Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

What I found in Great Hills Park

with 44 comments

Young Male Deer Staring 1567

On May 19th I parked along the aptly named Floral Park Dr. to take some pictures of the white prickly poppies and Mexican hats growing in the southern section of Great Hills Park, but as soon as I got out of my car I noticed a white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) at the edge of the woods on the far side of the Mexican hat colony. I switched to my longest lens and walked over to the railing by the sidewalk, whereupon the deer noticed me and began staring and listening, as shown here. From the velvet-covered antlers forming on the deer’s head I take this to be a young male, but occasionally female deer grow antlers too.

The large green leaves and the tall dry stalks flanking the deer represent two stages in the life of frostweed (Verbesina virginica), the plant that you’ve seen do its magic ice trick when the weather gets cold enough here in the fall.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 31, 2015 at 5:31 AM

44 Responses

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  1. Magnifique!


    May 31, 2015 at 5:34 AM

    • Merci. J’ai vu le cerf ce jour-là, mais pas de coccinelles.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2015 at 9:26 AM

      • Les cerfs sont beaucoup plus rare que les coccinelles…et d’autant plus difficile a photographier… 🙂


        May 31, 2015 at 2:20 PM

  2. Wonderful! I love how she is looking right at you!


    May 31, 2015 at 5:58 AM

    • The deer do that once they become aware of you, because their survival depends on detecting a predator before the predator can get to them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2015 at 9:28 AM

  3. If the frostweed were here it would be doing its magic trick tonight. The deer obviously found you a very interesting subject.


    May 31, 2015 at 7:37 AM

    • It seems strange to think of your place with ice, but seasons change. These deer usually find people interesting, even if only to prepare to flee from them. Deer are common in our neighborhood, which is their ancestral home, and they often wander the streets and lie down in people’s front yards, including ours.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2015 at 9:33 AM

      • We haven’t had this much frost in years. We are having what I would call a proper winter. No deer on the front yard, though. Just a schnauzer and a ginger cat. Once the frost has melted, that is.


        May 31, 2015 at 9:43 AM

        • I noticed that your “proper winter” still hasn’t fully set in, because the weather forecast I looked at online is calling for a Monday afternoon high temperature of 17°C in Christchurch. The mention of deer reminds me that the only mammals originally native to New Zealand are bats.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 31, 2015 at 9:56 AM

          • You are right about the proper winter being not quite set in. It is indeed a balmy 17 as I write this. But the balm is expected to give way to cold and snow by Wednesday.


            May 31, 2015 at 8:18 PM

  4. I had no idea that female deer sometimes grow antlers! The antlers are the principal way hunters identify the bucks. They would not be a desirable trait for a doe in hunting season.


    May 31, 2015 at 8:23 AM

  5. I’m surprised to learn that you have eastern white-tailed deer there. They are a real pest around here~ they will strip the flora of an area bare unless they are culled.


    May 31, 2015 at 9:59 AM

    • There’s quite a nursery trade here in plants that are deer-proof, or more realistically deer-resistant. Shortly after we moved into this house in a deery part of town eleven years ago, I accidentally left the side gate open one afternoon. I came back home to find a fawn and mother deer in the back yard busily chomping away on a potted plant a friend had given Eve as a new-house present. I shooed the deer away, but not before one side of the plant had gotten eaten.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2015 at 10:23 AM

      • 😦 Yesterday when I visited my Dad I saw that his young Burr Oak had been severely pruned. so much for those graceful low branches! grrrrrr….
        Oops, lots of r’s. Deer bring out the heat of my anger for sure!


        May 31, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    • By the way, I just looked up the range of Odocoileus virginianus and found it’s much larger than you or I realized, even stretching down into South America:


      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2015 at 10:58 AM

      • Wow! I had no idea. As we learn to rewild our world we must also learn balance. People love to see Bambi, and feel they must feed the deer and kill the predators. They don’t realize that this really throws things out of whack. The deer respond to corn by producing twins or even triplets. It is unfair of me to direct my frustration at the deer.


