Photo Gallery: Norwich photographer Jonathan Lewis captures Norfolk’s dramatic red deer rut
Every month, we are following in the footsteps of local wildlife photographer Jonathan Lewis. Here is his photographic perspective of what was happening in wild Norfolk during October.
During the last month we've really seen autumn take hold. Our trees are awash with a beautiful mix of orange, red and green leaves and fallen leaves are beginning to carpet the ground. While other seasons span over several months, autumn fits perfectly into October.
For most of the month I've been following what I think is one of the great natural spectacles occurring in Norfolk, the annual red deer rut.
The male deer have been waiting all year for this, their antlers are now in their full splendour and they are ready to go!
Between late August and early September bachelor groups of male red deer (stags) break up and males compete to gain control of groups of females (hinds).
This period of competition peaks in October providing the best opportunities to watch or photograph these magnificent animals in action.
Clashes between stags do not always enter into physical contests. Instead behaviour such as walking side by side and bellowing is used to assess the strength of their rival.
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If one stag decides the other is too strong to compete with he will flee but if two males consider themselves equal in strength they will enter into combat, clashing antlers.
With males weighing up to 150kg this impressive display of power is quite something to witness.
The winner rounds up a herd of females known as a harem and will guard them from other stags until they come into season; an event which only occurs for a matter of hours.
Over the rutting season the females will often change between different stags several times whilst the hierarchy takes place.
Eventually the dominant stag will get to mate with the females in his herd and pass on his strong genes to the next generation.
All in all this is amazing, fascinating behaviour to watch and document, and it is well worth checking out.
There are several places in Norfolk to see to see red deer in action; Holkham Hall on the North Norfolk coast provides a great setting to watch red and fallow deer rutting close-up, while Minsmere nature reserve offers a chance to see wild red deer in action in Suffolk. A word of advice if you do go out to observe the rut; stags are big and over this period full of testosterone which makes them very aggressive.
Never get in between a stag and his females, keep a respectful distance and keep your dog on a lead.
Next month the cold weather will really kick in and the race for survival begins for many of Norfolk's wild inhabitants.
November wildlife to watch out for…
- Starling roosts, try Strumpshaw for massive flocks
- Wader spectaculars, visit Snettersham to witness thousands of waders congregate
- Arrival of redwings, fieldfares and waxwings
- Grey seal young off the North Norfolk coast
Jonathan Lewis in a wildlife photographer based near Norwich. He runs a variety of courses and tours both in Norfolk and further afield. For more information visit www.norfolk-wildlife-photography.co.uk or www.facebook.com/norfolkwildlifephotography.