Bluebells, or if you prefer it, wild hyacinths, are my favourite flowers. Indeed, I believe they form one of my very first memories of woodland life for as a child, my parents would often take me in spring-time through a wood which, at that time of the year, was magically carpeted in blue and smelt heavenly! That memory still lingers and indeed along roadside verges, of bluebells in their tens of thousands. Blue carpets abound and the sweet scent of those delicate blooms permeates the air. Meanwhile, new blooms of insect life add another dimension as the woods buzz with new and vital sounds. This is the stuff of life, as these vital pollinators busy themselves in that natural process of re-generating the very fabric of life itself.
Whilst every visitor to the woods at this time of year knows, not only is the air heavy with that delicious, heady scent but it is also alive with the sound of music. Indeed, myriads of birds seem determined to celebrate not only those blue woodland carpets but also the bursting of fresh foliage as new leaves unfold to curtain the landscape with greens of many hues. And already, the pace of life is quickening with a handful of the early birds even now feeding their young. During these next few weeks, as more and more woodland residents strive to fulfil their destinies, that pace will continue to rise until the woods might seem to resemble an avian rush hour. As the days pass parent birds will work themselves into an absolute lather to collect ever-increasing numbers of insects as they try to satisfy the demands of fast growing families!
And amid all this feverish activity, calmly, quietly and mostly concealed from our gaze, roe does are preparing themselves for the arrival of the next generation too. During forthcoming days, in quiet corners of the woods, perhaps among those bluebells, dewy-eyed kids will be carefully deposited - one, to or even, in some cases, three of them- by each doting doe. An instinctive understanding of security will persuade her not keep them together but to place each new-born kid in separate, secret locations. The old predators on roe, wolves and lynx, are long gone, although some would have them return. There are no eagles hereabouts and although it is not unknown for a fox to take a roe deer kid, it is rare. So, the biggest threat to these newly arrived kids is almost certainly provided by people and perhaps their dogs.
Roe are exceptionally good mothers. They will almost always choose secluded parts of woodland well away from paths in which to conceal their off-spring. But inevitably, there are times when people, unaware of the presence of these tiny 'Bambis', accidentally stumble across one. Roe deer kids are, just as Disney's film depicted them innocent, as said, dewy-eyed and, during the first few weeks of their lives, obeying in-built instinct, so that if discovered, they are impelled to freeze and stay utterly still. The one thing those instincts ensure is that they will not get up and attempt to flee. This makes them very vulnerable.
Inevitably, when confronted by such a sweet 'child of nature', there is a driving temptation to touch and perhaps stroke such a foundling. If any reader finds him or herself in that position there is one vital rule. Don't touch! Scent is a vital part of animal make-up and no scent is more alien to a roe doe than that of man. Even the merest touch will deposit on that kid the alien scent of human kind and as a result it is likely that the doe will be so disturbed by that odorous presence that she will reject the kid and it will subsequently starve to death
So for the present, her kids will obey instinct and lie still, waiting for occasional visits from their mother to suckle and clean them. Meanwhile, their father, far from being in attendance and contributing to the welfare of his off-spring, is in fact oblivious to their needs and indeed, even of their very presence. He now has other things on his mind. Most animals - and birds for that matter - establish well-defined territories and then make every effort to defend those territories from potential rivals. Ironically, just as their progeny are arriving, the thoughts of roebuck are becoming utterly focused not on them but on the need to repel boarders! For it is now that rising testosterone begins to infect bucks to prepare themselves for the defence of their realms.
Thus the very presence of other bucks, many of them 'up and coming' young, virile animals, prompts a rapid shortening of tempers. Far from being the 'gentle roe', a roebuck, aware that there are others in the vicinity and up for the challenge are the antithesis of gentle. Indeed the mere sight of a rival is enough to cause a red mist to descend.
I once had a young roe doe, which I had rescued from the cluthces of a group of children who had 'found' her. She was the epitome of the gentle roe and lived here for some ten years or so. But how glad I was that she was not a buck. I knew of one fellow who rescued a little buck, which was apparently very tame and confiding ... until its rising testosterone levels in May caused it to suddenly completely change character. Roe are of course quite small - usually just less than thirty inches high at the shoulder. And the bucks are equipped with prong-like antlers. The aforesaid gentleman was just about 'gralloched' by his now frenzied pet.
If you happen to hear a series of gruff little dog-like barks issuing from the woods, you are almost certainly listening to the vocal challenges of competing bucks. I once remember standing in my garden and hearing a veritable cacophony of such barking from a plantation to the east of here. Suddenly, from out of that dark wood sprang a panic stricken buck, hotly pursued by another. The pursuer was a master buck and soon stopped the pursuit to return in triumph to his woodland realm. Meanwhile the defeated buck continued its headlong flight, clearing field fences in the manner of a Grand National steed.
In fact, so terror struck was he that he just kept going across the fields long after the pursuing buck had called off his chase, until at last he reached the apparent safety of another plantation. Actually, I could have told him that there was another master buck installed in that wood as well! Thus, now out of my sight, he might well have found himself still running! If that rise of the roebuck sap begins to test the dander in May, 'bad temper' stays with them until at last the final focus for all these tantrums arrives and the first steps in the creation of next year's family happen as courtship reaches its peak in August. Roe employ a curious technique called 'delayed implantation', whereby whilst mating occurs in August, the growth of the young does not begin unti January.
Thus, the lives of roebucks and roe does in the so-called merry month of May, are so utterly contrasting, caring and loving on the one hand; belligerent and aggressive on the other!