My attempt to document 40 sunrises in Eastern Cincinnati. Spring 2011.


Sunrise 154: Clifton, Mt. Adams & Newport KY (Downtown/OTR Fog Bank, St. Patrick’s Day Bagpipes)

Over-The-Rhine & Downtown Cincinnati against a massive fog bank over the Ohio River. As seen on the morning of St. Patty’s day from Bellevue Hill Park in Clifton.

We stopped by Mt. Adams for a beer & a Rugby game (oh, and another free breakfast!) at Tap & Go. Here we look out over the Ohio River from Mt. Adams.

A view from Newport, KY as a barge rolls along up the Ohio River. (The white balance may have gotten away from me on this one; original photo is down below)

(Don’t forget to check out the sister post that will show up in a few minutes from this morning. Sunrise 155)

This year the wife and I decided to celebrate St. Patrick’s day by getting up super early and heading to Clifton for a free hot breakfast @ Murphy’s Pub. I realized right away that this would put me within walking distance of Bellevue Hill Park, one of my favorites in the city for its historic location, so I made sure to grab my camera and bring it along with me for the ride. We ended up spending the early morning in Clifton, the mid morning in Mt. Adams, and the late morning in Newport, Kentucky. As we traveled around the rim of the valley (and finally down by the river), I kept track of the thick fog that sat along the Ohio River. By the end of the morning the sky had cleared up and I found myself gazing at the Cincinnati Skyline under a summer-esque blue sky with rolling clouds.

We started off our morning at Murphy’s Pub in Clifton. Murphy’s Pub is a Clifton classic and they sure know how to host a party. Their breakfast (and green eggs) were superb and the crowd was a nice mix of students and locals. This bagpiper scared the pants off of us as he started his morning serenade at 6:30am.

When I first arrived in Clifton I made the immediate realization that I was only two blocks from Bellevue Hill Park, my favorite park in the Clifton area due to it’s history and breathtaking view of Downtown Cincinnati across Over-The-Rhine. I jokingly offered the other members of our party a chance to join me in a jog to the park, but none of them cared to take me up. I ran into a friend from school, Duffee (who is actually my “little brother” from our days in the fraternity), who is always up for an adventure. He joined me as we high tailed it up to the park at day break.

We arrived in the park to a handsome view of a tall & fluffy pile of fog hanging over the Ohio River. At first I was disappointed that we weren’t going to get a colorful sunrise sky, but that disappointment was replaced with joy when we saw the wall of fog that provided a beautiful backdrop to the Cincinnati Skyline.

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Sunrise 153: Ault Park (Humid Spring Morning & First Magnolia Blossoms!)

I showed up *extra* early, taking advantage of the post-Day Light Savings sunrise… only to spend the morning in the dark.

I’m as surprised as you are that I got this good of a shot in the dim morning light.

Good morning! I ventured out for the first post-DST sunrise at 7:50am this morning. I took advantage of the late sunrise by getting up extra early and setting out for the park by 7:10am. I looked up into the sky and saw a thin cloud layer with patches of blue which meant that it was definitely worth a gamble. I’ve been getting a bit bored by the clear morning sunrises and have been hoping for a change up, especially with the upcoming spring weather. There was a chance that this morning’s thin cloud layer could provide an amazing reflective backdrop of pinks and oranges, but alas the clouds ended up being too thick for the sun to penetrate.

I did, however, take full advantage of the amazing weather this morning. A light rain came through the area last night so the pavement was wet and smelled like earthworms and petrichor (a word I learned last year and try to use as often as possible). The air was thick with humidity and as I dove into the park via the steep hill on Observatory Ave, I could feel the temperature suddenly drop. The cool air rolling across the quiet dark street from the budding forest was refreshing and spirit lifting.

