Mar 292020
 

A few days ago Sally and I walked up to our local shop in search of food! We found this plant growing on the pavement by the bus stop in Chalk. We had passed it several times before and wondered what it was. But on this occasion Sally made an effort to identify it and get a photograph. It is Danish scurvy grass Cochlearia danica. It is neither Danish nor a grass but apparently it contains lots of Vitamin C,  so if you chew it,  you will not get scurvy – good to know! Danish scurvy grass grows on the edge of saltmarshes, shingle beaches, etc by the edge of the sea.

In a flight of fancy I started to imagine that where I was standing, by the bus stop, was actually a salt marsh. I could see Golden Samphire and Sea Aster growing amongst lots of Sea Purslane. Redshanks were probing for food at the edges of the runnels and pools not far from where I was standing, and I could just make out dunlin and curlew feeding on the edge of the retreating tide. Well, these are strange times and we have to keep ourselves amused.

On another visit to the shop, and only a few meters from our house, we came across a screaming black-headed gull diving down on to the road. It was trying to build up the courage to land and pick up a half slice of bread. In normal times, of course, the gull would have been flattened by the passing traffic but there are far fewer cars now (I noticed that it was keeping an eye open for the skip lorries that still thunder through). After a few attempts the gull grabbed the bread and three gulps later it (the bread) was gone. One happy black-headed gull. One of my birding treats is to go to Leysdown, on Sheppey, and throw slices of Mothers Pride at the gulls (OK it does not have to be Leysdown). Sometimes Sally gets a good photograph.

Just to add to these surreal moments we are now getting Mediterranean gulls flying and calling overhead. Julie has noticed them over Riverview Park and Irene has heard them passing over Northfleet. But perhaps none of this is really a flight of fancy. We are not far from the river. If someone knocked a hole in the seawall opposite our house, the road and Chalk would be on the edge of the saltmarsh with the next high tide. As it used to be!

 

In reality Danish scurvy grass has spread out from natural “salty” habitats. It now grows alongside major roads (and some minor roads) where salt is used in winter to prevent ice patches. The map of the plant’s distribution in the Atlas of the Kent Flora beautifully shows  the motorway network in Kent. Danish scurvy grass is salt tolerant.

Thanks to Sally for the photographs

Malcolm

 

 Posted by on 29 March 2020 at 3:23 pm

  3 Responses to “Danish Scurvy Grass and Mediterranean Gulls”

Comments (3)
  1. Well spotted you two. Another place is the centre reservations on motorways but I’d advise not to go looking. Haha.
    Worked out we’ve got 4 Med Gulls that hang around with a bigger group of BH gulls. Maybe it’s two pairs?
    That call is so easy to distinguish and those lovely white wings.
    We did have 7 Common Buzzards circling between us and Singlewell so gave sue the heads up.
    Our woodpecker is back on the feeders, the male this time!
    Bee- flies are visiting, in fact one came indoors for a quick look round.
    Guess if we have gardens, we’ll all find out more about what resides there. We might be surprised!
    I also found a new snail to our garden, Lauria cylindracea. Absolute tiny. Smaller than a mouse dropping. Amazing!

  2. New barn , Longfield .. we hear med gulls often, recently we recorded 12 med gulls flying over garden towards the river and 75 circling over Longfield hill from which you can see the river all added to Birdtrack.

    Danish scurvy grass seemed to spread when lots of salt was used to de ice roads (remember those winters!) . It is on many road/pavement interfaces in New Barn .. but before you start nibbling consider the four footed users of pavements and their deposits!

  3. We have heard med gulls over Meopham as well.

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