Down the hill from our house, between Douglas fir trees, squat two tubs we fill with fresh water every evening. Birds, insects, and deer (and the occasional coyote) visit and drink, as is this doe. Her fawn watches me sitting on the lower deck while its mother drinks.
Evenings, we often sit on our upper deck, watch the sunset and darkening valley, and as darkness falls watch and listen for the deer that slip in and out for a last drink.
It is hard to see because of the low light, but there is a cat on the white rock above the tubs of water. The cat is looking to the left of the picture at a doe that has had her fill of water and then bedded down in the bunchgrass for the night. She is watching the cat watching her.
Last night, a little later than when the darker photo was taken, a doe and three bucks (a little spike buck, a two-point buck that is the brother of the doe, and a three-point buck came out of the oakbrush and maple grove above the house. They were aware of us sitting on the deck above them and stood watching for a while. Finally the doe made a cautious beeline for the water while the bucks circled around a lower grove. After drinking, the doe moved off in the direction of the bucks.
It grew darker, but we could still see the distinct shadow of a doe and her fawn when they came out of the oakbrush below the tubs. The fawn bounded around a bit while its mother drank and then they moved on.
Next to arrive was a doe with twin fawns. We watched their dark outlines as she went straight to the water and drank while her fawns circled her, ducking in one by one to nurse. The doe was having none of that any more and twisted out of the way each time a fawn butted her, kicking out to emphasize her unwillingness.
Once she had her fill of water, she led her fawns away and must have bedded down because they returned to our meadow, dark shadows against the slightly lighter ground. They were browsing in our flower garden when two much larger shadows drifted down the hill — good-sized bucks, we thought.
The bucks stopped and looked in the direction of the fawns and perhaps up at us (it was too dark to tell exactly). They moved back up the hill just a few steps, browsed a bit, and then, impatient to have the place to themselves, snorted, and snorted louder.
We took that as a sign and left the dark night to get ready for bed.