Category Archives: Deer in Richmond Park

rutting season - red deer stag in Richmond Park

Red Deer in Richmond Park

The red deer rutting season is here again!

Every Autumn Richmond Park attracts an influx of photographers who want an opportunity to photograph the red deer in rut. It is easy to understand why. The deer are not really afraid of people so photographers can approach them, to within the reach of a long lens.

Health and safety!

Although the red deer in Richmond Park do allow people to approach them there is always an element of risk. These deer are large and powerful animals, and they can cover large distances very quickly. In the rutting season the stags can be dangerous, and while they do not naturally target humans, they do sometimes attack people who approach too closely.

So it is best to be cautious and keep a safe distance away. The park authorities recommend keeping at least 50m away. But that 50m can quickly disappear when your back is turned!

I recommend that if you want to photograph the red deer in the rutting season, you should always be very aware of your surroundings. These deer can cover ground very quickly are are free to roam in the park wherever they wish.

Subtle family relationships among red deer

I am not an expert on red deer. But what immediately becomes obvious if you spend any time watching them in Richmond Park is that they have a complex social structure. And when you bear in mind that individual deer have lived among the other deer here all their lives, it stands to reason that they all know each other as individuals.

If you want to quickly find out a bit more about red deer this is a good link.

I do not want to anthropomorphise, but many times I have seen what give the impression of real affection between the deer. I have seen it between females and stags, and between individual adult females too. I have previously noted that the relationship of stags with their “harems” seems to be far more subtle than many programs on the telly would suggest.

A pictorial “cautionary tale”

These photographs were taken on 27 September 2019. It may be relevant that the rut is still in it’s early days. The stags aren’t going at things “hammer and tongs” yet.

This story starts with a stag and his “harem”.  Here he is doing some bellowing…

photo of red deer stag in Richmond Park and licking the air…Red deer stag licking the air - rutting season in Richmond Park
What follows is my interpretation, which should be taken with some caution. The stag reacts to some other stags who have been strutting and bellowing (off stage camera left) for some time and he has been provoked into sorting them out. So he leaves his females and walks towards the other stags who are approximately 150 meters away.

On the way he pauses to pound his antlers in the ground and do some urine spraying. Isn’t it good that men don’t behave like this?

red deer stag - rutting behaviour in Richmond Park
He continues on his way…

photo of red deer stag in Richmond Park

I notice that his route seems to be heading directly towards this (photo below) although it is difficult to tell because of the distance between us.

photo of photogapher in Richmond Park. Better look out!
Surprise!

Now what was I saying about the need to be very aware of your environment? But I don’t believe this photographer was in any real danger. The stag has only one thing on his mind, and that is the other stags whose behaviour has been provoking him.
Red deer are not usually aggressive to humans even in the rutting season

I am not the only interested onlooker. Note the presence of flies around the head. These are pretty well constantly buzzing around the deers’ heads;photo of beautiful young red deer stags in Richmond Park
This (below) is my final photo of the first stag. He then goes off to strut up and down with the other stags who attracted his attention in the first place.

red deer bellowing
But meanwhile… look who is approaching all the females that he left behind!
wild red deer stag in Richmond Park
This dude has a serious set of antlers, and he “takes up residency” with the females the other stag just left behind. So “whose” females are they? I suspect he is a very eligible stag because very soon a whole new gaggle of additional females come sauntering over to join him! I can hear them giggling from here.

One thing I have noticed over the years is that the females are not “owned” by any of the stags. They appear to have a lot of freedom to come and go as they please. This surprised me at first because it contrasts with an impression I got from watching wild life documentaries on the telly.

Rutting season for red deer in Richmond Park

I do not know what the next two photos mean. She looks so tiny compared to him. Has there been some kind of misunderstanding?

Rutting season for red deer in Richmond Park

 

Rutting season for red deer in Richmond Park

 

Red deer stag doing his wolf impression

Now he is doing his wolf impression. Very good too.

