Jan 27, 2011

Deer Foraging in the New Snow

Sunrise out back after yesterday's snowfall
Just had a herd of nine deer foraging in the forest behind the house. I rarely see them this time of day, so I'm sure it's the 5.5" of snow we got yesterday that has brought them here. I welcome them back there, since it's a mature deciduous forest and pretty much all the browse that's low enough is nonnative invasives—honeysuckle, multiflora rose, with a bit of native greenbriar and young pines. The pines don't have much of a chance because of the mature hickory, oak, locust, and tulip trees back there that crowd out the light during the growing season, so the deer are welcome to whatever they find.

It's interesting that, with a huge mast crop of acorns and hickory nuts just a few inches below their feet, they still are looking for browse.

There's one mature buck with a good rack, two younger bucks with little racks, a mature doe, and what looks like this year's crop of fawns to round out the herd. After munching on some honeysuckle and greenbriar, they've wandered on down to a pine forest, where they're more likely to find chow.

Wish my old digital camera was up to the task of documenting the passage of the deer. I'm really looking forward to investing in something better next month, so I can add more photos to this blog and my column.

It's been a cold winter, but not a particularly snowy one, and the snow we got last night is slowing melting in today's sun. More snow is on the way tomorrow and Saturday, but not much accumulation is expected.

I'm working on my next "Wild Ideas" column, on wood frogs. Most years, by this time we're hearing their mating call by now, during a brief warm spell when, within a few days they frantically produce the next generation in ponds and vernal pools that are often still partly covered with ice.

This year, it's been silent here in the Blue Ridge. Too cold. I'm missing the chinooks of January that gave a brief respite from the longer, colder winter in the Northern Plains. Spring can't come soon enough here in Virginia this year.

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