Coloured Fallow Deer in the New Forest

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Oblong-leaved Sundews (Drosera intermedia) (I think?)

On the very last afternoon of the school summer holidays (4th September), my husband (a teacher) and I took a last trip out together, and since we had to be in the New Forest, chose one of my childhood haunts, when my father was Forestry Commission Head Keeper for the north of the New Forest.

On this occasion my thinking was that we might see deer, and also dragonflies and damselflies. I spotted a distant mixed bunch of Fallow before we’d got off the tarmac road, and we weren’t to be disappointed by the mating Emerald Damselflies on the pond. We also found a good number of Bog Asphodel seedheads (Narthecium ossifragum), and what I take to be Oblong-leaved Sundews (Drosera intermedia) among the various wallows and valley mire areas (though you’re welcome to correct me if I’m wrong with my i.d.).

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Fallow Deer in the New Forest, in all their colour variations. (Sept 2016)

But it was the Fallow Deer that proved the most interesting to me on this occasion. It was a large group of 30-40 “small deer” as my Dad would describe them; does with fawns, and some yearlings, the prickets (yearling males) showing their first antlers. Among them were 5 melanistic (black) animals, one of which was definitely a fawn another being a mature doe. There was also a white doe, and a menil pricket.

It was a really impressive show of the range of colours that exist in the coats of Fallow Deer, and when we showed my father the photo’s later, he commented that it was the most diversely coloured herd he’d seen for many, many years.

The white deer aren’t albino, having normal coloured eyes, but do tend to have cleaves (hooves) that are paler than normal. Dad showed me a paper he co-wrote in 1975 for the British Deer Society journal ‘Deer’ (Vol 3, No7), which explains that the white deer had been in the New Forest for “a very long time” owing their origin to the historic parks north of the Forest. The black and menil deer were at that time a more recent introduction, with the Keeper of Holly Hatch recording the first black buck in 1945 from Loosehanger. The first menil Fallow was recorded by New Forest Keepers in 1965.

The records published in that report gives the Keeper’s 1974 survey as showing 63 white Fallow, 12 black and 15 menil. It would be interesting to discover what those numbers stand at more than 40 years later.

In the meantime, if you’re in the New Forest, do look carefully to see what deer you can see; only the Fallow have this colour range!

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Roe Buck and other spring evening delights

Peacock Butterfly on Gorse
Peacock Butterfly on Gorse

Very quick post with a record of our evening stroll. The venue was Blackbushe and it’s surroundings again as usual.

This Peacock Butterfly looks like it overwintered – though how any butterfly can survive the winter we’ve had, I really don’t know.

Whitethroat, Blackbushe, Yateley
Whitethroat, Blackbushe, Yateley

 

The Whitethroats are still showing well, and with patience, I’m getting closer!

The Roe Buck was the star of the evening though, he was in the bottom corner of my favourite field, not far from the gate. I got close enough to lean the camera on the gatepost, and took loads of photos, until a couple who had entered the top of the field and walked round to the gate, disturbed it and it headed back into the copse. We were surprised, they never even paused to watch, even though they can’t have failed to see it!

Roe Buck, Yateley 1st May 2013 - looking slightly moth-eaten because it's starting to moult into its' summer coat (which is a much more glossy chestnut)
Roe Buck, Yateley 1st May 2013 – looking slightly moth-eaten because it’s starting to moult into its’ summer coat (which is a much more glossy chestnut)

There are more photo’s on my Flickr site, including a couple taken yesterday in the old chapel at college. They’ve kept the ‘chancel’ area round the altar for quiet prayer meetings, but the rest is now a quiet space to work in – by far the most comfortable and now my favourite place in college.

In case you’re wondering, the walks are an attempt to keep me sane when I’ve got lots of stuff to think through, and the fresh air and exercise are good for me too!

