Bushy Park, London

  • February 26, 2017 7:33 pm

A squadron of green arrows cuts through the blue of the sky, noisy screeches rain down from these lime feathered parakeets. It seems so exotic, and we gawp in touristy awe, but there’s a delight in seeing a parrot fly free when previously I’ve only ever seen them caged. No, I’m not on a foreign holiday, though it suddenly feels like it, we are in our capital city, visiting my lovely brother-in-law, who kindly takes us to visit Bushy Park. I’ve never seen (or heard!) so many parakeets before, but they are surprisingly camera shy, apart from the odd group flying over in formation, they stick to the treetops, patrolling the upper branches.

Our first stop is the lake, where many people feed the ducks, and in amoungst the Mallards we also find some Red-crested Pochard, a handsome, if non-native duck with a striking russet crest, and a brilliant red bill.

Red-crested pochard, Netta rufina, Bushy Park, London

There are Tufted ducks too, lovely little ducks, black and white at first glance, but with a gorgeous purple sheen in the right light.

Tufted duck, Aythya fuligula, male, Bushy Park, London

Keeping the waterfowl company were lots of Black-headed gulls, some of them already starting to gain their breeding plumage in the warmth of the city.

Black-headed gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus, perched on wooden post Bushy Park, London

The park is well known for its herds of Red and Fallow deer, and we quickly spot two Fallow bucks casually strolling down the path. Although very used to people, these deer have a wildness about them, they are not friendly like the Sika deer we saw in Nara, Japan. We remain at a wary distance, although other people attempt to get closer, alarmingly so as one parent attempts to introduce their young child to a huge Red deer stag, still with full antlers. The deer continues to graze, but a little shake of the head is enough to make the people retreat to a more sensible distance. The deer are wary too, a loose French bulldog sends one of the Fallow bucks pronking away into the bracken with tail raised, wild instinct remembering the wolf.

It’s lovely too see and study them this closely though, deer of all species have a very majestic air about them, especially the handsome Reds.

Red deer, Cervus elaphus, stag, male, close up, Bushy Park, London,

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Red deer, Cervus elaphus, stag, male, close up, Bushy Park, London,

The Fallow deer are smaller with palmate, flattened antlers. We later found the rest of the Fallow herd, as the light was fading, which contained white coated animals, as well as individuals that were almost black, the Fallow deer being highly variable in colour. These two bucks were clearly used to posing for people!

Fallow deer, Dama dama, buck, male, backlit in evening light, Bushy Park, London.

Fallow deer, Dama dama, buck, male, two in evening light, Bushy Park, London.

Fallow deer, Dama dama, buck, male, backlit in evening light, Bushy Park, London.

It was inspiring to visit a slice of the wild in the middle of the city, were it not for the hum of traffic, you could easily have been in the middle of the countryside. Good too, to see so many people out and enjoying it, a very special place.

 

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On Safari

  • September 30, 2013 9:26 pm

The 4×4 bounces along the rough rutted track, rounding a corner we spot the herd. 150 animals strong, they move through the pale dry grass and dust drifts in the air as one individual shakes out its coat. Ear’s flick away flies, a mother calls gently to it’s calf, there’s a roar in the distance. Where am I?

Not where you’d expect, I’m on safari with the RSPB, in deepest, darkest… Suffolk.

A Red deer safari in fact, a short bumpy ride away from the wonderful Minsmere reserve, in an area as close to ‘re-wilded’ as we’re prepared to go in this country. The Red deer here are wild, a feral population with it’s origins linked to the Thetford Forest animals, they are left to their own devices. At this time of year, all across the country the rut is taking place with the stags gathering harems of hinds, and defending them aggressively. As our largest native land mammal, this is an impressive sight.

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In one group, two young stags spar, carefully testing each others strength, locking antlers and pushing and shoving.

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The alpha male is an impressive beast, his red coat darkened by wallowing in mud. He sticks out his tongue, tasting the air for the scent of any females in season.

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He throws his head back and roars, a deep reverberating bellow that can only truly be appreciated in person, no recording can fully capture the depth and resonance of this primaeval sound. Silence as he waits for the distant reply.

We visit the watering hole and wallow, and watch the hinds drinking and the younger stags wallowing and coating their antlers with mud. Suddenly a large stag strides though and trots purposefully up the bank towards us, there’s a moment of tension in the air as he stares at us, he’s a powerful looking beast and we wonder about his intention. He hesitates, and moves away towards the treeline. It’s only when I look at the photo afterwards I realise he’s missing an eye, a horrific injury, presumably from a previous rutting battle.

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If you want to go on a deer safari with the RSPB, you can find more details here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-350001

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