The Royal Rut at Richmond

The red deer rut must be one of the highlights at this time of year in the wildlife calendar. So last weekend, I headed off to the royal hunting ground of Richmond Park in South London with the camera club to catch some early shots of the deer.

Red Deer Rrelaxed at Richmond Park
Red Deer Relaxed @ Richmond Park



No sooner had we parked up than a couple of does ran across the field in a hurry to go somewhere.  The ‘where’ turned out to be a new man, a testosterone fuelled 13 point stag who was fiercely protecting his ever increasing harem with deep bellowing and meaningful strutting.

13 Point Stag With His Hinds
13 Point Stag With His Hinds


The great beast was amassing females from every direction of the park, all defecting from stags that seemed less appealing to them.  However, he was losing one or two does himself, who found themselves attracted by the call of another stag, who sounded more interesting than their own man.  But 13 pointer was not giving them up so easily and gave chase to herd them back with the group.  As he did so, less dominant stags took advantage of the unattended herd of hind and rushed in for the steal. 

Confused by all this charging around, the females became agitated and unsettled but the big man hadn’t earned a harem that size by hiding in the bushes and gave up the chase for the loose women to see off the cheeky challengers.  He rushed at them and bellowed then rushed at them a bit more.

Uneasy Females Agitated by Stags
Uneasy Females Agitated by Stags

But they hadn’t backed off far enough and he saw them off a bit further – across the path and into the other field in fact where we became as unsettled as the does as stags with multi-pointed antlers charged around us.  The challengers weren’t giving up that easily either and rounded for a second go so we all sought safety around a wide girthed tree, which of course, didn’t really protect any of us.

  Photographers with a Stag in Front and Behind
Photographers with a Stag in Front and Behind


The challenging stags disappeared into the shrubbery behind us where another 2 who had taken refuge previously were now displaying fully accessorized antlers with bracken and trailing foliage.

Noisy green parakeets twittered excitedly in the trees above us.  Most were camouflaged by the leaves but I managed to catch a few who were hole hunting and checking out nesting holes in the trees while their partner looked on critically.

Parakeets checking out a hole
Parakeets checking out a hole

  Parakeets Pairing Up
Parakeets Pairing Up 


Warning signs about aggressive stags were all over the park, pinned to trees like ‘Wanted’ or ‘Lost cat’ notices but despite this, there were worrying sights of loose dogs running among the deer and the obsession for a ‘selfie with a stag’ led to a few contenders almost earning themselves a nomination for a Darwin Award.

All the action however, was not confined to just the one area.  In a field beyond the woods stags who hadn’t won any hinds yet were testing their dominance.  It began with two ornately decorated stags of equal standing walking towards each other and then walking parallel, part of the pre rutting display ritual.

Stag with Antler Accessories
Stag with Antler Accessories


With heads bowed and antlers at the ready they locked horns, cracking together like wooden sticks.  Their heads twisted and both animals pushed against the other.  One gained ground then the other pushed back, heads twisted again to get a better grip with the antlers.  This time an antler point was too close to the opponent’s eye and the opponent backed off and capitulated ensuring he was fit to fight another day.

Life isn’t easy being a dominant stag with a herd of does.  We returned to 13 point later in the day and he was still chasing, bellowing and displaying.  Goodness only knows how long his performance lasted but the poor thing looked too exhausted to enjoy the perks of having his pick of the ladies.

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