After, the work I put in to get images of Roe deer in snow, I decided to give myself a bit of a break over the early part of the Spring. It proved a wise decision and I returned to lead a workshop at one of my local permissions feeling refreshed and looking forward to catching up with the deer I had come to know so well.
I was struck by how much had changed in such a short space of time. The stark white beauty of natures palatte had changed to vibrant yellow, with the meadows filled with a sea of buttercups.
The bucks were now out of velvet and sporting freshly cleaned, smart new antlers.
Roe deer change coat in summer too, with the thick insulating slate grey pelage of winter turning to the beautiful, russet red of summer.
Spring had also brought with it new life and it lifted my soul to see the does with their new born kids.
Late spring is a fascinating time in the natural history of roe also with bucks marking their territories ready for the rut.
The traditional English meadow habitat the Roe call home was also alive with wild flowers starting to emerge, including Orchids and Foxgloves.
Last year’s kids had been pushed out by their mothers and were starting to make their own way in life.
This image and the series that follow were all taken on a workshop with a client.
I came across this young buck in a buttercup filled meadow where he had set up his territory. He was very relaxed in our presence. All of these images are full frame or not far off, which I hope help to illustrate it is possible to get nice, relaxed images of deer without disrupting their behaviour. Roe spend a lot of time browsing and they made the most of the bountiful, delicate butter cup flowers and new shoots.
Getting images of does with kids proved a lot more of a challenge, with the protective mothers waiting until the light was low to lead their babies out. To achieve the images required a lot of careful observation, planning and a fair amount of fieldcraft away from a workshop environment. It wasn’t easy but the hard work paid off with a series of nice images.
This next intimate behavioural shot of a kid suckling from its mother is one that I had envisioned for a long time but I never thought I’d get. It’s full frame.
I really like this next shot of the doe leading the kids away. Increasingly with my photography I am drawn to images that connect.
My change in method of working also really helped in enabling me to document the territorial behaviour of the bucks as they scent mark their territory. Portraits are nice but I feel that these images tell a far more interesting story.
The vibrant yellows of the buttercup field also really leant themselves to shooting images small in the frame, showing the deer in their natural environment.
Time spent photographing the Roe also resulted in an unexpected bonus. I observed this beautiful, mature vixen walking the same route in the morning and evening at the site. She is a proper country fox and therefore not easy to get close to. I didn’t want to start trying to bait her as the roe have such sensitive noses. Instead I learnt her route and with a favourable wind set up in a nice area where I could get some confiding shots without risking disturbing her or the deer.
She is a beautiful animal in immaculate condition with a wide lower jaw and thick brush indicating she is an older animal with a good hunting instinct. Foxes will take roe kids when they are still new born, so the deer do need to be wary, as do the foxes as a mature doe is perfectly capable of taking out a fox with its powerful legs and sharp hooves
Her mate, the dog fox was very wily and gave me the run around, but I eventually caught up with him, bringing food back to the den.
It was nice to get some images of the doe from my previous shots browsing in the buttercup field, her kids safely tucked away.
The deer share the field with horses. As a rule, roe deer and domestic livestock don’t mix, so it was nice to get a few images of them together.
I find a lot of peace and solice spending time with the Roe. The next series of images were taken against the fading light of a beautiful early summer’s evening.
The younger buck continued to scent mark and thrash around in the vegetation, warning off rivals.
I particularly like this shot with all the vegetation flying.
The next two images represent a fleeting moment when the buck stepped into a patch of last light, picking out the buck’s summer pelage in the after glow of red.
Next to the buttercup field is a traditional English hay meadow where the master (dominant) buck, an older animal, resided.
Not content with its home territory though, it also had designs on the buttercup field. I was lucky enough to witness a full on fight between the pair. The light was very low, but I still managed a few shot.
This next shot helps illustrate the difference between the two animals. The older animal is on the left of the shot. If you look carefully, you will see that he isn’t able to get down as low.
The younger buck is able to get lower and force the older animal back. With roe though it’s not which buck wins the battle, but the war. The older animal will wait until the younger has gone through a series of skirmishes with other bucks (there are at least four mature bucks in the area – so lots of challenges to meet) and is physically exhausted before joining battle again and muscling the younger buck out. Who wins the war depends on guile, cunning, dexterity, strength, size and weight.
Undeterred by losing out the previous evening, I found the wily, older buck in the buttercup field feeding seemingly unperturbed the following morning.
At the first sight of his rival though he was off again. Deciding perhaps that discretion was the better part of valour.
By the time the younger buck had got to the scene of the crime he was gone.
It was a fascinating game of cat and mouse and gave me a privileged insight into the lives of these beguiling and complex animals. I would have liked to have spent more time seeing how things played out. However, nature’s schedule had other ideas and meant I had to turn my attentions elsewhere for the following few weeks….