This morning was quite dark. I had high hopes for the sunrise, but in the end it was warm, peaceful, and full of bird songs and the promise of spring. I noticed yesterday that the magnolia trees have started to bloom! Can you believe it? Last year the magnolias and cherry blossoms showed up in the second week of april, just after this project got started. Here’s one of my favorites from last year:

And another picture from April 2011 featuring some bradford pears off of Erie Ave.

Back to this morning: a plane takes off against the gray and stormy spring backdrop

The magnolias have started to bloom… the bradford pears are next!

Spring is here! It’s Magnolia Official (kind of like being Facebook Official but with more pollen)…

Sunrise 151: Ault Park (Signs of Spring; Overcast Twilight)

It may look barren, but this garden is packed full of flowering cosmos and other prairie flowers. The center stone pot will be all but covered by July.

I woke up this morning and peered out the window to see a dark gray/blue overcast sky. The warm weather had me excited so I decided to take my chances and see if there was going to be a sunrise this morning after all. I was hoping that maybe the light cloud layer that rolled in late last night was still around, but as it turned out the sky was filled with thick gray rain-filled clouds.

I left for the park with a light drizzle lapping the pavement around me. This morning the weather was so warm that I actually wore shorts and a sweatshirt – no hat, gloves, long pants, double socks, or facemask! In fact I’d say that this morning’s sunrise ride was one of the most pleasant trips up to the park if for no other reason than I was able to truly appreciate the ambient sounds with more novelty since I was not wearing my winter facemask.

The wet atmosphere held a steady 52F as I worked my way up to the overlook in Ault Park. The air was sweet and smelled like spring. With no sunrise in sight, I casually strolled through the gardens and took some pictures of the desolate ground that has already started to show signs of life. There are several pieces of the gardens that look barren right now, but in just two short months they will be exploding with garden life as the plants take advantage of the warm humid sub-tropic microclimate of Eastern Cincinnati.

The birds were loud and flirty this morning in the warm air. No doubt they too detect the first comings of spring. I found buds in the trees, especially the magnolias. Their buds are already the size of my thumb and will be bursting open in white and purple blooms in just 6 short weeks. Mentally I’m still prepared for winter, but in the back of my mind I know that spring is almost here. With spring comes green life, organic growth, colorful blossoms, and so many insects to find. I’m looking forward to Armleder Parks prairie and the 10′ high stalks of meadow grass & compass flowers.

Rolling into the park I find the central yard quiet and calm under a blue layer of twilight clouds.

Just think about how lush this walkway will be in just 8 weeks. The daffodils have broken ground and are already starting to bloom.

Here’s another shot of a spot where I know the plant life grows thick. In the heat of the summer this garden explodes with several generations of daffodils & flowering bushes.

A calm and blue/gray Heekin Overlook as the storm front rolls in from the west.

Looking South/West across Lunken Airfield.

Sunrise 130: Ault Park (Blast of Fuchsia Sunrise, Eden Park Hot Air Balluminaria)

Coming up on Ault Park, a fuchsia sunrise is under way.

Balluminaria 2011 @ Eden Park in Cincinnati

I checked the forecast last night and was surprised to see that the entire week is expected to be overcast and gloomy. It appears our streak of beautiful clear autumn skies is officially over as we break into the winter season. With last week being mostly filled with cloudy and wet mornings, it appears that this week will be no exception. This isn’t to say that there may not be a surprise or two hidden in the weather pattern, however. The forecast has been particularly shaky over the course of this season transition so I wouldn’t be surprised to find that there may be some gems hidden in the upcoming week. Even a slight break in a cloudy pattern can make for a spectacular sunrise because of the unpredictable dynamics that a cloudy sky provides.

This morning, however, was the only day for the entire week that there was an expectation of relatively clear skies. The forecast said 19% cloud cover which is a great bet considering that I can get lucky with up to 60% cloud cover. I went to bed looking up at a clear sky and woke up to a dark gray atmosphere of the kind you’d expect to be brooding a winter storm. I was a bit disappointed, but seeing as how today is Free Coffee Refill Day @ UDF (every Monday!) I decided to check it out anyway in the hopes that something may change. Interestingly enough, Mt. Lookout Square is kind of in a valley so it can be hard to judge what the distant horizon is up to without actually getting up to Ault or Alms Park.

