Finding antlers

Sat 31st March 2012

Isn’t weather a strange thing? Last week I was telling you about hail and now we’ve had a heat wave. I can’t remember it ever having been as hot as this in March before. It’s also very dry around here. However, the birds are making the most of the good spell and getting down to the serious business of Spring.

On my way home from the land this week I saw two buzzards mating, then two days later a pair of magpies getting it together. Fred and Jill, my friends from two doors down, spotted two robins coupling up so I think we can say that the mating season is well under way. I called on another friend of mine and there was a blackbird’s nest in her garden, always a lovely thing to see.

I saw something else special this week. I was coming home from the moors and had nearly reached Bishops Nympton where I live when I saw four pairs of yellow hammers. What beautiful birds. Over the next two days I spent a lot of time trying very hard to get a picture of one of them. I got one in the end and was so pleased with the shot. You can see it below. People often ask me how I manage to take photos like this. I tell them that if you just keep still and wait then the right time will come for you. Sometimes you might get lucky straight away but at others you may have to be patient for a very long time.

It’s at this time of year out on Exmoor that you’re likely to see the stags all together.  Everything has changed from the Autumn when they were fighting for the hinds as now they are losing their antlers. Last year the first stags to drop their antlers did so on the 11th and 12th March. This year I had a phone call from someone who found one antler on 10th March. They are still looking for the other one.

There are a lot of people who go looking for antlers up on Exmoor but they don’t often get lucky. This person happened to come across theirs by chance while they were out walking the dog. If you find one you just hope the other one is nearby as a good set of antlers is worth a lot of money. In the summer here on the moor we have quite a few local shows and people bring their antlers along to be judged.

The best way to find a good set of antlers is to go out in the evening and find you herd of stags, maybe feeding in a farmer’s field. Watch them until dark so you can see if they’re going to stay around there then go out again very early next morning and you may be lucky and find a pair of antlers. Make sure you don’t tell anyone you’ve spotted the herd or they’re likely to be up earlier in the morning than you to beat you to it. Anyhow, this is what people do to find their antlers. Try it out, you may get lucky.