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Oh Deer! A Spring Sunrise Surprise

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

05:37:18am. It was a crystal-clear mid-April morning, perfect for a Sunrise Photo Walk.

Across the lane, a string fields offer an unobstructed view of the local coastline from Dungeness to Fairlight. Officially called High Mills, I've always referred to them as Lookout Fields, as the middle one features a concrete 'lookout bunker' used in World War 2.


NOTE: As I wrote this, I realized this does NOT lend the peaceful feel I was trying to portray. Think of it as a Peaceful Bunker. Try, anyway.


Lookout Fields are THE perfect spot to catch the sun as it peeks above the eastern horizon!

5:47:44am. Not a cloud in the sky: check. Perfect visibility from the fields across the lane: check. Lambs about: check. Camera and phone fully charged: check. Game on.

Pre-dawn Vineyard View from Wickham Rock Lane with ewe and lambs in Winchelsea, East Sussex, England on 18 April 2022 at 5:49am
Pre-dawn Vineyard View from Wickham Rock Lane

As nautical twilight gave way to civil twilight, I headed out. The local bats flitted above me, grabbing a final snack before heading to their bat-beds.



I ambled towards my destination. enjoying the rising chorus of lambs seeking mums and early morning birdsong.


5:49:49am. The field's apex offers THE ideal angle for capturing the ponderous sun's rise, its first appearance along the horizon due at exactly 5:56am.


Determined not to miss a thing, I walked, slowly, carefully, backwards towards this apex, using quick glances and peripheral vision to avoid any sheep-collisions, shooting photo after photo of the brightening horizon.



Wild Buck Eats near Watching Ewe Mum on 1066 Country Walk in Winchelsea, East Sussex, England on 18 April 2022
Wild Buck Eats near Watching Ewe Mum

6:12:01 am. After capturing the glorious sunrise, glowing with both satisfaction and the first morning sunrays, I lowered my camera and turned around.

A huge buck stood along the hedgerow.

I have seen wild deer in this area ONCE in six years. That moment made it twice.

He munched away at the hedgerow marking the field boundaries. A gigantic rack of antlers added to his height, making quite the impressive figure. I watched, transfixed, as this glorious creature enjoyed his leafy breakfast, bathed in the early morning golden glow.

A single ewe with her two young lambs were in close to the breakfasting buck. Mum was tucking into her grassy morning meal, her two tiny lambs at her side. I recorded those fourteen minutes in 118 photos, barely blinking or even breathing lest I miss a moment. 6:13am. Mum would stop eating every few moments, keeping a maternal eye on the deer. If she decided he was too close, led her two lambs further afield (ha!) to resume munching. Eat. Look. Move downfield. Repeat.

The deer seemed single-minded about his leafy meal, other than taking a breather to glance at the sheep, then my way. He intermittently sauntered down-field, only to resume breakfasting. Eat. Pause. Look at sheep. Look at me. Move downfield. Repeat.

Deer looks at me whilst Ewe & lambs in frame during sunrise along Wickham Rock Lane in Winchelsea, East Sussex, England on 18 April 2022 at 6:22am
Deer looks at me whilst Ewe & lambs in frame

6:22am. During this Breakfast Dance, it became clear that Sheep Mum was not impressed with Mr. Deer encroaching on her Personal Sheep Space or getting too close to her precious young.


At no time did I sense any sign of malevolence or ill-intent from the buck nor fear behaviour from the sheep trio. Of course, I had no idea (ha!) of thoughts or feelings of either party, but I convinced myself otherwise in the moment.


The scene was amusing, extraordinary, and uniquely special. Until it wasn't. 6:27:48am. As the space between deer and sheep grew increasingly smaller, a level of heightened alertness tickled the back of my awareness.

Deer suddenly closes in on ewe & lambs right after sunrise on 18 April 2022 in Winchelsea, East Sussex, England
Deer suddenly closes in on ewe & lambs

6:28:18am. Too Close! Photo catches mere moments prior to my intervention.

Whilst Sheep Mum gazed elsewhere, the lamb closest to Mr. Deer watched with naive curiosity as the buck drew near.


Time slowed. I was in flow, not thinking about anything else than capturing those moments.


Suddenly, and without any warning, the buck lowered his powerful antlers and headed, antlers-first, directly towards that little lamb! I think I was already primed. Horrified and extremely angry, I did the only thing I could. Reaching for my Inner-Boston I screamed, "HEY!!!" attempting to use my voice as a weapon.

Deer looking at me whilst ewe with lambs look at deer right after sunrise on 18 April 2022 in Winchelsea, East Sussex, England
"HEY!" Deer stops attack-approach and looks at me

6:29:17am. The buck stopped his antler-first advance and stared, seemingly shocked with a tinge of annoyance, directly at me. I met his focused gaze with my own outrage and Don't-You-Dare-Even-Think-About-It expression.




Nothing would harm those lambs on MY (unofficial and unexpected) watch! Much to my relief, the buck turned from his intended prey, confused and scared, and frantically searched for an escape route. I experienced a mix of relief, anger at the uncharacteristic, unexpected, and unacceptable act of potential violence. What an OUTRAGE that it DARED try to hurt MY LAMB (of course it wasn't MY lamb, but in that moment, it WAS!)



Final Shot: Deer in Retreat with Ewe & Lambs Watching right after sunrise on 18 April 2022 along Wickham Rock Lane in Winchelsea, East Sussex, England
Final Shot: Deer in Retreat with Ewe & Lambs Watching

6:29:55am. The Retreat: Final Photo in Scene



Mr. Naughty Deer hastily jumped over the fence, away from the Scary Human. I have no idea (ha! again!) which way he bounded off, so I remained in place, watching, waiting, ready to run at him if he dared return. After Sheep Mum returned to her grass-munching, I walked the length of two remaining fields to see if Mr. Deer would make an encore.


No sign of deer; check. Sheep seeing unfazed; check. My Work Here was Done.


EPILOGUE: I let the farmers know of this scenario and sent photos. Apparently, this is Not A Thing. The buck did not return, as far as I know, and I have not seen him again.

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