Hitch­ing a lift

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild July -

Mag­pies perch on the haunches of a roe deer, which has paused to look at the pho­tog­ra­pher while strolling through a Sus­sex hay meadow awash with but­ter­cups and wild grasses. It’s a poignant scene rem­i­nis­cent of ox­peck­ers rid­ing pig­gy­back on ze­bras and an­telopes in the African sa­van­nah – poignant be­cause Bri­tain has long since lost vir­tu­ally all of its wild megafauna.

Much like ox­peck­ers, these piebald corvids per­form a use­ful ser­vice for the deer, by re­mov­ing trou­ble­some ticks. Un­like them, how­ever, there is no ev­i­dence to show that mag­pies also take ad­van­tage of their host by open­ing wounds to sip blood.

Age­ing roes on sight can be tricky, but deer ex­pert Alas­tair Ward of the Univer­sity of Hull reck­ons this one’s a beauty. Well-de­vel­oped tines (points) on each antler, to­gether with well-formed but not thick coro­nets (antler bases), a clean coat and the an­i­mal’s stocky body con­di­tion, all in­di­cate that he is in his prime, Alas­tair says. “My guess would be some­where be­tween three and six years old.” July is the main breed­ing season for roe deer, when ma­ture males de­fend ter­ri­to­ries that over­lap with those of sev­eral fe­males. Since a fe­male’s fer­tilised egg does not im­plant un­til mid­win­ter, the young will not be born un­til spring. GET IN­VOLVED Use the free Mammal Tracker app: www.brc.ac.uk/mam­mal_­tracker

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