In the volunteers accommodation here at RSPB Coombes Valley we have a rather unusual decoration. It’s not a shiny trinket or a small porcelain figure on the mantelpiece, it’s an antler, a red deer antler to be exact and a rather impressive specimen it is too.

The antler from the volunteers accommodation - Chris Calow

This particular antler has 7 points, or tines. So the stag would have had 14 points in total spread between it's two antlers. Did you know that there are different names for stags with different sized antlers? A stag with 12 points to his antlers is known as a Royal stag, 14 points makes an Imperial stag and 16 points or more is referred to as a Monarch.

Antlers are only grown by male deer, with the exception of reindeer in which they occur in both males and females. They’re used as weapons to compete for females during the breeding season. The larger and more powerful stags will have larger antlers and therefore win more females and have more young. This is a last resort though; males will attempt to intimidate their rivals before resorting to violence in an attempt to avoid serious injury. The breeding season for red deer is known as the rut and in the autumn it occurs right here at Coombes valley. The sound of a stag roaring is something that you won't forget.

You might be surprised to hear that you can find red deer here, but find them you can, along with two other species; roe and muntjac. You have to be incredibly lucky to spot one though. All three species are incredibly shy animals and will simply melt away into the undergrowth long before you know that they’re around. That’s no easy task when you’re as large as a red deer. In the months that I've been here I've only managed one sighting and even that was at a great distance. That’s one of the great joys of nature though; you never know when you will encounter something special. 

Red deer stag with an impressive set of antlers - RSPB images

If you pay us a visit you might be lucky enough to spot some deer, and you never know, you might find an antler of your own.