All about Hoofbeats & Footprints

Close Encounters of the Wild Kind

It’s been a busy week and I’ve gone from here to there. In spite of the multiple o-dark-thirty departures, being out in nature certainly made up for the sleep deprivation.

Last weekend I had a photography class at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Meeting at the visitors center at 7:00 a.m., we all got into our cars getting ready to head out when my eye spied a deer strolling in the yellow buttercups. Noticing that there was a very clear deer path that he was on that lead to the parking lot, I pulled out my binoculars to check as this deer seemed a little different. And a little different it was as it was a Sika Deer!

It was quite unusual as these are nocturnal creatures and they are quite shy. Particularly near Blackwater as it is hunting country. Surely he would run the other way. But before I knew it, he began trotting towards us and then stopped with a curious gaze.


To continue my amazement, by then all of the photographers had gotten out of their cars and he kept walking closer. Coming to the edge of the parking area he posed so beautifully for us and then began to graze. Giving us beautiful views of this deer we were able to try different positions before finally deciding to get back into the cars to continue on.

The Sika Deer is non-native and came from East Asia. They were introduced to Maryland in the early 1900s when Clement Henry released 5 or 6 deer on James Island. Today, the population primarily inhabits Dorchester, Wicomico, Somerset, and Worcester counties as well as Assateague Island. (Source:
. I’ve only seen them twice before and when I did it was at dawn and they were quick to disappear into the woods.

Before my group arrived I explored a little on my own and came across this Snapping turtle near the pine forest. I couldn’t quite figure out where he was going as he wasn’t near a wetland, but surely he knew his destination.. Turtles in general are difficult to photograph as their backs reflect a lot of light and their faces are in the dark shadows. Trying to expose properly to get detail in the high contrast subject is always a challenge. In post processing I use the adjustment brush to darken the backs and brighten up the darker facial area. Luckily this big fellow was in a shaded area just at sunrise.

Not to be bested of course is the most regal of birds for America. When out on the Delaware shore this week for the shorebird migration we drove by multiple corn fields. In one of them was this bald eagle resting comfortably near the roadway. Calm as can be, he allowed us to get out of our cars and move to a different angle at of course, a respectable distance.

Truly a great week for wildlife, and as I say, 70% of nature photography is opportunity. The rest of technical ability and the right gear.

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