Ready for the rut
PUBLISHED: 11:01 06 October 2015 | UPDATED: 11:01 06 October 2015
Wildlife photographer and writer Kevin Sawford shares his October discoveries and tips for capturing magnificent deer and other animals as they prepare for cooler months ahead
October is the main month when the males of two of our region’s deer species are charged with testosterone during their annual rutting season.
Red deer stags and fallow deer bucks can be heard bellowing to warn off any potential suiters to their harem of females. It is at this time of the year the females come into season and are ready to mate. The deep throated roar is used as a sign of strength to other males who are looking to get in on the action. For the majority of the time, the dominant male will be able to ward off lesser males with the combination of stronger bellows and if the suiter comes too close the dominant male will chase off its rival. The action really starts if a pair of males are evenly matched. When the initial bellowing does not work and a rival male starts to fancy its chances the two animals will be seen sizing each other up. They start to walk parallel to each other and if the rival is still not put off then the inevitable fight will ensue. Often this can be over quickly as one male succumbs to the strength of the other, but when both are evenly matched the battle can very violent, bloody and even deadly.
Red deer although synonymous with The Highlands of Scotland, can be found across our region, particularly in Breckland and the area in and around RSPB Minsmere and Westleton Heath. You might have seen the Minsmere deer on BBC’s Autumnwatch last year. Each year, the RSPB runs deer rut safaris when you can experience the action (www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/reserves/guide/m/minsmere).
The main image of this red deer stag roaring in the bracken is one of my favourites from the rut. I was able to position myself in front of the stag and waited for it to roar. Placing my focus point on the animal’s nose and using a combination of a large aperture to get a small depth of field was enough to keep the stag in focus but blur out the background.
Fallow deer are widely spread across our region and can be found in many areas with woodland. They are smaller than the red deer and are usually found in larger groups.
The insert image is two fallow bucks in full battle. For this type of image I have deliberately chosen to use a slow shutter speed (1/30th of a second for this particular image) to show the movement in the fight.
By early November the rut will have finished, the irony being that the same males that have spent that last month battling each other often can be found feeding together. The natural world is a funny place.
You can read Kevin Sawford’s wildlife notes and photography tips in Suffolk Magazine every month.