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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

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