ITH wildlife on the move as spring kicks in, walking in the countryside is proving to be really rewarding at the moment.
And round our way we are having a ‘deer fest’.
Every morning for the past week or so I have seen small groups of roe deer in the woods where I walk the dog.
Most mornings I see three large deer chomping away on the plants. They are spooked when I first arrive but only move 50 yards before continuing to feed.
Yesterday I was walking along the river bank and two younger animals leapt out onto the path, bounded across the river and disappeared into the wood on the other side.
As I walked past I could see them watching me from a distance, knowing full well that I couldn’t catch them.
The thing about deer is that they are nosey. They will run off if you get too close – but they are always keen to watch you.
Roe deer are our most common native deer, though you will only usually see them around dawn or dusk. At the moment they are visible because they are coming down from the hills looking for early spring growth to feed on.
Also, it is easier to spot them when the greens of spring have not yet grown to offer cover and camouflage.
While early mornings are great times to spot roe deer, they do manage to vanish when the majority of walkers, runners and cyclists take to the woodland paths.
I still find it amazing, because they are quite large animals, that they can remain out of sight to most people for large parts of their lives.
Also, as winter turns to spring, they do stick to cold weather groups before becoming more solitary in the summer.
Unless you get close, it is quite difficult to tell males from females.
Males have relatively short antlers, typically with six points.
They begin to grow their antlers in November, shedding the velvet from them in the spring. By summer, they are ready for the rutting season.
After mating, they shed their antlers in October and begin to grow a new set.
Roe deer are mediumsized, a bit bigger than a large dog. They have short antlers and no tail. Instead they have a pale rump which you often see bobbing off into the distance.
It darkens in the winter, to help disguise them in bare woodland.
Roe deer are mostly brown, but turn reddish in summer and then a darker grey in winter.
They feed on leaves, berries, grass and young shoots – the latter diet causing problems in some woodlands.
Deer have no natural predators in the UK so their numbers are controlled by land owners, where they are causing problems.
Lancashire Wildlife Trust builds deer-proof fencing on its reserves to protect young trees from ravenous roe deer.
To support the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside text WILD09 with the amount you want to donate to 70070.
For more information about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewildlife trust.org.uk.