By the time I was leaving Mt. Lookout Square, the sky had shown no signs of light and the sunrise time was just around the corner. I took the “long way” to Ault Park, up through some extra neighborhood hills just to keep my cardiovascular system in check as we head into winter hibernation. Once I passed the Cincinnati Observatory, however, I could see that the eastern sky was up to something. The bare trees provided a view that suggested that it was time to high tail it up to the overlook. I dropped the trusty old Fuji into high gear (OK second gear, who am I kidding with these hills) and pressed onward to the overlook hoping that I wouldn’t miss the show.

As it turned out, the eastern horizon was beginning to light up in a magnificent shade of fuchsia unlike one that I’ve seen so far in this project. A rare sight, indeed. The pictures unfortunately do not do it justice because it was as if the entire lower atmosphere was ablaze with a hot pink fire. The color did not spread into the upper atmosphere and was contained by the breaking cloud front that only temporarily was giving up control of the eastern sky. There was a faint mist across the Valley that served to accentuate the bright light. I arrived at the overlook in time, and just as quickly as the fuchsia show arrived, it dwindled into a muted gray/orange sunrise.

As a completely unrelated note, while I was going through the pictures on the camera I realized that I had forgotten to include some documentation from a recent Hot Air Balloon Festival (Balluminaria) at Eden Park. I was hoping to get back up to Eden Park to continue the exploration of the reservoir ruins, but it hasn’t happened yet. Rather than wait for that to happen and include the pictures there, I’m posting the pictures along with Sunrise 130.

The pictures can’t do it justice, the colors were radiant this morning.

Just before “first light” during the fuchsia sunrise.

Heekin Overlook @ Ault Park

As the sun rose up it was blocked by a low lying cloud bank (you can see a sliver of the sun to the left of the picture). As quickly as it came, the fuchsia sunrise was gone.

This was our first time attending the Balluminaria and it was a neat thing to partake in. The balloons lit up as dusk settled in. It was pretty crazy to see the thousands of people descent on Eden Park for the event that took place November 17 2011. I’m not sure if they have two separate fuels, one for hot air and one for light, but there was a distinct difference between the flames that kept the balloons inflated and the flames that lit up the canopy.

Hot air balloon across mirror lake @ Eden Park

When the air horn blasted, the balloons were lit up in bright flashes of orange. There were literally thousands of people present, and hundreds of cameras ready for the show.

Sunrise 129: Ault Park (Dark Gloomy Sky, Ault Park Wine Cellar?)

Songbirds preparing for winter. The amount of bird activity in the park this morning was unusually high. Red headed woodpeckers, cardinals and blue jays, robins and mourning doves, crows, and chick-a-dees to name a few.

The trails are closed for deer hunting… I’m assuming bow only? The six deer I saw this morning didn’t appear to be very concerned.

The forecast must be a bit harder to predict during the seasonal change. This is two mornings in a row now that I would have expected a decent sunrise but instead was met with a dark cloudy sky. The forecast had mentioned a 38% cloud cover which should have given me a beautiful dynamic sunrise sky. Instead I got a dark winter atmosphere that eventually broke a little bit as I was heading home.

In fact, it was so dark this morning that half of my pictures seemed to come out a bit blurry. Oops! Some days are like that though and it really makes me appreciate the brighter days that make the pictures turn out so well! That’s the one thing about this camera, for all it’s great qualities, that could use some improvement. It’s hard to get a decent macro picture in low light, even while resting the camera on the ground. This is a bit of a “light” post because we’re about to head up north for some good old fashioned family Christmas festivities. Thanks for reading!

Be sure to check out about halfway through this post where I cover some light ideas regarding the vineyard history in Cincinnati and a future “Cincinnati Vineyard Sunrise” series.

