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Woodland Watch - cubs encounter deer

I got myself into a comfortable position overlooking an earth I know at the edge of a woodland. It was difficult to be quiet while shuffling around, because of all the bits of twigs and leaf litter covering the ground.

A warm, calm evening had been a sunny day. A slight breeze blew towards me. Thankfully, there were no midges around to bite me - they normally come about mid-May.

A cub face appeared at the den entrance at about 8.55pm followed by more shortly afterwards. Five came out altogether and were all about four or five weeks old.

These might not end up as dark as a litter born in this earth three years ago for there are already patches of red around their little faces.

The cubs slowly made their way to the smaller den entrance where they started silently playing. They toppled around like little furry toys, play-biting and trying to push each other over.

A large barn owl swooped over me at about 9.10pm. The cubs didn't notice it but then at 9.15 two fallow deer appeared in the wood and, on seeing the cubs, made their way over out of curiosity.

The cubs felt unsure about the deer and went below ground.

Then one deer noticed me and stared suspiciously. I kept still for I didn't want them grunting out their warning cries and sprinting off noisily through the wood.

They moved on in the end but by then it was getting too dark to see anything clearly so I decided to leave. As I left I went up to one of the holes and could hear the cubs moving around underground with little squeaks and squabbles.

There was a great stench when I sniffed at the entrance. Must have been plenty of rotten carrion down there - a sure sign of well-fed cubs!

Peter Akokan

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