There are many highlights in the League Against Cruel Sports sanctuaries wildlife calendar: the first returning barn swallow; the first emerging fox and badger cubs; the intense spectacle of swathes of flowering bluebells; the first Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterflies on the wing; the red deer rut.

Fox cub at Baronsdown - Paul Tillsley, Head of Conservation and Education

However, it is difficult to top the appeal of sighting the first newborn red deer calf lying motionless in the wet grass. Maybe it’s their huge unblinking eyes, or their disproportionately large ears, or their brown and white spotted coat, or just their total helplessness that makes them so adorable.

Their mother gives them a quick wash when they are first born and then leaves them curled up in the long grass, with only their camouflaged coat to protect them. She will return periodically to feed her calf and maybe move it a short distance, but their survival depends on their ability to remain unnoticed until they are big enough to move around and fend for themselves.

Deer calf found by sanctuaries & education officer, Graham Floyd

The modern agricultural practice of cutting grass early for hay and silage leaves little opportunity for deer and other wildlife to breed. This makes the League wildlife sanctuaries even more important to protect these vulnerable animals.

Red deer calf found by sanctuaries & education officer, Graham Floyd