Sunday, 8 March 2009

Town Hall Clocks and other lifers

Most of the woodland in and around Kingsdown is of poor quality, botanically and indeed zoologically, but I was surprised today when I looked more closely at the small area of about an acre or two, at the far end of the track from Victoria Road, adjacent to Oxney Woods.
Amongst the elder and thorn scrub are dotted some English Oaks, only small but uncommon on the thin chalk hereabouts. A Goldcrest flitted among the boughs, and underneath, in the dappled light before the leaves shut it out, was a carpet of Moschatels.
The flowers were still only buds, but as I've been looking for these early-blooming plants, I was pleased. The common names include Town Hall Clock and Five-Faced Bishop, as each stem has a flower on each of its four sides, and one on the top facing up. The nicknames seem rather grand for a flower only a couple of millimetres across.
The name Moschatel refers to its musky perfume, detectable in the late afternoons - I'll check them later in the week to see the open flowers.
In a sheltered spot near Poo Corner, out of the cool wind, a Small Tortoiseshell sunned itself - they've had a dismal couple of years so hopefully this early sighting might herald a recovery. In the woods, Dog's Mercury, windflowers, Lesser Celandines and Bluebells are starting to show, and Honeysuckle (woodbine) leaves give a fresh green shine.

Yesterday morning was spent in a very different environment, around Dungeness. SteveR managed to show me no less than three lifers by midday, with the greatest of ease.
No 1 : Snow Goose at Scotney pit - maybe a feral bird, but may not (and since I travelled to Canada to see them in vain, I'm not quibbling). Top pic from SteveR, with thanks and usual fee.
No 2: Iceland Gull at the Patch - nice views of it on the sea (but no pics, as it flew out to sea after 10 minutes).
No 3: Great Grey Shrike at Pannell Valley, duly found on its usual bush. As we watched, it flew into a hedgerow and emerged with a bird in its talons - not much smaller than itself. It flew back to the bush with a woodpecker-like action, then dropped down presumably to its 'larder' and returned to its perch. Stunning sight.
A better photo is here; if there are any experts on shrikes reading this, perhaps they could comment on the apparent pinkish tinge on the breast?


Greenie said...

Steve ,
Once again with the Town Hall Clock , you seem to be 2/3 weeks ahead of us . I was looking for them in a dependable place the other day , and not even leaves yet .
Only just getting the Coltsfoot in flower .

Kingsdowner said...

We had the benefit of not being covered with snow for two weeks!
I'm looking forward to the flowers opening.

Anonymous said...

The real 'pooh corner' was what the book was based on? I can't help you with the shrike...but I would be thrilled to find so much green here (NY) this early, but it is way too early...Michelle

Kingsdowner said...

No, sorry Michelle,
it's the name (from Pooh) that we've given to the slurry pile at a corner of a track near here.

Mary said...

I like the colorful nicknames of this plant and look forward to seeing what the flower looks like when it opens. Do you ever wish you had gotten to name a plant or flower or bird? Somebody thinks up these things! Congrats on the three lifers in one day! Glad you finally got a Snow must have heard about you missing it in Canada and felt sorry for you and flew across to find you :-) I like that last shot of the fence...very nice! I hope our green is coming soon....I'm ready for spring!

The Wildlife Gardener said...

What was the outcome of the frogspawn debate, Steve? Were people really passionately arguing in favour of moving it around?

Kingsdowner said...

The discussion centred on 'why shouldn't I move spawn from one isolated pond to another'. Reason prevailed, I think.
I'm looking forward to the next installments of the trip to the Creation Museum, by the way.

The Wildlife Gardener said...

It was an amusing day out at the Creation Museum. Whether we learned anything this space.