Taking advantage of the nice weather yesterday I went for a little cycle up to Warwick Racecourse. The site can sometimes be a little sterile but at this time of the year it is alive with Skylark and Reed Bunting. The council have also being working hard to improve the area. By Jubilee Wood the reservoir has been re dug and opened out with a viewing area and a couple of scrapes have been dug on the common.
At the viewing station I paused to see what was about. The wood is always bristling with Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps and yesterday was no different. There was very little on the small reservoir except for a Coot and a Moorhen but as I sat there I heard a commotion in the reeds.
I have often stated that much of wildlife watching is just as much about the sounds as the sights. I knew instantly that the rustle in the reeds was a largeish animal ad given the fencing around the lake was unlikely to be one of the many dogs. The birds hadn't alarmed and so I was fairly sure it wasn't a Fox. Great Tits are usually excellent at spotting these predators and alerting everyone to their presence. I lifted myself up a little to get a better view over the bramble strewn fence and saw a male Muntjac, it was a fleeting glimpse as I was perched at top the wooden railing to the viewing point. I caught a quick glance as it stumbled by and then held my breathe as through the vegetation I could see it settle down in the sunlight.
Repositioning myself I cautiously found myself a better observation post and started to watch the deer which sat unconcerned perhaps 20 meters away. Of course it had its back to me but I managed to get a nice coupe of photos.
This lovely shot shows the fine structure of the fur the curve of the nose and the scent ducts beneath the eyes. But all is not as it seems.
This wasn't the first Muntjac I have seen, I have had close encounters before, all of them fleeting. Despite having no real predator in the UK Muntjac are still very skittish preferring to bolt and hide than risk it. Their 'fight or flight' response is dialled all the way up to 10 for flight. Sometimes young individuals can be curious but this individual whilst lacking the horns of a mature sexually active male was definitely not a youngster.
I learned very early on, probably by osmosis that if you can approach a wild British mammal then something is wrong. This deer I was convinced knew I was there. I wasn't especially quiet and we definitely made eye contact a few times. Was he relaxed with me? The fence between us certainly leant him a sense of security but there was more to it than that. As you can see the deer seems in good condition, the fur looks healthy and its of a good weight. However the deer was injured.
I scrolled back through my photos to look at the quick shot I got off when I first saw the deer.
I then zoomed in and saw that there was blood on the left front hoof, a little on the top of his head where he had obviously nuzzled the wound. A close up zoom revealed a fresh wound.
It is possibly the result of a car collision but seems more like an injury caused by jumping a fence. Mammals have a high pain threshold and the deer seemed completely un-phased when sat down. The biggest worry at the moment would be infection if it is able to heal up cleanly then the deer should be fine. Knowing that he needed rest I retreated. If I approached to try and help it would only panic it and it would run off causing more injury, much better to let it be and allow it to recover naturally, and if sadly it succumbs then it will provide nutrients for the rest of the ecosystem.
Its interesting to point out that from the first picture you would not be able to tell that the animal is injured, had its hoof not been injured I have no doubt that it would have run off or at the very least been a lot less comfortable with me. Sometimes its worth questioning a photo, they do not always tell a real story. It reminds me of a Great Skua that was hounded to death by Twitchers at Draycote. So intent were they on getting a good view or picture that it died of exhaustion. What then was the price of the photo, and would the story go along with the image, I doubt it.
99% of all wildlife watchers and photographers act responsibly but I think its worth interrogating images both as to how they were taken and what they represent. Any photo exploiting an animal should be listed as so.
So where do I stand on this picture I have taken. Once I knew it was injured I left it alone, it didn't need me watching it over the fence and adding to its stress. I left it for nature to take its course. But the photo, the top one, which is a beautiful portrait of the deer is not something I will ever enter into a competition or use for anything other than to highlight the subject as it was, the Muntjac only agreed to be photographed because it wasn't capable of running away. I had curtailed its choice and that is the sentiment that stays with the image, it is of compassion for the animal something that is not conveyed by the image. Perhaps we need extra metadata to photos to apply context.