The Roe doe watched us. She stood, focused and alert, roughly 20 yards out from the safety if Keeper’s Wood. Before she merged with the wood we could just about make out her shape – she was heavily in calf. As the light faded her grey brown colour allowed her to dissolve into the background.
Roe at Dusk
Thaw and reflection
The weather softens after a fortnight of snow and frosts.But the hard spell that we have just experienced served to expose the variety of wildlife within the parish. Hunger and the serious business of courtship pushed dog fox and vixen into the daylight. The urban fox has become a common sight in Norwich, but the country fox is a a much more wary creature altogether. Their travels and territories are defined by river and railway line and the thaw releases the strong scent in many places. A sharp frosty starlit night is punctuated by their barks and screams as boundaries are set.
Elsewhere, Jenny reports whole families of hunting otter in the early morning light. On the arable fields the destructive power of foraging Roe Deer show up as snowy excavations. Teal spring out from out from under the reed fringed bank of the Bure and Grey Geese graze on the whatever passes for exposed vegetation on the Common. In the garden flocks of finches cluster in a frenzy of shuttle visits around the feeders. The wintering Little Egret manage to contrast in shades of white with the decaying snow.
A short burst of sunshine and the presence of Celandines, Snowdrops and the early shoots of Daffodils in the churchyard promise the approach of Spring. The colour green seems to suddenly return from the overnight thaw.
A Roe doe and her faun are now venturing further from their woodland sanctuary. Her coat the colour of wet sand. The faun, about half her size, is sporting an outsized and full-grown pair of ears which rotate and twitch nervously as we pass. The doe stares intently at us but shows little sign of imminent flight. They resume grazing as we disappear from view
Deer arrivalsThe grass is in ear and it is probably serving to hide the newly arrived Roe Deer fauns. It has been noticeable that the female Roes have, over the last few weeks, tended to split away from their family groups.
Each one appears to have settled in an acre or two of it’s own. This is a sure sign that the fauns have either arrived or are about to do so. The expectant mothers are twitchy – if one is unintentionally disturbed it will dash away, but they seem to make such a fuss of it that it looks like distraction behaviour; clearly leading the intruder away from the central site, possibly where the faun is laid up. Luckily the local walkers are keeping their distance. It has to be said that the Roebucks are not keeping their distance – the mating season or rut
starts soon after the females have given birth – so the bucks are very attentive where allowed.
Flight of deer
One of the two does is more flighty than the other. It is the first to make for the security of Keeper’s Wood as we approach. We, it should be said, are at some eighty yards distance, penned into the old railway track behind a row of Ash trees. The gentle south easterly breeze aided our approach. It is often difficult to get closer with the wind behind you which carries your scent to the deer very quickly, allowing them to gentle sidle closer to cover. This evening, we had the advantage. The Roebuck, who looks in fine condition, merely looked across at us. But, that flighty doe decided enough was enough and ran for cover taking the other doe and the reluctant buck with her. I can’t help thinking that the buck followed, not out of fear, but in the interest of keeping an eye on how two female companions.
The grass on the fallow land is becoming more palatable. The evidence was the presence of a young Roebuck on Mr Crane’s land. The railway line lay between the buck and home. As he caught sight of me, he took to his heels in a wide arc around the field, I stood and waited. Perhaps he would clear the railway fence in a fine arching leap? But no as he approached the fence he gingerly explored up and down until, on finding a slack section of fence he carefully negotiated his way through and slipped back towards Keeper’s Wood.
Roe into November
As November commences the Roe Deer have regrouped. the Brampton group comprises of the young buck, now in his second year, the doe and the twin fauns. The doe is the most confident and the least flighty, the buck and the fauns compete to be the first to run off if they feel that they are being threatened.
Each individual’s pelage or coat has lost its rich red of the summer and has settled into the dark grey brown of the approaching winter. The buck retains his antlers now whitened and worn, for the time being at least, although it is likely that he will shed these later this month.
The Roebuck burst out of the Blackthorn hedge. It seemed that his nerve had failed him as we passed by – perhaps the whippet’s scent had been the trigger. He made his way with some speed towards the main road and then turned east and crossed the field, carefully negotiating the potato ridges until he reached the stubble. At this point he looked indignantly back at us before cantering slowly towards the eastern hedge. After waiting for
a car or two to pass he pushed his way through a gap and disappeared from view into the beet field.
A few evenings ago as we walked the dogs, two deer were to be seen silhouetted against the evening afterglow on the field behind the Rectory. I suppose that this buck was one of them. He had planned to pass the day secure in the wide hedge bottom, that is until we blundered along and spoilt his plan.
Deer in September
The twins look perfectly matched. I have not yet established whether they are both female fauns and one of each. All that can be said is that they look similar enough to convince me that the Roe doe, which appears with them so often near Keeper’s Wood, was the mother of both and was not acting as nursemaid to a crèche.
The flush of grass in late august and into this month has kept them out in the open – particularly in the early morning and into dusk. They look healthy and are clearly growing rapidly. The whole group is stacking on condition for the coming winter whilst the grass has some nutritive value.
The bucks are keeping their distance, from the doe and from each other. But they are within sight of each other in a loose knit group. The wound which was so apparent on the left hind quarter of the older buck has healed leaving the ghost of a scar – or I at least imagine that the hair has grown back leaving a sign of his earlier battle.
Variety in the village
One of those mornings in Brampton. Two sightings of birds which were distinctly out of place. The unmistakeable, whirring shape and arrow like flight of a Kingfisher. It caught me out somewhat – we were walking along the railway line and at least 400 yards away from the river as the bird flew towards Dudwick. A flash of turquoise blue confirmed it’s identity.
A little further round and the scything wings of the Hobby shot between the Church and Brampton Hall. Travelling at speed at roof height – as when I last saw one in the village back in June – this small falcon almost seems to leave an electrical charge in the air in its
wake. Such speed leaves you wondering whether you had actually seen it or not.
Then, as we sat over a cup of coffee upon our return, there was a rush of wings and a cloud of feathers in the garden as a female Sparrowhawk struck a Collared Dove. Both disappeared towards Street Farm at such speed that we were unable to see how this ended.
Later on, the Roe Doe accompanied by two fauns grazed quietly on the margins of the wheat field. All watched us carefully from what they felt to be a safe distance.