Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Apple of his Mommy's Eye

Our yard is a small part of the home range of a merry band of deer sisters. This past winter they would drink at the lake, sometimes raid the bird feeders, and bed down in the sedges near the willows to ruminate during the night, but NEVER, and I mean NEVER did they bed down there during the day. Late spring/early summer they moved to a different part of their range and the girls’ tracks disappeared from the yard and lake edge. Eventually, as summer settled in, they returned to drink and sometimes ruminate between the touch-me-nots and willows. A few weeks ago, I noticed that the deer tracks had dwindled down to one deer. For a fleeting moment, I wondered about why there was only one deer, but something else caught my attention and I never returned to that thought to give it due consideration. By the next time I noticed the single track, the solitary doe’s presence had became settled in my mind with no thought of the others.

It was heating up on a Tuesday (19) afternoon this mid-August, and I glanced at the thermometer on the porch to confirm what I already knew-it was hot. In the hazy afternoon air framed between the vertical and horizontal supports of the porch and the window sash a large brown blob appeared down near the lake. I moved closer to the window and focused harder…harder…yep it was a deer in the yard, eating duck food at one o’clock in the afternoon! That seemed sooo wrong-they NEVER stay in the yard during the day!

Bang! I was hit by a realization. I grabbed the binoculars to confirm my revelation. Suddenly it all made sense! The curious single deer tracks made sense. A doe in preparation to fawn will establish and defend a fawning ground driving off her female relations. The reason a doe would dare expose herself away from cover mid-afternoon in my yard came into focus. She was a very hungry new momma who had just left her newborn after spending those first few hours cleaning, nursing, and bonding with him-learning the smell of his almost non-existent scent. The binoculars revealed I was right! Her milk had dropped and her udders were full; she had recently given birth. THERE WAS A FAWN OUT THERE SOMEWHERE IN MY YARD!!!!!

She polished off the duck food and leisurely strolled along the scrub, nibbling here and there, and then she stopped, crouched, and slipped through the scrub down to the lake. I gave her a bit of time to settle down, and then I set out to find her. I quietly stalked up to the dock and eased out on it. I peaked around bushes and there she was quietly laying behind the scrub on the lakebed. One of the pesky adolescent Carolina Wrens outted me and alarmed once. The doe looked up and sniffed the air, but was not too concerned at a single bird alarm call. The wind was with me and I retreated quietly without frightening her.

I knew, by this point in the life of her newborn, she would not be staying with the fawn, but would be close by. Given the limited cover, I just knew where the baby would be. I quietly approached the high ground along the ditch, and there he was on a small clear patch of brown earth, surrounded by weeds, tucked next to a downed branch. He held his head erect, his little nose quivered as he smelled my presence, but he did not spot me as he kept his head perfectly still. He was the perfect apple of his mother’s eye! Since his mommy’s tracks showed me she had been chowing down on the apple tree, I christened him “Apple.” Apple appeared to be a perfect fawn with four legs, a tail, two ears, a button nose, and beautiful spots on a field of red-brown hair. I have yet to find a twin (deer usually twin). I have not beat the brush, so to speak, looking for another fawn; I did not want to disturb Apple and his mommy. Time will tell after seclusion when deer twins come together if there is an Apple II.

© Pam Croom 2008

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