Read on to find the answer to this often asked question.
Guest blog by Lisa Robinson, Intern Visitor Officer
The red deer rut is over! Well, it is as far as staffing the viewpoint is concerned, though there is still some bellowing in the mornings, so it might still be worth a wander up to the viewpoint for a few more days.
I’ve been up at the viewpoint on Westleton Heath every weekend for the last five weeks and have witnessed the rut season from almost the very start to the very end. It was really interesting watching the progression from just a bit of bellowing and posturing from the stags through to the mating and some full on fighting.
At the start the hinds seemed to all be together in a large group of over 100, and then as the weeks progressed there were clear groups formed of 15-20 hinds per stag. I saw one stag that had clearly lost a fight, and had to hobble off with a gammy leg and no hinds to play with at all!
At the peak of the rut season (mid October) the herd dynamic was clear, even from half a mile away. I remember one Saturday afternoon spent watching a stag trying to keep two others away from his hinds. Interestingly, the two competitors seemed to be working together to confuse the other! Very sneaky.
I learned a lot about red deer over the last six weeks. Before the rut started I read lots of information so I could try and answer visitors’ questions about the deer, but of course there were many things I didn’t know.
One of the most commonly asked questions that I (initially) couldn’t answer was “What is a monarch?” referring of course to Monarch of the Glen and the classification of stags. I did a bit of research and learned more than you would ever want to know about antlers.
It turns out that a stag with 16 or more tines (points) is a monarch, 14 tines is an imperial, and 12 tines is a royal. A tine can only be counted if it’s big enough to put a wedding ring on it, the first set of antlers are called prickets, and stags with no antlers at all are called hummels. Information overload? I’ll stop there. Suffice to say, the biggest stag I saw was indeed a monarch, with 16 tines.
The event itself was very successful with over 2000 visitors in all. Other than the deer, stone curlews and green woodpeckers were visible most weeks, as well as a couple of foxes ripping apart rabbits in front of the viewpoint. It’s been a fantastic few weeks and I can’t wait to help at more RSPB events in the future. I'm now busy helping to plan our Christmas events.
A royal stag (count the tines - there's 13) by Jon Evans
Our Discover Nature Project is now underway, with revised access to the visitor centre to allow the builders to start building our new reception. Our office is also surrounded by a building ste, and work has started ont he new classroom and family activity area. Part of the funding for these exciting new developments - and the replacement Island Mere Hide - comes from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Interreg IV A 2 Mers Seas Zeeen Crossborder programme 2007-13.
This European funding is in partnership with other sites in Holland and Belgium, under the title Natura People. Our project co-ordinator, Sarah Green, has recently written two blogs on our regional pages explaining more about both this project and a recent report highlighting the importance of Minsmere and other RSPB nature reserves to the local economy. Please follow the links to read more - Sarah tells the stories much better than I would.
Adding a further link to chain, we've had at least three black redstarts at Minsmere this week. These are scarce but annual visitors that breed nearby at Sizewell, but are much more common on the near continent - I saw one on a visit to Bruges for an Interreg meeting in the spring. One black redstart was on the skip used by the Environment Agency at the end of the North Wall over the weekend, while two were feeding around our trailers outside the office yesterday.
I'll keep you posted on the development work over the next few months.
In 2003 the RSPB Woodbridge local group produced a fabulous guide to the five RSPB nature reserves on the Suffolk caost. Called 'Spread your Wings', it proved very popular.
Eight years on, the time is right for a revised and updated book. We've acqwuired two new reserves in that time - Hollesley Marshes and Snape, and there are exciting new developments at Minsmere and Havergate.
The group are currently seeking funding to help them produce this new guide, which will be available in summer 2012. You can help them win £6000 by voting for them in the Natwest Community Force awards. Voting ends in four days, so please cast your vote now.
Vote Woodbridge. Vote Suffolk. Vote RSPB