The Black-tailed Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are found on the western Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, Southwestern United States and the West Coast of North America.
Deer are ungulates, meaning they are hooved. They are also ruminants which means they eat and send their food to the rumen; one of its stomachs. Later, it regurgitates the cud (food) from its rumen, chews it and sends it to its other stomach to digest. Male deer, like moose and elk, have antlers. Antlers are made of bone which are shed and regrown each year. (Animals like sheep, goats, cattle, and antelope have horns. Horns are made of bone covered with keratin which are permanent; not shed and regrown.) The prongs on an antler are referred to as points; a 6 point buck has 3 prongs on each antler.
Male deer are called bucks, female deer are called doe and the
babies are called fawns. During most of the year, deer segregate themselves by
sex; bucks in groups and doe, along with their young, in separate groups.
Each year, deer go through a reproductive cycle that begins
with the “rut”[i].
The rut is the time when male deer fight for the right to breed with a harem of
females and concludes with impregnated doe. As the rut commences and bucks have
regrown their antlers, the bucks attempt to form a harem. One buck may challenge
another for the right to breed with a harem. Bucks will lock antlers and push
and fight until one is pushed backwards and loses the challenge. It is a
dangerous time for bucks; they can become permanently injured. The ultimate
winner breeds with the females as they enter estrus. Gestation is about 200
In mid-to-late winter, the bucks drop their antlers. When
the antlers regrow, they are covered with a furry skin commonly called velvet. When
the antlers have completed their growth, the velvet dries and causes irritation
for the bucks. The bucks rub their antlers against a tree to remove the velvet.
About the time autumn begins, when the fawns have grown and the bucks’ antlers have regrown, the rut begins again.
Note: Please click on caption to see images at higher resolution.
This past week, we had a morning where the rain clouds were
breaking up in the early morning. I chose that day to explore Doton’s Point trail
at Folsom Lake Recreation Area; a trail that was new to me. The grasses and
other plants were displaying their spring green. The early morning sun helped
saturate the colors. Spring was at its finest. I went with the expectation that
I might see some different birds. Instead, I discovered that it was time for some
The beautiful rocks in this image are granite. The area around this portion of Folsom Lake is called Granite Bay because of the abundance of granite in the area. Like the Sierra Nevada mountains, this area sets on a pluton, a large blob of magma that cooled slowly underground to form granite then was uplifted and exposed.
Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.
No, not government agents vs. protestors. On Jan 7th, Donna and I visited the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge near Willows, CA. The highlight of the trip was a standoff between a peregrine falcon, a gull, and a Turkey Vulture. The falcon was standing guard over a female mallard. It was not clear if he brought it down himself or found it. Regardless, he was guarding his prize. The first interloper was the turkey vulture. He made some strafing runs at the falcon and was able to drive him off for a short period of time, but the falcon eventually prevailed. The second interloper was a gull, possibly a herring gull. It was a lot more reticent. It mostly stood watch while the falcon ate. But, he did try one attack. The falcon would have nothing of it and expressed his displeasure. In the end, the falcon consumed his meal while the vulture and gull looked on. We left before any battle over the leftovers ensued. There wasn’t much leftover to fight about.
Note: Click on caption to see image in larger size.
I want to share a few images from some recent walks around the American River Parkway near Folsom, CA. I’ve also included one from Oak Alley Plantation near New Orleans. Nature provides some beautiful creatures for us to appreciate. I hope you enjoy these few.
Note: Click on caption to see image at larger size.
It’s fun to be in Northern California in the winter. We are part of the Pacific Flyway, so we get many birds, primarily waterfowl, who winter over. But even in my backyard I see Oregon Juncos and a species of Goldfinch that spends its summers in the Sierra foothills. Though my passion is landscapes, photographing this wildlife is fun because watching them go about their business of living is fun.
I’ve been out twice in the last two weeks photographing and enjoying the wildlife. On one trip, I went to 2 of the wildlife refuges that have been built along the flyway. Some years ago, land was set aside as a safe haven for migrating waterfowl. Levees were built and fields flooded so they could live and eat. This helped farmers by keeping the birds off their cropland. A win-win situation, enjoyed by birders, photographers and duck hunters. On the day I visited the refuges, raptors became my focus. They benefit from the migrating waterfowl as well.
This past week, I got to spend an hour watching a River Otter and an Egret. They appeared to be helping each other feed. Otters always seem to be playing even as they feed.
As often as I have walked along the banks of the American River, at William Pond Park, I never realized that much of the vegetation I saw was wild irises. But, imagine if you will, clumps of the brilliant yellow blossoms outlining both sides of the shore for perhaps a half mile or so, complimenting the lupine and other wildflowers. Though there are some wild irises that are native to northern California, I haven’t been able to find if this particular species is or is not and even if it is, whether they are native to the banks of the American River. Regardless, they provide a real treat.