Mt. Lookout Square, just before sunrise on a gloomy overcast morning.

For the rest of this post, including all 17 pictures and the old stone structures at Ault Park, please click to continue if you’re on the front page! (more…)

Sunrise 121: Ault Park & Downtown (Incorrect Forecast, Turkey Trot!)

The runners prepare for the Turkey Trot in Downtown Cincinnati

This post comes a day late as the holiday festivities have had us pretty busy! Thursday morning was, of course, the holiday of Thanksgiving. For the past two years my wife has participated in the Turkey Trot, a 10k through downtown Cincinnati that has been going on for 102 years. It’s quite an event because 15,000 people quickly come together for the race before high tailing off to their family lunches, dinners, and football games. It’s seriously impressive just how many people come out for the Thanksgiving race, the only bigger race I’ve seen in Cincinnati is the famous Flying Pig Marathon.

After a long streak of thunderstorms, the forecast had finally put the weather for Thursday morning at a confident 9% cloud cover in clear skies. There was a bit of a mishap in the forecast and what ended up happening was that Thanksgiving morning was gloomy, misty, and wet. I think what actually happened was that the clear skies warmed up the ground and there was actually just lots of FOG. But the fog lifted up a few hundred yards into the sky and simulated low-lying cloud cover. When I originally left for the sunrise, the sky was a deep dark blood red, signifying that a high humid sunrise was on the schedule for the morning. By the time I got to the park, however, it was apparent that the sky was full of fog. It was a relatively warm, wet, and dark sunrise.

Either way – Happy Thanksgiving! Today, the day after Thanksgiving, the fog has finally lifted and the skies are clear and the weather is great.

Looking out across the dark morning at Lunken Airfield from Ault Park

A dark sunrise over the Little Miami River Valley

There they go! 15,000 runners start off on their 10k

I always love the moments after any race has started, when the streets are clear and I’m free to explore around the area until the leaders of the pack make their way back to the finish line.

More empty streets. It took about 15 minutes for all the runners to funnel out across the starting line, and another 15 minutes before the first runner started to make his way towards the finish line. I’m always surprised by how fast some of these runners are!

The top of the buildings were disappearing into the fog

Sunrise 119: Ault Park (The Season of Solitude ft. Marc Adamus)

Heekin Overlook @ Ault Park for Sunrise 119

By and large, this morning’s sunrise was quite a disappointment! We’ve had four days of overcast rainy and stormy conditions as the warm autumn weather has been battling for control against the coming winter cold. Last night in the late afternoon, the sky broke and we had a beautiful sunset. I didn’t have my camera on me at the time, but it was full of color and many different cloud formations that reflected the sun light for a full 40 minutes after sunset. There were also several airplane jet trails that actually cast a dark shadow against the purple upper atmospheric clouds. A friend of mine took a picture at The Ohio State University, about 100 miles north/northeast of Cincinnati, and shared it with me. You can see how I may have had high expectations for this morning’s sunrise! Brent has been takings lots of pictures of OSU’s stadium at various times of the day. Check out the gallery and the new twitter feed.

Sunset @ The Ohio State University.

This morning I had hoped that the weather held and we were going to get a sunrise similar to the sunset of last night. I would have been happy with anything! But as the sun set and the atmosphere cooled, another thick bank of clouds rolled in last night. I woke up at 6:30am, a full 50 minutes before the sunrise (I was excited!) and was disappointed when I looked out the window and saw only dark gray skies. Interestingly enough, the western sky did break for about 10 minutes on my ride home and I saw hints of a whispy blue upper atmosphere, but at the time of this writing the sky is back to gray.

