Coming home from Bewdley’s ‘cinema’ the other night we came across a large group of fallow deer in the woods. We stopped the car and they all followed each other across the track in front of us: 17 does in all with a white doe at the back. This was in May, when family groups of females join together with others to form larger herds. This month, however, pregnant females will be going off alone to give birth to their young. You’ve probably never seen any fawns on your walks through the forest, and that’s just as it should be. The mothers hide their fawns in a ‘nest’ of vegetation and return at intervals to suckle them. If you do happen to come across one, just leave it undisturbed so that there’s no risk of the mother being scared away.
Muntjac deer have now become common in Wyre. They are rarely seen and can be mistaken for a dog, which is ironic because they make us aware of their presence by their loud, echoing barks. At Uncllys I associate the sound with cold, winter’s nights. They are native to South-East Asia and were brought to London Zoo and Woburn Abbey towards the end of the nineteenth century as a curiosity. The wild populations originated in escapes and deliberate releases since the 1920s.They do rather well in the woods of southern England and the efforts of the Wildlife Ranger are needed to keep their numbers under control. Otherwise they would have a very damaging effect on the woodland (and garden) flora.
We were delighted to find a few fat spikes of Narrow-leaved Helleborine, a rare and beautiful white orchid, in the corner of a field on one of the forest’s smallholdings last month. Although a new location to those trying to record and protect the future of these plants it amused me to discover that the family who lived there had been well-aware of their existence for a long time and able to direct us to more. The rarity is as much of those who look, and especially to look and have some idea what they are seeing, as of the plant itself. Maybe we were being watched, for within 2 days some of the flower spikes had been grazed off by a herbivore wanting some variety in its diet. Those deer again, most likely.
Thanks to the publication, ‘Worcestershire’s mammals’, by Worcestershire Recorders (2012), and to Phil Rudlin, the Forestry Commission’s Wildlife Ranger, for information.