Where Buzzards Call – God’s own Cathedral

Buzzard above the trees in Yateley

There is a field where I like to walk the dog, to breath deeply of the fresh air, to watch butterflies and look across the edge of town to the hill beyond, and to listen to the buzzards calling.

They are a new edition to the scenery. At one visit about two weeks ago, I spotted six separate buzzards – four in the air at once, but two others calling from nearby trees. Regularly since then there have been two, lifting from the nearby oaks and circling above my head calling to each other as I walk the field boundary.

Stitchwort flowering in the field bank

The sound of a buzzard, lifts my spirits. When I’m in the company of my husband, the effect is even better. There is something about sharing our appreciation of wildlife, from the tiniest flower to the raptors above, that brings a depth to the sense of joy at God’s creation that I struggle to put into words. There is also a freedom in such circumstances to praise and worship God in a way that is impossible within the walls of a building, however majestic and prayer-filled it might be. Truly I sense that this is one of the places where I stand in God’s own cathedral.

Moulting Roe Buck near Yateley, May 2012

Yesterday, I entered this same field, to be greeted by yet another treat. At the top of the field was a grazing Roe Deer, unconcerned by the presence of myself & my Honey dog. For once, she stayed quiet and allowed herself to be put on the lead as I crept closer, a few yards at the time. The Roe buck raised it’s head occasionally, moved occasionally to some new patch, and grazed on. Before it left the field, I was even able to get close enough to take a photo!

I wondered at it’s unusual mottled look, but not until I got home and looked at the photo did I realise that it was moulting heavily, the glossy gingery red coat just visible below the long guard hairs that have kept it warm through the winter.


As the Roe buck leapt over the fence, my terrier Honey, finally spotted it!

[On the phone later in the day, Dad (30 plus years a wildlife manager in the New Forest) reminded me that the Roe Deer has an unusual biological cycle, that doesn’t match that of the other deer of Britain. They caste their antlers in November (rather than May as the Fallow do), bearing new antlers in velvet during the cold of winter. They rut (mate) in late July and early August. But there’s another twist of biology, for the fertilised eggs have delayed implantation until sometime towards the shortest day, so that the young, which can be twins, are born in high summer.]

A talkative angel… at Christmas

An angel in the Compton Window in the South Transept of All Saints, Minstead
An angel in the 'Compton Window' in the South Transept of Minstead Church

It’s funny how sermons can change… I barely mentioned donkey’s on Christmas morning!

And I’d been led to believe the smallish congregation wouldn’t have many kids… and of the nearly 40 people 18 were children… at least 8 of them grandchildren visiting one set of grandparents!

What I actually shared was the idea of looking in the face of God (including a brief quotation from Trevor Dennis’s “Three Faces of Jesus”… thanks to a Licensing gift) and the idea that there was lots of talking in the Luke 2:1-20 Christmas Day reading, and on a modern Christmas Day. But what are you talking about this Christmas?

It was in fact a re-hash of something I did for an assignment back last Christmas (though even then partly with Minstead in mind), but had never been used as a live sermon outside tutorial. It was a little autobiographical especially to the venue, and getting the kids to blow a post-horn was quite fun.

With Thomas-the-Tank-Engine being used to remodel pews, and a Jack Russell tied to a tombstone on a long-line but sat barking in the church porch, (as well as suffering from a cold) it was a difficult service and sermon to deliver, but it seemed to get a reasonably positive response.

If you want a read of what the notes said (which wasn’t totally how it was delivered, but hey…) please click to download: Christmas Morning 2009 – Talks

The occasion was also the first since licensing when I wore robes – I was jolly glad of them as they kept me warm! Though without them, I’d have worn more layers… I didn’t want to look too fat!

The back of Minstead Church - Christmas Morning 2009

The Christmas round of visiting parents has been a welcome break from looking at the decorating work that needs to be completed. It has been good to have family time with the folk we are closest too. Everything from walks watching Fallow Deer near Mogshade in the New Forest, to playing ‘Hare and Tortoise’ was much enjoyed. As was Uncle’s always excellent champagne. It’s a pity that the oldest is now to frail to join us, but she wasn’t left out, though I think our brief visit was tiring. Sometimes people feel they’ve just had too many Christmas’s and want to move on.

