Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Oh, Deer!

A few weeks ago we took an afternoon walk in a favourite local spot. Despite taking the route many times I had never been lucky enough to see the wild deer which were reputed to be there and in fact on this occasion I had completely forgotten about the possibility of seeing them. As we strolled in the October sunshine, enjoying the beautiful surroundings, I looked to my left and noticed what I thought was a large log in the distance, halfway up a grassy slope. At the time I thought nothing of it being more intent on looking for birds or the odd, late butterfly.

'Where are you O Wild Deer?
I have known you for a while, here.'

(Shams al-din Hafiz)

We walked on for a while and eventually turned to our left and slowly climbed the steep incline. While stopping to catch my breath halfway up I looked through the binoculars and realised the 'log' had multiplied and that I was actually looking at a small group of three Roe Deer. Completely by chance, I had found them, at last!

Roe Deer (Capreolus Capreolus)

'Up the steep hill we'll zigzag through heather and moss;
We'll dive into the glen and the steppingstones cross;

We'll couch with the red deer, we'll rise with the roe;
We'll rest when the sun's high, go fast when he's low.'

(James Henry)

Of the six species of deer which live wild in Great Britain only the Roe Deer and the Red Deer are truly native having been here since before the Mesolithic Age. Forest clearance and over hunting led to them becoming extinct in England by 1800 although they remained in wooded patches in Scotland. During Victorian times, reintroduction schemes led to their natural spread and an increase in the planting of woodland and forests in the 20th century, has meant that Roe Deer are widespread and abundant in the present day.

There was something which I found very noticeable throughout the entire time we were watching the deer. Our walk had taken us along the valley below them, then up the steep hill at the side of them and finally along the grassy route above them. So in effect we walked full circle around them and at all times, after I first spotted them, at least one of the party was watching us intently while the other/s grazed. I strongly suspect they had been watching us long before we realised they were there!

When alarmed, bucks (male) and does (female), give a short bark, which is often repeated. During the rut, the doe makes a high pitched piping call to attract the buck who in turn makes a rasping noise as he courts the doe.
The rut, or breeding season occurs between mid-July and mid-August. Prior to this bucks become aggressive and maintain exclusive territories around one or more does. Fights between bucks can result in serious injury or even death! The winner will then take over the loser's territory or attendant doe. Bucks usually mate with several does and does mating with several bucks has also been noted. Courtship involves chasing between the buck and the doe for some time until the doe is ready to mate.

Although mating occurs in late summer, the fertilised eggs do not start to develop immediately. This phenomenon is known as delayed implantation (embryonic diapause) and is unique among hoofed animals. It is thought to be an adaptation to avoid giving birth during the harsh Winter months.

The fertilised egg remains ‘floating’, unattached within the uterus for five months. During this time the cells of the embryo divide and multiply very slowly. Unlike those of other species (including those with delayed implantation), the un-implanted embryo controls its own growth. At the end of December or early January, when it is little more than 0.3mm long, the foetus is genetically programmed to reactivate from its period of delayed implantation. It sends a message to the mother by way of a protein unique to the Roe Deer. When the mother receives this message a cascade effect of hormones begins which enables the embryo to expand rapidly. After a short period of very fast growth, the embryo attaches itself to the inner wall of the uterus. Normal foetal growth follows then, for a further five months.

The doe will typically produce two young during May or June of the following year when the weather should be more hospitable. The young stay with their mother for around 12 months. I think it is more than likely that the three I saw were mother and her two youngsters.

'When from my path the startled roe-deer fly,
In their soft glance I see thy gentle eye '


Roe Deer are active 24 hours a day but most active at dawn and dusk. They also spend long periods 'lying up' which is where the deer lies down to ruminate between bouts of feeding.

I had great difficulty
finding any verse about deer which didn't concern hunting. I think it is a great shame that these lovely creatures are not celebrated for their beauty rather than the so called sport they provide for man. However, this extract from a poem written by the publisher of the Rotarian newspaper in Concorde Massachusetts in 1950 after he had read one such poem sums up my feelings perfectly.