        May 31, 2015 at 12:06 PM

        • It’s not clear to what extent we can “rewild” the world. Last night I watched a talk on BookTV by Beth Shapiro, author of How to Clone a Mammoth:


          One of the problems with so-called de-extinction is that, even if you could pull it off technically (which is in doubt), the animals brought back wouldn’t have much or any of their original habitat to live in.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 31, 2015 at 12:20 PM

          • I think those people are extremely misguided. When I speak of rewilding I am referring to restoring habitat and allowing creatures to live, rather than hunting them down. For example, we’ve had bobcats here for many years but now that people know about them, they want to hunt them.


            June 2, 2015 at 9:42 AM

            • Similarly, we apparently have coyotes in Great Hills Park; a few people say they’ve seen one, but I never have. That’s not surprising, because I watched a TV show once which pointed out that coyotes are secretive. In any case, some residents of the neighborhood let their cats and dogs roam loose (which they’re not supposed to do), and sometimes their pets don’t return—a portion of them having become coyote food. Naturally the neighbors get all upset and want to get rid of the coyotes rather than just keeping their pets indoors or on a leash outdoors.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 2, 2015 at 12:34 PM

              • Yup, that is what people do here as well. I have a Forest Preserve volunteer patch sewn onto my jacket that looks official…I’ve been know to politely ask people to leash their pets when in the preserve. So far nobody has sicced their dogs on me! 🙂


                June 3, 2015 at 10:09 AM

                • Good for you. I like your approach but I almost always have a big camera bag with me in the park and wear old clothing that can afford to get grubby, so I don’t think I could fool anyone into thinking I’m an official.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 3, 2015 at 4:59 PM

                • My kids will tell you I have a scary school-teacher look that helps as well. LOL if only people knew I was really quaking in my boots 🙂


                  June 4, 2015 at 11:21 AM

  6. What a dear creature! And I’m quite taken with the way you were able to frame her between the green and growing frostweed and the desiccated stalks on the right. The way the Mexican hats connect the two patches of frostweed, it’s as though the deer is framed by the seasons.


    May 31, 2015 at 10:00 AM

  7. The front out-of-focus yellow wildflowers and the green vegetation on both sides are the perfect “frame” for the beautiful deer. Very nice!


    May 31, 2015 at 10:17 AM

    • The choice for focus was the deer or the Mexican hats, so naturally I went with the deer. I’m glad you like the soft border of wildflowers across the bottom that that choice produced.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2015 at 10:49 AM

  8. What a great moment. Lovely capture

    Raewyn's Photos

    May 31, 2015 at 4:32 PM

    • Many of the deer that I see in our neighborhood are along the street or by people’s houses, but I don’t usually photograph them there because of the non-natural surroundings. I try instead to photograph them in nature, as here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2015 at 6:02 PM

  9. I’ve seen that look before. Curiosity and alertness. As you said above, their very survival depends on those qualities. It’s a sweet portrait, Steve.

    Steve Gingold

    May 31, 2015 at 6:26 PM

    • Thanks, Steve. It’s not unusual when I’m walking in the woods to hear the startled snort of a deer, whether I can see the animal or not. Even when I do see it, it’s usually partially hidden, so I can’t attempt a picture. Once in a while the deer is out in the open enough and not too far away for me to try photographing it. This is one of those cases, and it worked out okay.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2015 at 7:55 PM

  10. Hmm, the deer here are so jaded that they glance at people, then keep on eating their plants. Still, they are beautiful creatures.


    May 31, 2015 at 10:19 PM

    • The deer walking along streets and in yards here aren’t quite so jaded. They sometimes glance and keep eating, but at any sort of attempt by people to get closer, at some point the deer run away.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2015 at 10:36 PM

  11. You know how to please this deer-deprived Australian. Just beautiful, Steve. 🙂


    June 1, 2015 at 3:43 AM

    • Glad to oblige a deer-deprived Australian. There’s no such deprivation in this Austin neighborhood.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 1, 2015 at 6:25 AM

  12. Wonderful photo of the White-tailed deer. Thank you!!

    • You’re welcome, Isabel. Did you know that Spanish venado means etymologically ‘hunted’? The only hunting I did was with my camera.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 1, 2015 at 6:31 AM

  13. What a beautiful bonus to the photo-op!


    June 1, 2015 at 12:48 PM

    • It is, although the reality is that these deer are pretty common in my neighborhood on the hilly west side of Austin. When I lived on the east side, I never saw one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 1, 2015 at 7:29 PM

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