Chapter 6: 1996

It wasn’t until 1996 that I began jotting down notes about the deer and other wildlife. I made notes in a daily planner kept in a convenient spot to remind me to do so. I often refer back to these notes just to compare the timing of certain events such as the rutt and the loss of antlers and the regrowth of new ones. Daily sightings of all the deer were noted. Birds and other wildlife were rather loosely tracked.

On Monday Feb. 12, 1996 at about 5:30 PM Biggie dropped both antlers at the same time, and I missed seeing it by seconds. Apparently this, at least to an aging buck, was a very traumatic event. He almost immediately went into a shock like state. His eyes glazed, he shivered uncontrollably, and his gums and tongue became almost white. I offered some apple chunks which he immediately took, even though he was shaking so badly I thought he might feel too poorly to consume. Within a minute or two he was coming out of shock. Apparently the sugars in the apples helped speed his recovery. I like to think that anyway. Lillie Boy was with Biggie when this all happened, and he still had his antlers. Lilly didn’t try to snag apples, apparently sensing that the timing wasn’t good.

A week later Lilly had lost one of his antlers. Pretty Boy showed up with a foot injury of some sort, but he didn’t stick around long enough for me to determine what the problem was.

During the first week of March we noted that the house finches were beginning to nest. The Townsend Solitare and Stellars Jays are still here, along with the usual assortment of Robins and Downy Woodpeckers. On March 2nd Pretty Boy showed up with less of a limp and a doe in tow. We don’t often see the Bucks and Does traveling together.

Thursday, March 14, 1996 while sharing apples with Biggie, the first Hummingbird of the season appeared. It’s always a joyous occasion for us when the Hummingbirds appear. The Broadtails show up first, then the Rufus’ and later the Calliope. There are probably others but those are the easiest for me to identify. The Townsend Solitare disappears within a week or two. By the 25th of March Biggie’s antlers are about 4 inches long already. They are fuzzy with velvet and very warm, being rich with blood supply.

Occasionally, a Buck would accidentally gouge a spot on a soft new antler, and it seemed like it would never stop bleeding. Also causing further bleeding were the Magpies which always spend a lot of time hanging around the deer, picking off engorged tics and insects, as well as scabbed over areas. The deer mostly appeared to enjoy the Magpies and their grooming efforts, but occasionally they would tire of them and would shake them off. The Magpies don’t give up easily they won’t leave until they are ready to. It was not unusual to witness the birds riding along wherever the deer went. For the most part the Magpie-Deer relationship seemed to be a symbiotic one.

April 14, 1996; Biggie hung around all day and Pretty Boy spent a good part of the day here. Such a handsome fellow that Pretty Boy. There were no physical similarities to Biggie, so I doubted that they were from the same lineage. I suspected that from the way Pretty Boy carried himself, he would become the dominant buck soon.

By early May more humming birds were showing up, as well as yellow-rumped warblers, and a Blue Heron or two flying by almost daily. Even some Northern Orioles are passing through, but we have them around for a couple of enjoyable weeks. Goldfinches and Siskins abound and we are privileged to enjoy the soarings of a golden eagle or two. Big Boy’s visits begin decreasing in frequency. I note that on May 22, Big Boy was frightened off by the power mower. Little did I know how unafraid he would become later on. On June 7 I noted that Biggie had an injured leg, but I neglected to mention which leg or how severe the injury was. We didn’t see Biggie much again until July 2, 1996 when he hung around all day. No mention of his injury. Several smaller bucks are now appearing. That would be Biggie’s last visit until December. July 2nd I note that a Doe has been hanging around frequently and that on this day she brought her twin fawns with her. They didn’t look much more than a month or two old. I resist the temptation to get close to them, but they somehow know that I am not a threat and that they are safe in my yard. About six weeks later the same Doe and twins visit, this time with another Doe and her single fawn.

By late September we have Ruby Crowned Kinglets, a Western Tanager or two, Nuthatches, Grossbeaks, Cedar Waxwings, Siskins and probably dozens of other species. The Hummingbirds are beginning to trek Southward, but we still have some stragglers. We are always saddened when the hummingbirds are gone. We never tire of their antics. Many Robins and House Finches remain here for the winter. October 10 was a “wildlife” day. We had about 8 Doe and fawns, a Stellar’s Jay, A Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker (never had one of those before) a ton of Robins and a Grey squirrel that we also had not seen before or since.

December 3, 1996 Biggie is back, so I assume the rutt is over, or nearly so. I note that his knee is looking worse and that he limps a bit, but that he otherwise looks good and is sporting a huge rack. He responds to me right away and doesn’t seem to need to get to know me again. He hung around all day and left later when he followed a Doe out of the yard. I guess the “season” wasn’t quite over after all. Biggie makes frequent visits now, staying all or part of many days. On the 17th of December Lillie Boy returns, so I am assuming, again, that rutting season is over. On December 25 I describe some 12 or more engorged ticks releasing their hold on Biggie and dropping to the ground. I would usually smash them, but if the Magpies were around I would let them feast on them. On that same day I also note that there is still a Honeysuckle in bloom, in spite of recent sub-zero temperatures. I am in awe as the magic of this place makes a visible statement once again.

Next » Chapter 7: 1997