'The beauty they bring

To their natural haunts

For all who are privileged to see,
Is full reason it seems
To let them live on

Quite alone, quite alive, and quite free.'

(Samuel G. Kent)

I felt immensely privileged to watch the Roe Deer for so long. These normally shy animals allowed me to observe them openly for quite some time before eventually taking to their heels and disappearing down the hill but not before all three turned and gave one last look as if bidding goodbye.

Until the next time... enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.


  1. Beautiful findings. Great photographs.

  2. Lovely sunny pictures of lovely creatures Jan. I absolutely agree with you, why would/how could, anybody hunt them?
    I know a lot more about them after reading your very informative post, and why would shy Deer be afraid of a shy Songbird?

  3. ShySongbird ,
    Well done catching up with the Roe Deer , and getting some good shots . Not the easiest of species to photograph , as I well know from experience .
    As Phil said , very informative , and you managed to marry in the poetry as well . Most enjoyable .

  4. A much anticipated and enjoyable post Jan :-) Great light on some of those pics.

  5. Beautiful encounter and nice story! You got a beautiful collection of pictures too...

  6. Great post Jan, and very informative.
    There's something really exciting about seeing them when out; such beautiful animals.
    You got some great pictures of them too.

  7. What a sweet post - I love the last photo, they really are saying goodbye to you! I don't think I've seen Roe Deer before, you're very lucky :)

  8. Great stuff Jan. Some of the best nature encounters come out of the blue when you least expect it. Lovely group as well as closer shots.

  9. Oh well done and finally getting then Jan; and what a great and lovely surprise it must have been.

    It's amazing what seems to be inert objects that we take as fallen logs etc. until they move of course :D

    some lovely reading in your post as ever..

  10. OH such lovely Creatures!! So glad they were brought back from the brink-amazing about the delayed gestation period--nature has everything figured out perfectly!! You got some great photos of them too!!
    I enjoyed this POST!!!

  11. Wow, just gorgeous. Beautiful photos and poems. I'm glad you enjoyed your meeting with the deer so much! It's been a great pleasure (at the end of a very stressful day) to read about them.
    The lines by Samuel G Kent are lovely - I'll remember those, they could apply to so much of nature.

  12. You sure got some great photos of those beautiful creatures Jan! They were looking right at you. I haven't seen any around here but they are around. Hunting season now though.

  13. What a wonderful and thoughtful post! You were able to get wonderful photos... and provided such a lot of interesting information.
    They do have their distinctive look - as noticed by the extreme close-ups. We have so many white-tailed deer here, that it's often dangerous to drive in the early morning and evening. There are many auto/deer accidents.

  14. beautiful post jan, great pics and information, makes you wonder how such or any animal can be killed in the name of " what they call sport ", most enjoyable read.

  15. HI Jan, this post brought tears to my eyes. To experience such 'oneness' with any creature is an honour. Although they observed you, I feel in my heart, they knew this gentle couple meant them no harm.
    I also dislike the fact they are hunted......such beautiful creatures, such soulful eyes.

    Thank you for so much interesting information. I learn something everyday......

    Lovely images.

  16. Naturedigital

    Thank you Costas :)


    Thank you Phil, it is entirely beyond me why anyone would want to hurt any living creature and Roe Deer are such lovely, unassuming creatures.
    I think one shy creature recognises another :)


    Thank you Greenie :) It was a delight to see them and I was thrilled that although they clearly knew we were there, they were unperturbed other than to keep a watchful eye on us.
    I was glad that I could find some verse with no mention of hunting!

    Warren Baker

    Thank you Warren :) It was a beautiful afternoon and the glow from the sun had that unique Autumnal look.


    Thank you Chris :) It was a very enjoyable encounter.


