On Safari

Wed 16th Nov 2011

Well, my safaris have come to an end for another year, although I’m already getting bookings for 2012. I do love taking people up on Exmoor to see the red deer and other wildlife. We always have such a great time and I make so many new friends.

There were only three people on my last trip as I did an extra one for a couple who’d sadly had a bereavement and had to postpone their booking. One other chap joined us so we were a cosy little group. We had a wonderful day and saw red deer at almost every place we stopped, over two hundred deer in all I reckon. I’m so pleased that the last safari of the year was a really good one.

We also saw a group of a dozen ravens together up at Five Barrows, the highest point in North Devon, near to where I was born. The raven is the first bird in the UK to nest and lay, beginning their nest building in the cold, winter month of January. They were lovely to watch. However, the local farmers won’t be pleased to see such a large group. This bird is not a farmer’s best friend as they will attack young lambs.

The red deer rut is coming to an end now and many of the really big stags are making their way home. The biggest of them all this year was an impressive brow, tray, five and six atop (I’ll explain the brow points on a stag’s antlers in a future blog). Some would say that a stag of that age and size had come to the end of his usefulness and should maybe be culled for the sake of the herd. He was a wonderful beast and I’d like to see him stay around. One big, old stag on the moor won’t hurt.

He was certainly popular amongst us wildlife photographers. An old friend of mine, Paul Kingdon, told me where to find him. We all keep in touch like that, telling each other where to find the best animals. Paul’s not well at the moment so I hope he gets better soon.

I left home at 6 a.m. one morning to film this particular stag. I got some good shots and have put them in my new DVD, ‘Johnny Kingdom’s Red Deer Watch’, which should be out in about two weeks.

I’ve seen a lot of our native Exmoor ponies recently. I’m pleased to say that they are looking really fine this year. It wasn’t so many years ago that they weren’t doing so well. Fortunately they’re better looked after now and are rounded up each year and given a check up. There’s been a lot of good work done for the ponies by the Moorland Mousie Trust, a charity I’m pleased to be involved with. Go to my ‘links’ page if you’d like to know more.

On a less happy subject, I’ve been concerned to see some very small fox cubs killed on the roads over the past week or so. They’ve only been about 15 inches in length so can’t have been above ground for more than a few weeks. What are such small cubs doing around at this time of year I’m wondering? I’ve also seen a few small badger cubs knocked down. I don’t expect to see such young badgers around in November. It’s a bit strange.

 On a more cheerful note, I had some lovely photos sent to me this week by a 14 year old lad called Liam. They are so good that I have included two in this blog. It’s really encouraging to see young people taking an interest in our wildlife. Thank you Liam and well done.