The gray of the atmosphere this morning wasn’t all bad, of course. There was no sunrise, but the calm and quiet overcast mornings do have properties of their own. It was cold, being in the lower 30s, but I was dressed appropriately and was armed with my thermos of coffee. The sky was a deep dark gray this morning, a color that I tend to associate with a wet cloud system that has the potential for a downfall or, hopefully, a thick snowfall. The squirrels were highly active this morning and I caught half a dozen of them stretched out on the trunks of the oak trees watching me watch them crack open acorns for an early breakfast. The darkness of the atmosphere meant that Lunken Airfield’s lighting systems stayed lit for longer than usual, and I noticed that with most of the leaves gone from the trees already, there are more opportunities for getting a different view of the valley from atop these hills.

Speaking of winter, I wanted to share an article about the work of a photographer that I recently found from Outdoor Photographer. The article is titled The Season of Solitude and it highlights the landscape photography of Marc Adamus. Now here is a dude who loves sunrises as much as I do. He treks out into the wilderness to get some incredible landscape pictures. The pictures of course are beautiful, but his philosophy on winter is what really drew me to the piece. I did reach out to Marc to see if he ever wanted to collaborate on a sunrise post, but he’s out in the wilderness for a few weeks. Who knows, maybe he’ll get back with me? The article has made me very excited to continue this project into the winter, even if it means more dreary overcast days like today. Being from the midwest, I love snow so much and the idea of exploring the new dynamics that a sunrise-over-snow brings to the table makes me excited. One of the most overlooked properties of winter that I also like is how much is prepares us for true wholesome appreciation of spring. I don’t mean that as a stab towards winter, I mean it in the way that everything needs balance, and the seasons are no exception. Winter is a time for hibernation, preparation, reflection, and harboring a longing for signs of life. I always wait for the first true “warm” day in Cincinnati because the streets fill with people running and walking, being social, and generally full of good spirits and community. How can they achieve such balance out in California with all their “great weather” and “sunny with no chance of rain” skies? 😉 I kid. But in all seriousness, I’m looking forward to the challenges that this winter will bring especially since it’ll be even more tough getting up early in the freezing cold to bike up to the sunrise only to find that the sky may be filled with clouds. Everything needs balance, of course, so these days will only make the clear sunrise mornings that much more beautiful.

Oh! One more thing. Tomorrow morning’s sunrise is forecast to be mostly clear with a touch of clouds. Today’s was forecasted to be “iffy” so it really is not a huge surprise that there were so many clouds in the sky. I’m looking forward to the first clear sunrise in 6 days tomorrow morning, we’ll see how it goes! With high humidity and low cloud cover, this could give an opportunity for FOG and/or a slow-rising deep purple sunrise against a clear open blue sky. Although, to be fair, I’m very new to these super cold temperature sunrises so it could be something altogether different. Who knows?

The Little Miami River Valley is starting to look a bit barren!

Looking west towards Lunken Airfield we see that the lights are still on after “sunrise” under the dark atmosphere

Looking back towards Ault Park. The oaks have completely shed their vegetation and the park is mostly empty aside from a single park crew truck in the Rose Garden.

Sunrise 107: Ault Park (Cold, Wet, Signs of Light)

I took advantage of a break in the rainy weather to head up to the park this morning. Rumor had it that there was a small chance of breaking skies so I figured it was worth the bet. The morning sunrise was quiet and calm, and I actually did get a bit more of a show than I expected considering the recent three days of wet rainy mornings. When I left the apartment to head up to the park, the atmosphere had a dark shade of gray and it looked like there was no hope of seeing a sunrise. When I started climbing the hill, however, I saw some hints of light through the backyards of the local homes. As it turned out, there were several patches clearing up above Lunken Airport, but unfortunately the clear patches were not far enough east to allow the sun to make an appearance. Either way, it was a pleasant, but cold – about 42F, morning and my hot thermos of coffee came in handy!

A morning like this reminds me of the first few sunrises in early April.

I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of “Fall Back”, when day light savings ends. It’ll be nice to get out for another 7:00am sunrise before winter sets in.

Looking out across Lunken Airfield where the sky is showing signs of clearing up. Interestingly enough, the atmosphere did not change at all in the 20 minutes I was at the overlook. There seemed to be no wind at all.