    Thank you Keith :) Yes, it was exciting. Although it is nice to see deer in parks etc. I think it is so much nicer to see them living freely in their own chosen habitat.

  17. Thanks for all this information, Jan. The delayed implantation is fascinating--isn't it a marvel how nature has helped different species adapt to survive?

    We occasionally have a deer wander through our yard, and I just stop in wonderment as I watch them. Unfortunately, their numbers are too large here, so hunting is encouraged. But they are such beautiful animals, I always hope they'll elude their hunters.

    There is a poem by Mary Oliver about coming upon a deer that I think you would enjoy. I think it's called "The Clearing," but I'm not sure.

  18. Dear Shy Songbird,
    What a wonderful imformative post! I didn't know about delayed implantation. Nature is just amazing. We have an over population problem with deer here in Texas. In fact, we have exported deer to Mexico, where they have been hunted to extinction. Many people in the country feed them because their natural territory has been so diminished. They are such beautiful, graceful creatures--a joy to watch. I have watched the deer raise their young, and watch as their spots fade as they mature. Occasionally my dog Bo and I will happen across a family of deer--especially at dusk. As they take off to find protection in the brush until we leave, if I didn't have Bo on leash, he would run with them. I can feel his desire to be wild and free as the deer at that moment.


  19. Hi Jan,

    Lovely photos, Deer are so gorgeous it's unreal.
    In 'our' cottage we stay in up in Scotland we have Deer in the garden, it's such a magical place... Deer, Red Squirrels, all manner of birds!

    I hear we may actually have a problem with Deer, or rather they are already causing too much damage to woodlands since people rarely ever hunt them anymore. They - especially the Roes, Muntjac and such are eating the undergrowth - shrubs etc in woodlands. Which is having a major impact on other animals such as 'middle layer' birds like Marsh and Willow Tits and they no longer have anywhere to hide, nest or feed!

    So there is a need for management, and it won't stop me feeling incredibly privilaged whenever I see them!

  20. How lovely to be able to see deer and get pictures as well. Lovely creatures.

  21. a nice stroll eh!

    and i'm still jealous of your yellowlegs!!

  22. Beautiful blog, a pleasure to read and thankyou for comments on mine.
    Gigrin Farm in Wales is the best place in the British Isles for red kites. It is well worth the trip

  23. Sharon

    Thank you Sharon :) I really did feel very lucky, they are lovely animals.

    Midmarsh John

    Thank you John :) You are quite right, I wasn't expecting that encounter at all that day which made it all the sweeter.

    Bob Bushell

    Thank you Bob :) A beauty indeed!


    Thank you Tricia :) Yes it was a lovely and unexpected surprise. I must remember to carefully inspect every 'log' I see in future :)


    Thank you Dixxe :) I think you have hit the nail on the head there, I am sure Nature would manage things just fine if we stopped interfering!


    Thank you Dan :) I'm so glad you enjoyed it and hope it helped ease the stress a little! I loved that Samuel G Kent extract and yes, it definitely could apply to Nature as a whole.


    Thank you Ginny :) They are usually so shy but I think somehow they knew they were in no danger. I do hope those hunters keep away from your lovely creatures.
    I am thinking of you most particularly this week and sending you... HUGS :)

  24. Hello Jan, I bet you were right and the deer were watching you for some time before you spotted them. I too love to see them in the wild.

    Unfortunately, they often wander on to roads up here. Daylight is one thing but I got quite a fright on one a dark night. Fortunately I was able to stop in time.

    Great photos of your sighting and that last verse is particularly suited. We are privileged to see these beautiful animals.

    Wishing you a good weekend :-D

  25. Things always seem to happen when you least expect them to. I had the same experience when we visited an old peoples home. They just appeared in front of the car....but I did not get to photograph them......well done.

