Country mouse: fallow deer move in

Gilbert White lived near here, and whenever we drive through his village of Selborne, I wonder what he would be observing that day. The naturalist kept a record in his The Garden Kalender and The Naturalists Journal over 40 years. On August 23 in 1772, he kept a fern owl for several days in a cage and fed it with bread and milk. ‘It was moping and mute by day; but being a night bird, began to be alert as soon as it was dusk.’ We don’t come quite so close to nature these days, but in my own journal, I would record that we now have fallow deer in our corner of West Sussex.

The other evening, they were out grazing in the top field, one russet-coloured with bright white spots as if it had been snowed on. Another was a very dark brown. Up until now, we have only had roe and muntjac. We will need to consider a cull if many more arrive.

White would have approved. For August 8, he recorded: ‘We have shot 31 black-birds, & saved our gooseberries.’ I’m glad that we don’t have to take such drastic action for sentimental and time-management reasons. For some reason, the birds take no interest at all in our summer fruiting raspberries. It is more difficult, however, to save them from the children.

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