Roaring stags, winking geese

Flanders Moss NNR

It can be really good to break up your daily routine and try something different. We mostly visit the reserves during the working day but a visit at first or last light can bring you in contact with a whole different cast of characters. Especially at this time of year.

So first light, half an hour before sunrise, found me down at the car park at Flanders. As I was arriving a whole gang were leaving. Jackdaws and rooks were leaving in their hundreds from the fringe of trees where they had roosted the night. It looked like a swarm of bats from an old fashioned horror movie and it wouldn’t have been a surprise for Count Dracula to pop out of the campervan in the car park.

From the tower I could see a couple of skittish roe deer making their early morning commute from the open ground of the moss to the thick cover of the edge.

And every so often small groups of early rising geese, mainly pinkies but a few greylags, made there way noisily across the sky, looking for feeding areas and other flocks.

Bu the main interest were the red deer out in the middle of the moss. It is the rut, when the stags are competing to mate with the hinds. As the light grew I could see a group of 40+ making their way off the farmland to the shelter of the centre of the moss, at least 2 stags were milling around following attractive hinds and trying to keep their hard won harem together and away from other stags. Every so often the spine chilling, heart pumping roar from these pumped up stags reached me on the breeze, surely one of the wildest sounds of nature to be heard in the Central belt of Scotland.

We have too many red deer on Flanders Moss – they are causing massive damage to the bog habitat and the farmers crops so landowners are encouraged to work together to bring down the deer numbers through shooting. This will never remove them entirely but just reduce the population to a level that minimises damage to the moss surface and the farmland. But regardless of whether some view them as a pest and others as iconic wildlife, everyone can agree that the sound of a roaring stag is still a magical sound to hear in your neighbourhood.

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