Red Deer (Cervus elaphus)

Its that time of year, the rutting season. I set my self two targets for this outing. I wanted to photograph a stag with his hot breath visible as he was bellowing and I wanted to photograph two stags in a rut.

I went to Tatton Park this morning. It was an early start with my brother who was in a fishing competition on Melchitt Lake within the park. He had to be there at 7.00am so the fishing organisers had permission to enter the park early before the normal opening times to the public. Hitching a lift with my brother gave me a good start to the day. As we drove through the park it was just starting to get light with deer all over the place seen in the car head lights. We parked up and the silence of the early morning was interrupted with bird song and the bellowing of Stags somewhere in the distance.

Rucksack on, tripod in my hand and I was off walking towards the bellowing sounds. Tens minutes later I spotted my first Stag, unfortunately he spotted me as well. Every time I got closer he would walk or trot further away. Eventually I came to an area where there were a few deer about and fortunately there were trees between them and me and I used these trees to keep myself out of their line of vision as I got closer.

The light was very flat and poor. Occasional drizzle made it worse, high ISO and slow shutter speeds were the order of the day. I quickly got a few pictures of this Stag because somewhere in the distance I could hear the the clash of antlers from a rut.

I probably could have risked getting closer to these two Stags. I chose not to just in case they spotted me and ran off. This picture is cropped and consequently some detail is lost. Males compete for the females through displays of roaring, spraying urine, and fighting. The risk of injury to males in a rut can be quite high.

The Red Deer is our largest land-mammal. The summer coat is reddish brown, and the winter coat is brown to grey. Their antlers are highly branched in the stag, the older the Stag gets the more branches and up to 16 points recorded.

As long as my profile was not easy to see I felt the deer became less nervous of me. I always tried to position myself with trees or a bush behind me.

The Stags seemed to be really relaxed with me around. I suspect it was because they were more pre-occupied with their harem of Hinds and nothing to do with me at all.

Young Bucks sizing each other up.

Showing the environment

The two pictures above show more of the environment they live in. In this case they are living in woodland and grassland but can adapt to open moorland and hills.

Our largest land-mammal. Summer coat is reddish brown to brown, winter coat is brown to grey. Large, highly branched antlers in the stag (male). The antlers are shed each year but the older the Stag the more elaborate the new antlers. become.

Stags mark their territory by scraping the soil with their hooves and antlers, urinating and rubbing their heads and antlers against tree and bushes. They also strut up and down, bellowing loudly. The intention of all this performance is to attract and mate with as many females as possible within their territory.

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