I caught a rather large jet taking off from Lunken as it crossed through the bright patch of sky.

Heekin Overlook @ Ault Park

Kind of a weird picture, but I was trying to capture just how dark and gloomy the left side of the horizon was. The sun is lost somewhere in that gray mess.

Armleder Park. To the right we can see the Mt. Washington water tower, known for its Art Deco style.

Sunrise 97: Ault Park (Misty Mountain, Compass Flowers, Beetles, Oak Stump)

The center of a compass flower.

A new view. We now see up through the park; before this would have been obstructed by the large oak tree.

Bike and Dew.

A busy bumblebee pollinates a compass flower.

Dew and Deep Green Leafs

A yellow beetle surveys the territory from the top of a compass flower.

I’ve skipped the last several wet overcast mornings but today at 7:00am I ventured out into the humid streets to Ault Park. The sunrise this morning was at 7:22am, the latest so far. Looking back, Sunrise 1 was at 7:14am. I’ve broken through the calendar symmetry and am now proceeding into new territory! I never regret going out in a misty morning, especially on such a temperate day as today. The temperature was in the mid sixties, and other than some light fog here and there I didn’t get too wet.

It’s amazing how heavy my legs felt after taking a few days off. The climb up to the park was a good workout, and by the time I got up there I was ready for my coffee and a break. I discovered several new happenings at the Overlook, including a new replacement bench for the one that was destroyed by vandals, and it looks like the park service cut down the dead oak tree.

I came up with a great idea for what to do with the dead oak tree, but unfortunately it looks like my idea came about a week too late. I realized that this dead oak would have been an excellent opportunity to create one of those stump carvings that I’ve seen in the neighborhood. The stump is probably too low now to do anything with. It would have been a beautiful piece of art. Here’s an example that I found on the way home:

A dead stump turned into artwork. If only I had thought of this sooner for the oak tree at Heekin Overlook! 😦

I ended up making up for lost time and took about 40 pictures this morning through the gardens and around the overlook. I’ll just go ahead and put up the front page disclaimer now!

If you’re on the front page, please click to continue reading. I do this so that the front page doesn’t become too slow for older computers with lower amounts of memory. Click over here to check out the other 30 pictures: —>


Sunrise 96: Alms Park (White-Tail Deer Family, Alms Park Sunset, Chilled Fall Morning)

A nomadic group of white tail females hanging out in my backyard.

I haven’t had a morning like this since April or May! With the wind whipping by my face as I careened down the back side of Mt. Tusculum on the way to Alms Park, my ears started to hurt from the cold. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the temperature had dropped down to the low 40s sometime during the night. This was by far the coldest morning in months!

Between the poor sun display and the knuckle-aching cold air, I only took two pictures this morning. I’m also including in this post a few other pictures from the last few days. There are a couple from two night-ago’s Alms Park Sunset that will provide some nice symmetry with this morning’s Alms Park Sunrise. The other handful are of a local family of white tailed deer that have been hanging out in our back yard over the past two days. I’ve been working from home on my thesis research so I’ve been watching the local deer activity as a welcome break. I find it kind of surreal that there is such a healthy population of quarter-ton mammals that share the neighborhood with us humans. More on that down below 🙂

On my way to Alms Park, I could see the sky behind the wooded neighborhood turning a deep glowing pink. The high humidity in the air coupled with some clouds in the lower atmosphere resulted in a a pre-dawn display that I could just barely make out behind the houses. It did, however, light up the rest of the sky with a subtle purple hue. By the time I got up to the park, however, the pre-dawn purples had been replaced with an orange/yellow. The sun didn’t come up for another 10 minutes, it felt like, but by the time I realized that the sun was actually risen, I could tell it was climbing up behind the low-laying cloud bank. I was a bit disappointed because I had high expectations for this morning’s sunrise. Yesterday morning was rainy and overcast, but the sky cleared up in the afternoon and the result was crisp and sunny weather. Even last night’s sunset was relatively clear, a condition I hoped would stick around until this morning. In the end, however, the clouds took over the sky and there wasn’t much of a sunrise. I will say, however, that the cold bite really woke me up!

