I recently spent a very enjoyable day with fellow shutterbug Michael Anderton in the hills surrounding Loch Dan in Wicklow. I had met Michael at the Birr Game Fair where he offered to show me sika deer rut when autumn proper would roll around. Come to think of it autumn proper rolled around August this year!
We linked up early Sunday morning in a misty Roundwood but by the time we arrived at our spot the mist was lifting and the day held good promise,a gentle breeze and not too cold.There was a wonderful view of some distant escarpments in the early morning mist reminding me of images I have seen of China on tv.
The sika were not playing ball and apart from a few fleeing rumps nothing stood still for us. They seemed to be heading for cover after their feeding. I was a bit disappointed thinking that we hadn’t arrived early enough but Mike told me to relax and that we would see heaps before the day would be over.
We walked past autumnal larches and rocky streams as we made our way out onto the mountain proper. I was amazed at the amount of ravens wheeling and diving in the sky and thought that they must have been feeding on a deer carcass or something but Mike said that the ravens always put on a show like this. Their aerial acrobatics were superb to watch .We threw ourselves back in the heather and watched them for half an hour. We could see that many were performing courtship rituals with the males passing a sprig of vegetation to the females while diving together at speed often upside down. They mate for life and therefore the bond between both birds is strong.
We continued onwards and upwards and then we spotted them… sika deer… everywhere! I was delighted to get such great views of small groups of hinds with their stag keeping a close eye on them.We could not spot any truly large beast , eight pointers were the biggest we could find. Even though the deer are quite tolerant of walkers we could not get as close as we would like with our smallish lenses. They would move steadily away as we approached them and stare intently at us. They are not particularly large deer but Mike and I had a slightly unnerving episode shortly afterwards when an aggressive beast galloped towards us and stamped his leg a few times while staring furiously at us . He had been wallowing in some peat hole and his unkempt appearance gave him a most wicked demeanor.I was glad someone else was with me on the open mountain, Mike was the only object I could hide behind if this bad boy decided to have a game of chase! I didn’t say this to Mike even though he probably was having the same thought! I hope he doesn’t read this.
We continued walking in a long loop over the tops towards loch Dan. What a beautiful view greeted us as we reached a ridge where the lake and inflowing river could be seen below us.
We headed back towards the car after a little lunch (thanks to Mike, I forgot mine!). The walk back saw some late evening sun bathe the valleys with warm light perfect for picture -taking. I particularly enjoyed photographing the deer in the ferns. The valley has some impressive Scots pines and stands of sessile oaks. I look forward to paint a sika stag in this setting. This truly is a beautiful part of Wicklow and a day which we both really enjoyed .