Red deer stag doing his wolf impression
beautiful red deer stag
Technical information

Just for people who are interested;
Camera: Olympus OMD EM-1 Mk II
Lens:  M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm IS PRO

I am not a professional wild life photographer and I only take wild life photos as a hobby. I bought this combination of camera and lens specifically to provide me with a professional quality long lens. I could not justify the ‘cost’ (in all senses of the word) of buying a professional long telephoto lens for my Nikons. (I use the Nikons and professional Nikon lenses for most of my commercial, family and baby photography).

The advantage of the Olympus kit is that the 300mm lens on a micro four thirds body gives a magnification that is “equivalent” to a 600mm lens on a full frame body. At the same time this setup is a lot smaller and a lot lighter than a 600mm lens on a full frame body.

The disadvantage is that in my opinion the highest ISO at which the EM-1 MkII can take professional quality photos is 800. This opinion is shared by several other Olympus users I have spoken to, but perhaps not everyone.

Most of the above photos were taken at ISO 800.

Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park

Jackdaws and Red Deer in Richmond Park

What is the relationship between red deer and jackdaws?

I took these photos in Richmond Park, where red deer (Cervus elaphus) and jackdaws (Corvus monedula) are very common and easy to watch. Although it is very common to see jackdaws standing on the deer, I am not sure why they do this, although they certainly appear to be looking for something in the deers’ fur. A quick online search suggests the jackdaws are eating ticks and bugs, in which case they will be doing the deer a service. But do the deer know this? The deer certainly seem very tolerant of the birds, which clamber all over their heads and ears. No matter how often I see this behaviour it always amuses me, and it makes me feel good.

It has also been claimed that jackdaws pluck loose hair from the deer, and also loose velvet from growing antlers on the stags for nest material. Seems like a very reasonable suggestion, and it has probably been witnessed too.

Usually the deer hardly react to the jackdaws at all, but sometimes they do. The doe in these photographs only seemed to react when the jackdaw put all it’s weight on one ear. She didn’t shake her head to remove the bird, but moved her head just enough to make the jackdaw move.

If you do a quick google search you will find loads of other photos of jackdaws walking over red deer, and this is very common behaviour.

Soft spot for Jackdaws

I have always had a soft spot for jackdaws. Undoubtedly my personal fondness for these birds started as a boy, when for a few weeks a yound jackdaw became “tame”. It all started in a very hot dry summer, and my father investigated noises coming from our water tub. He discovered a young jackdaw, presumably drawn to the water, desperate for something to drink. The bird was not fully fledged, and was not yet a strong flyer – preferring to walk.

As an example, once one of our cats started heading for the bird, and rather than flying, it started walking towards me as fast as it could – looking a bit worried. Fortunately I reached the jackdaw before our cat did.

I loved animals and natural histroy when I was a boy, so it was bliss for me that the Jackdaw would sit on my shoulder for long periods of time. It was a strange sensation when the bird looked at me, because it stretched out it’s head, and looked “downwards” at me, perpendicular to the line of it’s beak. I realised that the angle of their eyes is perfectly adapted for looking below when they are flying, so when he (or she) wanted to give me a beady eye, he (or she) would turn his (or her) head so as to look at me with binocular vision, looking 90 degrees “downwards”.

Like many members of the crow family, Jackdaws are considered intelligent for beings with bird brains. They are also quite playful. I was also touched to read “males and females pair up in their first year of life, but they do not begin to breed for another year”.

Jacdaws “nibbling” eyelashes

The young jackdaw I befriended as a child like to “nibble” at my eyelashes. I don’t know how else to describe it, and it was quite unerving having that big hard beak immediately next to my eyes. But s/he did it with great care. This behaviour is reminiscent of the way they poke around on the faces of the deer, where they often seem to be looking for something near the deers’ eyes. I don’t think “my” jackdaw found any ticks or bugs around my eyes. What I am saying is that this kind of behaviour seems to be instinctive to jackdaws.

Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park

 

 

Technical photo info

I am not a professional wild life photographer, and I only take wild life photographs as a hobby.

Camera: Olympus OM-D EM-1 mark 2
Lens: Olympus M-Zuiko ED 300mm 1:4 IS PRO
F4, 1/125s, iso 400
Tripod mounted
Although in many respects this camera is a technical marvel, I am reluctant to use it at a higher iso than 800 because of the noise that starts creeping in.

