306/365 – Deer on my doorstep

Whilst in France recently my friend asked what photography trips I had lined up for the rest of the year. So we started discussing the red deer rut and I mentioned I’d be off to Studley Royal to try and catch some of the action.

“Why don’t you got to that deer park in Stainland” he replied.

What deer park in Stainland!!!!”

A quick google and I discovered to my surprise that rather than driving an hour and half to Ripon I could drive ten minutes down the road and see red deer almost on my doorstep.

As soon as I got home I grabbed my gear and went for a look around, and sure enough there was a herd of deer exactly where he said they’d be. Unfortunately you can’t access the park as its private land but there’s a public path around the outside and if you’re lucky the deer are close enough to photograph. And if you’re really lucky you can see a family group snoozing in the woodland!

Doe and fawn

Doe and fawn

They are very curious animals and even though you might think you’re sneaking up on them, they know you’re there and they always have a wary eye on you.

Young male

Young male

There is quite a large herd in this deer park with a few big stags. Although there was no rutting there were a few roars which suggest its about to start but most of the time they tended to lie down. One was digging at the ground with his antlers trying to add turf to the antlers which help them look bigger.

Stag at rest

Stag at rest

The fawns though are adorable and extremely inquisitive, getting much closer than their mothers to have a look at me.

Curious red deer fawn

Curious red deer fawn

Hopefully when I visit again in the next week or so, there may be more rut action and hopefully some duelling stags to see.

 

 

298/365 – Here Be Dragons

Last weekend I went to the Vendee region of France to stay with friends. They have renovated an old house with a selection of out buildings into a really nice home in the village of Apremont.

After a proper downpour on the first night the weather turned very warm and sunny and I was told by my friend that if I wanted some local wildlife to go and sit in front of his wood store.

So I did.

The wall is South facing and quickly warmed up bringing lizards out of almost every nook and crack.

Common wall lizard

Common wall lizard

The Common Wall Lizard or L├ęzard des Murailles is far and away the most common lizard in France and can vary in colour by region and area. They vary in size from an inch or two up to some I saw which were over 6 inches from nose to tail. They have an elongated appearance due to their long thin tail which makes up around half of their length.

Common lizard emerging

Common lizard emerging from the shed

Males tend to be more colourful than the females which are generally a more drab brown colour. The common wall lizard is present throughout France where they prefer open, sunny areas with little vegetation, old stone walls, quarries, roadsides and tracks, or as here emerging between the stones of an old out building.

They are amazing climbers, their sharp claws allowing them to cling to almost anything and easily scaling the smoother plaster on the outside of one wall.

Common wall lizard

Check out the sharp claws for climbing

These lizards will be preparing for hibernation which depending on the area of France starts around November till April/May. If the weather is mild they will break their hibernation and forage for any available food source. As soon as hibernation is over the breeding season starts with males fighting for the females attention.

Common wall lizard

The female lays between 2 and 10 eggs, up to three times during the breeding season, in soft soil or under rocks, and they hatch after about 2 months. The eggs are oval, about 10 mm and soft when first laid, swelling up to 15 mm. Although very common in France the lizards are protected by law.

There was no shortage of them in this particular garden in Apremont and at one point I counted 14 on the shed roof basking in the late summer sunshine.

Common wall lizard out on the tiles

Out on the tiles