It’s normally only possible to rouse Wildlife Explorers before dawn once a year – for the annual Dawn Chorus Walk, but the chance of an early morning walk at NT Lyme Park to observe the red deer rut was impossible to resist. Wrapped up warm, families gathered at the main car park before sunrise armed with torches and binoculars.
Ranger Craig gave us an introduction to the history of Lyme Park, the deer herds on the site and the behaviour of red deer during the rut. At we set out at the start of the walk we could hear tawny owls calling, dawn was breaking. The first views of the deer were accompanied by the eerie sounds of the stags bellowing – it was incredible to witness the stags chasing each other, gathering and protecting their females from their rivals. Craig was able to commentate on the activity unfolding before our eyes and help us understand how the stags and hinds were interacting.
As we looked out over the deer refuge we spotted a stonechat hovering over the grass. After a few moments the stonechat even sat on the Refuge sign and ‘posed’ for a photograph.
On the way back we stopped at The Kennels and looked at different sets of antlers and learned about the incredible speed that stags grow antler bone. We were all amazed at the significant weight of the largest antlers.
Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their daybreak stroll – we were very privileged to be able to witness the iconic breeding behaviour of our largest land mammal at close hand.
Wildlife Explorers would like to thank National Trust Ranger Craig Oliver for leading a fascinating and informative walk.