Date – 13th October 2016
This wasn’t what you might call a ‘proper’ walk, it was simply a wander up Martindale to see if we would be lucky enough to get a view of the stag rut which is taking place there at the moment. Its a cool showery day and the cloud is down on the fell tops so, with the views likely to be limited, we ruled out any thought of walking the fells and armed with binoculars and camera drove the short distance from home to Martindale. On the map below I have marked our viewing point with a green star, and the red arrowhead indicates, albeit roughly, the spot where we finally located the deer. On the map it doesn’t look as though there was any great distance between the deer and ourselves, but of course there was and I had to put the camera on maximum zoom to be able to get any shots. As a result the picture quality isn’t great but I hope its good enough to give you a flavour of the stags ‘strutting their stuff’.
We base ourselves at Dale Head Farm, although its no longer a working farm, and can hear the loud roars of the stags which seem to be coming from the other side of The Nab. Just our luck, we thought, if they are on the other side of the fell then we won’t see anything at all. Binoculars ranged across The Nab from top to bottom, and from one end to the other but not a deer to be seen. Behind us, and coming from the Beda Fell direction, came a full throated roar which sounded rather like the moo of a cow but a few octaves lower. Binoculars were turned around and ranged across the slopes of Beda and there they were. Take the binoculars away and with the naked eye it was just about impossible to see them amongst the dead bracken and high up on the fellside. Over to the right of the fellside was this big male, sporting a handsome set of antlers, with some of his hinds.
Just below him a young stag tries to walk nonchalantly by while the big daddy keeps him under surveillance.
The young stag wanders out of shot but the big lad is still keeping a watchful eye on him.
Meanwhile, over on the left hand side of the fell, another stag, on the left of the shot, is keeping tabs on a young male, in the centre, who is making his way towards a couple of hinds. The young stag’s antlers are barely worth a second look so his prospects this year look a bit bleak.
The larger male moves across to guard his hinds.
Elsewhere on the fell side another large male, over on the right, decides its time to let out a roar and make his presence felt.
He then moves across and escorts a younger male off his property.
Escorting duty done with and the stag, left of shot, returns to his herd. The hinds are taking absolutely no notice of all these male shenanigins and continue to munch their way across the fell side.
Back to big daddy over on the other side who is giving what could be described as a pitying look at this young stag, also sporting a meagre pair of antlers. The young ‘un doesn’t even attempt a look across, he knows when discretion is the better part of valour.
Off he goes down the fell side, cowed but safe. Better luck next year mate.
Back up the hill big daddy wanders across to see if trouble is brewing elsewhere.
To make sure everyone knows he’s coming over he gives out an enormous roar which reverberates across the fell.
Over on an unoccupied patch of ground a small groups of stags practise their ‘See you outside’ routine which consists of …..
….. facing each other up, heads going down, locking horns and shaking vigorously until dizzy.
Big daddy is on the prowl again having spotted something he doesn’t like the look of lower down the slope. Once again the hinds are taking little notice and are just enjoying a bit of sit down, no doubt thinking “Won’t it be great come November and all these blokes just push off and and we can have the place to ourselves again.”
Off he goes to investigate …..
….. but he came to a halt after just a few strides so whoever he was chasing didn’t hang around for a punch up. Would anyone with that great bulk hurtling towards them? All the time we were there not one other stag came anywhere near him to make a challenge so he’s obviously the head honcho and not one to be tangled with.
He then notices a stray hind behind him so he wanders across to her.
She didn’t seem very interested so perhaps he hasn’t put on a good enough show just yet, or maybe his chat up lines are a bit cheesy.
Back over at the training ground the young hopefuls are still putting in the practise. Well, two of them are, the other is more interested in raiding the pantry.
“I’ll be with you in a minute lads, just need to finish this last little bit.”
“Is this a private club or can anyone join?”
A new recruit turns up for training which stops the three of them in their tracks while they suss him out.
“All this training is hard work you know, I’m only taking a short break to scratch my rear end, and the other guy is just having a quick snack before we get started.”
The young hopefuls pair up and begin sparring again. There are a number of much bigger blokes than them around so maybe you’ll get your chance next year boys, eh?
They stop and start, chop and change sparring partners, and let out the occasional roar. Its a bit like watching a group of teenage boys.
‘Fancy another round or shall we call it a day?”
“Nah, I’m still good, let’s go again.”
“Okay lads, that’ll be enough for a while, let’s go for a run.”
They had their run around and then it was back to the sparring. As you can see they are pretty much out on their own on the fell side, and none of them attempted to go anywhere near any of the larger stags, so it looked very much like a bunch of youngsters trying each other out to determine their status in the overall pecking order. Well, the sky has remained a uniform grey and we’d better get off home before the forecasted rain for the afternoon arrives. A very enjoyable and interesting morning and perhaps next year I’ll have a better camera with a bigger lens and bring back some rather better pictures. Maybe the weather will be better too.