Friday the 19th October saw Mike, Dave and myself making a visit to Bradgate Park in Leicestershire. We had visited Studley Royal Park in Yorkshire the previous week to get photographs of the Red deer rut. Although we were successful at Studley we felt a visit to Bradgate Park would be in order to try and improve on what we had managed to photograph at Studley as the rut should now be in full swing.
Mike arrived at my house as planned for an 06:00 start. We soon had Mike's gear loaded into my car and on our way to pick Dave up for the two hour drive to Bradgate. We made good time despite the fog and mist patches which weren't dense enough to slow us up at all. We arrived at Bradgate at 07:50 and as promised, Steve Houghton a friend of ours from the Leicestershire area met us at 08:00. Steve, knowing the park well had kindly offered to be our guide for the day. This helped immensely as Steve knew the best photographic spots in the park and what time of day to be in those spots. Thanks Steve.
The 500mm F4 lens with the tripod was the choice today with the 1.4 extender if needed. As it happened the 1.4 extender wasn't needed as the deer at Bradgate were more approachable than the ones at Studley. With Steve's help we soon found our first photographic opportunity. A large stag with his harem of females. He was bellowing and seeing off any rival stags as well as paying attention to keeping his females with him. It's a sight worth watching to see these magnificent animals running round and bellowing at other stags warning them to keep away. We took many photographs before moving further into the park.
As we came over the brow of a hill we witnessed something we had been hoping for. A pair of Red deer stags were having a battle over rights to some females. There was much antler clashing, bellowing and charging with neither animal prepared to give in. The strength of these stags is awesome and the effort put in to keep control of the females.
Red deer stags fighting
Eventually one of the stags backed down and ran off. He only went a short distance before sitting down absolutely spent from his efforts. The winner of this battle also flopped down quite close to where we were stood. His sides heaving from his effort, his head on one side and his tongue hung out. He looked even more exhausted than the loser.
Exhausted Red deer stag
We left him in peace to recover from his heroic effort. We did see him later in the day and he didn't seem any the worse for his battle. We carried on through the park with Steve showing us the best spots. The park is also home to a herd of Fallow deer. Although not as impressive in stature as the Red deer, the Fallow bucks in particular are fairly beautiful animals with their broad sooner than rounded antlers of the Red deer. The Fallow stags don't actually bellow like the Red deer stags but make a noise that as best I can describe is like a large pig grunting. They are not as aggressive as the Red deer either. Colour variation in the Fallow deer at Bradgate varies from nearly black to almost white.
Fallow deer buck
The morning flew by and we were well ready for liquid refreshment, a sit down, and a bite to eat at the deer park tea room. Refreshed we continued our quest for photographs of the deer and we were not disappointed. There were many large Red deer stags bellowing and showing their dominance by chasing off any rival males.
Red deer stag bellowing
We were most impressed with the park, It is set in beautiful surroundings and it made getting good photographs, with Steve's knowledge of the park and the animals much easier than we expected, although a lot of walking was involved. The afternoon flew by just as fast as the morning session seemed to have done. By 16:30 the light was starting to go. It had been forecast for sunny spells to develop after a misty start but in fact it never really brightened up at all, the sun only making one or two very brief appearances throughout the day.
We made our way down to the lower area of the park where Steve was pretty certain some of the large stags would gather at this time of day. The last photographs of the day were taken in the now fast fading light. There were a couple of large stags having a stand off over a group of females. It looked like a fight would break out, but in the end a full blown confrontation was avoided when one of the stags decided to back down. It did give us great photo opportunities though despite the fading light.
Bellowing Red deer stag with some of his hinds
We made our way back to the car. The 500mm and tripod seemed to get heavier with every step and it was a relief to be able to put it down and pack it away. I reckon we walked at least eight miles in our quest for photographs and much of it was uphill and down dale. Just after we reached the car it started to rain, perfect timing for once. A fish and chip tea in the village of Anstey just after we left Bradgate went down very nicely indeed. Many thanks once again to Steve Houghton. Without Steve's guidance our quest for photographs would have been much harder today. A very successful if long day in great company. Don't forget you can view the rest of the photographs from this outing on the main web site.