  26. Shady Gardener

    Thank you Shady :) It is strange really because we have lots of road signs around here cautioning against deer on the roads but I don't think I have ever seen one on or near a road...that is a good thing of course :)


    Thank you Denis :) I completely agree with you, it is quite beyond me!


    Thank you Cheryl :) It was indeed an honour to be in their company. I was very touched as I know they are usually very shy and given the treatment they receive from some people it is not surprising. Ah! those eyes are just beautiful!

  27. Rose

    Thank you Rose :) I was a bit worried all the information might be a bit boring although I found it fascinating, I'm so glad you (and others) did too.
    How amazing to have deer on your own property, I suspect they may not be too welcome if they interfere with your lovely plants though :)
    Thank you, I will look up the Mary Oliver poem, I have read some of her work and enjoyed it.

    Morning Glories in Round Rock

    Thank you Jenny :) How very sad those beautiful creatures have been treated like that in Mexico...surely one day man will learn...
    I have to admit I too had never heard of delayed implantation until I researched Roe Deer and I agree, Nature is truly amazing!
    Have a lovely weekend...Hugs :)


    Thank you Liz :) The cottage in Scotland sounds wonderful, deer and Red Squirrels in the garden...just amazing!!
    Yes, I have heard and read of the need for careful countryside management and can reluctantly understand the argument. For me though, it underlines the point that if man's mismanagement of the land over the years hadn't led to the extinction of the main predators of deer such as the Bear the Lynx and the Wolf, there would be no problem now. I truly believe Nature could manage itself perfectly without our detrimental interference.
    That cottage really does sound special, I'm very envious :)


    Thank you OC :) It was a thrill !

    Thank you Pete :) Hee hee! that Yellowlegs was mine, all mine :)

    Mike Atwood

    Welcome! Mike and thank you :) I have read about the Red Kites at Gigrin Farm it does sound a wonderful place. I was thrilled to see them at Watlington Hill in the Chilterns, Oxfordshire. They were successfully reintroduced there between 1989 and 1994. When we visited they seemed to be everywhere!

  28. Shirl

    Thank you Shirl :) I agree it is so much more special coming upon wild deer by chance as compared to seeing those in a park etc.
    There are lots of road, warning signs round here too but thankfully I don't think I have ever seen a deer while in the car.
    Have a great weekend and a wonderful new week :)

    The Abbot

    Thank you Trevor, Yes, you are quite right, I remember accompanying a young family member to canoe lessons once and seeing lots of Grey Wagtails. It was excruciating watching them and knowing my camera was at home!

  29. Hi Jan.
    I cannot add anything to what has already been said by our fellow bloggers.
    They are a lovely little deer, although my favourite is the Fallow Deer
    I really like you photo's and poetry.

  30. Dear Jan,
    Being so close to these shy and gentle creatures was indeed an honor. I felt as if I was standing right with you. Thank you for all the information on the Roe Deer. I know so little about your native wild life.
    This series of photographs and your commentary has been a wonderful gift.
    I sometimes see deer across the street from my house in the cemetery. They are skittish. I seldom see them for very long.
    How amazing you were able to watch them graze. Wow.
    Thank you.

  31. What an interesting article and I love the poem, it's true here too they are only appreciated by the hunter
    you were privileged they didn't flee immediately

  32. Ken

    Thank you Ken :) I agree, the Fallow Deer are lovely too.


    Thank you Sherry, it was a wonderful experience and so unexpected which of course made it extra special. How lovely that you are able to see deer from your house!

    Country Mouse Studio

    Thank you Carole, I did feel very privileged to be able to watch them for so long. I'm afraid I will never understand how anyone can kill another creature for 'sport', it seems so sad to me.

  33. Hi Shysongbird, Ted hughes wrote "quite a nice poem" on roe deer

    In the dawn-dirty light, in the biggest snow of the year

    Two blue-dark deer stood in the road alerted.

    They had happened into my dimension

    The moment I was arriving just there.

