Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ampthill Park and Cooper's Hill

After several days indoors, and beginning to exhibit signs of 'cabin fever', I thought that it was about time I got out, electing for a gentle stroll over Cooper's Hill and Ampthill Park. A week ago, I drove over to Stotfold in order to witness the extraordinary gathering of 700+ Corn Buntings there which has made the national media. You can see some great photos here. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay long and missed the regular Merlin (who obviously knows when it's on to a good thing!), so I was really encouraged to have a stunning male Merlin fly right over my head in the Park (my 88th bird species there). I also flushed a Woodcock whilst exploring some scrub.

The other highlight was these three Muntjac deer who were browsing together at the southern end of The Darkenings: two males and a female. It's unusual to see three Muntjac together unless it's a pair with a fawn. Twin births are rare, but I did wonder if the males were siblings and continuing to spend their time with their mother. They both look relatively immature to me...I'm not sure how long a fawn will normally remain with the mother, nor when the antlers start to grow, which would help (Muntjac are unusual in breeding at any time in the year which complicates things).

This one shouldn't be difficult to spot in the future with its single antler and torn ear.

And here's the other...he looks well-nigh perfect! And now for something completely different.........

I deliberately walked over the heathland at Cooper's Hill to look for any flies that might be out enjoying the rare sunshine. There were several Calliphorid blowflies on the pine trunks facing the sun.

This one is blowing a bubble, which is surprisingly common in these flies.

Update:Our Beds Mammal Recorder, Richard, had informed me that antlers develop in Muntjac between the ages of 32 and 76 weeks, the pedicles developing from about 20 weeks. They are weaned at about 8 weeks but they seem to stay with the doe for rather longer (not sure exactly how long). You do get doe and buck muntjac staying together for a while, but usually during the mating period. The bucks could be siblings, but they do looke 'different' and this is more likely to be doe and buck with a fawn about to depart.

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