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rspb giving nature a home




Deer rutting season

Sika Deer, David Kjaer (
Sika Deer, David Kjaer (

Autumn offers one of nature's stunning spectacles as red, fallow and sika deer begin to rut. From September to November you can watch these deer with herds at their largest and most active. At this exciting time of year deer engage in fierce mating battles, as the stags fight each other to win the chance to mate with as many females as possible.

Males of red deer are bolving (bellowing) and battling as they compete for the females, and in places like Eastern Moors, part of the Peak District National Park, the population almost doubles as animals gather in from the surrounding woodlands. As Britain’s largest native land mammal this iconic species is a common but incredible sight when taking a walk on the moors.

The best time to watch the deer is just after dawn and at dusk when they are most active. Be patient and alert, listen for the bellow of the stags and look ahead as you may see deer in the distance. Move slowly and try not to make lots of noise, and walk behind undergrowth to be less obvious. Most importantly be cautious when viewing or photographing the animals as male deer are highly aggressive in this season. Don’t get too close. 
To see this stunning wildlife spectacle you can visit the following RSPB reserves that are home to deer:  

RSPB Minsmere in Suffolk has a large herd of red deer. They thrive in a varied mix of habitats, including reedbed, heath and woodland, which help Minsmere’s red deer to grow into some of the largest in the UK. The best place to watch them from is a public viewpoint on Westleton Heath. This is accessed via public footpaths on the northern edge of the reserve – about two miles from the visitor centre. The watchpoint looks south across the main rutting fields, and the deer are usually about a quarter of a mile away. A visit near dawn or dusk is best, especially during October, but the deer should be visible throughout the day. It is also possible to see smaller numbers of red deer around the visitor trails at any time of year.

Red Deer, Ben Hall (
Red Deer, Ben Hall (

RSPB Arne in Dorset has a herd of around 200 sika deer. Sika deer are originally from Japan and were introduced to Poole Harbour around 120 years ago. The deer can be spotted all over the reserve in all habitats but around the rutting season the best place to see them is on our farm fields on the main trails. The deer can be surprisingly close to the paths so visitors can get some fantastic views. The call of the males is also worth getting to the reserve early to hear, the sound somewhere between a creaking door and a screaming child.

RSPB Haweswater the deer in Cumbria are part of the Martindale Herd, the oldest native red deer herd in England. October is the best month to see them. Keen walkers might want to venture to one of the best places to see the rut, on the slopes around Kidsty Howes on Bampton Common - a fairly challenging hour’s walk from the car park at Mardale Head.

RSPB Leighton Moss in Lancashire is one of the best places in the country to see red deer in their natural surroundings. Each year, visitors to the reserve come to catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures as they emerge from a small gap in the vast reedbed and make their way to the water’s edge. In the summer months there is a ‘Bambi Boom’ where the females are seen with their young, spotty calves. In the autumn, during the rut, the males are much less friendly and can be heard bellowing and roaring across the reedbed at one another. Early in the morning, they can often be seen clashing antlers. October is the best time for visitors to witness this spectacular rut.

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