Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Birds are Back!

Wow!  That didn't take them long.

My son and I went out at lunchtime today to hang up our bird feeders (we take them down in the Spring because of bears) and within an hour, the birds had found them and were having their lunch.

The Tufted Titmice found the feeders first followed by Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and a Downy Woodpecker.  Seriously, all within an hour of putting them up!

Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch

Female Downy Woodpecker

Male Downy Woodpecker

Continued Mammal Study - Deer

The night I submitted my last Outdoor Hour post for our mammal study, my husband was awakened by a sound that he at first thought might be a squirrel running across the roof.  Then he decided maybe it was an animal scratching on a tree outside.  He went downstairs to see if he could figure out what it was.

What he saw in our neighbor's yard were two white-tailed deer bucks locking antlers!  He watched as they fought for a bit and then one ran off with the other in pursuit.  The next morning, he took us outside to see the signs they had left behind.

Markings from deer hooves on new pavement.

Area of neighbor's lawn dug up by fighting.
I know it is really hard to tell anything from the pictures, but it's all I have.

This event prompted some research on white-tailed deer.  We first read from the CT DEEP's wildlife fact sheets and then from the State of Wisconsin's Critter Corner page.

Here are a few interesting facts:
  • Deer are ungulates, meaning they have hooves.
  • White-tailed deer are the smallest deer in North America.
  • The underside of their tail is white and is raised as a flag when they leap away in alarm.
  • Their coat color varies with the season, a more red-brown in the summer and gray-brown in the winter.
  • The peak rutting or mating season in CT is the last two weeks in November.
  • Male deer, called bucks, grow a new set of antlers each year.  The antlers are covered with a soft tissue called velvet that they will rub off in the fall. While the antlers are still covered with velvet, they are very sensitive and the bucks will not use them to fight.  Instead, they will stand on their hind legs and use their forefeet.
  • The size of antlers depends on a couple of things, including maturity, but most significantly, nutrition.
  • The bucks use their antlers for sparring and they are usually shed from the middle of December to late January in CT.  Deer in more southerly states shed their antlers later.
  • Female deer, called does, depending on their diet and health, can have between one and four fawns at a time.

Seeing deer in our neighborhood is not that uncommon.  We have often seen several in the woody area behind our house, but I have never seen a buck.  Next time I hope my husband will wake me up!