From the Window in Early Morning

Persistent little bird looking for an insect breakfast on the back and face of a whitetail doe in our backyard. I think it’s an Eastern Phoebe. The deer is a frequent visitor. She’s browsing for acorns on this thirty degree Florida panhandle morning.

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I hoped the deer and bird would move to the right, away from the fence, so I could get a better shot. By the time the doe was in the clear, the bird was in a nearby oak tree.

 

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I took these photos inside the house, from the laundry room window. The fluttery fan-like object on the side of the deer’s face is the little bird.

 

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September’s End at Longleaf

Yesterday morning I walked our woods for the first time in more than two weeks. There were several cool nights while we were away; enough to tinge these oak leaves the colors of autumnal hydrangeas. Today, noisy rain has enclosed me in the sconce-lit dreaming space of my study, where I wear a soft old sundress and pink slipper socks, and drink pomegranate-infused green tea.

Every Blazing Star stalk in the woods seemed to come with its own bee yesterday. The drunken bees were slow and heedless of a camera-clicking person.

The forest was strung with dancing garlands. I wonder if they have tiny bulbs inside that light up at night?

A mushroom with strep throat? Blushing? Don’t believe I should touch or taste this one.

Haven’t you ever had one of those days when you were just too tired to hold your head up a minute longer?

Of course, if you stay down too long, somebody may move in.

Tiny yellow flowers sprinkled as if from a Lilliputian’s basket are everywhere I look. Who wouldn’t be cheered by these bright sprites?

I let a  rafter of 18 turkeys move through the clearing in front of the house before heading out for my walk. They bounded along, stopping every few steps to lunge at something on the ground, either a bug or a seed.  A young deer calmly watched as I moved into the woods. She probably grew up right here and has most likely seen me many times before. Our home, hers and mine.

The Gang of Seven

I don't know what will happen in the future; whether or when a major road will bisect this remarkable island forest and scatter us all to the high winds; or whether, if and when that time comes, it will be seen as a blessing to future placeholders of this spot on the planet.

IMG_4225_edited-1 What I do know is this: each morning of this November, 2010, I have been privileged to share the clearing with the Gang of Seven: 4 whitetail does and 3 spotted fawns. Sometimes a young spike buck grazes, but he is a solitary visitor.

IMG_4230_edited-1 They circle the cleared area as though it is some junior college jogging track. Back to front. Front to back. I want to tell them that they should be afraid of me, or if not me, my kind. But they are on to me, I fear, and if I am not very careful, soon they will be at the front door asking for a bowl of steel cut oats, uncooked, if you please.

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When I see these lovely creatures each day and have come to know their habits, as in some measure they have come to know mine, I am stunned. I cannot help but wonder whether I am receiving some sort of message, something like the burning bush only sweeter.

Sightings

Coyotes are intelligent. They adapt. When they figured out that does had moved closer to the woods around our house to raise their fawns, they began to move closer, too.

A few weeks ago, Buck was out on the venerable Case tractor bushhogging the clearing and food plots prior to disking them to get ready for fall planting. It was the middle of the day. You know how you sometimes can feel like you're being stared at? He got that feeling, looked out over the tractor, and saw a healthy young adult coyote, standing in the shade of a scrub oak, looking in his direction. Buck idled the tractor, and they had a brief stare-off, until the coyote calmly turned and melted back into the woods.

Until the past few weeks, it has been a rarity to see coyote droppings between our house and the gate. It's fairly common out on the fireline roads and is easily distinguishable from that of dogs or other critters, mainly because it's full of hair. (Click here if you want to see photos of the real thing from Kim Cabrera's Animal Tracks web site. Don't click if you don't!)  Lately, though, Buck, Maggie and I practically have to hopscotch our way carefully down the gravel road to avoid it. Clearly, they are frequenting this area of the property, even though there is only a narrow band of woods between the gravel road and other houses that front on the main, public road. 

I am listening to the welcome rumble of thunder as I type, and hope it will materialize into a good rain. We have had a long streak of gorgeous, dry, sunny days that have turned the grass to tinder and the dirt to dust. Buck and Harold haven't been able to plant the clearing and food plots to wheat, oats and rye. Usually, by now the tender young green shoots have already emerged.

This morning about 6:45, I saw a doe and twin spotted fawns feeding under the big oak out front. She stepped over into the dry, disked ground and looked toward the house. I imagined it was an acusatory look. "Where's my salad?"

A couple of days ago, in the late morning, Buck called to me to come look out near the bird feeder. Several deer meandered by a big oak that survived Hurricane Ivan and looks healed completely now. Thought you might like to see them, too. (Photos taken through a half-glass back door.)

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“King of the Hill!”

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I spilled part of a bag of birdseed near my neglected weed patch herb garden this weekend. A hillock of builder's sand nearby has briar vines snaking across the top, mute testimony to some forgotten thought.

The "gang of ten" deer that patrol the perimeter spy the bird seed. I watch them for more than ten minutes as they sneak up on the small pile of seed. This is a group of six does and yearlings and four spotted fawns. At one point, a fawn climbs the sand pile. "King of the hill!"

A fat dove sees what is happening and reclaims her turf. The deer are spooked by this feathered shrew. They fly white flags, and quit the place for deeper woods.

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Fawns on the Lawn

What is it about seeing spotted fawns in a natural environment that transfixes us, that makes us feel as though we are suddenly in just exactly the right place at the right time and have received a gift? Is it because the iconic Bambi is a touchstone of our childhoods? Or perhaps the sheer beauty of the architecture of these lovely creatures? Or an awareness of the brevity of childhood, and the knowledge that we will lose our emblematic spots and the protection of our mothers and go forth into a dangerous world?

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The Wonder of a Spotted Fawn and Doe

The wheat, oats and rye that Buck and Harold planted have turned the freshly disked ground green with tender shoots. A regular crew of fawns, yearlings and their mamas graze it several times each day.

I took this picture through a glass door this morning. No matter how often I get to see a scene like this, it rocks me back on my heels every single time.  When I close my eyes for the night shortly, this is the image I will contemplate.

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