Today we have reached the Autumnal equinox and there are some seasonal signs which are obvious. For example, the abundant hedgerow fruit, including these sloes. We harvested some beauties like this a couple of years ago and made sloe gin which has now matured to its best. Wonderful stuff! This year for a change, we made blackberry whisky for the first time and look forward to sampling that in 2014! (Thank you Tearlach for the recipe/ production instructions!)
Other Autumnal signs include damp, misty days, such as it was when I took mutt out for a walk yesterday.
However, there are some signs which aren't quite as obvious, unless you know what you are looking for.
One of my reasons for going for a walk where we did, was to actively go looking for these signs, and I'm pleased to say, I found them.
well, you don't need any help here!
However, how many of you spotted this sign back in the second image?
It was probably this sign which I was looking for more than the previous three, as this indicates that it is 'all systems go' with this year's fallow deer rut.
These areas of scuffed up ground are made by the fallow deer bucks and are called scrapes. Put simply, the buck urinates on this spot to entice the ladies in and warn the young pretenders away. Already, there is a distinct smell to the several scrapes dotted around the woodland edges, and the testosterone aroma will only get stronger as the season progresses. These scrapes are part of the larger congregating area and are known as rutting stands, several of which I have been seasonally watching for a few years now. These aren't 'easy to observe' parkland deer we are talking about here, where cracking shots are readily forthcoming, these are nervy, secretive, wild deer and so it makes it all the more of a challenge (and you know I like a good challenge!)
The stands always reappear in the same location which makes life easy for me as a photographer. I have a particular spot for my hide area, which today I gave a little bit of an Autumn-clean. Nothing too drastic though as the deer will know I have been there but just enough to ensure I don't have that one blade of grass in line of view.
So, for the next few weeks, this will be my view, off-and-on although through camo netting, and all being well, will finally come into clear focus! Sadly, due to the location, I have no way of getting closer, which I would dearly like to do but I respect the animals and their environment. My solution will be to use a longer lens this year, although I have a bit of a dilemma. Just as the rut is kicking-off here in East Anglia, we are due on our usual break away to West Cork. (The same thing happened last year and I missed a big chunk of the action.) Laying my hands on a long lens is possible but comes at a price. A price which has to be justified if (possibly) the main two weeks of the rut will be whilst I am in West Cork. I will be sad to miss the action again, so I will be sounding out the goings-on over a few mornings during this coming week and will make a decision from that.
On the up-side, I won't be missing out on the wildlife action whilst we are in West Cork. News is that the whale season is hotting up with minke whales and fin whales both being observed off the Cork coast, and although the humpbacks have returned to Irish waters, they are still further up the west coast. Maybe they will have migrated to our waters by the time we get there - we can but hope!
Meanwhile, back to the Fallow deer. My hope is to catch sight of the dominant buck, which two years ago, was a splendid white variant buck. Understandably, the recent increase in numbers of deer meant that a cull had to take place and I got wind of the fact that the local gamekeepers chose to take out all the white deer. I don't have any logical explanation for that but I really hope our white buck might still be the top man - unless he was ousted by his natural successor of course.
I will certainly keep you updated with all the deer action, here on the blog.
And what did mutt think about all this? I have to admit, she is an excellent photographer's assistant (although she has yet to offer to carry my kit bag!) With her lead left on, she knows it isn't play time, so she just settles down quietly and waits for me, although come deer-watch mornings, she will sensibly be left at home, of course.