The young man of the family has delighted everyone in different ways, and been chuffed to bits with the presents he got – a very Ray Mears themed Christmas this year, and he’s already completed one lovely rough spoon in a piece of old oak he had been dreaming of working on.

Between journeys we’ve made a start and tonight completed the painting his new high ceiling bit of his room! Tomorrow we have a date with a lot of walls!!

I hope you have had something good from God to talk about this Christmas.

Wildlife at my fingertips

Yesterday morning, as we sat down to breakfast, a baby Blue Tit flew into the french window and wobbled, stunned on the patio step.DSCN9872c(web)

Needing to rescue it from our dog or the local moggies, I dashed outside and picked it up. Graham grabbed the camera, and here is the result. I was able to pop it on the bird table, it’s mother returned, and eventually it flew off.

It was lovely to be able to use the incident immediately to open and close the morning Iona Communion Service that I was leading at St. Peter’s.

Only on looking at the pictures later did we realise it had a deformed left foot (see close up) and wasn’t using it properly. Over the winter we’ve been aware of a chaffinch with similar sort of growths on it’s foot, but we’ve no idea what may cause them.DSCN9875c(web)

We’re enjoying a little relaxation time at present, since it is the start of half-term, the boy is on Scout Camp in E Sussex, and I’ve finally finished my placement report. Saturday afternoon we returned through Ashdown Forest from the Scout Camp stopping for a picnic near some bluebells and at Weir Wood Nature Reserve where we a bit disappointed to find it felt a bit neglected. However the noise from the heronry was extraordinary, and we found two Fallow Deer nearby just showing antler growth in velvet.

Yesterday evening we went to our local patch at Castle Bottom at dusk. We saw a Roe Deer en route in the adjacent Silver Fox Farm fields, and a hunting fox right near the stream-bed in Castle Bottom itself. What we went for were Nightjars, and although we heard distant churring, we saw nothing… but midges. (Must try again, possibly later… although we didn’t leave till 9.30pm.) The smell of Bog Myrtle was intoxicating however. The new blog header was a photo Graham took whilst we were out, just before we returned home across the back of Blackbushe Airport, where we saw a black rabbit (among many other bunnies) and bats… some largish ones out on the edge of the heath, and what we think were Pipistrelle bats in the lane coming home.

Today we’ve been to Ashe… via needing to hand in that placement report in North Waltham… which boasts the source of the River Test (famous for it’s trout). The spring rises in a small pond, favoured by ducks and fed over by Swallows, which then forms a stream that stretches out across a beautiful meadow (full of sheep) through which there is a footpath to Overton. If you fancy a wander we thoroughly recommend it… park by the church and walk through the (very tidy) farmyard to the waymark signs.

Reminded me, I really must try and go trout fishing with my father this summer!

Holy Trinity and St. Andrew's Church, Ashe
Holy Trinity and St. Andrew's Church, Ashe

UK Wild deer populations are booming

This is just the sort of thing that my Dad worked with for 30 years, so it will interesting to get his comments on this report on the impact of changing deer populations. Road casualties were always a problem in the New Forest – Dad would have to go and collect them, or try and find and put down those that had been injured but run on. That is where I developed a taste for venison – the dogs ate the nasty bits and the humans ate the rest!

The photograph at the top of the Wildlife Extra coverage is almost certainly taken at Boldrewood where I used to help him feed the deer.

UK Wild deer populations are booming – Problems and benefits

Full report http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/postpn325.pdf

Mind you – I could have told them numbers were up. Graham and I have both seen Muntjac round our bit of NE Hants in the last few months – and when I was a kid they were largely regarded as rumours about something non-existant.

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