Country Diary: Roe deer are sighted on wooded slope

Roe deer
Roe deer

Oh dear, no deer when we visited Seamer Road Mere together. Michael’s previous visit proved more successful. A pair of roe deer were observed mid-afternoon, about 2.45pm in the field adjacent to the mere, with wooded slopes.

Roe deer are mainly browsers. Their diet includes leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs; grassland vegetation, and arable crops too are grazed. In many areas they tend to be nocturnal, but when undisturbed we’ve found them active throughout the day, providing there are no out-of-control dogs!

We find winter months are best for observation, partly because leaf cover is absent in deciduous woodlands, and roe deer blend admirably into their surroundings.

Often the whitish rump, shaped like an inverted heart is the easiest thing to spot. Look for tufts of hair, known as a ‘tush’, that resembles a tail. Seek frayed bark, and hoof-prints, about 3-4cm across and narrowly pointed at the front.

It’s surprising how widespread roe deer are these days, even in close proximity to towns and roads.

At least our visit to the mere had other surprises in store. With nets of food re-filled for the birds, many varieties were attracted to peanuts, sunflower seeds, and fat balls.

I think my favourites were the long-tailed tits, with six together enjoying fat balls. It’s the only tiny common bird with a long tail. It’s pink, black and white patterning show well, even in flight. These days, they often frequent bird tables, especially in well-wooded gardens. Sadly, they can be hit hard by severe winters, so please help them. They even roast communally for warmth.

Blue tits, great tits, marsh/willow tits and a few coal tits are now regular visitors to the food supply. On this occasion there was a chaffinch, robin and hedge sparrow feeding on the ground, and as usual, a great spotted woodpecker made a brief call. We rather think that a nest-box sited on the trunk of a Scots pine tree nearby has been enlarged. We do hope the woodpecker is responsible.

Last but by no means least, was a new addition to the mere’s waters. Scanning the mere with binoculars on that cold, damp and drizzly day, the usual gulls. Canada and greylag geese were present, along with mallard, tufted ducks and moorhen, but what else did we espy? We spent a good hour slowly driving up and down the track alongside Mere Lane to ensure good views from all angles. A pair of goosander! These long, rakish birds 
with saw-like bills for catching fish, usually frequent the mere at some time during winter months. Eventually, they departed together.

Next morning we returned on a bright, sunny day but unfortunately the birds had vanished. How beautiful the mere appeared, highlighted by the fringe of dogweed with reddish-purple stems in winter time.