Basin Notes

WHILST out doing a farmland bird survey at Upper Brackenrigg Farm, near St Cyrus, last weekend, I came across what looked like some mindless vandalism to the local shrubs and other plants.

I’ve actually come across and noticed this unusual, particular phenomenon before, in previous years - small trees and bushes badly twisted and broken, with their bark and stems stripped off or hanging loose etc. It’s not rabbit damage though, and all is not as it may first seem or appear, Mr Holmes!

Chances are if you take the time to investigate the “scene of the crime” further you may well find, either hanging in small shreds (like the situation at Upper Brackenrigg), or a few swatches of plant material wedged in a cleft, a substance that looks suspiciously like brown velvet and possibly some slight traces of blood. but don’t panic, it hasn’t been a murder or anything really sinister. This mysterious product is actually nothing more than the remains of the wrapping that supplied the developing antlers of a roe deer buck with blood and other nutrients over the long winter and early spring months.

Roe deer numbers are apparently on the increase, in and around the Basin, and other deer are occasionally reported further up the Angus Glens. Unlike many other resident species of our deer, however, male roe have already reached, or are fast approaching, the end of their antler growth cycle at this time of year.

The unfortunate plant I encountered at “small deer” head-height (male roe deer reach about 70cm at the shoulders), had obviously become a favourite scratching post for a local animal shedding his velvet coat from his itchy antlers. The culprit had left other interesting tell-tale signs and clues behind too – I witnessed what appeared to be small tooth marks left in the bark, and some distinctive tufts of grey/brown hair, which must have also brushed off on nearby twigs, branches and fencing.

I then left the “crime scene” and carried on with my annual avian survey, observing and listening to returning willow warblers, bullfinches, swallows etc, luckily without having to make an emergency phone call to the newly formed Police Force of Scotland.

If you would like to read or know more about our resident roe deer population, I strongly recommend Richard Prior’s book entitled ‘The Roe Deer: Conservation of a Native Species’ by Swan Hill Press.

M.A. Craig