Thursday, 14 June 2007

The Rifle Range

Small heath butterfly

The old rifle range betwen the cliffs and the sea has been unused for about 10 years, and (like Samphire Hoe) new habitats have formed depending on the various surfaces.

There are three main habitats: the flat area of shingle that stretches the length of the range, the 'undercliff' and shooting mounds which have more soil and so attract thicker vegetation, and the cliff face itself.

The shingle has plants that are found on the strand between the range and Deal, including Yellow Horned Poppies, and at the far southern end there is a flat area of muddy chalk which seems to attract passing wheatears.

The vegetated middle strip provides cover for wintering birds such as stonechats, migrants (a fall of willow wablers in May was very vocal) and the whitethroats described below. The plants are varied, and currently there are two pyramidal orchids on one of the mounds, and a host of other flowers that I hope to identify in due course. Insects seen this spring include a small heath (above), common blues (below) and silver Y moths.

Female common blue

Yellow wort

Silver Y moth (can you see why? hehe)

The cliff faces provide nesting sites for fulmars, a pair of kestrels, jackdaws, feral pigeons and house martins, while this year a Common Whitethroat has been signing long and loudly, obtaining a good echo from the sea wall and the cliffs. Today I saw that the family had emerged - at least four of them plus the male - so it has been worthwhile.

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