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Posts Tagged ‘deer’

The sun had just risen over the horizon as I started walking down a trail on Monday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I noticed a dark shadow at the edge of the trail and slowed down. When I got a little closer, I could see that it was a small White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus). There are probably quite a few deer at the wildlife refuge, but I rarely see one.

The deer sensed my presence, raised its head, and stared right at me with what looked to be mostly curiosity. Our eyes remained fixed on each other for quite some time before the deer crossed the path and disappeared silently in the underbrush.

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Male White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) shed their antlers during the winter and start to grow a new set in early spring. When I first spotted the pointed white tips of deer antlers while exploring Prince William Forest Park this past Wednesday, I assumed that they were shed antlers. As I got closer, I was shocked to see that they were still attached to the skull of the now dead deer.

We have an overpopulation of White-tailed Deer in our area, in part because there are not many natural predators. I couldn’t help wondering how this large buck met his demise. Was it a coyote or fox? Was it disease, starvation, or old age? Whatever the cause of death, scavengers had done their part and the only other body parts that I spotted in the immediate area were several small spinal sections.

Later that day, I spotted a second set of antlers with the skull still attached. These antlers, shown in the second photo below, showed more damage and it is hard to tell how large they may have initially been. As was the case with the first deer, there were few parts of the deer carcass in the surrounding area—the only parts I saw in the surrounding area were the lower jaw bones.

I spend a good deal of time out in nature, but see only a small part of what really takes place in the areas that I visit. Spring often makes us think of new life as baby birds and animals are born and trees and flowers emerge with new growth. These antlers, however, are a sober reminder that death is also a part of the cycle of life for the wildlife that I enjoy observing and photographing.

 

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The most common view that I have had of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) the last few months has been of their bobbing tails as they ran away from me. Last week, however, I managed to capture some shots of a young buck as it ran laterally across a trail at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

When I first spotted the deer, its head was just sticking out of the vegetation at the edge of the trail. As you can see in the first image, the deer looked straight at me and seemed to hesitate a moment before deciding what to do. Without much warning, the deer sprung into action and I was able to capture these shots as the young deer bounded across the trail. Note how the deer had only a single hoof in contact with the ground in many of the photos.

White-tailed Deer

 

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I hope that the title did not lead to an expectation that you would find photos of tiny deer in this posting. It may have been a stretch to use that title, but I wanted to give a hint of the fact that I captured all of these images with my macro lens. In fact, the first two images are uncropped, which gives you an idea of how close I was to the deer.

Yesterday I set off for Occoquan Regional Park to search primarily for dragonflies and butterflies. I put my Tamron 180 mm macro lens on my camera, a lens which is my go-to lens for much of the spring and summer. Now I must confess that the reach of this macro lens is a bit longer than the average macro lens, which generally has a focal length of 100 mm or so, but it certainly would not be my first choice for wildlife photography.

I was sitting on a log taking a break when I heard some nearby noise in the underbrush. I stood up, expecting to see a scurrying squirrel, and suddenly was face-to face with a White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus). For a considerable amount of time the deer eyed me with curiosity before slowly moving away. As I watched the deer depart, I noticed another deer, one with amazingly long ears. As I prepared to photograph the second deer, the first one photobombed us, resulting in the third image.

This situation reinforced to me the importance of shooting with whatever camera or lens that I happen to have at hand. It may not be the optimal option, but it can often yield surprisingly good results.

Whiite-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Yesterday I was thrilled to observe a group of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fording a stream at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The activity level of all kinds of creatures seems to be picking up as we move closer to or deeper into spring, depending on how you calculate the start of spring. The bottom of the body of water they were crossing seemed to be uneven and the deer had to move carefully. At one point it looked like they even had to swim a few steps, especially the smaller deer.

As I watched the deer, I was reminded of the lyrics of one of the songs from The Sound of Music that included the words “ford every stream.” Folks of my generation may well remember the inspirational message of the song “Climb Every Mountain,” which I have included below, as found at metrolyrics.com.

Here’s hoping that you will find your dreams, irrespective of whether or not it involves fording streams or climbing mountains.

“Climb every mountain,
Search high and low,
Follow every byway,
Every path you know.

Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
‘Till you find your dream.

A dream that will need
All the love you can give,
Every day of your life
For as long as you live.”

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

 

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this curious little White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  The deer appears to have moved out of the cute little Bambi phase and seemed more like a gawky adolescent to me (though I confess I know very little about deer development).

