Sunrise at 04.15 says the internet.
An hour drive to the woods… so an early rise this morning!
While driving towards ‘the Veluwe’ I am treated with a full yellow/whitish moon right in front of me, and a blood red sun just above the horizon, in my mirror.
As soon as I leave my car, 3 wild boar cross the road just a bit further on, as easy as they can be. Birds are singing loud all around me. Their voices echo in the woods. A great start of a day of practicing trailing!
A long, sandy road is where I start to look for tracks. With a bit of effort I can still find the remains of a wolf scat I found here, months ago. By the time I write this blog, the news just spread that these wolves (after 200 years of absence in Holland) have puppies now!!
Numerous wild boar crossed this road last night or early morning, their tracks scatter the road in all different shapes and sizes.
I like the sign of a small weed that was dragged along by one of their feet, it is pointing in the line of travel.
But after a while they veer off to the left, turning towards the car park (which is in fact the edge of this forest), so I decide to head back to the main sandy road and find an other fresh track.
The same applies vice versa: a roe deer is looking at me! I missed her completely and it’s too late now. We are staring at each other for some time. “Why isn’t she running way?” I’m thinking, then she turns and shows the reason: she is with her two calves.
She is off in a trot and her calves, being old enough now, follow. They try to keep up, jumping over the blueberrie (bosbes) shrub. Little antelopes in training!
Some time later I find tracks of 3 red deer crossing the road, the tracks are big and quite round at the tip, so I assume these are stags.
I start to follow their trail. It is tough (the picture shows a more clear one!) and it gets even tougher when it heads straight into the sunlight which makes it hard to see properly and I can’t look that far ahead.
The woods I am in is a chaos. Lots of small broken branches are scattered on the ground from a harvesting operation years ago. Wild boar have been through these woods, making little sniff holes with their noses. Old and new tracks are everywhere, making this chaos complete. I have to return to my ‘last track’ many times.
In the end I pick up a track and it could be the deer I am trailing, at least they are fresh. Just at that point the chaos-wood is ending. In front of me is an open part of the forest, with tall pine trees and mainly blueberrie- and cowberrie (vossebes) bushes on the forest floor.
Very small runs, barely visible, are cut through these berrie bushes so it seems. My trail is on one of these runs.
There is hardly any tracks, just subtle hints telling me an animal passed here. Some examples:
I am getting tired, being focussed for a few hours non stop now. Time for a break.
It is only 9 in the morning, but I am ready for a proper lunch!
My neighbours here are a funnel web spider on my right. She’s very busy dealing with a fly that is still alive.
About a hundred meters on my left, in the top of a pine tree is a buzzard’s nest, with 2 white chicks in it, constantly screaming as pathetic as possible. “Give us food!”
I just get my food out of a rucksack…
I really enjoy this moment, with the sun, just above the treeline, warming my face.
Time to move on again.
In front of me is a dense grove with young pine trees, about 2-3 meters in height. It might be that my deer are in here!? Quite a wide run is going straight in, a great spot for a trailcamera by the way.
I take the run, as I find tracks leading into the grove. For the second time this morning I walk straight into the sunlight, it feels like being trapped in the beam of a torch. I decide to circle around an open spot in the grove to avoid being too visible.
Suddenly, with a loud grunt, 2 wild boar explode from their hide on my right side. Very close! Goosebumps on my back. Not because I am scared, but it came totally unexpected. And so it was for them, but I doubt if they knew what spooked them, as the biggest boar soon just easily walks away, wagging it’s tail. When I go over to look at their bed, a third boar rises and takes off! He must have been quite relaxed and not scared enough to run away. Or brave, until I stood at his door. Their bedding is underneath the top of a pine tree which fell down and formed a lean-to shelter. Well protected for sun and not too much rain. The bowl underneath finishes everything off. A great place to take a nap!
I am just a few meters ahead when I see movement in front of me. A flickering ear!
I freeze instantly and scan the woods up ahead. The trunk of a red deer, super close by! There is another at its side which also moves its head irregular, being bothered by flies.
More to the right, another! A young stag, I can see his spiky antlers in velvet.
The flickering ear was my saviour, otherwise I would have stumbled straight into this bedding area and spooked them all. They are so hard to see!
I wonder why they weren’t spooked anyway, as I had the wild boar take off with a lot of noise, close by. Weren’t they alarmed by this at all?
The closest deer is a hind, I assume the one next to her is her last year’s calf. In the back there is a fourth deer even. The hind is regularly looking my way, but she doesn’t see me.
Very slowly I take of my rucksack as I want to get even closer and then this bag will be super annoying.
I guess I am about 15 meters away from them, but getting closer isn’t easy as there are several dead branches on the route, so I decide to stay right there while I am flat on my belly and enjoy the scenery! I can literally see and hear the hind regurgitate! It feels weird when she looks me straight in the eye!! One of the deer gets up and walks a few meters to the left calmly.
For whatever reason the hind also gets up from her bed and so does her calf. She sees everything from a different angle now. She is watching me, and you can tell she’s thinking ‘something is not right overthere’. She makes a few steps and watches again, she is even staring down at me now. I’d like to know what goes on in her head!! The others also get out of cover. The lead hind moves a few steps again and she is more to the left of me by then. By then she knows that this ‘something’ is not okay. She takes off, but not stressed, or in a gallop, I am pleased with that. The rest follows, six of them in total.
Here is the video which shows it all:
After they left, I waited for quite a while. Then I went over to take a look at the bedding area. There are numerous beds, so they come here more often. This is the third bedding area I know now in this forest, since I started trailing here. It’s great to get all this extra info, in this way I get to know the animals more intimately.
Then I pick up their trail and we start all over again.
The deer took the run that leads them out of this grove, exactly where I was having my early lunch!
Although it was a group of 6, they are certainly not easy to follow.
But I really like the flies which constantly tell me I am right on trail. With an intense short buzzing explosion they take off every time I get too close to the super fresh droppings. These flies lead the way. I am trailing noise!