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?