I caught the train to Ifield on a beautifully warm, clear September afternoon, hoping to catch sight of the many Roe deer living at the Willoughby Fields, Crawley. The does were extremely jumpy, because they had young to protect. They all fled at first sight. I look forward to next spring, when the does chase away this years kids. Unattached female roe deer can become very curious and approachable in May and June. For the moment, though, photographing them is out of the question.
I thought the evening had come to a head, when two insecure male human exhibitionists arrived and began displaying the usual disruptive and irritating behaviour I have to put up with when I am trying to photograph shy wild animals. Instead of silently appreciating the intrinsic beauty of nature, the spanners emitted involuntary loud noises while making chauvinistic remarks about women, just to prove that they weren't gay. Perhaps their extensively modified 1989 Ford Escort 1.3 Popular Plus, featuring a 400 watt stereo, which causes the engine to cut out at traffic lights, had been towed away or something. I consoled myself with the prospect of drinking the chilled bottle of Magners cider I had brought with me – when I spotted a doe and her kid grazing in the next field – a wonderful sight. The kid had grown to half the mother's size during its short life of just a few months. Not wishing to take any chances, the doe ran off, prompting her offspring to follow suit a few seconds later.
It was a surprise rendezvous with 'William', as he is called by Penny, a local photographer, that left me with a sense of deep fulfillment and trembling hands. William stood in the long grass at sunset, looking straight back at me from a distance of about 20 metres. I dropped my head, to disengage eye contact and sat down, to reassure William that I was not a threat. I took several pictures in quick succession, to help William disassociate the camera shutter noise with any sense of menace on my part. He went to move off a couple of times, only to stop after a few strides and continue looking at me, smelling my scent and eating green shoots. Not wishing to outstay my welcome, I left William to enjoy his nocturnal adventures in peace. I shall work on William, the most tolerant Roe deer I have ever seen. Perhaps one day, he'll be standing a few metres away, feeling completely at ease, as I take pictures of his handsome face and magnificent antlers!