Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Ashridge Forest Fallow Tracking

I had a day clear of jobs and indeed clear of rain after a rather big tip down the previous day so I decided to head for the National Trust Ashridge Estate. Well I was but decided to stop off about half a mile before the main entrance at a quiet roadside car park.

I got into the wood in front of me and headed right to firstly avoid some dog owners and to get downwind. I noticed not only a good supply of decent Chestnuts and Acorns but some early Fallow sign that was fresh.

And after a couple of minutes I had a 'Careless Whisper' encounter (y'know, 'Turn a different corner and we never would have met') with a small gaggle of young looking Fallow Deer. I kept still as I was near a Beech Tree and they weren't overly spooked, although taking photos was a little problematic with so many thin branches in the line of sight. They stayed around for about a couple of minutes before leaving, not in a rush but gently moving on.


Now in mid June I went out with Pablo to get some hands on tracking practice in Hatfield Forest, which also has a healthy Fallow population, and I tried a trick he showed me to attempt to re-locate the deer, it only bloomin' worked! Again they headed off and I was in no rush so I tried again and found them for a second time although they didn't stay long enough for a picture as I found myself a little exposed by a lack of cover in front of me.

 I turned to follow them again-Why not as I'd not been there long?-Now the pleasing thing was that I had the disadvantage of the wind behind me up to now but they's doubled back so I had not only the wind in my face but the road just out of visible range so they didn't have much room to manoeuvre. Naturally as I was thinking when and not if I didn't see a trace of them. Some you win, some you lose. 

All was not lost because I chanced upon another herd but this one was a male's harem as opposed to young bucks and does. I still had the wind in my favour and good cover and I managed to advance I guess about fifty feet on them.

And the females obligingly moved out of the way for me to get some decent shots of this handsome boy's palmate antlers. Again I had several minutes watching them before they headed off. I did manage to catch up with them but only for a moment as they spotted me and bolted.

They had done that melt into the woods trick as only Deer can do but I kept an eye out anyway and resumed my wander stopping to watch Goldcrests, Kites and my first Willow Tit of the year amongst other things. But blow if if I didn't meet up with the herd again and there were some fine aerobatic moves on show. As I watched were they went a dog walker, who was also watching them  spoke to me and said that she'd seen a small group (including the Stag) go the opposite way. She also said that the white ones were being culled to leave just black ones on the estate which seemed crazy as the white one was the biggest and most impressive of the ones I saw.

I edged across the path to the edge a stand of mainly Scots Pine and sure enough I could see the male, a female and youngster eyeballing me. I doubled back a little to the corner of the stand.


It proved a good gamble as they crossed the large path that was at ninety degrees to the one I'd been on. Now I'm not suggesting that I'm suddenly as skilled as an Apache scout but I  was thankful that lucked out on this outing.  Oh, and it's a backwoods cooking night at Cubs tonight and they'll be having Sweet Chestnuts.

Suggested further reading.

Woodlife Trails

The British Deer Society (Fallow)

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