I’m looking right into his eyes as he tastes the fresh new blackberry leaf buds feathering from the thorn ridden stem.
Holding my breath I watch and wait and observe the relationship building. He wanders closer, large soft brown eyes casting nervously towards me. I’m not naive enough to think he isn’t aware of my presence, no, he’s fully onto my clumsy company on this drab March morning. Right now he doesn’t consider me too much of a threat.
I glance down, averting my gaze, doing my best to deny my hunter stare. My camera is doing that for me with it’s single large optic that pierces through the gloom.
I’ve always wanted to photograph the local roe deer but for some reason successful images always eluded me. Ok I managed to get some reasonable shots from my garden fence usually of deer in the middle distance, or a stag standing atop a hillock as it prepared to fee. The really telling pictures just didn’t happen, that was until I met this herd.
I bumped into them, almost literally as I explored one of my favourite haunts, a small wood pasture I call Devil’s Bit Meadow. Crossing the stream in the mists of dawn I saw them not 30 yards from me and of course they’d seen me first.
The alpha buck, a venerable animal with triple tined antlers still under velvet faced me and held my gaze until his nine does had climbed the steep bank to safety. He then shoot his crown at me and slowly followed them.
That was it. I was hooked! I spent several weeks watching in the gloaming light at both ends of day, always sure to wear the same clothes and measure my every movement as I surveyed the landscape in which they wove their lives.
I began to catch some good photos and became even more addicted to the story unfolding before me.
'Triple Tines' disappears
There were two bucks and a varying number of does that were claimed by this particular wood and vale on the edge of Rivington and we did begin to know each other.
I watched as the bucks fought, I noticed the younger buck making eyes at one doe in particular and I saw some of the does begin to split from the group in search of a safe place to birth their fawns.
Then ‘triple tines’ disappeared, the herd split in two. I couldn’t find him or his company so focused my attention on the young guy with his three lady companions. His time had come. Although it really is not the time for such intimacies he began to mate with his girl now that the alpha buck had taken himself off.
I caught some beautifully sensitive images of them having post coital tender moments under the still bare oaks, washed by the lemon light of a burgeoning dawn. These shots told a story alright and I spent mornings getting more acquainted with them.
April sunrise brings with it dog walkers and joggers marking the time for the herd to meld through the veil into the deep woods, but in the time between dark and light they would tolerate me. On occasion a doe would walk ten steps towards me for a better look, raising her head and nodding at me before carrying on with her foraging.
Whenever a human came near the herd would choose to run by me to find safety. I would nod to them as they passed.
Then, one fine morning he was back.
Antlers sharp and gleaming in the sun, no velvet to be seen. Triple tines returned to claim his herd and I shall do my best to share the ongoing story of roe deer life.