Saturday, 30 April 2011


In my college days in wet Wales, our occasional games of football and rugby were, for obvious reasons, called "bog-wading". Today I pulled on my wellies (only one of which leaks) and waded around some of the few wet areas of mid-Kent.

This is not my normal habitat, and I know little of the flora of wetlands, so Gibbins Brook near Sellindge is an interesting place, with plenty of species I'd not see before.
Bogbean is a lovely flower, each one a hairy cross contrasting with the smooth unopened buds above.
A Small Copper kindly landed on one flower.
This is, I believe, Marsh Valerian, a much smaller, subtler plant than its red namesake.

Large Red Damselflies were very active, except when being otherwise active, blending in with the similar colours of the pond vegetation.
This may be Bog Stitchwort (it's great reading the guesses of a novice -available for guided walks at the usual rates)

Hothfeld Heathlands have blossomed with Cottongrass, and were otherwise notable for much larger patches of Lousewort than in recent years.
A Red Poplar Beetle was seen, as was an early Brown Argus.
A lovely couple of visits, but the third was chastening - last year the Water-Violets at Ashford Warren was stunning but this year there were only a dozen flowering stems - perhaps early in the season, but the omens are not good.
It was, however, good to see our trusty Little Owl in the usual place on the dead stump near Northbourne.

Nothing about Kingsdown today, but I should report a very successful village street party last night, with great bands and a marvellous atmousphere. The pub was almost drunk dry, I hear.

Monday, 25 April 2011

The story of the weekend

The hot inland air was choked with pollen, without the relief of any rain. The wind cooled the coast, however, to a pleasant temperature although the sun shone throughout.
Fifteen spikes of Early Spider Orchid have appeared on the rifle range, although none yet near to the road. These numbers are nothing compared with Samphire Hoe or Langdon cliffs, but I'm proud of them.
Green-winged Orchids are up at Sandwich Bay, looking sumptuous in the sunshine.
A tiny white Storksbill creeps over the sandy meadow.
These flies seemed to be everywhere, while Orange Tip butterflies have been joined on the wing by Small Whites and Green-veined Whites, making identification at a distance a bit tricky..... a good opportunity to compare their flight movements.
Much time was devoted to sitting in the garden, waiting for the Green Hairstreak to reappear, but when on the few occasions that it did, it didn't rest.
No early blues were seen (apart from Holly and they don't count) but a Dingy Skipper showed at Lydden.
Plenty of raptors were on the wing - ringtail over Worth and Common Buzzards galore, including this individual with a damaged tail giving an impression of a fork.

Friday, 22 April 2011

It ain't 'alf 'ot

The morning broke according to the forecast, warm and sunny, so I put on my child-molester shorts (think Don Estelle), hat on, roof down and Beach Boys on the stereo and drove off in the warmth.

The oil seed rape pollen swirled around but I didn't care - four days of sunny holidays ahead.

As it turned out, my carefully-laid plans didn't quite work out...... wherever I went, I failed to find what I was looking for, but found something else in compensation:

I walked around the tinder-dry Perry Wood, looking for early Bird's-Nest Orchids......
..... but found much else of interest including a small patch of Woodruff, which is unusual in these parts.
I paid another visit to Park Wood, to see if any Duke of Burgundies had appeared.......
.... but they hadn't, but a lay down on the grass brought me closer to another world, of Pill Millipedes......
..... and shield bugs.......
..... and a ladybird that might not be a ladybird.
Orange tip butterflies were everywhere.
I called in at Campbells garage to check if Small Blues had emerged, but although their food plant, Kidney Vetch, is starting to flower.....
... there were none to be seen, as a cooling breeze was coming in off the sea. Only one butterfly flew past - a worn Painted Lady.

So I returned home to spend some time in the garden, where a green spider was spinning a web (a Cucumber Green Spider?)........
...... a couple of Orange Tips, a Holly Blue, and what the..........?
Up in the trees, a small green butterfly fluttered........ a Green Hairstreak. This warm weather is really benefiting the early spring bugs.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Blinking heck!

And on a long weekend too! What did we do to deserve this? Hope you can enjoy it.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

A good thing just got better

Park Wood near Challock has long been one of my favourite places, a peaceful wood with a the sound of buzzards overhead, marsh tits calling, goldcrests singing and occasionally a glimpse of a lesser spotted woodpecker. There's a variety of timber - coppiced woods to the left and yew trees on the right. Now the Woodland Trust has cut the middle area of recent growth, leaving a lovely sunny expanse of primroses, with orange tips and brimstones flitting over the piles of logs. There will surely be an increase in orchid numbers, and an improved habitat for Duke of Burgundy butterflies which were seen here last year. A line of gnarled hornbeam pollards marks an old ditch on the boundary of the wood in earlier times, giving protection from grazing deer. When I moved on to Denge Wood, I saw another line of these trees, not obviously on a ditch line but again probably used to define a boundary. The hornbeam leaf is similar to that of the beech, but the distinctive bark and catkins easily identify it. Anyway, the main reason for going to Denge Wood was to see if the continuing warm sunshine had brought out the Duke of Burgundies early. And hurrah it has. One, at least. Coincidentally (although on reflection the chances were quite high) I ran into the DoB survey team and the butterfly they found was considerate enough to stay still for long enough for all to get their photos. The group is a lovely bunch of people, who really know their subject and are good company (it helps that the sun's usually shining when they go out, I suppose). The surrounding song of willow warblers was an added bonus. Wild cherry trees have been left standing in an area of coppice, and look stunning in the bright sunlight. I noticed some wood ants climbing one of the trees...... .... so decided to follow them to the treetop to see what they were doing, and found that they were feeding on the flowers ..... ....[OK I didn't climb up, there was a small tree further on]. A beautiful day, with lots to see and pleasant company. It just got better and better. Especially when the ice-cream van was heard, playing its "Greensleeves" tune - the best sound in the world.

Friday, 15 April 2011

That Was The Week, That Was

A random miscellany of a varied week....... starting in Suffolk where a social event gave an opportunity to stroll through the lovely Dedham Vale, where a Nightingale sang loudly by Willy Lott's cottage, ignored by the many trippers but not by us. Sublime.

Less sublime was the sighting of two Egyptian Geese by the mud of one of the many estuaries, although a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits helped restore some sense of reality.
Back at Kingsdown, there was excitement when a Black Kite was seen flying in off the sea over the cliffs, and then being seen circling over a nearby wood in the evening,
.... and more distantly I assume this was the same bird in the same spot the next morning. The next day, the mis-named Greater Kent Birder saw and impressively photographed two Red-rumped Swallows.

Bluebells are carpeting the woodland floor,
..... but dotted amongst the millions are occasional spikes of Early Purple Orchids, many still in bud......
.... but some in full flower.
Also in the pink are some of the countless Wood Anemones,

and a clump of large Common Dog-Violets.