4pm Sunday. The Autumn light casts a beautiful soft glow across the River Colne and its wild surroundings. Walking through the grass I can see patches still covered in dew, untouched by the sun throughout the day. I feel alone but not lonely.
The goal of this walk is to find a Reeve’s muntjac so I stalk the paths where I’ve caught glimpses in the past, taking note of where I tread as to not give the game away too early. My camera rests in my hands with my index finger twitching on the shutter-release; keeping the power on and my reflexes alive.
Fifteen minutes in and there’s no sign yet, crossing a path I begin to hear voices in the distance and realise that I’m no longer alone. Teenagers kick up dirt with their bikes on a hidden woodland dirt-bike course. Too chaotic for a two foot tall ungulate.
To put distance between the commotion and myself I take a right turn, away from my normal stalking ground. It’s not long before, out of the corner of my eye, I detect movement in the trees and immediately the noise hits my ear drums; a ring-necked parakeet takes a break from foraging to assault my senses. A sound that’s common in India but still harsh in southern Hertfordshire when compared to the more subdued tweets of native passerines.
The sun starts to approach the canopy as I continue my search. Following an advertised trail I head deeper into the woods. Whilst checking the direction of my route on a signpost I spot minute red dots scurrying here and there. Spider-mites are navigating the cavernous surface of the stump seemingly with no purpose, changing direction at will and never stopping for more than a second to investigate their microscopic environment. I watch them for a moment and then remember that I’m losing light.
As the sun begins to disappear beyond the tree line I give up my search. Content watching two rabbits play on a rocky building site I forget where I am.
Snapping out of my dream I scan my surroundings. Standing not 10metres from the rabbits, and 100 from me, is my prize. The muntjac stands stock still, delicate and poised as if at a pageant. After a few broad-smiled moments the deer takes its leave and disappears into the wood.