I rolled out of bed just after 4am this morning, tired after a fitful night’s sleep, but excited about my plans to catch up with one of Bedfordshire’s less common mammals.
Just after 5am I was seated high up at the intersection of two rides at Potton Wood in the east of the county, the one ride orientated just about north-south, and the other east-west….I sat and waited. Pheasants were calling, a male Wood Pigeon flirted with his partner, roller-coasting and wing-clapping, and a Marsh Tit just couldn't hold it in - I always think that the familiar pitchoo pitchoo pitchoo song just explodes out of their beaks….
…and then, at 6.15am, my heart leapt as I noticed the mammal I’d come to see standing out on the north ride in front of me: Fallow Deer. June is the time when the fawns arrive, so I was hoping that I might get to see a mother and her young offspring…and I wasn’t disappointed. You’ll probably have to use your imagination a bit for the photo – but it was early and they were fairly distant!
This was just a brief view as the pair crossed the path from left to right but 40 minutes later, just before 7am, they appeared again on the path to the east of my position, having wandered through the wood. Then they disappeared into the woodland on the south side of this ride, before the doe appeared once again – on her own this time – at 7.10am, spending 15 minutes browsing just 50m or so from me.
Suddenly she looked up and stared straight in my direction, sniffing the air. A breeze was now blowing and I was upwind….though up high, too. But I think she must have gotten wind of me…I’m sure she couldn’t hear the Hayley Westenra song that was issuing quietly from where I had dropped my iPod earphones!! She sauntered back into the wood and I didn’t see her again.
The Fallow Deer brings me up to 30 Bedfordshire mammal species so far this year. Here's the complete list:
1) Rabbit (1st January – Kempston Hardwick verges).
2) Chinese Water Deer (1st January – Flying Horse Farm).
3) Grey Squirrel (2nd January – Millbrook Plantation).
4) Muntjac (2nd January – Millbrook Plantation).
5) Red Fox (4th January – Brogborough Lake).
6) Brown Hare (7th January – Ampthill area).
7) Brown Long-eared Bat (13th February).
8) Natterer’s Bat (13th February).
9) Barbastelle Bat (13th February).
10) Daubenton’s Bat (13th February).
11) Common Shrew (17th February – Ampthill Park).
12) Pygmy Shrew (18th February – Ampthill Park).
13) Wood Mouse (18th February – Ampthill Park).
14) Stoat (24th February – Ampthill Park).
15) Bank Vole (5th March - Stewartby Lake).
16) American Mink (8th March - Stewartby Lake).
17) Water Shrew (12th March - The Lodge, Sandy).
18) Water Vole (24th March - Sandy area).
19) Otter (24th March - Warren Villas NR).
20) Weasel (18th April – Chicksands Wood).
21) Common Pipistrelle (20th May - Wood in Eastern Bedfordshire).
22) Serotine Bat (20th May – Wood in Eastern Bedfordshire).
23) Soprano Pipistrelle (10th June – Priory CP).
24) Hedgehog (10th June – Priory CP).
25) Badger (11th June – Local wood).
26) Noctule Bat (28th June – Stockgrove CP).
27) Roe Deer (28th June – Kingshoe Wood verge).
28) Brown Rat (29th June – Wardown Park).
29) Field Vole (1st July – Rough Ground north of Redbourne School).
30) Fallow Deer (14th July – Potton Wood).