Alms Park Sunset. Looking West over the Ohio River at Mt. Adams across the “Bend in the River” (widescreen)

A few moments later, with some of the lighter oranges giving way to a deeper purple.

Two 8-10 point bucks hanging out in the back yard. Can we say “Stag Party”? haha.

I find it fascinating and kind of freaky (if I think too hard about it) that there are several hundred mammals that weight more than I do casually roaming through the local forests and neighborhoods. The local proximity of the old-growth forests in Ault Park and Alms Park definitely provide a kind of “home base” for the animals. These white-tailed deer have become somewhat of a fascination to me over the last year. I’ve always known they were around, but what I find so neat is that when you really look for them, they’re seriously everywhere. If you stay in your apartment all night, and then get in your car and drive to work, and repeat every day without ever going on a walk through the neighborhood at dusk, you probably would never notice them more than a couple times a year when they decide to run out in front of traffic or take a nap in your front yard. However, if you start really looking in yards and at the edge of the forest, you can find them on a nightly basis during the summer and early autumn. You can find them laying down in front yard gardens, running loudly through the obvious “deer trails” through the local patches of forest, and darting out in front of late afternoon traffic. They’ve become kind of sloppy, too, as the docile “humans are ALRIGHT” traits start to become more pronounced, and the “be careful and quiet so that we can live” traits become less important. Sometimes I think a drunken college student has stumbled through the thicket behind our place, when in reality it’s just a young deer with a rack that he doesn’t know how to handle.

I’ve never heard of any “deer attacks” in Mt. Lookout, other than the occasional poor guy who gets hit by a car (that would be a car-on-deer attack!). This makes me believe that the deer are generally flighty, not aggressive, with a touch of docility. The females especially seem to be the most passive. I can typically approach a female, slowly, and get within 8-10 feet of her before she starts giving me strange looks. When she finally does get spooked, she typically only walks a few yards away, huffing obviously in an annoyed kind of tantrum. “Can’t you see I’m grazing here!?”. The bucks (males), on the other hand, are much more strategic in their movements. Upon approach, they will kind of group up and literally “high-tail” it back into the forest (high-tail’n it = run with their tails in the air, exposing the bright white under-side. Obviously a signal to other deer that it’s time to get the heck out). But what’s funny about the bucks is that they will stop about 30 yards away and position their heads to be able to see where I am. When I approached these two bucks pictured above, they ran into the forest and emerged in the middle of the neighbor’s yard about 40 yards away. I didn’t even realize they were carefully watching me until I loudly cracked my way into the edge of the forest (I’m no more quiet than the deer are). It was then that I saw their heads popping up over the hill, waiting to see what my next move would be. I’m glad they’re not equipped with laser guns.

This reminds me of a story. I’ll never forget the time I was walking through the forest in Alms Park, last autumn, minding my own business and looking for the coral patterned hedge apples, when I encountered a massive 14-point buck trucking loudly through the fallen leaves. I heard him coming from about 100 yards away, with obvious disregard to who heard him coming. Being a large animal with no local predators beyond a few scarce coyotes that don’t seem to make it up to the mountain very often, he was carelessly banging his rack around on branches and rooting through the pile of leaves on the ground. I even heard him kick some forgotten glass bottle. Through the naked branches I could see a brown blur and it was covering some serious ground.

