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Friday, 17 July 2015

From the High Seat.

If you want to see and hear the things that occur at sunrise and sunset, there is a limit to the times you can be in place to capture them. So my high seat sessions can be pretty early in the early summer months, there being a small gap between sunset and sunrise on the longest day for instance.

It was a Saturday morning close to that date that saw me in my newest high seat, watching over a strip of scrub at the southern edge of Riddy Wood, often frequented by Muntjac and Roe but also an occasional Chinese Water Deer. I was seated prior to sunrise and commenced my vigil, all senses tuned in and scanning all around and even behind me. It wasn't long before I had shared my tree with multiple small bird species including Wren, Goldfinch, Whitethroat and Long-tailed tit. The Skylarks were high in the brightening sky and the dawn chorus was in full swing, barn owls had also silently cruised past me several times since my arrival.

A few pictures from a bird hide. From top to bottom; Gold Finch, Gold Finch, Reed Bunting, Wren 
 As any hunter will attest, nature protects it's own and flushing Pheasants, Wood Pigeons and other species will often give you away as you tiptoe your way to a high seat or hide but just occasionally, they will be your ally if you know what to listen for. In my experience, Wrens, Blackbirds and Robins are amongst the best and this is how it works;

These small birds will 'Alarm Call' if there is a threat or predator around, this could be an owl or other bird of prey, corvids and other nest raiders, also squirrels and foxes. For the hunter of small deer species (Muntjac and Chinese Water Deer specifically) the little chestnut creatures moving through undergrowth can be mistaken for a fox by humans and birds alike, so an alarm call can alert you to the presence of a threat to bird life or something that you'd like to take home to meet the freezer!

So it was on this day that a cacophony of alarm calls changed my scan to my right at quite close quarters and as I took a tighter grip on the rifle, motion in the tall vegetation soon had me zoomed in on a fox moving stealthily towards me on a path that would take him close in front of my seat, I mounted the rifle in slow motion and swung gently in the direction of his approach and as he paused to check the air, he took his very last sniff of anything as the bullet arrived. My chicken house is freshly empty on account of a visit from one of these fellows so I felt that I had done a service to the ground nesting species and every chicken owner (including me).

As peace returned, I settled back in to my scan and turned my collar to the freshening breeze as the sun climbed in the sky. I was brought swiftly to my senses by the unmistakeable twitch of a deer's ear in the densest patch of weeds, zeroing in on the movement with my binoculars, I could see that what I had hoped would be a muntjac was actually an out of season Roe doe, which I watched for ages with the sun on it's back, it was a rich chestnut colour and I regretted not having a decent camera with me to capture this magnificent little animal.

Although I wouldn't recommend fox as a tasty meal, (bitter spam is probably
the best way of describing it), foxes yield all sorts of other useful materials. 
As I was taking in this scene, I was suddenly aware that a hare had bounced out of the wood and accelerated to warp speed with another fox hot on its heals! it was coming my way and there was little doubt that I was going to have another opportunity if I was 'switched on'. The Hare kept coming and turned the corner of the crop just in front of me and stopped. The fox stopped well short of me as he lost sight of his dinner, I 'squeaked' to imitate a rabbit distress call which often gets their heads up or can bring them charging towards their next meal. I had my opportunity with a stationary fox and head held high and there was another 'chicken payback moment' which I cashed in. I never did see the Hare leave the scene but leave it did and at some speed I suspect.

My morning was complete, more chores to do but I had seen and heard a great and memorable variety of wildlife which I enjoyed tremendously. Go on, treat yourself to an early morning wild life watch, you won't regret it.


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