Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Dover Catchfly

Ah, the transquil rural idyll of Dover, as cars and lorries thunder up Jubilee Way, there is a cliff face which struck me as being a possible site for Nottingham Catchfly Silene nutans (previous noted at Dungeness).
It was originally known as Dover Catchfly, before it was realised that the two species were in fact the same.

Sure enough, without much searching, there were clumps of this plant that has inspired me.

It grows on Dover cliffs, and hundreds pass it during May and see only the white blossoms looking as if the sun had withered them. Yet by six o'clock in the evening, the grassy spots seem whitened by its stars, and the perfume appears to the author to be more powerful than that of any other flower. So wrote Ann Pratt in her book, Wild Flowers, first published in 1852. She lived in Dover.
Unlike Silene, who declines
The garish noontide's blazing light;
But when the evening crescent shines
Gives all her sweetness to the night.
The Catchfly with Sweet William we confound
Whose nets the stragglers of the swarm surround,
Those viscous threads that held to entangled prey
From its own treacherous entrails force their way.

Also on the cliff edge were the first Common Spotted Orchids, Quaking Grass, knobs of Knapweed, Birds-Foot Trefoil, Mignonette and Yellow Wort.
And at the bottom of the hill, hidden from the hurly-burley of the port entrance, is the First and Last pub.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Bank Holiday

Spot the Bank Holiday weekend. But it wasn't all bad......

the first Common Blues were on the wing.

Also, a Small Copper. 'Ello, 'ello, 'ello....hehehe.

And an old Dakota.

Saturday, 24 May 2008


We took a trip to Dungeness, more in hope than expectation, and as it turned out the flora was more interesting than the fauna (I may have some dispute from some quarters on this). Sea Kale was abundant and flowering on the sea-side shingle, as we walked via the point to the Patch.
There were a few Sandwich Terns and about 30 Common Terns, but no rarer types. Among the gulls were a few Great Black-Backed, including this one which seemed in a bad way, having tried to eat some fishing line.
Yellow Horned Poppies have just started to bloom, and Thrift was also evident in patches.
In the RSPB reserve, on the pits was a variety of ducks, Cormorants amassing large amounts of nesting material, and a few Great-Crested Grebes, one with a youngster (not very small) on its back, the first time I'd seen that.
In the scrub, we had plenty of opportunity to distinguish the calls of Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Marsh Frog, Reed Bunting (below) and Whitethroats,
while the twin avian highlights were a Grey Plover in flight showing off its summer black belly, and four Hobbys flying over the reed beds.
Back on the ground, we saw Sea Campion and prostrate Broom
while this plant had me stumped until I realised it was a Catchfly - presumably the Nottingham version.
I didn't pick it - I was just supporting it in the strong wind. Nottingham Catchfly was first identified growing on Nottingham Castle, and is the county flower of Nottinghamshire. It's a rare plant as the dots on the map show, but is does occur closer to home on the cliffs at near or near Kingsdown.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

North Downs

The North Downs above Folkestone are in good condition, with an abundance of chalk downland flowers emerging, with seemingly a new species emerging each day. Today the blooming of Birds-Foot Trefoil was apparent.

With the emerging flowers come the butterflies, each species with its own particular food-plants. Three Adonis Blues were seen, mostly keeping their wings closed, but occasionally (but distantly) showing their glorious blue upper wings.

A little blue on the top wing is showing here, with an unusual mauve spot.

And finally....a racing pigeon spent the afternoon in a friend's garden, so I was called in to advise (blind leading the blind). It was a portly creature, and just seemed tired, so I left it where it was and reported its ring number to the Royal Pigeon Racing Society. For the record, it was GB90 X79252, and I hope it will make its way to its owner.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

A Profusion of Monkeys

Just an ordinary English field in early summer, with blue sky and white clouds above. But all is not what it seems. This is a special field, and at this time of the year it's very special indeed.
The Monkey Orchids are at their best at the moment, and an excursion to a very English valley is rewarded by the sight of tens, if not hundreds of these rare plants amid the carefully managed grassland.
This rare orchid now only grows (in Britain) in Oxfordshire and Kent, and this may be the site where hand-pollination has led to an increase from the original six plants to over 200 in ten years.

The derivation of the Monkey Orchid's name is self-evident, and it differs from the similar Military Orchid most noticeably by the curly 'limbs', which in the Military are broader and flatter. The Military Orchid has been found in Kingsdown in the past, but not (so far as I know) recently.
Nearby, a blotchy set of leaves announced the imminent arrival of Common Spotted Orchid flowers,
...while dotted here and there were the plainer Twayblades.

There is an Open Day here this weekend - it's worth a trip.