Monday, 25 June 2012

Tri-Lizard event

It seems a good year for orchids, and I was pleased to receive reports of lizard orchids appearing in interesting places - a tri-lizard turn-up for the book*.
In fact the first was in its usual place, but for the first time in seven years. I can't find any other records for the species on the downs, but this one appeared in the same place that it was previously seen, much to the pleasure of the long-serving warden, Phil of White Cliffs Coutryside project. Clearly a credit to his management regime.
The other report was from a totally unexpected place - close to the beach between Walmer and Kingsdown, where I've certainly never seen them and there are no records from the past. My contact, the sharp-eyed Graham, tells me that he had seen one near St Margarets a few years ago, presumably near the Roy the Redeemer statue. Now there are two on the beach, some miles south of the flourishing population at Sandwich Bay.
In the grassland nearby.... 
Pale flax, which I couldn't find when I returned in the afternoon when the sun finally appeared - of course.

A single pyramidal orchid, and plenty of rough clover.

While on the beach the rare sea-pea seems to be doing well:

And a final piece of good news...... summer is now officially here, as the marbled whites and meadow browns have emerged into what seems like the first warm sunshine in weeks.

* I am informed that this is a witty literary pun - potty.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Subbuteo is my hobby

The football was tedious, so at half-time we drove back to Sandwich Bay  (having visited, plant-spotting, in the morning). We've spent many evenings in the new hide on the scrape, watching ....... but I digress from the main story.......

Driving home at about 9.30 in the twilight, a shape was seen on a post alongside the road. Not an owl this time, but a hobby (Falco subbuteo, but you knew that). It stayed there while cars drove by within a few feet of it, and allowed me to photograph it, only flying off when a cyclist went past.

Curiously, the Ashford Birder saw and photographed a similarly-subdued one today, presuming that it had been hit by a car. Given the windy and cold weather, I'd suggest that they could just be hungry and exhausted.
Anyway, back to the scrape. We've been watching the development of broods of lapwings and oystercatchers, and well as a supporting cast of mallards, coots, little grebes etc.
The oystercatchers always astound me by greeting an approaching parent loudly well in advance of its arrival - good sight or maybe good hearing.

The lapwing family seems to have reduced from four to two, unsurprisingly given the unhelpful behaviour or the parents. For some reason the chicks are persuaded to swim from the island to the bank during the day (for better cover or more food I don't know) and then called back to the island at night, a swim of about 50 yards while avoiding the attentions of aggressive coots. The sight of the parents repeatedly divebombing a dumb-looking pheasant, while a fox approached the chicks from behind, was ridiculous.

In these evening vigils, owls have often been seen, and recently a light-coloured barn owl has patrolled meadows surrounding the scrape, and sat on a fence post to survey the world.

On the subject of chicks, the high winds blew two herring gull chicks off a roof in Deal and I was delegated to defy gravity to put them back up, out of the way of cats. The parents, of course, did not recognise this civic duty and provided a further hazard. The chicks still had their egg-tooth.

And at Rye Harbour, noise and smell announced that the black-headed gull colony is in full production again.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Lush for orchids

Please don't get the wrong impression - this photograph was not taken on the Bank Holiday weekend, but on one of the seemingly few fine days of late spring.
It's an unassuming lane called Lynsore Bottom in the sparsely populated middle of east Kent, and as drive down it you can see not only plenty of twayblades but also lady orchids and fly orchids on the verge.
Now I expect to find lady orchids and fly orchids, if at all, on bare banks in the dappled shade of woodland, but this year's wet spring has produced a good showing of both in open downland.

There's a dozen fly orchid spikes at Park Gate Down, where the monkey orchids look healthy, replacing the early purples and twayblades that are going over.
Lady orchids are flourishing in the open grassland of Denge Wood, adding to the beauty of this place with its nightingales and butterflies.

And no description of east Kent's orchids would be complete without a few photos of smiley-face late spider orchids, also doing well in the lushness of the downland sward.