I like the fact that you can still see some of its white spots, which look to be a little faded.

white-tailed deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I spotted this White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as it carefully made its way across one of the small streams that crisscross the refuge.

This deer was lagging behind a small group of four deer that I initially spotted. That group pretty quickly and I was not really ready for them, so my photos were not that good. I was quite happy when this final deer appeared and I was able to get some shots. I couldn’t tell for sure how stable the footing was where the deer was crossing, but the deer did appear to be very careful as it chose places to place its feet.

deer crossing

deer crossing

deer crossing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Half-hidden by the vegetation, this shy little White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) gently gazed at me for several moments and then slowly turned and disappeared from sight last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Sometimes wildlife sightings set my heart racing in excitement, but this one left me feeling peaceful and mellow and a bit contemplative.

white-tailed deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I scanned a field this morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I suddenly became aware of a pair of eyes staring back at me from the high vegetation. We shared a couple of moments of eye-to-eye contact before the handsome buck turned around and disappeared from sight.

There is an overabundance of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in our area and as part of an effort to maintain the deer herd at a healthy level compatible with planned habitat goals and objectives, the wildlife refuge will be closed for several days in December for deer hunting. I know that topic of deer hunting is controversial to some, but the unfortunate alternative would be deer starving to death or being hit by cars as they seek to forage elsewhere. Still, it’s a little hard for me emotionally to look at this beautiful animal with the knowledge that someone else might soon be shooting at him with a gun rather than with a camera.

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) seemed alert but unafraid when they first sensed my presence early one recent morning at Huntley Meadows Park. I watched them graze for a while before they silently faded back into the tree line.

white-tailed deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Last Saturday, the final day of the 5+ month deer hunting season at Huntley Meadows Park, I was startled to see the unmistakable shape of deer antlers on the ground a short distance away from where I was standing. As I moved closer, I saw that it was only some kind of decoy used by the hunters.

deer decoy

Looking up, I realized I was at the base of an unoccupied tree stand. I felt a little safer knowing that there were no archers in the stand at that moment.

tree stand

I understand the problems caused in our area by an overpopulation of White-tailed Deer and the reason for the extended hunting season. Still, I am somewhat amused by the lengths to which the county goes to avoid using words like “hunting” or “killing.” Instead, they refer to the “archery program” and “deer management.” Deer management? I have visions of a deer CEO.

deer3_20Feb_blog

On Monday the 22nd, I returned to the park and was surprised to see that least some of the tree stands were still present. I am sure that someone will eventually come to retrieve the stands, but I am going remain alert, just in case one of the stands happens to be occupied despite the stated end of the deer hunting season.

deer stand

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In the quiet of the early morning I often will stand at the water’s edge, watching and waiting to see if any animals will emerge from the woods to get a drink of water. Sometimes my patience is rewarded.

On this occasion, two White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) appeared. One of them kept its back to me most of the time and I was unable to get a clear shot of it. The other deer was a bit more cooperative and I manage to get some shots of it as it drank and then walked about a little bit before fading back into the woods.

Deer always seem so gentle and beautiful—a perfect match for the soft early morning light.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sunrise yesterday was at 5:59 and I managed to get this shot of a beautiful little fawn in the cattails at 6:05, when there was just barely enough light for my camera to focus.

Summer weather in the Washington D.C. area is often miserable—hot and humid—and I decided to visit my local marshland park really early to avoid some of the oppressive heat. When I left my house in the pre-dawn darkness, however, it was already 80 degrees (27 degrees C) on a day that was forecast to reach 96 degrees (35 degrees C).

I could hear a lot of movement in the marsh as I made my way along the board walk and occasionally would catch a glimpse of some activity as it grew progressively lighter. I encountered another photographer and he was the one who spotted the fawn and pointed it out to me—I am pretty sure that I would not have seen it without his help.

We didn’t see any adult White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) with the fawn, but their presence could easily have been hidden by the thick stand of cattails. I had time to snap off only a few photos before the fawn slowly turned his back on us and slowly faded into the background.

What a wonderful way to start my day.

fawn

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Through the trees I spotted a small group of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) consisting of a larger doe and some smaller deer—there seemed to be no buck. The deer were foraging for food, picking a few remaining berries from some thorny bushes and poking about on the ground. One of the deer appeared to be keeping watch and periodically would stare right at me. After a few minutes at that one spot, the deer moved on and so did I.

