A game of hide and sika..

I was recently introduced to a new site for me.  On the edge of Poole Harbour, it’s got a great mix of heathland, woodland and lots of reedbed into the harbour.

Fantastic!

I’ve been there 3 times now, and I have to say that I’m really enjoying getting to grips with the bigger beasts to be found here. Time to read on…

Poole harbour is not only home to thousands of waders and duck – it is also home to a rather impressive mammal that was introduced to the UK here.  Sika deer were first brought to these islands and released onto Brownsea Island where they would remain contained by the surrounding water.  It’s rumoured that by the very next morning they had all gone – swimming across the harbour and making good their escape into the Purbecks!  They are now a common sight all over the Purbecks (and on Brownsea).

A sika stag. Enjoying the sun!

Anyway, back to my new found site.  My first trip revealed several sika herds, all closely grouped by their dominant stag.  I resolved to come back again with a bit more time to spare and do a bit of stalking to get some good pics of these beasties.  

The day of the stalk arrived and I was out nice and early, in brilliant sunshine – though it was also a tad nippy!  The usual site seemed to be rather deserted, so I took to going for a bit of an explore instead of the anticipated crawling around..

Rounding a bend in the track I glimpsed a nice herd some 300 yards away, with a young stag half asleep in the gorse.  The hunt was on again!  Dropping into dead ground between me and the herd I quickly made progress to about 80 yards away then ran out of options.  Any further and the small group of feeding hinds would see me and would bark a warning.  I decided to get myself into the gorse, ignore the scratches and make my way in the direction of the main herd and hopefully the snoozing youngster.

It all went rather well I thought.  If I got any closer to the stag then he would have been too big for the viewfinder..  Trouble was, he still didn’t know I was there so was rather well hidden in a patch of bracken.  Just then, the dominant stag let out a bit a bellow, the young stag looked up to see what the fuss was about and I knelt up to get my shot..

That's a bit more awake!

This was great fun!  There were deer all over the place and then to top it all off, a white sika stag came wandering through the gorse!  I’d seen a few white hinds, but didn’t expect to see a stag as well.. 

The white stag - heading for a restful day

He didn’t hang around though as the deer were all heading for their daytime laying up sites.  The time had flown by and it was already late morning by then.

My challenge was set – I was determined to come back and get a good picture of the white stag.    

So, to the present day.  The weather wasn’t the best today, with heavy cloud meaning that the light was rather poor.  The wind was perfect though and I was confident of success as I stealthily approached the area that the herds always seem to favour.  There was just one problem.  Not one deer came into view across the entire area as I walked through where only a week before there had been in excess of 60, including the white stag…

So, I was back to wandering around, exploring a bit more and hoping to find the deer herds before they saw me..  There were a fair few out in the reeds, and every now and then I could hear the wierd call of the males echoing out across the harbour.  Finally, looking deep into a willow copse I spied an eye looking back at me..

I see you!

I sat down on the grass to see what he would do next.  The answer was quite simple – nothing!  I scrambled a little closer until I reached a swamp.  Still he stood there -just watching me. 

OK.. It's a stalemate..

  I had a play around with video on my camera – though it’s just like looking at a photo (albeit a bit a bit of a twitchy photo!).. 

Eventually we both got bored.  He wandered back into the reeds and I set off to check the gorse again.

Still no sign of the deer that I had hoped to find. I know I was in the right place -there were deer trails and tracks everywhere, and lots of sika droppings.

A typical deer track, very well worn!

Sika deer tracks in sand. How very obliging of them!

And finally - deer droppings. Old..

.. and new!

The deer just weren’t there!  Maybe the rut has finished and the herds have started to disperse, maybe they were disturbed before I got there, maybe they just didn’t like the weather conditions…

No matter.  I do like a good challenge, so I’ll be back – and I’m going to get that white stag in my camera viewfinder again soon!

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