Monday, 26 September 2016

Sep 26th Holkham Hall and Titchwell

Fallow Deer at Holkham Hall
The end of September is usually the start of the deer rutting season. From now until the end of October is the time to see the male red and fallow deer at Holkham Hall fight it out to mate with the females. So today, Mum and I have arrived to see if the rut has started yet. And the answer is, disappointingly, not yet, but it does seem to be very close now. The fallow deer have formed large herds that engulf the green fields that form almost half of the estate with their sheer numbers. It was like looking at a sea of brown, spotty animals with the odd pair of antlers of the males poking out here and there. They were fairly approachable, though it was they who approached us. They were more interested in grazing however, than to interact with us, keeping some distance between us and them.

Fallow Deer Buck

Young Red Deer Stag
We walked round the other side of the hall where the red deer normally occur, but there were no sign of them at their usual corner of the estate except for one lone young male and a fallow deer buck. No matter how much we scanned, there was no sign of the red deer herd. But then, we turned round to scan behind us, I spot a red deer stag standing by a tree on top of some raised ground staring right at us from a couple of yards away. Using the trees as cover, I crept over to this young stag until I was only a few feet away from it, allowing it plenty of space to move freely without spooking it. It casually moved away from the tree I was hiding behind and went down the slope and walked up to Mum, who was waiting for me on the path below. She was a bit nervous having this large animal with pointy antlers approaching her, but it was no real threat and it just carried on with its grazing. Meanwhile, I had found an even bigger and more mature stag with an even more impressive set of antlers. There was no sign of any testosterone-fuelled rutting action though, only peaceful grazing.

The more mature stag
Holkham Hall
The distant young male Red Deer that I saw
Fallow Deer Buck
Fallow Deer
Before returning to the car for lunch, we made a quick walk beside the lake to sit on a log to watch the fallow deer that surrounded us. They were very close to us, but they were more interested in grazing than us. Apart from the odd quick tussle between the males, it was pretty peaceful within the herd. There were no full blown battles or a lot of grunting yet, but I think its only a matter of time until the estate becomes a battlefield in a competition to mate. We shall come back again in a few weeks time and have another go in seeing the rut in action.

A quick tussle between two bucks
Great Crested Grebe
Pied Wagtail

Pectoral Sandpiper
After lunch, we decided to drive to Titchwell for a short walk and to see if anything unusual had turned up. We found out that there was. There was a pectoral sandpiper at the Parrinder South Hide. We made our way down towards the hide, but at half way along the first pool, I spot two things. First, a small slightly orange backed wader moving along behind a cover of reed that borders the path and the pool. Secondly, a reasonably large group of twitchers with cameras and scopes trained onto the bird. This was the bird we were after. It had moved away from the hide and gave us a shorter walk than expected. This tiny wader from the Americas has made its way across the Atlantic Ocean and it still had enough energy to move around the edge of this pool in a flighty manner. It looks similar to a ruff but is much smaller, with a streaky breast and a white underside that creates a noticeable border just below the pectoral region of the bird, hence the name.

The pectoral sandpiper was pretty good to see, but there were also dunlin, curlew sandpipers, curlews, golden plovers, ruff, lapwings, godwits and teal that were equally good to look at too. To top it off, I saw my first skein of pink-footed geese of the autumn fly over me. With their arrival, surely autumn is officially here now.
Pink-footed Geese
Pink-barred Sallow

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