When I could not go to nature, nature kindly came to me.

My life has been busy, hectic and stressful for the last few months. One of my problems has been that I haven’t had time to go find interesting things in nature to share.

But a wonderful thing about nature is that if you are patient, and observant, sometimes it comes to you.

The dogs were going berserk at something in the backyard yesterday morning. Usually, this is just a person next door. We try to quiet the dogs down and bring them in, because nobody likes to be the subject of a barking frenzy.

But when I looked out the back door, I saw what they were barking at.

Young mule, or black-tailed, deer buck.

It was a small family of mule deer who have been living in the neighborhood this fall. We’ve had deer in the backyards before, but it surprises me that they are in backyards this early in the season.

You can see Tegan, our black mutt, in the lower right corner. Zoe the Corgi is behind the bird feeders.
The buck is looking back at the doe, who is out of the picture to the left.

As the dogs continued their mad barking, I saw that there were a doe and a yearling in the next-door yard, as well.

The dogs refused to quiet down. I was going to go shoo them inside, but at this point, the buck turned to look at the dogs, his head lowered a little.

The doe is in the upper left quadrant. The yearling is very hard to see in the branches of the background.

Very deliberately, the young buck walked up to the fence to consider the dogs. This concerned me, because I know that deer can be aggressive when they feel threatened. What puzzled me was that the buck shouldn’t feel threatened, because he could walk away at any time, and the dogs couldn’t follow. And he knew it.

Young mule deer buck comes to the fence.

At this point, the dogs barking changed a little, and I noticed Tegan doing play bows. This was predictable. Tegan loves to play. She does play bows to the vacuum sweeper. Because she was bouncing around behind lots of yard stuff, I wasn’t able to get a shot of her doing this.

Buck taking it all in.

With the fence safely between them, the buck watched the dogs, unsure of what to make of them.

Lip-licking is a near universal sign of nervousness or uncertainty in mammals.

Three young animals of two different species that are normally antagonistic to each other considered each other for a few minutes.

But the buck decided he had seen enough, and ambled back to the doe and yearling.

And then, he effortlessly jumped the chest-high fence and moved on.

The fence is up to the buck’s chest.
But he rises on his hind legs…
…springs…
…and tucking his hind legs beneath him …
… is over the fence.
On his way to the next yard.

Nature redeems, once again.

I can go back to dealing with my problems, a little less frustrated.

Rocky Weekend

My husband and I spent last weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park.

We took a hike up North Moraine, along the Ypsilon Lake Trail. About a mile up, I stopped to photograph this good looking male hairy woodpecker. I was really glad to find him. I had always wondered if I was correctly identifying the downy woodpeckers I’d run  across in the foothills. I can now rest assured that I was — this guy was much bigger than the downies.

As I took my photos, my husband said “Don’t move too fast. There are three buck mule deer just above us.” We stood still for a few moments, and soon, were had deer all around us.mule-deer-ypsilon-trail-05_edited-1

mule-deer-buck-ypsilon-trail

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While this was very cool, it was also a little disconcerting. We think of the big grazers as being very skittish and docile, but I have seen elk and moose charge people when this close. This being the end of the mating season, and and about half of this band being male made me stay very alert to their body language. But we all remained respectful, and eventually went on our way.

As we climbed a little further, we got a close-up of the damage that the Roaring River received in first, the 1982 Lawn Lake Flood, and thirty-one years later, in the 2013 Week of Water (Record-demolishing Storm).

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It’s a little hard to get a feel for exactly how deep this gouge is, but the trees growing on its edges are twenty to thirty feet tall.

One of the things that makes the gouge so deep is that it cut through, not solid rock, but the glacial till that the moraine is made of. I know this because the cut shows lots of sand with rocks of different sizes scattered through it. Glacial till is the rock that the glaciers ground up and pushed into thousand-foot high moraines on either side and at the end of the rivers of ice. When I realized just how loose the dirt was, I backed slowly away from the edge.fall-river-valley-from-n-moraine_edited-1

The hike turned out to be a lot longer and a lot steeper than we realized, and about half-way up, our water ran out. We’d been hiking for about three hours at that point, and it was clear that we weren’t going to make it to the top. On the way back down, though we caught sight of the Fall River Valley stretching out below us. A fine way to end our day.

Not reindeer, but…

We had a small herd of deer come into our yard this week. We’ve had deer in the neighbor’s yards before (Backyard Deer), but with our dogs, this is the first time in years that they’ve come into ours. The recent cold weather has kept the snow from recent storms on the ground longer than usual, which means that the deer had a harder time getting to the grass. Hunger made them a little bolder than usual, and prompted the visits to our garden for  leftovers. We kept the dogs inside, and were happy to share.

I hope that you get many wonderful unexpected visitors this season. Merry Christmas!

Backyard Deer

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Band of mule deer bucks not intimidated by barking dogs.

For the past several years, we have had small herds of deer living in our neighborhood on the west edge of the Denver Metro Area. They have been getting bolder, coming into our backyard at night. Several days ago, they even came to snitch food from the bird feeders before it was fully dark. My dogs startled them out of the yard. But then…

 

 

They stopped, just over the fence, in my neighbor’s back yard. They were bucks; I could tell by the knobs on their heads where their antlers had been. Several of them walked by me, no more than three feet away, to get to my neighbor’s dormant garden patch.

Deer came right up to the fence.

Deer came right up to the fence.

Remember that my dogs were just on my side of the fence, barking like crazy. The deer didn’t care.

Corgi confronts mule deer through fence

Corgi confronts mule deer through fence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the neighbor’s dog finally came out, they still weren’t worried. They just hopped another fence and returned the dog’s play-bow.

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They finally wandered away, jumping the fences like we’d step across the gutter.