Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Simon says ..........

When I read that last weeks Autumnwatch programme was going to feature Simon King in the Forest of Dean, I thought OK he'll be looking at the fallow deer and my dismal attempts at catching them on camera will be fully exposed. But ..... he too discussed the difficulties posed by the density of the natural forest. I felt better.
I decided last weekend would be my last chance of trying for some action shots of the bucks, as this coming weekend the Forest is out of bounds for me. So I went back to my recent patch and all was silent apart from the many squirrels delicately picking up the spiky sweet chestnut cases. Then I heard grunting from a few hundred yards up the track. The buck sounded near, so I edged over a hillock to see a buck and half a dozen does. He was fired up, pacing around his little harem, although there was no sight or sound of a challenger. I was peering through a mass of twiggy branches, so over the next 5-10 minutes I worked my way down the side of the hillock, sliding unstoppably but ever so slowly at one stage, just keeping it slow enough to avoid spooking anything and get to a fallen branch for a bit of cover. Although some of the action was hidden by the hill to my left, after a few minutes he appeared giving nearly clear views. Great for watching, but still a bit dark and cluttered for pictures.

I spent about 20-25 minutes watching, and sometimes I felt, being watched, but the deer were never spooked, so I was obviously well enough hidden in my action man outfit. Again these shots are selected because the does were looking my way, not because they were constantly looking at me. Most of the time they were grazing, making little whinnying sounds to the buck. The range of colour forms can be clearly seen.
The light was gradually coming when a bizarre combination of events brought the session to an end. There was a sudden flapping of wings as several woodpigeon hit the air and a female goshawk shot through, and down to the ground. Although it wasn't that near, the deer were spooked, all pricked ears and tails. It seemed every tree had a squirrel in it making those weird, high pitched alarm calls. Then almost immediately a group of cyclists went past on a nearby track, chatting loudly. And suddenly the deer were gone.
I waited a while, but there was no sign of them coming back and I decided that even if they did I didn't want to disturb them again. Still, undoubtedly my best morning's deer watching. As for a decent photo? There's always next year.

No comments: