At the beginning of this week I took a road-trip up to Richmond Park in London with a fellow aspiring wildlife filmmaker to see the Red and Fallow Deer during the rutting season. There are 630 Red and Fallow Deer in the park so they are not hard to find, but with 2500 acres to roam free, they have plenty of space to graze. The deer have been able to roam freely here in what is the largest of the Royal Parks in London since 1529 and help to maintain the large public grassland through grazing.
We arrived just after sunrise having battled with school traffic just outside the park, but were able to start filming and photographing immediately in the beautiful golden morning light. I expected to find a lot of deer, but one thing I wasn't quite expecting to see... were parrots!
The Ring-Necked Parakeets have increased in numbers hugely in recent years and can be heard screeching across the park. You only have to look up to see a small company of green falcon-like birds gracing the sky with their raucous calls which are now one of the most common sounds heard across the park. I knew these colourful birds that were rumoured to have been 'accidentally' introduced to London in the 40's or 50's (some even speculate that Jimi Hendrix released a breeding pair in the 60's!) were common in some parks in London, but having deer on the mind, I had forgotten the possibility of running into these birds; I was therefore somewhat surprised and excited and neglected the real reason why I had driven two hours to Richmond Park.
I eventually tore myself away from these beautiful birds and turned my attention to the roaring stags that seemed to be echoing across the park. People are instructed to stay 50m away from the deer - especially during rutting season when the males are so focused on driving away rivals, they might not worry about knocking down someone who got in their way. It was sad to see a lot of people ignoring this strong advice and I even witnessed someone walking within a couple of metres of one large stag to fetch their disobedient dog. I was very worried that the inquisitive dog might meet the business end of a male's antler before the end of the day. Luckily the dog-walker and dog walked away safely.
That said, the deer move around so often, you often find a group or an individual has closed the 50m gap very quickly, and I found myself at one point between two rival Red Stags even where I was on the path. Needless to say I got out of there quickly - it's not something you want to be in the middle of!
The rest of the day went well and the weather held up beautifully, allowing us to gain some incredible time with these large British mammals - fingers crossed for a repeat trip soon.
(Video footage to follow!)