In the fine weather we enjoyed this spring we spent a great deal of time walking on Ardnamurchan Estate and keep tripping over the magnificent red deer stags that roam their land. These encounters aren't deliberate - usually we're searching for piles of stone to get excited about - but the stags are very tolerant of our disturbing them.
Occasional the encounter is excitingly close. This stag was one of a pair grazing quietly in a small glen when we came over the brow of the hill and almost bumped into him. Unusually, either he didn't notice us, or he did and didn't mind our standing watching him from a breathtakingly close proximity while he enjoyed his lunch.
More usually they are well aware of us long before we see them, and they're fully alert to our approach. This posture has a clear message: I know you're there, I'm not at all sure about you, and I'm going to be off very quickly if you do the slightest thing that worries me.
One of the reasons we travel to exotic places like Tanzania is for the pleasure of encountering wild animals in their habitat. It's less fun watching them from a car than on foot or, as in this case, from a hide. West Ardnamurchan's red deer stags are every bit as magnificent as this waterbuck bull, the main difference being that, in Tanzania, we have to be accompanied on our walks by a Game Ranger toting a Kalashnikov.
The saddest moment is when these great beasts decide they've had enough and depart for somewhere on the Estate where they won't be disturbed.
Ardnamurchan Estate has letting house for rent where you can watch red deer while sipping your evening drinks. Their website is here.