Spring Encounters

A short ‘rehab ride’ on a wider-Q fixie and not feeling too bad in the joints. The weather’s doing that very pleasant ‘English Spring Sunshine’ thing that it pulls out of the hat every year but which, in the depths of a grey winter, it’s hard to imagine you’ll ever see again.

Quite a lot of blossom’s out already; buds abound and the blackbirds are noticeably frisky. In other ‘nature notes’:

  • today saw a very close encounter with a Red Kite – he was engrossed in a splatted squirrel and didn’t see me until I was within 10 feet of him. The ensuing flapping was spectacular – they don’t get off the ground easily.
  • in another contest for a branch, it seems a Magpie trumps a Crow, which is news to me.
  • and deer – how do they find each other? I came across the local herd today trying to cross a lane. They were disturbed by a van and so about eight made it across, with the remaining 15 or more (one Stag, the rest seemingly all Does) frightened away. I stopped to see what would happen and the eight in one field ran to safety in the middle, stopped there and just waited – very obviously very alert. After several minutes, the rest of the herd appeared from a completely different direction, so they must have run in a fairly broad arc, found an alternative place to cross one or perhaps two roads, and come back up to where they’d originally intended to be. Fine … but I didn’t hear a thing the whole time, which left me wondering how they communicate.

Once again, I find myself wondering about my learned relationship to nature. I don’t have a clue what the equivalent feeling is amongst those who are decades younger.

And let’s not forget the light at this time of year – another aspect of nature, after all. (OK, there’s the atmospheric pollution aspect, but let’s overlook grim realities for once.)

That soft spring light

That soft spring light

Oh! Deer!

Several dreary, grey, bitterly cold February days have been and gone since I last was out riding. Call me a wimp, but it’s simply not a great deal of fun cycling when it’s hovering just above freezing and there’s not even the hint of any sunshine. It’s been largely dry, true, but the stiff easterly wind has strongly mitigated against that being anything like a benefit.

So, no, I’ve not been out riding and I’m not going to berate myself for it. I have been on the turbo-trainer again but, I have to admit, in a fairly desultory way: doing enough to keep some ‘cycling fitness’ in my legs; doing it hard enough to make me sweat and work my heart and lungs a bit … but that’s all.

So, getting out today was a real treat. I didn’t go that far, I wasn’t out for that long really, and it was still a dreary February day, but it wasn’t quite so cold and the effort was rewarded by the simple pleasure of being out riding, and by the sight of a herd of, I think, Fallow Deer but I’m not wholly sure on the identification. They were near May’s Green, on the way to Henley.

From the photos it looks as if I disturbed them and maybe I did, they are very shy and wary, but there was a fair old interval between the first photo and when they started to move off, and they weren’t in any hurry.

With apologies for the photo quality – they were taken with a compact camera on its maximum zoom.

Deer, just sitting around. (click on the image to view gallery)

(Click for a full-size version and more images)

Time to move on ...
But no great hurry

But no great hurry

Off, off and away
Follow the leader and away into the distance


Today was a bit of a slog. My legs weren’t good; the lanes were busier than I often get to enjoy them and everything about the route and the ride felt a tad tedious.

I did get to see a notably large group of fallow deer, in the middle of a large open field not far from May’s Green. I would imagine they’d been in the nearby woodland and had been startled by something or someone. If they can’t enjoy deep cover then being vigilant in the middle of a field where no-one can sneak up is probably the next best thing. I’d say there were at least 30 of them, and they’re large beasts too.

I suppose it’s unfamiliarity that makes it an automatic reaction to think ‘that’s nice to see’ or something similar. That, and some kind of fairly ingrained attitudes about ‘nature’.  I suspect it must have been part of 60s/70s middle class education somewhere along the line; that and/or the culture of that era – the kids’ programming on television or whatever.

I could tell pretty well everyone I know amongst my contemporaries what I saw today and they’d react along the same lines. None of us are natural history enthusiasts or anything; we’re just going to react positively to ‘wildlife’. The degrees of enthusiasm will vary but we’re collectively unquestioning and ‘in favour’.

Which is pretty ignorant really.