After the last field trip to the creek watching the eagles return to their nests, Carroll and I decided to drive the loop around Lake Guntersville State Park and see the rest of the area. It was around 4:30pm'ish, give or take, and the deer were out.
Cars crept along winding roadways enjoying the antics of deer cavorting in the woods. Many deer were walking along the side of the road or crossing the roads so everyone was being very careful. There are signs out everywhere "Do Not Feed The Deer." For the most part people stayed in their cars and just looked in wonder, pulling over and stopping occasionally for photo shoots.
We were no different. Carroll crept along as I took photo after photo. Shooting from a creeping car in low light isn't easy but I managed a few decent images. When the bucks began showing up we stopped and I got out a couple of times. However, the bucks are smart creatures, and while curious they would begin taking their herd in the opposite direction.
The does are gorgeous. Look at her lovely long eyelashes! These deer were healthy, plentiful and accommodating. The safety of the State Park affords them food and shelter and a much longer life span. From our balcony high atop the mountain we heard the distant booms of guns and knew other deer weren't so lucky. I'm not opposed to hunting as long as the hunters utilize the meat and practice good hunter rules.
The bucks were clearly favored during this long, slow trek around the park. This was truly a weekend chocked full of wildlife. My heart and soul were both overflowing with this truly remarkable gift of nature. I'd forgotten how fresh the air is high above the smog of mankind. I'd forgotten the gentle sounds of the woods in the bitter cold; almost a ticking sound as of an alarm clock set for spring.
Buck after buck, doe after doe thrilled us all in the setting sun. As time moved on temperatures began dropping once more yet onward we crept, rolling down the window for more photos as yet more herds were spotted.
By this time the shadows were long and deep. This last buck was in semi-darkness and fortunately the images were captured in RAW, giving me the ability to lighten them up for viewing without compromising too much.
I understand hunting but I do not understand taxidermy. The State Park and others include stuffed animals for learning purposes, however a deer or moose or big horned sheep or whatever hanging above a mantle begs the question - "Why?" I love this quote by Ellen DeGeneres:
"I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it's such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her."
That's my philosophy as well. I wince when I see animal heads on a wall, especially in a restaurant. I'm not naive and actually think hunting is a very honest way to keep food on the table. Much more honest than traveling to Publix to get a pound of ground beef all hermetically sealed with bright, colorful packaging. Can I hunt? Not today, not unless I was forced to hunt for survival. What brought on this rant? Whew....random thinking, I reckon. I don't know but guess just seeing those pretty deer photos made me all philosophical or something. Let's move on.........
In another location, another field trip, we were taken to an active bald eagle's nest. Our State Park guides cautioned us that we may or may not see the eagle atop the nest, depending upon whether or not eggs had been laid. Upon first seeing the nest and finally getting a clear shot through the tree limbs I took this first image. We couldn't see the eagle at that time but if you click and enlarge the image you'll see her looking at us.
Moving down the roadway a little and scooting atop a ridge we got a better look. By this time she was looking away as if bored by the attention. We were hoping the mate would come take his turn during our stay but we were out of luck there. Bald eagles mate for life, and during egg laying time each take their turn incubating the eggs for up to 3-4 hours at a time.
The bald eagles at this state park during the winter are migratory eagles which nest in the northern United States; primarily around the Great Lakes region. They begin arriving in November and stay as late as April. These migratory eagles do not build nests here; only those that make the area their permanent home do. This couple are permanent residents.
After seeing the nest through a birder's spotting scope I ran back to the car and got Daniel Spurgeon's 2x converter. Daniel's blog is called "Nature at Close Range." He has an amazing knowledge of nature. Unfortunately, the auto focus doesn't work with this 2x converter. Fortunately, I was able to get quite a few close-ups regardless! Thanks for the loan, Daniel! I really should get that back to him but it may have to wait until after this great birding season - ha!