Close Encounters with Wild Deer

Late in September 2015 I ventured on one of my favourite treks in the Glendalough area of Co Wicklow. The route is well known locally as the Spink (in Gaelic ‘an spinc’ which translates as ‘pointed hill’). It starts and ends at the east end of the upper lake, rising steeply to the almost sheer cliffs around the glaciated valley and continues west across boggy and rocky terrain on wild high ground. I normally go clockwise around the route.

Upper Lake, Glendalough
I was hoping to encounter some wild deer which roam free throughout most of County Wicklow and into North Wexford and are commonly seen in the upper reaches above Glendalough. They have some tolerance of human presence but are cautious.

View from the top looking east. In the far distance one can see the Irish Sea and, on a clearer day than this, the mountains of Wales.

Having walked for roughly one hour, stopping now and then to drink in the wonderful dramatic landscape, I began the descent to lower ground before turning across the Glenealo River to return to the start. I could see a group of young bucks on higher ground to my left (south) and, noting that the light was just perfect, I selected a suitable lens, Tamron 28-300 PZD, attached it to my Nikon Df and began a careful stalk in their direction. It was clear they could see me at some distance and allowed me to get tantalizingly close but just outside the range I wanted.

I singled out one animal and began to move slowly and carefully in his direction. He gradually became more relaxed and allowed me to get within perfect distance, maintaining that distance as I moved around to find the right setting for a meaningful composition. I shot off many and this is my own favourite.

I felt a great sense of privilege that this wonderful creature permitted me to get so close and trusted me. It was a special moment.

Feeling very satisfied with what had just occurred I carried on downhill and sat beside the footbridge across the Glenealo River to have my packed lunch. Just finishing up and re-packing my rucksack I happened to look up the steep incline (northwards) across the river and saw, at some distance, a quite different animal.

This was clearly the stag and master of his domain. So I went after him but this time could not get quite so close. This is the best I could achieve.

I wondered why he appeared to be more cautious than the younger males I encountered earlier and, with a sudden dash across the slope to higher ground, my question was answered.

These presumably are the young family he was protecting. I decided to pursue them no further. The stag had a fine set of antlers, he was bigger than I and he could run faster.

Well satisfied with this encounter I continued the long descent alongside the Glenealo river down to the lake.

It's nice when you get days like this.

Glenealo river looking east towards Glendalough
Upper lake - east end

(November 2016)