Rutting period in the Altopiano del Cansiglio

The Cansiglio is an almost flat upland surrounded by large extensions of beech, spruce and silver fir forests. It’s well known as a great place where observe the rutting season of Red Deers (Cervus elaphus), hosting a good population of hundreds of these large erbivores. 

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This means that you have good chances to share your observations with a lot of other people: if the pubblic is observant, the deers appear and act naturally, if not, the darkness falls before the appearence of the ungulates… I was rather lucky during only one of the two afternoons I spent there, so I could enjoy some interesting behaviours.

However the Altopiano del Cansiglio hosts, first of all, some truly fantastic landscapes, expecially in autumn, when the leaves of European Beeches (Fagus sylvatica) turn into yellow, orange and red: a great gymnasium for photographers.

Very attractive in the woodlands are also the tens of species of fungi, including the colourful Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) that I found in big numbers, expecially in the Spruce (Picea abies) groves.

The main plain and the largest clearings in the vast Cansiglio forest are grazing pastures for a number of cows, sheep and donkeys.

In the last years Red Deers meet to rut and mate in just a couple of these clearings because, unfortunatelly for them, most of the main plain is now enclosed by high electrified fences, in order to keep out the deers and to save the pastures for domestic animals.

The meadows, if left with a lower grazing pressure, can host tens of gorgeous umbrellas of the fungi Macrolepiota procera, the last blooms of Field Gentians (Gentianella campestris) and few Fallow Deers (Dama dama), almost all melanic.

The landscapes of the forested mountains, behind the deers clearing, are just breath-taking in autumn, with the contrast among conifers and beeches, expecially if you have the fortune to find the right light or the warm tones of a clear sunset.

During my successful visit to the deers clearing, in the second half of the afternoon, I had to wait some dozens of minutes. Around there were few birds: Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus), Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos), Crested Tit (Lophophanes cristatus), Willow Tit (Poecile montanus), Siskin (Carduelis spinus) and Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra).

Finally, unfortunatelly without the right light, the Red Deers appeared from the deep of the forest: a stag with its females and youngsters.4

The harem was quiet and hungry, while the big stag looked tired: the rutting season was almost at the end.5

But a chief can never breath: a new challenge showed.6

Another stag, with its family…7

The big male was ready for the fight…9

The young stag stopped, undecided…8

Its family betraied it, leaving alone the young male and joining the other females and juveniles grazing…10

The youngster left, desapearing in the forest: the big stag won easily its battle.13

“Never come back again!”11

Finally quiet once again…14

Now with its doubled family!15

The darkness came down quickly: time to leave the clearing of Red Deers. “See you the next time for another challenge!”17Luca Boscain

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