The Forest of Bowland, a huge area of moors, hills
and valleys, lies in Lancashire between Lancaster, Settle and Clitheroe.
it is called a forest there are not many trees - the title refers to ancient hunting
Deer spotting at Bowland.|
Photo - RSPB Images and David Kjaer
This was a royal hunting forest for deer and wild boar and is now
a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Sika are the predominate
deer species inhabiting Gisburn Forest near Slaidburn.
Their size varies
considerably, from the typical Japanese race with a shoulder height of 65-79cm
to the Sybowski sika of Manchuria and Korea which measures about 110cm.
are closely related to Red Deer and can interbreed with them. In habit they keep
more to woodland than red deer.
Populations which are subject to disturbance
become largely nocturnal.
Most Sika in Britain are Japanese in origin and
were brought first to Ireland in about 1860 to Powerscourt and thence to a variety
of places in England and Scotland.
Some were released deliberately, e.g.
in Kintyre, the New Forest, Dorset and Bowland.
The deer at Bowland are
thought to have been Manchurian.
Others escaped from parks, especially
during the two World Wars, and established feral populations
If you're watching the deer at night, listen out
the tremendous sounds they make including whistles.
The male Sika has a
different sound - a three-point whistle.
Sika deer are very secretive, and
they like dense woodland.
Gisburn Forest was planted in 1950s, the deer
soon moved in and have thrived there.
Autumn is a good time to look because
- like Red Deer this is the mating and rutting season.
But they are mainly
nocturnal and they tend to lie up in the woods during the day.
to see them is just after dawn and dusk. But even in the day, you can still see
signs of them.
The Hen Harrier
forest is vast - much of it is privately owned - by the Duchy of Lancaster and
the Duke of Westminster.
So until recently it was closed to the public
and that has helped to protect another shy resident here - the Hen Harrier
efforts are being put into helping them to re-establish their breeding grounds.
Conservationists are using transmitters attach to chicks when they are
about 32 days old so the signal can be picked up 60km away using a hand held aerial
This couldn't be done until recently because the technology
wasn't small enough.
The birds are very easily disturbed, so never go looking
for them when they're nesting - they nest on the ground, and will fly close to
the nest if they've got chicks.
That's one reason they were almost wiped
out - they are also easy to shoot.
The birds will hunt anywhere around
the area and you can track them yourself using binoculars and watching for them
in flight with their distinctive shape and tail feathers.
One of the bird's
favourite places to hunt is over the moors.
The females have expensive
tastes and will eat Grouse and Pheasant, whilst the males take smaller birds and
Even though this is the most successful breeding site in the UK
for Hen Harriers, seeing them is never guaranteed because they hunt over wide
moorland areas, right across to the Pennines.
Sika Deer photos courtesy and copyright
of RSPB Images and David Kjaer.
courtesy of RSPB Images and Andy Hay.