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed DeerWhite-tailed DeerWhite-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Shortly after I spotted some deer on a little ridge immediately in front of me, they started to run toward the treeline. Without thinking about my camera settings, I pressed the shutter button, hoping to capture the action. If I had been paying more attention, I would have realized that a shutter speed of 1/100th of  a second would not freeze the motion, especially when shooting at the far end of my 70-300mm lens.

When I reviewed my images on my computer, it was pretty obvious what had happened without even looking at the EXIF data. Many of the shots were blurry, but I really liked this image. Instinctively I had panned as I had tracked the deer, blurring the background, and I managed to capture the deer with its hind legs in the air. In many ways, this slightly out of focus shot captures a sense of motion even better than if I had been able to freeze the action by using a higher shutter speed.

I try to be conscious about the settings on my camera at any given moment, but I am happy in this case that my inattention caused the wrong settings to be just right.

White-tailed Deer

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It’s been quite a while since I have seen a mammal in the wild bigger than a squirrel, so I was pretty happy when I spotted a group of four deer foraging in a wooded area of my marshland park late in the day. The four White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) were rooting about in the undergrowth and surprisingly did not run away immediately when they sensed my presence. Several of them looked in my direction at times, but then resumed their activity.

I was easily within range to get some shots, but the trees and the grassy growth made it tough to get unobstructed photos. This image of what is undoubtedly a young deer is my favorite of the ones that I was able to shoot that day.

For me, this little deer qualifies as “big game.”

White-tailed deer

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I have seen these signs for a couple of months at my local marshland park and haven’t given them much thought. Yesterday, however, as I was wandering through a remote area of the park, I came across an above ground metal tree stand and the muscles between my shoulder blades began to involuntarily twitch a little.

My first thought was to climb up into the stand to check out the view from the higher vantage point. I resisted that impulse and began to wonder if I was risking my safety by traveling as often as I do off of the beaten path. Technically speaking, no part of the park is closed, but I must confess that I was not on an “established trail.”

This park is in a suburban area and one of the problems we face is an overpopulation of deer. Huntley Meadows Park explains the reason for the deer management program in these words:

“Over-populated deer herds eat large amounts of native vegetation, having a seriously negative effect on forest ecosystems. Native fruits, seeds, flowers and leaves essential as food sources for other wildlife are drastically reduced, or even eliminated. A park Huntley’s size should have approximately 60 White-tailed Deer-our most recent surveys indicate a herd of over 150. These over-populated herds are caused by the removal of deer’s natural predators (wolves, mountain lions, American Indians, etc.), and also the abundance of “free” food found in suburban yards. Archery hunters help replace absent predator populations and reduce deer numbers to more natural levels-this encourages a healthier forest ecosystem, with more plant and animal diversity.”
I probably will not curtail my photographic explorations, but I plan to be a little more cautious than I have been up until now—and I might even start wearing a hat or a vest that is bright orange.

archery1_blog archery2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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These images are disturbing, especially the first one. They show the harsh reality of the struggle for survival for wild creatures, even in the relatively comfortable confines of a suburban marshland park.

For the second time this winter, I stumbled upon a dead deer in a remote area of my the marsh when I take many of my wildlife photos. (I documented the earlier sighting in a posting that I titled “The Buck Was Stopped Here.”) This time, the skeleton was relatively intact and I was surprised to see that it was another buck. I am still baffled about the cause of his death. Predators? Starvation?

As a photographer and as a human, I struggled in deciding how to present this subject in photographs. I knew that I was not going to remove the body far from where I found it, so I had to settle for a relatively cluttered backdrop. Was it better to show the whole body, as I did in the third photo and keep death at a distance? Should I photograph it to look like the deer had fallen asleep and died peacefully, as the second shot suggests, the way we treat death at a funeral home?

I decided that my best shot was the one in which I forced the viewer essentially to look death in the face directly, by focusing directly on the deer’s now empty eye socket. Death is a reality that can’t be avoided. The photo is a bit macabre, I know, but it speaks to me of life and of death, of the passing of one of God’s creatures.

buck_small2_blogbuck_small1_blogbuck_small3_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Hiking through a remote area of my local marshland park yesterday, I came upon the skull of a dead deer with some impressive-looking antlers. I don’t know much about deer, but the antlers are enough to tell me that it was a buck and, if I understand the counting system right, it was a six-point buck  (three on each side). Initially I saw only the skull, but when I investigated the marsh grass in the surrounding area, I saw some of the larger bones of the deer.

