Saturday, 13 April 2019

Roadside tragedy

Travelling back to Daventry after a short visit to Byfield I saw the corpse of a moderately large deer lying beside the road near Badby. From the size and general shape it appeared to be a roe deer. There was a lay-by a couple of hundred yards ahead so I parked up and strolled back to have a look.

It was indeed a Roe Deer, Capreolus capreolus. The antlers are fairly distinctive and the whitish patch of the rump is a clincher.

The roe deer has fairly short antlers. Roadside near Badby, Northants.
13 April, 2019
A Roe Deer weighs in at between 10 and 25 kilograms and this specimen must have been at the upper end of that range. My guess is that if it had been hit by a car the vehicle could have sustained some damage. It was a lovely animal, appearing to be in prime condition. Very sad. The local buzzard population will be interested!

The white patch on the rump is a clincher.
As I strolled back to the car I noticed a familiar - and yet unfamiliar - plant growing at the roadside. It looked like scurvy grass but it had pale lilac flowers, unfortunately not very obvious in my picture. On arriving home I checked my books and read: Common Scurvy-grass, Cochlearia white, rarely lilac.

Danish Scurvy-grass, once uncommon, now a striking roadside sight.
Near Badby, 13 April, 2019
But I still wasn't happy. Beside our main roads there is often a ribbon of white flowers at the roadside. This is Danish Scurvy-grass, Cochlearia danica, a plant which can also have lilac flowers. A closer examination of the leaves showed that it was indeed this latter species. It is an interesting example of a once-uncommon coastal (and therefore salt-tolerant) species being converted to a weed by human intervention, in this case the application of salt in icy conditions.

The winter has been relatively mild and a sort of confirmation came when I noticed a few plants of Wild Privet, Ligustrum vulgare, also at the roadside. It was still bearing plenty of berries which, although they may not be the favourite choice of birds, would surely have gone had the winter been severe.

Wild Privet, a shrub which tends to prefer alkaline soils.
Roadside hedgerow near Badby, Northants. 13 April, 2019
In my childhood a huge percentage of urban gardens were bordered by neatly trimmed hedge of privet, (appropriately known as 'private' in parts of Kent). But this was invariably Japanese Privet, Ligustrum ovalifolium.  Its berries too are eaten by birds and the shrub is occasionally self-sown via their droppings but as hedging it is now far less common, having fallen out of favour and been replaced by cotoneasters, barberries and so on. Both these shrubs of course form the food plant of the Privet Hawkmoth, Sphinx ligustri. This handsome moth is on the edge of its range here in Northants and I have yet to see one - but I live in hope.

Tony White  E-mail:

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