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Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Red Deer Rut  Diary 2013 part two
October 15th
The chief stag was VERY agitated this morning, refusing to tolerate other stags anywhere near the herd and charging furiously and noisily after a young stag who was determined to try his luck. I found out later that a big fight between two stags was witnessed on the sea field that same morning, lasting twenty-five minutes.
October 16th
The ground has been scuffed up on the 6th fairway today. I wonder if it has been caused by actual mating? Damage to trees has stopped. There must be something about munching up pine trees just before the rut that attracts stags- it doesn’t seem so appetising to them afterwards.
October 19th
The atmosphere has changed on the golf course. It is less intense and there is less roaring. The main herd on the golf course of 16 hinds has been sitting comfortably on the first fairway in a tight-knit group with the chief stag. No hinds were trying to run away and no other stags were around waiting to challenge.
There is still a lot of night-time roaring coming from up the Narachan track and from Gleann Easan though the stags sound pretty hoarse at times.
October 21st
This week stag culling stops and hind culling begins. If this isn’t done there will be high mortality of the young over the winter. Calves stay with their mothers for a year or even two. There are two or three little family groups like this who are now grazing at some distance from the main herd, presumably because mating has taken place.
October 23rd
One very exhausted chief stag fast asleep in the reeds near the Newton Road Bridge. His big antlers sticking up like an aerial gave his whereabouts away. The rut ends in a drawn-out slow calming like the sea after a storm. The structure of the herd loosens and eventually the big stags return to the hills.

Blinky was culled earlier this month. He was estimated to be 15 which is very old for a stag. He was blind in one eye and going blind in the other so his prospects for surviving the coming winter were not good. At least he spent his last few days proudly in charge of the herd again.

Snowstorm Facts

Our camping season 2013 began dramatically with the blizzard that blasted Arran on March 22nd.  Some facts about it that we have learned recently are:
  • Three power towers collapsed on Kintyre severing the electricity line to Arran. Power tower collapse in this part of Scotland had only occurred three times before in sixty years. Heavy snow rapidly built up and turned to ice. Lines between each tower had about 20 tons on them.
  • Some Arran homes on the West coast had no power for six days.
  • 700 SSE workers were drafted into the area from round the country.
 (This information came from the ‘Snow bill hits £15 million’ report in the Arran Banner 3rd August 2013 following a presentation by Neil Wilson SSE Operations manager for Argyll and West Highland.)

The campsite and golf course close for winter on October 31st as usual. Rutting has no sooner ended here than tupping begins and the hill sheep will be brought down to the golf course on November 1st. Whoever thinks Lochranza is a quiet place?

I’ll leave you with a glorious view of the Arran mountains in October sunshine taken from Dun Fionn near Brodick on Thursday.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Lochranza Red Deer Rut Diary 2013

For two summers a stag has been hanging about Lochranza. Sometime he must have had the worst of a fight and had been blinded in one eye. He is the Blinky I refer to in these notes.
The red deer of Lochranza are wild but managed, and culling takes place in the autumn.
Every year the deer congregate on the golf course for the rut. The obvious reason for this is that it’s the best grass in the area. My personal theory is that they choose to be here because it’s a natural amphitheatre and the rut is all about stags showing off their strength. The stag in charge keeps the main herd centre-stage on the golf course and his roars resound around the hillsides.

17th September
32 deer have congregated on the golf course including six young stags. Some play-fighting is going on and some muted roaring at night. A mature stag with 17 points on his antlers is sitting in the sea-field of the golf course- by himself.
19th September
Blinky woke us up in the middle of the night sawing his antlers on a tree outside the caravan and breaking off branches (that’s why Lochranza gardens are fenced!)
20th September
Eight young deer are munching Mrs MacAllister’s hedge next to the golf course. Why are they doing that now when they haven’t done it all year? There’s plenty of grass to eat. Once the rut begins properly the stags won’t eat at all. The 17 pointer has taken charge of the herd- he’s showing interest in the hinds but they’re not reciprocating- they scurry out of his reach.
22nd September
The stags have re-opened their baths by the 6th green (we filled them in after last year’s rut). They scour out holes with a circular motion of their antlers and finish up looking dark, muddy and scary (to impress their rivals).
26th September
A noisy night of roaring. Jackdaws were sitting on the 17 pointer pecking insects off him- he looked happy to have the service. The quietest time of day is late morning, when the deer settle down and have a nap.
30th September
Thought the 17 pointer was dead- he was crashed out exhausted in the sunshine this afternoon. Not easy to lie flat out when you’ve got big antlers at each side of your head!
1st October
Blinky has moved in and has charge of the herd. He is defending them fiercely because there are rivals roaring all round the periphery of the golf course. If females run away he roars at them.  If young stags come too close he gives a series of loud grunts. He had fun bathing in the deep ditch we’ve just cleared and tossed mud and water everywhere.
4th October
Blinky has moved the herd to the sea-field. Roars from stags above the old quarry, the Village Hall, the Distillery, the hill fort and the Whinns.
6th October
Walked up the Narachan. Stags are everywhere- oblivious to people- just intent on watching the herd to seize their chance.
Tonight  Blinky saw a young stag off by walking in a dominant way parallel to him, forcing him right up above the old quarry where they had a quick tangle with their antlers. Blinky then charged headlong back down to the herd. P.S The eagles were out in the sunshine too- flying high above all the deer drama.
8th October
Blinky is not in charge any more. The herd have scattered a bit but there are plenty of stags moving in. Some of this year’s calves are still being fed by their mothers.
14th October
The first fairway is the central arena of the rut.
Night-times now are filled with the long resonant groans of stags’ voices- they sound as if their urge to procreate is unbearable. If they all took up monogamy life would be much easier.
The hinds come into season on the 21st so the tension is electric. When the stag in charge chases the interlopers away he really means business now. I give him a wide berth when I’m raking the bunkers.

Next instalment coming soon.

Photo by Lance Ostler