A little to early in the season?

Last Saturday looked like it was going to be a fine autumn day (it was) so I arranged my day so I could visit Richmond Park at dawn to as close to as possible to that because the gates do not open until 7am.  I duel arrived at 6:40am and finished my coffee waiting for the rangers to open the gates.  I was first in line and drove into the park just as the bottom go the sun lifted above the horizon, the park and, in the far distance, London itself.  Brilliant, the plan was working.  It takes about 10-15 mins to get to my favourite car park at 20 mph (the park’s speed limit).  

I started walking the half mile to where the deer are usually seen.  It quickly became apparent that all might not be quite right.  First, it was a stunning morning but id actually be hoping for the slight mists that characterise this time of year.  My precise ‘idea’ was to photograph the stags rutting in a soft subdued, misty morning light.  I’ve taken and posted shots like this before.  Today it was just bright, crisp light with a lot of contact. Oh well, you takes what you can get where light is concerned.  I carried on, safe in the knowledge that I’d not be worried about a lack of light today.   But wait up, where were the deer.  It’s meant to be rutting season and, in the rut, there is a lot of noise from the deep bellowing of the stags expressing their ownership and holding a group of hinds.  By contrast, his morning was very quiet, there were a couple of stags giving the odd call but very little noise of competition or the big stags strutting their stuff.  It felt that there was not much of a rut happening yet.  

I did eventually find some groups of hinds but there was a distinct lack of fully mature stags.  Indeed, there were some males to be seen and they were taking an interest in the females though somewhat half-heartedly.  The females, were not receptive.  The mature males were not around. My guess is that there is no point in expending a lot of energy when there is nothing to gain.  

We have had an exceptionally hot summer and I’m left wondering if that’s making for a late rut.  I’d like to take another look in the next couple of weeks to see what developed.  

In the meantime I did take some photos of the younger males and the activity. 

Gear Nikon D500 and 500mm f/4 PF lens all shot at f4