Sunday, 30 October 2011

Richmond park deer rut - Part 2

A couple of weekends ago, I went back to Richmond Park to see the deer rut. It was my aim this time to show Kelly some rutting stags and, I'm glad to say, the stags were obliging.

I decided I would get up very early and get to the park for sunrise, which was about 7.30 am on that particular day, hoping I'd get a nice, atmospheric, misty shot of a stag silhouetted against the rising sun. What I actually got was bad light and clouds. Still, I did manage to watch a Green Woodpecker flying around for a bit. I couldn't really get a decent shot of it, owing to the distance and the bad light, but I quite like the way this shot came out.

After locking up my bike, I was immediately greeted with the familiar roar of a dominant stag, this one with a group of hinds to watch over.

There was a lot of work to be done by the dominant stag, as the hinds were attracting a lot of other stags attentions. Mind you, I don't think the following guy posed much of a challenge to him though.

Perhaps this guy, although I think he might stand a better chance in a few more years.  He did give me a bit of a fright though when he popped he head up right next to me.  I certainly wasn't about to fight him!

There was the usual group of large stags and hinds a short walk from Pembroke Lodge, with a number of very large and fairly evenly matched stags keeping each other at bay.

Again, the apparent lack of knowledge some people have about dangerous these creatures can potentially be was all too obvious.  The guy in the photo below didn't have his dog on a lead and didn't slow his walk in the slightest, even when faced with a stag on the footpath ahead of him.  Fortunately (for him...) the stag made a dash for it into the bracken. 

I met Kelly at Pembroke Lodge and we joined the Friends of Richmond Park for a deer talk by Chris Howard of the British Deer Society, followed by a led walk around the park.  It was an interesting talk and a nice excuse to go inside, warm up and have a cup of tea.

It was on this walk where Kelly got to see two very evenly matched stags rutting.  The one of the right of the next photo had a harem of about six hinds and the other stag brazenly walked over to see if he could make them his.

They were fighting for about 15 minutes which, to my knowledge, is quite a long time, proving how evenly matched they were.

Eventually, the challenger turned and fled, with the victor hot on his heels.

We continued on our walk and saw lots of other red deer stags watching over various groups of hinds but no other action apart from the usual roaring.

There was a large group of Fallow deer as well but, as their rut had not started yet, males and females seemed content to hang around together.

Back at the spot near Pembroke Lodge, the large stags continued to roar to each other and to any hinds who were within ear shot.

On our way back to the park gate, we came across two hinds who were on their own; always a little disconcerting as I half expected to turn around to find myself face to face with their stag.  Fortunately this was not the case this time.

And finally, just to add a balance (well, sort of...), here's one of the parks resident Ring-necked Parakeets.  He and his friends were providing an accompaniment to the stags soundtrack.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Richmond park deer rut - Part 1

This past Sunday, I did something I haven't done in 6 years of living in south west London; I went to Richmond park to see the deer rut. Now granted, I have a little more interest in it now than perhaps I did when I first moved here, as I am now a keen wildlife photographer, but honestly, photography or not, I can't believe I haven't gone before.

For those who don't know, the deer rut is an annual event for all types of ruminant animals, of which red and fallow deer, the two species found in Richmond Park, belong. The rut in many species is triggered by a shortening of the length of daylight hours each day so, in the UK, it is usually over September and October. During this time the males, or stags, have one thing and one thing only on their mind; women. The females, or hinds, only come into season once a year and for a very short period of time so the stags do their best to maintain control over a group of females so he and only he can breed with them. The stags do not eat at all during this period and often lose up to 20% of their body weight by the end of the rutting season.

During this time, the biggest and strongest stags constantly bellow an echoing roar to other stags, telling them to stay away, and also to the hinds, to attract them. After all, the hinds want to mate with the biggest, strongest stags. In my opinion, the roar of a red deer sounds something like a cow mooing whilst burping at the same time. I recorded the following video to show what it's like.

If other stags don't get the hint and decide to come too close to the dominant stags group of hinds, the dominant stag will attempt to chase the contender off. Inevitably, however, fights do break out which can lead to some incredible scenes of clashing antlers.

The way two stags of equal size square up for a fight, generally follows this pattern of behaviour;  Two stags bellow and roar to each other, both trying to exert their dominance over the other.

If that doesn't cause one to back down, they will parallel walk. This is exactly as it sounds; the two stags walk up and down in parallel, sizing each other up.

If neither stag will back down after this, that's when antlers clash. This clashing can be quick or it can be lengthy and bloody.

Within Richmond park, there are two types of deer; red and fallow. All photos on this page, apart from the next one, are of red deer. The fallow deer are smaller than the reds, have spots on their backs and have thicker antlers.  Male fallow deer are called bucks instead of stags and the females are called doe.

Red deer do a lot to attract hinds. Not only do they roar and fight with other stags but they also cover themselves in their urine, as it contains powerful pheremones; it can be quite over-powering. The also like to wallow in mud, as this guy had just done.

And, obviously, it's all about the accessories, and accessories for a red deer stag is ferns and bracken in their antlers.

It wasn't all about deer though and I managed to see something I had wanted to but never quite managed; to see one of the parks Ring-necked Parakeets appearing from a nest hole. This one posed quite nicely for me.

It was the deer I had come to see, however, so that's what I saw. I'm not going to lie, the guy in the next photo nearly made me mess myself. I was cutting through one of the tracks in the bracken (in hindsight, not the best idea) and, as I approached a better established path, I spotted this guys antlers about 2 metres away from where I was standing. With this, I decided it might be an idea to run a little further away from him. Fortunately for me, it was a very hot day and I don't think he could be bothered to be too worried about my presence.

One very important note on the deer rut; these are WILD ANIMALS! It amazed me the stupidity of the behaviour of some groups of park users, including a family quite happy to have their kids, no older than 6 or 7 years old, running up within a few metres of a group of fallow deer, trying to get a photo.

Again, they are wild animals, they haven't eaten for weeks and will think of anything getting too close as a challenger. If you don't believe me, maybe find this woman and ask her what she thinks; For goodness sake, they've been known to attack cars!

It was wonderful to see this spectacle of nature, and right on my doorstep.

I shall be there again this weekend and this time my girlfriend, Kelly, will be there to witness it as well. Here's hoping for some dry weather again!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...