Here in the new woods lies a derelict plant nursery. A good size plot with rows of greenhouse, boiler houses and offices. It seems strange, as if one day without warning everyone got up and left, never to return. Natures taken over, but in the greenery, exotic escapees lurk in the undergrowth.
Out in the open grassland of what was horse pasture, lies the remnants of a trotting track laid out with old police cones.
There must be at least twenty of these, each one has a resident mouse.
The yellow hue is caused by the colour of the cone and gives the dry, sheltered interior a cosy feel.
A screech from the buzzard up in the nearby oak sends the little chap to huddle in the corner. Too small for a buzzard to be bothered with, the kestrel hovering in the distance is probably more of a threat, along with the obvious presence of owls, from the amount of pellets around.
Inside the cone it is safe, dry, warmed by the sunshine. A little nest of fine grass occupies the corner, a secreted larder of seed in another....life is good in the police cone.
My main reason for being here is to track a Muntjac. Small pockets of land such as this are perfect territory for these small deer. They are loners (or occasionally in small groups) and so can survive where larger deer and herds can't. About the size of an Alsatian dog, they love this mix of woodland with its undergrowth and tall grassland.
They are both secretive and elusive. Tracking them involves finding the extent of their territory and establishing their feeding routine, (they are creatures of habit, following the same route daily).
This track is recent, it was still today, but windy yesterday, so the small twig across the print would indicate that it is probably a day old.
Muntjac are active day and night. They feed mainly at dawn and dusk, but can be found out and about at anytime. In the grassland there are many trails, ending in a circle of flattened foliage. These are lying up spots where they settle to ruminate.
This track is a little older, the sides have fallen in and is partly filled with bits from the overhead trees.
Reeves's Muntjac/ Chinese Muntjac aren't indigenous. They were first brought into the country in 1840 at Woburn Abbey. Many escaped later from Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire and they have slowly established themselves across the country. The Midlands seems to particularly suit them, with it's mix of habitat.
This is a track from today, clean and crisp, I'm slowly figuring out the route this chap takes.
Muntjacs are one of the oldest known deer, appearing nearly 30 million years ago. They are unusual as they have no rutting period and will breed at any time of year, this must lend to their success at spreading across the country as it allows them to be flexible in their territories.
It looks as if this individual has taken peoples back gardens into its territory, (they'll often browse bird feeders).
I'd just switched my camcorder off and then there it was. I had to wait for the camera to fire back up which seemed to take an age. The wind was in my favour, luckily. This is a doe, you can tell by the lack of antlers, just little tufts instead. Bucks lose their small antlers in May/June but by now they would have been replaced. They spend a lot of time in scrubby woodland with a lot of undergrowth, large antlers would be a hindrance. Rather than using them to fight, they are used to overbalance the opposition and then the tusk like canines are used aggressively.
Keep your eyes open these little chaps are all around us. They can be mistaken for a dog or a fox crossing a field in the distance. If you suspect that they are coming into your garden, put some finely raked soil around where they might feed and look for tracks.