Here’s what to do if you want to see more wildlife: absolutely nothing. That’s precisely what I was doing today when I had a near hand-shaking encounter a deer.
I was sitting on our bit of Norfolk marsh when I noticed the reeds on the far side of the dyke waving about. So I did absolutely nothing, even though it was clear that a mammal of decent size was getting closer and closer. This isn’t an entirely comfortable feeling. I’ve spent too much time in Africa to be entirely easy about such things: but then our species evolved on the savannahs, and in our marrows we all know that we are at bottom a chunk of protein.
But I stayed still. There was a pause while you might count to a hundred, in which nothing happened. In such circumstances, it’s still a good idea to keep on doing nothing, and nothing is what I did. And then, almost comically, a head poked out of the reeds, like a man looking out of a train window to check which station he’d arrived at. He was maybe six feet away.
It was a muntjac, in habitat more suitable for Chinese water deer. It was a male; I could see the exaggerated canine teeth. But the eyes were large and gentle in the approved deer-fashion, and they looked at me really rather reproachfully. And I because I didn’t move a muscle he held the pose while you might count to 15. Then I saw the nostrils dilate and twitch: a breath of wind wafted a bit of hateful human-scent across the water and he was gone, turning on his hocks, buttocky-buttocky into the reeds.