    They planted their two or three years of secret deerhood

    Clear on my snow-screen vision of the abnormal

    And hesitated in the all-way disintegration

    And stared at me. And for some lasting seconds

    I could think the deer were waiting for me

    To remember a password or a sign

    That the curtain had blown aside for a moment

    And there where the trees were no longer trees, nor the road a road

    The deer had come for me.

    They ducked through the hedge, and upright they rode their legs

    Away downhill over a snow-lonely field

    Towards tree dark - finally

    Seeming to eddy and glide and fly away up

    Into the boil of big flakes,

    The snow took them and soon their nearby hoofprints as well

    Revising its dawn inspiration

    Back to the ordinary.

    Ted Hughes

  34. The Wessex Reiver

    Hi Andrew, thank you very much for going to so much trouble. That is a lovely poem, he was a very talented man! :)

  35. Hello Jan, what a cute post! You got some fantastic pictures. I love going out on walks in the forest in the hope i might be lucky enough to see some deer.

    Lou xxx

  36. A delightful and magical encounter Jan. I'm delighted that you found them at long last AND they knew that you were no threat. FAB.

  37. Poppy

    Thank you Lou :) You are very lucky to live there, I would be always exploring such a lovely place! Lots of love and XXXX to you and Poppy.

    The Early Birder

    Thank you Frank, it did seem magical and I felt very privileged that they allowed me to watch them :)

  38. Beautiful post. It is always great to live in an area where wildlife can be enjoyed.

  39. ...such beautiful, gorgeous creatures! I love all the info your provided. Very informative...and lovely photos too! (yes...I definitely see the wee hours of the morning a lot too--a night owl am I.)

  40. Jan,lucky you being able to capture them this way.Nice photos and informative too.
    We are off on vacation so wish you a Merry Christmas and a lovely New Year!!!


  41. Hi Jan
    I don't know how I managed to overlook this post, but I'm glad I did before you put another one on.
    The sense of feeling you had when you saw them must have been truly euphoric, and for them to stay with you for a photo session, its wonderful to see these images. The wait was surely worth it and the results will stay with you forever.
    Well done.

  42. A lovely post and pictures. Always cheers me up to visit your blog. Will catch up with past posts soon. All the best, Angie x

  43. Apologies to Bill, Sarah and Kelly for the very late replies!

    Bill S.

    Thank you Bill :) Yes, it is so good to have nice places to visit close to home.

    Sarah Knight

    Thank you Sarah :)


    Thank you Kelly :) They really were very beautiful. I do wish I could be a lark rather than an owl but know it will never happen!

  44. Nature Stop

    Thank you Shantana :) I felt very lucky to see them and even more so to be able to photograph them.
    I hope you all have a wonderful vacation, a very happy Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year!


    Thank you Monty :) No worries, I know only too well how easy it is to miss posts and I am struggling to keep up with blogging myself at the moment :(
    Yes, that was an enchanting encounter which I shall definitely remember!


    Thank you Angie, I think we all need a bit of cheering up at this time of year :)

  45. Hi Jan Hope all is well, and may I wish you and yours a Very Merry Xmas and Happy Wildlife Filled New Year

  46. Love photos and words! Stopped by to wish you....:)

    Happy New Year, Jan!! May 2011 be a fulfilling one for you!

  47. Hi Jan

    Just popped by to say happy new year, all the best for 2011! Hope all is well with you and yours.

  48. Monts



    Thank you all very much for your kind wishes and concern. Please accept my apologies for not replying before and I wish you and your families a Very happy New Year :)

  49. Je trouve que tu as eu de la chance de voir ces superbes animaux
    un rêve pour moi
    Ces photos sont formidables

  50. France

    Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I did feel very privileged to see the Roe Deer, they are such beautiful animals and very wary of human beings.

    Merci beaucoup pour votre commentaire très agréable. Je me sentais très privilégiée de voir le Chevreuil, ils sont des animaux magnifiques et très méfiant des êtres humains.


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