THE BULL-LIKE BELLOWING OF RED STAGS

& Triple whistle-like roar of sika bucks

 

Two, maybe three, red stags roaring were clearly to be heard when I was at the foot of Mangerton at 7.30 yesterday morning (Tuesday September 19). After a week away this was definitely home. Where else could it be?

This was the first time this year I heard the angry, bull-like bellowing of the red stags.  From now until early November every red deer will try to hold as many females as possible.

Stags will shape-up to one another.  Generally one backs off. But not infrequently horns clash and very occasionally these fights go on for some time,

This is nature’s way of ensuring the best progeny.  The blood is up.  During these weeks do not get too close.  If you are foolish enough to get between a stag and one of his females you are asking for trouble.

The high-pitched triple whistle-like roar of the sika buck normally starts about mid August and goes on well into November.  I have yet to hear the sika roar this year but a neighbour told me he heard it within the past week.

A Red Stag catches the evening light,near Fertha,The Killarney National Park,as the stags near the end of The Rutting Season in Killarney.Photo:Valerie O’Sullivan

The red deer is tan coloured.  It is bigger than the sika which is dark brown and has a flared white rump.

While the sika were only introduced to Killarney in the middle of the 19th century the red is the native Irish deer and has been in these hills since some time after the ice age which ended here some 12,000 years ago.

Go and at a safe distance listen to this ritual that has been uniquely captured by poet Paddy Bush in his poem … which he kindly dedicated to me.

Listening to the Roaring of the Stags
for Frank Lewis

The sun is making love to winter in the glen
And a calling can be heard as it echoes here and there,
An imperious ululation that rolls from ben to ben.

Between us and the light, sharp as a blade’s edge,
See the seven-horned stag, etched deep into the air.
The sun is making love to the winter in the glen.

The elemental bodhrán grows more and more intense
As the piping of the birds becomes antiphonal prayer,
And an imperious ululation rolls from ben to ben.

The spear-wail of the Fianna lives on in branch and stem
With leaf and nut and berry in rampant display,
While the sun is making love to the winter in the glen.

The music of what happens is music without end
And a universal note now permeates the air,
An imperious ululation that rolls from ben to ben.

This voice has called through ages in story and in verse
And if we lose its echo, the loss will cost us dear.
The sun is making love to winter in the glen
And an imperious ululation rolls from ben to ben.

                                Killarney, October 2003

 

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