Jane Wilson-Howarth

Blog

 
 

The Rut

Tuesday, 23 February 2016
‘Stop, stop, stop!’ I shouted. ‘I think I saw one!’ S swerved off the single track road and killed the engine. I’d already grabbed the camera and opened the passenger door. Then – bent double – ran back the way we’d come. I found a spot shielded by bushes and peered into the silver birch forest. Even the birds were quiet. Damn. Had I imagined movement? After all we’d just come from the place that was supposed to be best for sightings, and seen nothing there.
Keeping low I changed position so that I could see more of the forest, then made out a whitish heart-shaped patch the size of a dinner plate. Rich russet brown surrounded the white fur and a short tail intruded into the white rump. A dark line ran from her tail up along her spine towards her motionless head. She was breathing hard. Her nostrils flared and her body rocked with each in-breath. Her beautiful round eyes framed with long eyelashes were wide open. 

Slowly I raised the camera but her haunches tensed. She bounded away surprisingly quietly, gracefully zig-zagging between white tree trunks. I was left wondering if she’d been on her own or whether countless eyes had observed my clumsy emergence from the car. As if in answer to that thought, there was a distant bellowing, reminiscent of a large animal with bad belly ache. We’d pretty much given up hope of seeing large wildlife that morning so the fleeting glimpse and that bellow were pleasing.
So – here’s a question: if you wanted to see Red Deer rut where would you go? My first thought would have been Scotland but we weren’t in Scotland. We were close to the Suffolk coast where reserves owned by the RSPB, the National Trust and Sizewell nuclear power station allow plenty of space for animals large and small. Here are not only the pine-dotted grazing grounds favoured by nightjars and Dartford warblers, but also marshes and sand dunes and – an unexpected delight – silver birch forests. I’d imagined the Suffolk coast would be treeless.
We’d just left wonderful rolling lowland heath described as sandlings where the yellow of the gorse contrasted with the pink and purple of the heather. It was late October and storm-clouds were scudding across the sky but keeping their wetness to themselves. We decided now to head for the saltmarshes on foot.
We chose a path that tacked between reeds and rushes and was noisy with birds. This part of the reserve is famous for bitterns but as I pricked up my ears and scanned the reeds I knew there was little hope of spotting such a shy bird. There could be hundreds hidden amongst the thick swishing greenness.
The path took us to a high hide where we felt under-dressed with our one small pair of binoculars between the two of us. Proper naturalists and birders have telescopes and tripods and huge binoculars and cameras with enormous telephoto lenses. Ill-equipped as we were we sat enjoying the tranquillity. 

The hide allowed a magnificent view out across the reedbeds to a winding grassy bund that separated tidal from brackish water. A couple of snowy white egrets were fussily picking around in the mud beneath the hide. A large raptor appeared from nowhere and systematically worked the reeds, tacking back and forth, swooping down once in a while. As the birders’ cameras clicked frenetically, I realised this was a hen harrier – a handsome deep chestnut bird with a white head.
Then there was movement on the grass bund. Slowly a magnificent Red Deer hind wandered into view. She progressed towards us on the bund cropping the luscious grass. Another, much smaller, a yearling I assumed, appeared behind her. Two more emerged and the four continued grazing unperturbed by their audience. I just watched, soaking up the scene, thinking what a great day we’d had when I registered different activity at the edge of the reedbed. The cause of the disturbance was speckled. A head attached to a long neck poked out, followed by the rest of the bittern – the first I’d ever seen. The bird stalked about, poking into the grass for a while, then after posing for photos with the red deer, took off and flew right across in front of us in the hide, at eye level.
It wasn't until a little later that S finally spotted some antlers...