The White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the park don’t have many natural predators, so I can’t help but wonder what caused this buck’s demise. There are coyotes in the park, so I guess that is a possibility. At certain times of the year, archers also shoot deer and I have been told that police sharpshooters sometimes hunt deer at night, but my understanding is that they try to recover the bodies and turn the meat over to homeless shelters. Whatever the case, the animals and birds of the park had picked the bones clean.

I took these shots primarily to record my find, not to make any kind of artistic statement. I used a couple of elements in the area where I found the skull to prop it up so that I could photograph some of the details of this once beautiful animal.

deer_skull1_blogdeer_skull2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I don’t often see deer in the daylight at my local marshland park, so I was a bit surprised last week when a doe came running out of the cattails and began to pick her way thought the ducks that were foraging in the shallow water. She was immediately followed by a smaller doe, who was also running.

What was going on? What had spooked these two deer? I didn’t have to wait long for an answer. A small buck emerged and started chasing the other two deer through the water.

I don’t know if they were just playing or if the buck had amorous intentions, but it gave me the chance to get a few shots of what passes as “big game” for me.

doe_big_blogdoe_little_blogbuck2_blogbuck_blog

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In the faint light and fog of the pre-dawn hour, I watched the shadowy forms of a small group of deer move slowly across an open area at my local marsh, heading for the treeline. My attempts to photograph them while they were moving were not successful. Once they reached the edge of the trees, however, this male White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) stopped for a moment and looked back at me. A moment later, he was gone.

deer3_blog

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As I was walking along the boardwalk at my local marsh in the early afternoon of a very hot and humid day this weekend, I spotted a deer in the brush, my closest encounter with a deer in a long time.

Immediately I stopped, fearful that I would spook the deer. The deer was close enough that I figured that I could get a good shot. I was wrong. The strong, harsh midday light was coming directly from the side, and despite my efforts to adjust my settings, virtually all of my shots had one side of the deer’s face with blown out highlights and the other side in deep shadows. It might sound artistic, but it wasn’t.

I slowly began to move toward the deer, hoping to get a more favorable lighting situation, when, sure enough, the deer turned around and ran away from me. I thought that all was lost, but then the deer stopped and turned to look back at me. Somehow, the deer had moved to a spot where there was a little shade and I managed to get this shot.

Frankly, my deer, I don’t give a damn that you chose to move away from me—I love you more from a distance.

deer1_blog

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Usually when I see a deer, it turns and runs away, sometimes stopping to gaze back at be from a distance just beyond the range of the lens that I have on my camera at that moment. Recently, however, I encountered a deer that seemed content to look at me as I looked at him. It sounds like a nature photographer’s dream come true.

The biggest challenge was that he was in the middle of a mostly dried-up marshy field full of cattails and other tall growth that made it impossible to get a clear view of the young buck, a white-tailed deer, I believe. It became pretty clear to me that auto-focus was not a viable option—the camera seemed to really want to focus on some arbitrary branch rather than on the deer—so I relied on manual focusing. It was also in the middle of the day, so shadows were pretty harsh. During the protracted period of time that the deer stayed in the same little area, I shot a lot of photos and these are two of my favorites. You’ll note that the deer blends in pretty well with the background. If he had remained absolutely still, I may very well have walked on by without seeing him.

Deer in the cattails

White-tailed buck in a field of cattails

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was attempting to get a photo of a bird in the cattails, when suddenly I noticed that a deer had entered into the frame. Deer are pretty common and I have even seen them in my suburban neighborhood, but I have rarely seen them at a moment when I had my camera in my hand, so I was excited.

The lighting was a little uneven and harsh and it was difficult to get a completely unobstructed shot, but the deer cooperated and paused a few times, allowing me take a few relatively clear shots. I grew up in the suburbs of Massachusetts and even though my deer identification skills are not strong, I am pretty confident that this is a buck, probably a white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).

I am not a politician, but I am glad to affirm with great conviction,  “The buck stops here.”

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On a cold and overcast morning, I walked through the marsh today, heading toward a little pond area where I was hoping to see migrating ducks and geese. As I arrived at that area, I realized there was a deer in the distance near the far side of the water’s edge. I didn’t have time to make many adjustments and got off only two shots. This is the better of the two, and I like the pose of the deer, as she back at me before taking off. To give you an idea of the limited light, this was shot at ISO400, f5.6, and 1/30 second. I was at the far end of my 55-250mm zoom lens (and still had to crop quite a bit).

Early morning deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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