Hi everyone, I hope my alliteration and puns aren’t getting on your nerves (my mum is jokingly shaking her head in hands right now)! Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone for their support and encouragement after yesterday’s poem. I’ll probably not do that gain  for a while!  This is a bit of a backwards post as this sighting was from a few weeks ago, but some days, I just won’t be able to do both nature hunting and writing; but I will try my best.

As the end of Spring was near and the air was full of the scent of new wildflowers and the grasses were gently swaying,  I went on a school trip to Crom Castle. This is another amazing site managed by National Trust (as I’m going on another trip there soon, I’ll go into more detail next time). It’s another favourite spot of ours and again, has such a diversity of habitats and species. You can also hire out canoes and kayaks and take to the lake, this is a fantastic way to get close to and spot waders, ducks and geese. On this particular day, we were going geocaching but as usual I was more focused on the surrounding wildlife. Today, I want to share some facts and stories about the Fallow deer as it kind of enchanted me and seemed to look right at me, it probably wasn’t but once you have that connection with wildlife and nature, every experience is meaningful – to me anyway!

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So, the Fallow deer (Dama dama) are not normally accesible to the public but we were lucky today. I don’t have a zoomy camera but didn’t really need it as we got quite close. Fallow deer are a non-indigenous, once prized ornamental species and are mainly linked to deer parks. They have beautiful chestnut, spotted hide (the spots fade in the winter) and prefer a mixed woodland habitat. In the wild, herds are nomadic and roam the land. When I think of deer, I immediately think of misty hills and cool crisp mornings, mystery and history. They are hunted for their venison and were once in real trouble here. Historically, when the Roman empire collapsed, genetic analysis shows that these deer went extinct in Britain. It wasn’t until the 11th century that fallow deer were re-introduced by the Normans and in time they spread out from their inital residence of the deer park onto the land. Their frequent appearnace meant that they ended up on the table of aristocrats and other nobles. Their population declined again as interst for deer parks waned, the escapees are the foundation of the living population today.

Although they are very beautiful and elegant animals, they are in constant conflict with farmers and landowners as they eat crops and tree shoots which can cause lots of damage. Deer populations require management to make sure the equilibrium of biodiversity is maintained. I have never eaten venison and don’t really plan to and although I can symapthise with the idea of ‘culling’ for land management, I do not agree with sporting hunting. I cannot comprehend such behaviour. I can understand culling as there are no top predators such bears, lynx and wolves – the ecosystem is not in balance and so needs intervention.

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Fallow bucks can be really aggressive during ‘rutting’ or mating season. Battling competitive displays are quite a sight to see and hear! They can even fight to the death and at Crom they loose a few every year. They mainly live in single sex groups most of the year, only getting together at rutting. The season starts in September and are over by the end of October. A doe will start breeding at around 18months and give birth to one fawn the following May and as we were onlooking, the fawns scarpered and I missed a chance to take a photograph. I am not a wildlife photographer, I know I am frequently apologetic about this but really wish I could give you some great images. You can watch my progress as time goes by and hopefully I will improve.

These easily spooked, majestic creatures are a joy to watch, their easiness with us was really brilliant and I’m glad we could just stare at them for a while. I hope you enjoyed reading a little bit more about fallow deer.

Dara