ward roommate's mother when the last chile was aborning!

I have an old photo of a deer and one of our bygone dogs ignoring each other 10 feet apart. I said, "Hey" and they both looked up. Click. Then there's my famous trideer shot where I called and they looked at me. Our deer swim in our ½ acre pond at the same time I do. The black bears swim there, too, but not with moi. They nest in some aspens at one of the curves in our driveway. Rural living rules! We are in PA's N central Appalachians. ❤️

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