Yesterday was my birthday! Hooray!
I woke up to tea and birthday cake (made by Andrew) and received some lovely presents. Andrew was wonderfully thoughtful and had responded to my request for "a nice spiral bound notebook" by getting me these wonderful goodies:
On the left is a notebook featuring Elmo, in the middle a 2012 diary with Joey, and on the right a tote bag with one of my favourite MichaelaKnits photos! I was umming and ahhing writing up this pattern, but I guess I'll have to now!
My Mam and Dad had given me a bag of goodies to bring home last weekend, which had some lovely bits in including some animal bookmarks and a book of knitted monster patterns, and had had this posted to me:
Andrew and I had really wanted to go to Antwerp this summer for a whole range of reasons, but didn't end up having the chance. As such, I missed out on this exhibit, but am pleased as punch to have the book. From what I can gather, it goes through each item through history, looking at both the design and construction ideas. I'm so excited to read it!
We were out of the house all day, I'd been planning for weeks to spend the day at Richmond Park. We'd paid a visit last year at the end of October, but really missed the bulk of the mating behaviour (my now abandoned PhD was in sexual selection, mating behaviour is kind of my thing!) This year, we went at peak time, and got to see some real treats.
Richmond Park is one of London's Royal Parks, alongside Regents Park, St. James' Park, Hyde Park, etc. but is further out of town in West London. It's the largest of London's parks, and was secured by King Charles the First in 1637, although it's history as a Royal deer hunting ground dates back at least to Henry VII (thank you wikipedia!) Due to it's age, and in part due to it's size, the woodland is extremely well established, and relatively undisturbed. There are some gravel paths and bridleways, but mostly you are unsure if you're walking a people path or a deer track. The park is full of lovely fairytale trees:
But mostly we wanted to see the deer. We first spotted a medium sized stag limping heavily through the trees (inevitably he'd been fighting), and later spotted this fellow having a rest.
He's a fairly big stag, but didn't have a single female with him. I can only assume he'd challenged or been challenged by another male soon before, and had come off the loser. He was great though. One of the advantages of seeing the deer in Richmond Park is that they are used to people being around them, and as long as you stay quite far away (photos are zoomed in) and make sure they can hear you coming, they are unlikely to spook and run off, or worse, turn and attack. We came back later and found he'd dug this little hole for his nap!
Later, Andrew managed to spot a group of 6 female Fallow deer hiding in some long grass close to the deer track we were following. These are smaller than the Red deer, and much more skittish, so we felt very lucky to have seen them. Shortly after though we found what we were really looking for:
A huge group of females (probably close to 40) guarded by one large male. This won't be the largest harem in Richmond Park, the male doesn't look nearly as big as he could be, and a lot of the females are probably too young to mate. He spent much of the time we were watching chasing off a relentless invasion of 4 very young males, keen to cash in on his hard work! I read once that a stag can lose up to 20% of his body weight during a busy rut, he is kept so active chasing away and fighting with other males. This seems like a massive amount to lose during the autumn, so I'm not sure it's true, but I can certainly believe it's possible!
After the park we ventured off for dinner and cocktails to celebrate. We enjoyed a lovely Mexican meal and some yummy cocktails (I followed that up with some "Aztec Chocolate Cake" - which was as amazing as it sounds!) and then collapsed into bed, very tired by all the festivities!