Richmond Park Deer Rut

Heading to London pre-dawn on a Saturday morning may not be at the top of everyone's todo list, but watching - and hearing - this country's largest mammal strutting its stuff in its annual autumnal ritual should be.

We arrived at Richmond just as the park gates were being opened, but it was already busy - we'd passed 4 herds of deer before we found a car park. Stepping out of the car we instantly heard the calling of a red deer stag and then another one, so we shouldered the camera and headed off in their direction. We could hear, but not see, the distant clashing of antlers - it's a strange feeling setting out on the search for large and powerful animals that you can hear are aggressive and trying to assert their dominance: you hope to see them, you hope to get close enough to get some good photos yet you hope they keep a safe distance. Our hopes were answered:

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We had a great display of strutting and posturing from one male protecting his hinds from four want-to-be usurpers until one challenger got brave enough to charge - the deer all ran & in the distance we saw a locking of antlers, albeit briefly before they disappeared out of sight into the woods. We saw more deer, including a herd of fallow deer with their own distinctive call, but as the sun rose higher the testosterone level in the stags dropped and it all calmed down. I was pleased to get there early and see the display at its best in the pale dawn light.

Here are some of the best shots from the day the rest are on Flickr.

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