Watching the Red Deer and the Fallow Deer at Richmond Park is a special opportunity to witness these impressive beasts. Don’t get too close – they can be unpredictable at the best of times. Add horny at this time of year for a hormonal cocktail of nervous doe and roaring stag! It can be a bit unnerving.
I went in to photograph the deer over 2 sunset sessions on 2 days. The stags might show their Rutting Season behaviour at any time, but evening seems to be a good point at which to observe interactions between deer. Some of the things I saw the males do are probably too rude for me to describe in detail on this blog. The stag in the company of does was often frantic and continuously either checking their scent and taste, or chasing them.
At other times, when the stag was alone, he did something that seemed oddly like a ritual. He bowed down and scraped his antlers into bracken and undergrowth, and when he brought his head up again there was a head-dress of plant material. An autumnal crown that added (intuitively?) to the majestic air of his posturing pomp.
The behaviour was also very interesting in the context of this Royal Park setting.
My photo of the Red Deer stag, doe and calves portrays a wild nature scene, but this video shatters any romantic impression that you might have got from that image! Take a look at the clip – you’ll see the almost casual proximity with people, in this highly civilised slice of the countryside in London. So many noisy distractions come into play here: dogs and their walkers, joggers, families out for an evening stroll, photographers (yes, me too), cyclists… it’s a wonder they get to have any sex!
Eventually the people disappear of course. As it gets darker the park wildlife gets a bit wilder!
Copyright © 2008 Jason Ball