With Covid-19 restrictions still in place across the world during the late autumn, there was only one thing to do - explore the ancient landscapes of the New Forest in search of deer. This former royal hunting ground is home to wild herds of red and fallow deer (as well as sika around the Bealieu area) and if you know where to look you can capture some stunning imagery.
Deer are notoriously skittish and it is essential to keep your distance and let the deer come to you. If you try and follow deer, you will only spook them.
Most of these images were taken when I was on my own, but a couple were taken while leading workshops for Wildlife Worldwide.
There are only around 150 red deer in the New Forest and their population is strictly controlled by the national park authority, so it is always worth keeping your eyes peeled for the fallow deer if the reds manage to elude you.
If you would like to join me on a dedicated deer photography workshop in 2021, please contact me for more information.
Richmond Park is one of the jewels in the Royal Parks' crown, a wildlife haven in the heart of one of Europe's largest conurbations. Red deer, little owls, badgers and even ring-necked parakeets. I spent numerous weekends journeying up the A3 early to photograph the red deer rut, meeting friends and enjoying the cool autumnal air - the photographic opportunities were excellent.
As you can see, the photographic highlights are not only limited to the red deer that call the park home. Above you can see an image of a jackdaw, arguably one of the UK's most beautiful corvids and a ring-necked parakeet (an introduced species from the Indian subcontinent).
The deer stags are well known for thrashing their antlers in the bracken, and other undergrowth, when they are pumped full of testosterone. In this case, he took it all a little far and then struggled to see where he was going. This individual stag was not one of the dominant males, and he will probably have to wait another year or two to reach his absolute prime.
As you can see from the images above, the red deer often stand proudly as the sun rises over the horizon, seemingly basking in the soft morning light.
It was a great few weeks enjoying the wilder side of London and as long as you avoid the crowds, you can expect to see some spectacular behaviour. Next year, if I get to lead my planned tours (if Covid allows), then I won't be able to photograph this annual spectacle.
I am always astounded at the lack of knowledge regarding local wildlife, this really hit me during the annual deer rut when I said I was going to the New Forest to photograph Red Deer. People didn't believe me, saying that there aren't any wild Red Deer in the south of the UK except for on Exmoor.
Well I was determined to show them that there are in fact Red Deer only a stones throw from Southampton and Bournemouth. I spent a couple of weekends searching for this native deer species and was in luck.
As I reached my usual patch for the Fallow Deer, I heard a deer barking, but this was no Fallow Deer buck. This was an altogether deeper sound that resonated through the trees. I headed to the edge of the woodland, where the sound came from, and to my delight there were two large stags strutting their stuff.
This was the scene I was presented with (above) and then spent the next two hours stalking the larger of the two stags and his group of females. I had to work hard and a constantly changing wind direction made life particularly difficult.
The Red Deer of the New Forest are quite transient but are only found in the South Western side of the forest, sadly their population is controlled to stop interbreeding with the introduced Sika Deer found near Beaulieu. I was extremely lucky to get this close to such large wild mammals in the UK but I would like to stress this series of images took over 3 hours to capture, with long periods of stalking required.
If you see any deer in the New Forest, please don't walk straight towards them, instead make sure the wind is in your favour and keep yourself hidden. It is usually best to let the wildlife come to you, be patient and above all just enjoy what you see.