I was sitting at the ruins of an old recreational shelter (that may even be a ruin from the old 1800s vineyard, I haven’t confirmed either theory) when I heard the ruckus. He was moving straight towards me from the bottom of a small valley that the stone overlook would have looked out across. I was curious what would happen if we were to meet (at this point I didn’t realize just how huge this thing was) so I kind of crouched down behind the 3-foot stone wall. I also grabbed a harvested softball-sized monkey-brain (hedge apple) that was sitting nearby, either to offer as food or, as last desperation, as a weapon if I needed it. 30 seconds later I poked my head up and saw the massive buck, with at least 14 points on his rack and twice my weight, heading straight for the shelter ruins about 30 yards away. He hadn’t spotted me yet. By this point I had waited way too long to make a move and the realization came over me that startling him would probably be something I should avoid.

He cruised right up to the other side of the old stone wall that I was crouching behind and stopped. I could hear him breathing and I could also tell he was weighting his options. I also realized that I was sitting only 4 feet, to my left, from the walking trail inside this stone wall that formed a perfect little “U” with the closed-end to my right. As I sat there on edge, floating in my pool of adrenaline, I couldn’t help but be simultaneously in awe at how close I was to this magnificent animal. At this point, I wondered what it was that the buck was thinking about. Could he smell me? Was I too loud? Is he just messing with me? In hindsight, the buck was probably thinking to himself “well I’m really trying to make it over to Sandra’s den on the other side of the hill. She always has the best acorns and if I’m lucky she’ll have some more of that delicious fungus from last week. I could make better time if I hopped on the old walking trail and “high-tailed” it, but I might run into some of those large noisy nomadic mammals I keep seeing in the forest. I’m not sure I have the energy for that. Maybe it’s best to stick to the side roads…” In my mind, I sure he’d choose to go left on the path, and soon we’d be face to face and only 4 feet apart, with a stone wall to my left, right, and back. At least he’d be just outside kicking range, I assured myself. Do deer even like hedge apples? In my head I pictured a startled deer rearing back on his hind legs, and me yelling “Surprise! Here’s a Hedge Apple!” while simultaneously throw/handing it to him in a part-diplomatic part-defensive move. I’m not sure that’ll go over well.

It took all the gusto I had to slowly, and quietly, raise my head over the top of the wall. Fortunately he was looking straight ahead and I came up just behind his shoulders to his left side. He was massive and the top of his back came up to about a foot and a half above the three foot all that I was hiding behind. I heard him give a loud huff, and then the leaves started to rustle as he began moving. He chose to continue on the route he was on, crossing straight over the walking path, and continuing into the forest. Within 6 seconds he had disappeared into the brown background, and within 20 seconds I couldn’t hear him any longer. As it turns out, even deer yield to oncoming traffic.

So I guess the point of all of this is that out there, in the forest, every day and all afternoon, there are isolated and independent packs of male and female deer just hanging out, watching us humans go about our busy lives. How do the males go about courting the females? Do they leave chemical markers as a kind of note for other deer that say “hey this lawn is pretty tasty, and the old lady doesn’t care if you get pretty close to the house. No dogs.”? Yeah, you’re right. Probably not.

So the bucks pictured above showed up in the backyard two days ago. Yesterday afternoon, in the same location, these two (and later a third) showed up to graze on the fresh grass and Kudzu. There were two females and a young fawn. These pictures are through the window into our backyard. I’ve noticed a pattern in deer behavior that is probably well known among hunters. The females tend to stick together in a foraging herd, while the males (bucks) tend to stick together in their own nomadic (and probably territorial?) bachelor party. I would like to think it isn’t a coincidence that the bucks showed up one day, then the does showed up the second day. They’re probably on shifts or something.

Aww, what a cutie. Her coat was shiny and smooth and the white spots were bright. You can see her mother blending in with the forest to the right.

The young one was getting a bath.

I finally was able to remove the screen from my window without spooking them too much. Here’s a much more clear shot (along with the first picture at the beginning of this post). The third female came out from behind the building to the right. Didn’t know she was there.

The orange color to the back atmosphere was giving me hope. In the end, the sunrise was just a quiet orange shifting of colors.

The sun coming through the low lying clouds over a hanger on Lunken Airfield’s east side. We also see Reeve’s Golf Course in the far background beyond the runway.