Friday, September 9, 2011

Bright Eyes

There's been something of a roe deer population explosion up here in the North East in recent years, so it's not that unusual to see them during a country walk, but this encounter was a little out of the ordinary. We spotted this doe deep in the shadow of a pine plantation and with sunlit fields behind her she was little more that a silhouette - but her eyes shone in the gloom. I've often seen eyeshine in animals when they've seen caught in the car headlights in the dark (the cat's eyes effect) but it's not so often that you see it in daylight; it's only visible here because it was so dark in the plantation - the fact that I got a picture at all is a tribute to lens image stabilisation technology. 

 Here is the lovely blue-eyed doe after having the shadow areas lightened - but that's all. 

 Here's the head portion of the image enlarged, showing the eyeshine more clearly - spooky, eh? The eyes shine like this because of a highly reflective layer behind the retina (the tapetum lucidum) which reflects light back through the retinal cells and enhances the animal's vision in dim light.

 As soon as she turned her head away the effect disappeared.

A little further down the footpath (beside the South Tynedale Railway at Alston) we met her consort, who spotted us immediately ...

 .... watched us for a minute or two while chewing a leaf ...

... then ambled off into the undergrowth, with just a parting glance in our direction.

11 comments:

  1. A lovely beast........If you don't know already go to Enhance> Light > Shadows Highlights. This wee menu lets one bring back mid tones. I've seen their eyes do that but only in a Fallow Deer. I'm daft, thought it had cataracts.

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  2. Great post Phil. You always impart a lot of knowledge, and I constantly learn from my visits.

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  3. Well that's the weirdest thing. How very strange. Did you manage to get a look at it through binoculars at all Phil, or could you actually see the colour? I'm curious to know if it was 'real' not some kind of quirk of the camera technology. I can't understand why the colour would be blue. Fascinating.
    Allan

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  4. Thanks for the info Adrian - I'm still on the nursery slopes with Photoshop!

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  5. Lovely animals, aren't they Mel?

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  6. Thanks Keith, natural history is inexhausably fascinating, isn't it?

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  7. Hi Allan, it's definitely real - no camera or photoshop trickery. I would see a glow in the eyes with the camera.I think it may be due to the fact that I was standing in the light and the sun was directly behind me, so light was shining directly into the doe's eyes when she looked at me, and because she was standing in shadow the eyeshine showed up. Why blue? Don't know, but I think it's true of all deer.Must go out and check out some cattle in the dark with a torch...

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  8. Amazing! I have seen the eyeshine only during the night.

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  9. Hi Phil. I came across the web site of a taxidermy supplier and interestingly the eyes they supply for roe deer have a light blue slit-shaped pupil. I've never seen a roe close enough to have seen this colour but I guess in the gloom the pupil would have been well open. So maybe its just the natural pupil colour emphasised by the unusual lighting conditions?
    Allan

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  10. That's fascinating Allan. I think - as you say - an unusual combination of lighting conditions emphasised the colour...

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