 

red deer stag in Richmond Park

“Oh Deer” (red deer in Richmond Park)

Photographing wild red deer in Richmond Park

A story of animal instincts

This is the season of the red deer rut, and Richmond Park echoes to the sound of stags bellowing, and the clash of antler against antler. I have become fascinated by the behaviour of the deer, which appears to be much more complex and subtle than the natural history programs on the telly would make it seem.

I am not a wildlife photographer, so my photographs of the red deer in Richmond Park are just taken as a hobby. Nevertheless, those of you who are familiar with my fashion photography will know I like to “tell a story” with my photographs. In this blog post I present a series of photographs that tell a true story from real life.

“Stag A”

The morning I took these photos, I came across “Stag A” on my way into the park. He had about 6 does with him, and I took several photos, mainly of the stag, because he was so strikingly handsome!

red deer stag in Richmond Park red deer stag in Richmond Park red deer stag in Richmond Park _red deer stag in Richmond Park red deer stag in Richmond Park red deer stag in Richmond Park red deer stag in Richmond Park red deer stag in Richmond Park red deer stag in Richmond Park red deer stag in Richmond Park red deer stag in Richmond Park

“Cheeky jackdaws”

I love the way the deer appear to be oblivious to the “cheeky” jackdaws that land on them, even on their faces! Sometimes the birds tug at the deers’ hair quite powerfully. I am not sure why they do that at this time of year, because this is not nest building season, so they can’t be after the hair for nesting.

After a while I walked on and had other encounters in the park. But later, as I am walking back towards home to get my breakfast, I pass Stag A with his does once more. A few yards further on, I find myself approaching “Stag B” who has three females with him. He is about 200 yards from Stag A, and as I approach, Stag B starts grunting and bellowing. I don’t know if my approach triggered his vocalisations, but I do get the impression that sometimes the approach of people will start them off on their displays.

“Stag B”

Here is Stag B with “his” three does, on my path;

red deer in Richmond Park red deer in Richmond Park red deer in Richmond Park red deer in Richmond Park

When Stag B starts his grunting and bellowing, it attracts the attention of Stag A, who is now behind me. In fact I am standing more or less in the middle between them.

So now Stag A starts bellowing from somewhere behind me, and these photos shows Stag B looking towards Stag A…

red deer in Richmond Park

red deer in Richmond Park

In fact Stag A is already on his way! He is not quite running, but he is moving swiftly, and in a very purposeful manner directly towards Stag B…

red deer in Richmond Park

Stag A passes close to me…

red deer in Richmond Park

Stag B watches as Stag A approaches…

red deer in Richmond Park

Then Stag B turns away and seems to be retreating. Or maybe not? The two stags face each other and walk side by side for a short while. Are they sizing each other up? Surely both stags must know each other quite well already, being neighbours?

red deer in Richmond Park red deer in Richmond Park red deer in Richmond Park

Then they go at it. I did not take any photographs of the fight because I could only see the very tops of their backs. When stags fight, they get their heads right down to the ground, and the fighting stags were almost completely hidden behind tall grass and a slight hillock. But as soon as they started fighting, the three does that were with Stag B, move fast and “purposefully” directly to join the does that were already with Stag A.

This was the most surprising part of it all to me; the way these does seemed to know exactly where to go, and the fact they went there without any hesitation. Here is a photo showing them moving at some speed. Note how their ears are pinned back as they listen to clash of antler against antler, as the two stags fight each other behind them.

red deer in Richmond Park

After a brief struggle, which couldn’t have lasted for more than 20 seconds or so, Stag A is victorious. He seems a bit “worked up” and does some more “triumphant bellowing” (Stag A is the one on the left)…

red deer in Richmond Park red deer in Richmond Park

Then he follows the three does, moving fast and with apparent “purpose”, he passes close by me. He looks to me like he “has something on his mind”. He passed very close to me, as you can see…

red deer in Richmond Park red deer in Richmond Park

To the victor, the spoils

The next bit I did not manage to photograph unfortunately because I was not looking in the right direction at the right time. But a few moment later when I looked back at Stag A, he was just getting off one of his “new does” whom he had just mounted.

red deer in Richmond Park

So there you have it; a tale of “animal intincts”, full of passion and excitement!