Fawns!

I got up at 5:00 again this morning,  It was about 10º cooler outside this morning than it was yesterday at the same time, so maybe we’ll get a little relief today…  I headed out about 5:30 am to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.  I knew that this time of year a lot of the female deer are having their babies, the male deer are starting to go into their “velvet”, and the Monarch Butterflies are laying eggs… and I was hoping to see at least ONE of those things.

You can see an album of today’s photos at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157683338248433

As soon as I drove into the parking lot at the preserve I saw a buck in his velvet walking along the fence line between the preserve and the houses next door to it. So, I quick parked the car and hurried out to see if I could get some photos of him.
By the time I reached another spot where I could see him, he was up an embankment, but my new Nikon didn’t disappoint me.  I was able to grab quite a few shots of him.  What was even more awesome was that he led me right to a female deer with her new fawn, a little baby still in its spots.

At first they were in a weird spot at the top of the embankment and backlit by the sky, so at first I was just getting a lot of really badly lit shots – even ones of the baby nursing for a little bit, dang it!  Then the mama caught sight of me and she bounded off with the baby scrambling behind her.

I followed them around the nature center buildings, and saw mom jump the fence at the low deer-crossing point, but the baby couldn’t make the jump, so it ran off along one side of the fence crying for mom who was on the side.  The mom came to a standstill under the branches of an elderberry bush, and I was able to get some really good close-ups of her.  But the baby was still on the other side.

I saw him run to another slightly older fawn that was with its mom – which meant even more mama-and-baby photos opportunities.  The second mama sniffed at the baby fawn but offered its no solace, and when the baby realized she wasn’t HIS mom, he kept crying and crying.  It wasn’t a bleating sound like a goat might make, it was more like a high pitched meow-like sound (but only one syllable, if that make any senses to you). Like, MEW-MEW-MEW…

Its noise attracted the attention of several other female deer in the vicinity who came out of the woods onto the trail to see what the fuss was about. It took him about 15 minutes, but the baby finally figured out where his own mother was and waited for her to jump back over the deer-crossing to reunite with him.  So I got to witness a kind of Sunday morning mini-drama… And all of it happening within the first few minutes of my getting to the preserve.

There were also Red-Tailed Hawks all over the preserve this morning. I think all of the springtime babies are now learning how to fly and hunt.  It seemed like there was hawk-screeching from every part of the trail I was walking.

I also got to see a Wild Turkey sitting up in a tree over my head. He was upset about something and I assumed the coyotes were out and about beneath him somewhere.  I caught a fast glimpse of a coyote, but only got photos of its back and rear end as it moved quickly through the tall grass. Right after the coyote ran off, a jackrabbit came racing out from under a blackberry thicket that was just inches from where the coyote had been.  Lucky “bunny”! I walked for about 2 ½ hours and then headed back home.  I didn’t see any Monarchs or their caterpillars, but I still enjoyed what I DID see during my walk.

One sad sight on the road: just as I came out of the backside of the preserve, I saw a dead buck (in its velvet) lying next to someone’s driveway. It was hard to tell how long it had been there.  The carcass stank to high heaven, and the part of the belly that was lying closest to the pavement was thick with flies and maggots… But the eyes were still there (and those are one of the things the carrion eaters go for first.)  You’d think the people who lived there would call Animal Control and have the body taken away… Maybe they’re on vacation, though, and don’t know it’s there…

One happy sight on the road: As I was driving down Howe Avenue near the American River, I saw a female Wild Turkey walking along the greenbelt with six poults!  I hardly ever get to see the poults, so that was a fun sighting. I wish I could’ve stopped the car to get some photos, but there was too much traffic.

I’m still learning the basic functions of the new camera, and have realized I need to (1) stop forcing the focus and pull back from the subject to make sure the camera can do its thing, and (2) I need a faster memory card.  The one I have is about a 4 or 6, and I need a 10 – and 64 MB instead of 32.  There are a whole slew of special settings, including one that’s specifically for birding, I’ll need a WEEK just to sample them all!

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Mary K. Hanson is a breast cancer survivor who, at age 61, took coursework to become a Certified California Naturalist. The author of “The Chubby Woman’s Walkabout”™ blog, Ms. Hanson has also written nature-based feature articles published in regional newspapers, authored over ten books, including her "Cool Stuff Along the American" series of guide books, and has had her photographs featured in books, articles, calendars, on the American River Parkway Foundation’s Instagram stream, and even the White House blog. This year Ms. Hanson is helping to launch and teach a new Certified California Naturalist course through Tuleyome, in partnership with the University of California and the Woodland Library, so members of the public can themselves become certified as naturalists in the state. All of the photos seen on her website were taken by Ms. Hanson herself (unless noted otherwise) with moderate- to low-end photographic equipment more easily affordable to the everyday nature enthusiast. She also occasionally leads photo-walks through the American River Bend Park for the public and is sometimes available for public speaking.