I got up around 6:00 this morning and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my walk. The sun was just coming up as I got to the preserve, and mine was only one of 2 cars in the parking lot. As soon as I got out of the car I could hear coyotes yip-yowling in the distance. I was expecting to just get to see some wasp galls on the oak trees and not much else. I was pleased, then, when I got to see lots of deer and other critters.
I walked past the nature center, and found a small herd of three does with their fawns on the hill behind the building. There was a spot – about 15 feet from me – where the fence is deliberately low so the deer can jump it there. All of the does and their babies came right down to the fence and jumped it right in front of me. So cool. I then followed after them as they went into the grass among the oak trees and settled down there. Among all of them was a young fawn, just coming out of his spots, who was lame in one hind leg. The injury wasn’t bad enough to keep him from walking, or even jumping a little bit when he needed to, but it made him limp. As I walked down the trail nearest to them, I saw on the other side of the trail a fourth doe with two fawns of her own. I think I spent about a half an hour there, just watching them and taking photos and some video snippets.
Video of the deer crossing the fence: https://youtu.be/7z4tg26-tlU
Video of lots of deer on the trail in front of me (and then more arrive): https://youtu.be/Y0wIxZ8SDNU
I saw one of the does squat to urinate, a behavior I had read about but had never seen before. It’s called “rub urinating”. The does urinate on the tarsal glands on their inside of their legs, mixing the gland’s scent with the scent of their pee. The strong mixed smell lets the boys know she’s in estrus. There are actually fake-does called “Estrus Bettys” that hunters use to lure male deer out in the open; they’re made to look like a doe squatting to rub-urinate. Hah-ha-ha!
After a while, I went along the trail and came across a bachelor flock of male Wild Turkeys in a small open field. There was one jerk-turkey who kept trying to goad the other males into fighting with him, but none of other took the bait. Hah! As I was leaving the turkeys behind, I heard them start up their high clucking alarm call, so I turned around to see what their issue was. Right behind me on the trail were FIVE COYOTES! They were maybe twenty feet from me. I think it was a set of parents and their almost-grown cubs. They loped across the turkeys’ lawn and sat down in the grass like they owned the place. Hah! When they realized I was taking pictures of them, the coyotes all got to their feet again. One doubled back, crossed the trail in front of me, and disappeared into the brush. I was a little worried that he was circling around me, but I never saw him again. Back out on the field, the papa coyote sat on his haunches in the grass and just stared at me. I think they’re such beautiful animals; I love their bright yellow eyes. I watched him and the pack until they disbursed into the woods.
Video of the coyotes: https://youtu.be/elPXQFUWiLA
Further along the trail, I came across another herd of deer, 10 in all, which included does, fawns, some “spike bucks” (young males less than a year old with single-prong antlers), another young male with 4-points shedding his velvet, and an adult male (6-prong) sitting in the grass. Even a further distance down the trail, I came across a fawn sitting under a tree with no mama in sight. That’s not unusual; mother mule deer often leave their young behind while they go foraging or go down to the river bank for a drink. But I worried about this little one being alone while the coyotes were out foraging.
I circled around the whole perimeter of the preserve and headed back to the nature center. Along the way I saw several woodpeckers, including Acorn Woodpeckers, a Nuthall’s Woodpecker and a Hairy Woodpecker. Lots of kewl creatures. I was very pleased. My round-about walk took about 3 hours.