Sunday, 31 August 2008

Redstarts, and supporting cast

It's not often that we see both Black and Common Redstarts on one day, but that was the case this Sunday - in admittedly very different habitats.
The former (a stunning males and two juveniles or females) are resident at Samphire Hoe, and thanks are due to Ian Roberts for showing them to us, and for pointing out the nesting place of a pair of Peregrines who could be seen and heard on the high cliffs.

The Black Redstarts are easily seen (at a distance), but not easily photographed......
......unlike the brazen Stonechats which must have numbered about 20 around the Hoe.......
....or indeed this Adonis Blue which came readily to hand.
A gorgeous Small Copper was within a few feet of the Blue, making a lovely contrasting sight.
One of the first colonisers of the 'newest part of England' was Sea Buckthorn which is looking very attractive as its berries take on their bright colour. Measure for measure, they are ten times richer in Vitamin C than oranges.
In a very different habitat to the dry Hoe, we came across a mixed flock of birds while walking across some lush fields beside a rich piece of woodland scrub.
SteveR spotted a Common Redstart which disappeared before the paparazzi were ready, although it was briefly seen again later; and my contribution was to snap this littl'un and misidentify it as a Garden Warbler, until a bout of worry over why such a skulking bird should be on top of a bush led me to conclude that it might in fact be a Pied Flycatcher.
I'm probably wrong on both counts.

In the woods were many fungi, and perhaps somebody can explain why some had grown bushy beards?

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Brockhill and Bockhill

It's a poor comment on my local knowledge that I'd never been to Brockhill Country Park before now, but the arrival of the Osprey led me there at last. It was a dark late afternoon of what we have come to know as an English summer, but the stillness was atmouspheric - a little spooky in fact.

I was admiring this large fungus on a tree, hearing acorns falling to the ground, when one landed square on my head. My concentration wavered and at that moment the Osprey flew out of a nearby tree, circled and flapped easily over the trees. A brief but close sighting of this impressive young bird. It was seen again yesterday (not by me) and as an Osprey stayed near Hythe for six weeks in the autumn of 2005, he may stay around for awhile yet.Today the sun actually shone, and a walk around the patch beckoned, clipping Bockhill farm.
What will the weather be when the cattle are lying down? Most of these bullocks are predicting dry fine weather, but the one on the left appears to be thinking 'I don't know, I think there may be a storm coming'. We'll see if he's right tomorrow.

Off the beach, a Grey Seal looked ashore, watching the trippers arrive.

Butterfly sightings were dominated by Small Whites, with a few Common Blues and a Small Tortoiseshell (4th this year!). Also there were quite a few Silver Y moths (probably from across the Channel), with the one above feeding on Sea Aster flowers.

Toadflax is flourishing, and I couldn't resist opening the 'Dragon's Jaws'.

Autumn is just around the corner, and a party of Long-Tailed Tits was feeding on a laden Hawthorn bush.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008


Two young Ospreys have been electronically tagged in the nest at Loch Garten in Scotland, and their paths on their first migration can be tracked via the RSPB website.

Idly browsing today, I saw that one has just passed us, flying almost over my place of work:
There have been a number of Osprey sightings reported on the East Coast in the last few days - perhaps of this individual. I'm surprised that the Planet Thanet lads didn't see it pass over.
Back in Kingsdown, there are still plenty of Mediterranean Gulls on the fields, on the beach or on the sea depending on the time of day. This evening they and Black-Headed Gulls were catching insects over the rifle range.

No more Whinchats have been seen, but there were four Wheatears today.
The Common Blue butterflies were few, but there seemed to have been an explosion in whites - mostly Small Whites but also occasional Green-Veined Whites.

Monday, 25 August 2008


The old town of Lewes in East Sussex has long been dear to us, and is a lovely place for a stroll. Most of the buildings are of brick, including many of black glazed brick like the house in the middle of the row, which gives a smart elegant look.
One of the oldest buildings is a half-timbered bookshop, scene of many hours of happy browsing. One of the window displays currently shows a set of Ronald Searle books, including the original Down With Skool -a joy to those of us of a certain age. Searle also created the St Trinians girls.
Back in the eighties, there was a series of TV programmes on town architecture by the venerable Alec Clifton-Taylor, and Lewes was one of his favourites [brief pause to find if the series is available on DVD - no, there's not, but I've ordered the book]

Bull House proclaims that it was one of the homes of Thomas Paine, the radical writer who wrote Rights of Man and contributed to the American and French Revolutions. The town's brewery sells a bottled ale named after him - what greater accolade....?
In disappointing weather I walked over the South Downs, looking for Red Star Thistles. I failed, but was pleased to find a few Clustered Bellflowers, just an inch or so high in the turf, although they can grow higher in more forgiving sites.

Long-Stalked(?) Cranesbill

Precious few butterflies about, but there were about 10 Speckled Woods in the lee of a stand of trees,
and the season of fungi is upon us.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Mobile Gull Appreciation Unit

The town of Folkestone is holding an arts festival this summer, called the Folkestone Triennial, presented in public spaces around the town. One of the, er, exhibits is the Mobile Gull Appreciation Unit created by American artist Mark Dion, to educate the townsfolk and visitors about seagulls - specifically to persuade them that gulls are not just messy, noisy, aggressive beasts but are intelligent beings that we should be proud to be near. The MGAU has a knowledgeable chap inside with a library of books on gulls, and an inexpensive booklet on the 12 types of gulls that can be seen from the beach (some like Caspian, Sabines etc can be seen only very occasionally of course).
The Old High Street has some craftsmen's and artists' workshops which are interesting to browse. I particularly like the sea creatures on the side of the building on the right.

There is a dog park (cats not allowed) with amusing signs, on the site of an old dogpoo lawn.

A number of small Tracy Emin sculptures are dotted around the town, like this 'lost' child's shoe by the beach.
On a more serious note, Folk Stones is a pavement of pebbles, numbered for each of the British soldiers that died in the first day of the Battle of the Somme, in 1916. There are over 19,000 - many of the soldiers left Britain from the port of Folkestone.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Happy Hour

Happy hour is an attractive idea - but this evening provided a happier half-hour visiting the 'other end' of Lydden Down, with a surprising variety of wildlife despite the cool breeze.
There were Chalkhill Blues in the shelter of a hedge..

..and a second emergence Adonis Blue.
A pair of bizarre toadstools grew through a cowpat, accompanied by a frond of Salad Burnet.
In the space of 10 seconds as I passed a stand of Scots Pine, I saw a Sparrowhawk fly, a Little Owl perched on a branch, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and heard a yaffle from a Yaffle.
As for flora, despite the lateness of the season there remained a good selection of downland flowers, including a Houndstongue with its strange seeds.There were even some Autumn Gentians. What a happy time.
Incidentally, this month's edition of the BBC Wildlife magazine has an article on the Lydden reserve, with a good photo if I do say so myself.