An exhausted-looking stag stood amongst his harem, keeping watch as they grazed at the forest edge. The low sun made them look golden. He’d clearly fought hard for his harts. Fighting off other suitors. Too busy to eat. There was very little muscle left in his rump, and his spine showed. The rut was over. I hoped the sex had been worth it.
Even at this point, Nature wasn’t finished with putting on her best display for us. As we happily wandered back and up towards the road the sky grew rosy and thousands of birds that had been feeding in the reedbeds grew noisy and restless. Flocks flew in, circled merged, gyrated and swarmed. Others rose up from the reeds. Yet others joined in and swirled and undulated seemingly celebrating the end of another wonderful day.
What a pity that we humans can’t murmurate.
Posted: 23/02/2016 17:14:36 by Global Administrator | with 0 comments



    Pontifications
    Travel
    Wildlife
    Writing
#righttobreathe / 100 word story / 100-word story / 50 Camels / 50 Camels and She's Yours / A Glimpse of Eternal Snows / A Wide Woman on a Narrow Boat / Aberdeen / Abuja / Active Fairness System / advertising / age concern / air pollution / air quality / Akwanga / alcoholism / Alicia Ostriker / ANM / Annapurna / anthology / Asad / author / Author from Hull / author interview / Auxiliary Nurse Midwife / Baglung / Bagmati / Bajaj / Bajaj Pulsar / Bajura / banknotes / BBC Radio Cambridgeshire / bear precautions / Bertrand Russell / Bhotang / bike trip / birdlife / birds / black bear / black kites / black pine forest / Blue sheep / book launch / border guards / Boreal Wildlife Centre / Bradt / Bradt Travel Guides / Brahmin / breakfast / bridge / brown bear / buckwheat / buckwheat bird / buffalo cart / bulbul / camaraderie / Cambridge / Cambridge writers / camping hazards / canals / carcinogens / caste / catastrophe / celtic / chaite-dhan / Chele / childbirth / children's books / Chirang / Chisapaani / Chisapani / Chobhar / Chobhar Hill / Chough / climate change / clinics / cold desert / colourful hat / comfort / cows / cyclist / dal bhat / dangerous wildlife / demonstration / Department of Roads / desert / development / development work / Dhading / Dhading besi / Dhaulagiri / Dhee / dhulomandu / Dolpa / Dolpo / domestic violence / Dr. Katrina Butterworth / dragon / dragons / Drakmar / droppings / Dunai / dust / early marriage / earthquake / earthquake alarm / earthquake damage / earthquake today / East Anglia / eco-resort / eco-tourism / Edinburgh / embankments / emergency / English journey / English language / environmental crisis / Eräkeskus / eternal snows / evacuation / Ewell / exploitation / Fagu Purnima / Falgun / feelgood read / festival / festival of colour / festivals in March / fiction / Finland / fire-tailed sunbird / fishing / fishtail / flash fiction / flash literature / flash prose / flood protection / floods / footbridge / footpath / forest / Gai Tihar / Ganesh himal / Gangestic Plain / Gangetic Plain / Ghami / Ghemi / ghoral / giant crab spider / giving birth / global warming / goodread / goral / gorge / Gorkha / GP writer / Greece / grey-headed canary-flycatcher / hangry / happiness / happyness / hare / health assistant / Heffers / Heffers bookshop / Hell's Grannies / himal / Himalaya / Himalayan Black Bear / Himalayan Goral / Himalayan griffon vulture / Himalayan Hostages / Himalayan Kidnap / Himalayan serow / Himalayan Sunrise / Himalayan woolly hare / Himalayas / himals / Hindu festival / Hindu kingdom / Holi / Holi Purnima / holocaust / home delivery / honey buzzard / hoopoe / hot springs / Hotel Deep of Worldtop / Hotel Peace Palace / house crows / human kind / human spirit / idyllic childhood / Indra Jatra / Ireland / irrigation / jackal / Janajibika Hotel / Jane Wilson-Howarth / Jews / Jomosom / Jomsom / jungle / Juphal / Kaag Beni / Kag Beni / Kali Gandaki / Kali Gandaki gorge / Kalopani / Kalunki / Karnali River / Kashigaon / Kashigoan / Kathmandu / Kathmandu Valley / Katrina Butterworth / khana / Khartoum / kickstart / kidnap / kindness / Kolkata / Krishna / Kumari / Kurds / Kurentar / Kusma / labour / lama / Lamjung himal / lammergeier / lammergeyer / landscape / landslide / landslides / largest tribuary of the Ganges / Laxmi Puja / leave no one behind / leave no-one behind / life lessons / living goddess / LoMantang / London pigeon / loneliness / Lord Ganesh / Lord Krishna / loss and recovery / love / Lukhu river / Machhapuchare / Makwanpur / Manbu / mani wall / Martinselkosen / Mary Kingsley / masala tea / maskmandu / maternal mortality / Maya and the Dragon / medical emergency / medical evacuation / medical Students / Melamchi / Michael Rosenberg / microfiction / Middle Hills / mineral water bottles / morning mist / Moth Snowstorm / motorbike / motorbike trip / motorbikes / motorcycle / mountain medicine / mountains / mouse hare / mouse-hare / Muktinath / Mukwanpur / mulberries / Mustang / nag puja / narrow boat / nature / Naubisi / neighbours / Nepal / Nepal Communitere / Nepal road trip / Nepal roadtrip / Nepal Valley / Nepal wildlife / Nepali / Nepali food / Nepali tea / Nepali topi / Nepali wildlife / Nigeria / Nigiri himal / Nilgiri / Nilgiri South / non-fiction / Nonsuch Palace / Nonsuch Park / Northumberland / novel / nuthatch / Nuwakot / obstetrics / orb spider / ox-cart / parenting / Passer montanus / passing places / passive pleasure / Patan / Patan Durbar Square / payer / People in Need charity / percussion / PHASE / PHASE Nepal / PHASENepal / Phewa Tal / Philippines / Phoksundo / phonetics / photoktm2016 / pigeons / pika / pike / pilgrims / plastic waste / pleasure / Pokhara / Police My Friend / pollution / polytunnel / pony trekking / post earthquake recovery / powder / pregnancy / Pul Chowk / Pulsar / Pungmo / Purnima programme / Pyncnonotus cafer / rabies / Rajapur / Rajapur bazaar / Rajapur Island / Rajapur market / rat snake / Real Fairness for Real men / reconstructed dialogue / Red Dawn Rising / red-vented bulbul / refugees / relief work / Remover of obstacles / rhododendron / ricefields / Richard Mabey / Ringmo / risk takers / river crossing / river island / river-crossing / road trip / roadtrip / Rock Doves / rock shelters / Roe Deer / Royal Enfield Riders Club / Royle's pika / rubbish / Rufus-breasted Niltava / rupees / Russian border / Sally Haiselden / samosa / Sarengkot / sarus cranes / scorpion / Seeta Siriwardena / self-harm / serow / Shangri La / Shangri-la / Shey-Phoksundo National Park / Shivapuri / Shivapuri Nagajung National Park / Shivapuri National Park / Shivapuri Village / Shivapuri Village Resort / short story / shrikes / Simon Howarth / Sindhupalchowk / Sinhala / Sinhalese / skipper butterflies / skippers / snow leopard / Snowfed Waters / solid waste disposal / Soti / South Sudan / sparrows / Speaking Tiger / spider venom / Spiny babblers / spotted owlet / squirrel / Sri Lanka / Sri Lankan author / Stephanie Green / stink bug / street art / street dogs / Subsistence agriculture / Sudan / Suli Gad Khola / Suli Gad river / Summit Air / sunbird / sunrise / Surrey / suspended bridge / Sussex / Suttee / Tahr / tar tattoo / tato pani / Tatopani / tea / tea shop / teacher / teashop / Teku / Teku infectious diseases hospital / terai / Thamel / Thankot / Tharu / Tharu people / The Lonely Cat / Thessaloniki / time / To be blessed / traffic jam / traffic rules / traffic uncles / transHimalaya / transHimalayan / travel anthology / travel writing / travelling with children / tree sparrows / trekking / trust / Tsirang / Twin Otter / Uganda / unplanned pregnancy / Upper Mustang / urban life / urban pollution / urban water supply / vegetarian / velvet-fronted nuthatch / Viiksimontie / Village dogs / village life / vulture / Wai / Wanderlust / water supplies / water tankers / West Sussex / western Nepal / widower / wild goat / wild places / wildlife / winter madness / winter Wheat / Women Travellers / wordsmith / World Environment Day / world's deepest gorge / writers group / writing / writing about writing / writing for children / writing group / year fives / young mother / young motherhood / Your Child Abroad