Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Stuck in a Rut...

This is the time of year that the Fallow Deer rut. Determined not to miss out on the spectacle, I headed off into the woods. Beyond the old military shooting butts the forest is thick and dark. The steep slopes are favoured by the deer and few people stray from the paths into the trees.

Of course that might be something to do with the hundreds of disused mine shafts. Dug over the centuries, many of these shafts were never mapped or filled in. Over the years some have collapsed in on themselves, while others remain hidden beneath the bracken. Unfortunately this is the best place to view the rutting stands, so I'd have to take my chances.

I wandered high and low. The Bucks were bellowing loudly. I'd head off in the direction of the noise, only for it to stop moments before I'd located the 'stand' and another one would start in the distance. It was frustrating, so I hung up the hammock and stopped for a spot of tiffin.
I took a photo of my picnic spot, viewed the picture, and switched my camera off. At the same moment I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. A young Stag! It had crept up on me. I lifted the camera... Aaah! It was switched off... fumble, fumble. He was gone. They were playing games with me.

Eventually I discovered a stand. The ground was muddied from days of pounding, and the lower branches cleared from the trees by sweeping antlers. I ducked down below a steep slope to get my other camera from my rucksack. There was a deep bellow and the ground rumbled as two young Bucks leapt passed my head and on down the impossible incline...
I'd missed them I thought, but no. As I stood up there was a huge Buck like a black shadow in the forest.

I was soon spotted, but whether it was indecision or curiosity that delayed them, it gave me enough time to grab some video footage.

For a moment the Stag stared me in the eye, and I was worried that he was going to come crashing through the trees at me.

Luckily he had 'lurve' on the mind. They disappeared into the collage of trees with admirable stealth.

It was starting to get dark. The moon hid behind the clouds. The car was parked a long way away, over by a tree. Suddenly there seemed to be a lot of trees that all looked alike.

Still, it was no problem, it would turn up. Must be careful not to fall down any mine shafts...

I'll use the camera flash to see where I am... Oooh more trees... and eyes in the woods!
Nevermind, I have a cunning plan...

Monday, 5 October 2009

Deer Summer, please visit again soon...

As the summer fades to a fond memory, I make sure I find time to embrace any remaining sunny days.
The sand quarries on the hills are a favourite haunt. Small lakes, pioneering rough scrub, and Gorsy slopes, are framed by mature woodland in a sea of green fields dotted with church topped villages.
Of course my romantic eye chooses to ignore the semi industrial elements, but not the signs warning me of impending doom. The silt pools ARE dangerous, and you really have to watch what you're doing. There's something a little concerning about a 6 foot sign warning you of quicksand that has sunk up to its neck.

It's these pools and the new growth on the silt that brings the deer to graze. I often see Muntjac, but there is also a herd of Fallow deer. I'm impressed how such a large animal in good number remain unseen throughout the day. I can spend hours following the tracks trough the woods and across the sands, it's fun to see what they've been up to.

This is the wallow hole that they visit almost daily. In its base is the perfect imprint of a large deer that has been lying on its side. The forest floor when disturbed sends up clouds of mosquitoes, and a coating of mud helps prevent bites. I was tempted to try it, but instead opted for higher mozzy free ground...

Up on the hill I settled for a while to watch over the surrounding land, hoping to spot some wildlife. The Buzzard screeching a warning overhead, combined with my lack of patience, meant I had no luck.

I knew the deer were out there somewhere in the mist comforted trees. Maybe it wasn't a lack of patience but more my rumbling tummy that sent me on my way.

Down in the mature woodland I managed to forage some Sweet Chestnuts while I was waiting for the water to boil for my coffee.

A quick simmer and they hit the spot for a yummy snack.

Hedgerow Hazelnuts provided some perambulant picnicking...

... as I headed homeward through the picture postcard scenery.