This morning it was my turn to go to Knole Park. (Rob went last Friday, while I took the cat to the vets). We're waiting for the Fallow Deer rut to start, but so far the deer are dragging their heels and today was the same story.
The does and fawns are sticking together in small groups. These two were part of the first group I saw, while the sun was still very low and things were pretty shady everywhere. They watched me warily as I plodded up the hill towards the house.
There was lots of avian activity up near the house, including a couple of Green Woodpeckers probing the ground for ants. For once they didn't mind me standing there taking photos.
Overhead, many Jackdaws, Carrion Crows, Woodpigeons and Ring-necked Parakeets were going to and fro.
Walking away from the house along the ridge towards the golf course, I found this burly Fallow buck strolling around his patch, munching grass and looking far from combative. I don't blame him. On a day like this (not even 8am yet and already t-shirt weather) I wouldn't fancy running about smacking my head against my rivals' heads either.
I took a right and walked back towards the house along the oak avenue. Here I found a quintet of Pheasants - both males had the same fawn plumage thing going on as yesterday's male. Now, of course, I realise that they are not aberrant birds but youngsters, still showing the remains of their juvenile plumage. I feel rather foolish.
Along the avenue I found a second big buck, lying right by the path. Walking this close past these musclebound, testosterone-laden beasts is a tiny bit daunting, but he showed no interest in me whatsoever.
I spent the next hour or so wandering around the vicinity of the house, photographing birds. There were a lot of Mistle Thrushes, drawing my attention with their machine-gun rattle of a call. The two above were having what looked like a flirtatious chase around.
Knole is a good site for Stock Dove, plenty of the many big trees have suitable nesting hollows. However, the doves are shy and flighty, making things difficult for the would-be Stock Dove photographer.
The soaring temperatures brought out what few butterflies are still around. The edges of the bracken stands held a number of Small Coppers, including this scruffy individual.
I saw dozens of Ring-necked Parakeets, which are thriving here for the same reasons as the Stock Doves. Some were alone, others in small gangs. All were noisy, their shrieks now a key component of the Knole soundtrack.
Here's a photo of a Chiffchaff in flight. Now, that's not a sentence I ever expected to be typing. It's not going to win any prizes but I include it for the novelty factor. With its hills and open spaces, Knole is a great place to hone bird-in-flight photography skills.
There were lots of Jackdaws feeding on the ground near the car park. I knelt down to photograph this one, which seemed not to have noticed me, so preoccupied was it with examining the ground at its feet. It just kept waddling closer and closer, until it was too close to fit in my lens.
There were at least eight Pied Wagtails foraging around the car park, maybe looking for picnic remains ground into the sand. From time to time they would fly up into a small tree and have a rest and a preen before resuming their patrols.
Noticing the time, I reluctantly began to head homewards down the slope. I paused to check out a small bird bouncing around on top of a rotting stump. Nuthatches had been calling all around through the morning but this was the first one I managed to see.
I was trying to get closer to a perched Stock Dove when I (almost literally) stumbled across a third Fallow buck. This boy was just chilling in his scrape, and gave me a look that said 'take photos if you must, but don't come any closer because I really can't be bothered to stand up'.
I paused for a sneaky sit-down on a stump by the exit gate and grabbed a shot of this flyover Nuthatch.
Just as I really, really was about to leave, this doe and fawn came rushing across the valley. They stopped for a moment in the shade, before moving on into the deep cover of the wooded bank.
I take photos, and I also write and illustrate books. My books include RSPB British Birds of Prey (published by A&C Black), The Nature Book (published by Michael O'Mara), RSPB Where to Discover Nature (published by Christopher Helm) and Photographing Garden Wildlife (published by New Holland). If you want to use any of the photos from this blog, find out what other photos I can supply or enquire about writing, please email me (email@example.com)