Tales from the Hill, Autumn 2023
27 September 2023
Once again, the season is on the turn and we move into the months of the roaring stag, golden hues on the hillside or, as we have seen a lot of lately, spectacular sightings of the aurora borealis. This seasonal change is magnificent in many ways but at Kingairloch it is marked most especially by a great spectacle of nature known as the annual Red Deer Rut.
In the West Highlands, the 20th of September is the day known as “the Roaring of the Stags”. This event is significant in that it marks a recurring event which occurs every year, almost to the day, in which all your senses will become acutely aware of the change in seasons. The autumnal smell and colours of decaying leaves, the blue hazes which refract light through the high mountains and the sound of a lone stag roaring in a distant corrie. These events tell us summer is over, winter is on its way and that for the next few weeks we can enjoy an autumn spectacle of nature that never fails to impress.
Red Deer reach their peak condition in late September and after a summer of communal herd living, the stags ‘break out’ from their gender groups and head off as individuals into the hills. Pumped full of testosterone and in search of hinds, the rutting activity is driven by the nights drawing in (increasing melatonin levels), the hinds coming into season and colder weather. The movement of the stags spreading out through the mountains and stirring up dust with their hooves is said to generate the blue light which is often seen at this time of year.
Pictured above: “Stag dust” in the air creating a blue hue in the Kingairloch hills.
Red Deer stags fight with their counterparts in order to dominate and mate with a hareem of hinds during the short window that the hinds are receptive. During this period (the rut) the stags are so active roaring, chasing, fighting, and mating that they rarely take time to eat. As a result, they lose condition at a dramatic rate and within three weeks of the rut starting, stags lose an average of 11% of their body weight in fat reserves. This high energy and drama event is something which can be seen at Kingairloch during late September through to October.