Saturday, 31 May 2008

Shorne Marshes

What a great morning after all that rain and cloud, went to Shorne marshes for a walk. Somewhere out here there is an RSPB reserve. I'm hoping that after they have sorted Cliffe marshes out they will be able to turn their attention to this place and help improve and maintain the habitat, maybe even get a few wader scrapes, who knows.

This is the now unused Thames and Medway canal. The Rivers Thames and Medway were joined by this eight-mile long canal, the construction of which started in 1805. With basins providing ports and access to the two rivers at Gravesend and Strood, the canal passed through a two-mile Higham tunnel, broken in the centre by a shaft to allow boats to pass. Construction was difficult and expensive and it was not completed until 1824.

On the walk down to the river Thames, I managed to see a couple of small heath butterflies, this one has its face buried in the buttercup.

Small Heath

The walk is an easy one along a metalled track and either side there are good stands of hawthorn and dog rose which are favoured by goldfinch.


Down nearer the river embankment it gets easier to see the marsh frogs that are calling everywhere. Most of the time I kick them up out of the grass bordering the ditches and they jump back into the water and disappear but with this one, I noticed it, before it noticed me.

Marsh Frog

I also picked up this female banded demoiselle.

Banded Demoiselle

The surrounding grazing marsh is alive with bird song, with skylarks being predominant.


My species list for the walk is as follows:
sandwich tern 3, common tern 2, cettis warbler 4, sedge warbler 2, reed warbler 10, hobby 2, reed bunting 4, turtle dove 1, whitethroat 1, stonechat 1, pomarine skua 1 immature, holly blue 4, common blue 20, green-veined white 3, small white 4, small heath 3, four-spotted chaser 4, azure damselfly, blue-tailed damselfly, hairy dragonfly 1 and banded demoiselle 1. There was also plenty of evidence of water voles but I didn't see any.

Longfield Moths

Ran my mv trap again last night and managed to draw in a handful of moths including some nice ones.

Common Wainscott

Buff Tip

Close up of the scales of Buff Tip

Flame Shoulder

Totals for the night were, 1 buff tip, 1 flame shoulder, 1 common wainscott, 1 pale oak beauty, 1 bright-line brown eye, 1 marbled minor/tawny marbled minor and 1 heart and dart.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Longfield - Chalk Bank

I'm lucky to have this small KWT reserve almost on my doorstep although it is a shame to see how some of the locals treat it. It is home to a small plant called grey mouse-ear which whilst common and unthreatened in Europe only exists on 3 sites in the UK and only 1 in Kent, at Longfield. For me, the problem is that common mouse-ear also occurs on the reserve and the two are very alike, making identification tricky. Flowering in early May, i'll now have to wait until next year to have another go at seeing it.

Whilst overcast this morning it was warm and a few beasties were around, including a few day flying moth species one of which I was able to identify as burnet companion.

Burnet Companion

I have also managed to see slow worm here on a few occasions and luckily a female today. Females have these dark lines down the length of their bodies.

Slow Worm (female)

I then noticed this resting female common blue butterfly.

Common Blue (female)

A few birds around too with 2 blackcaps, 2 green woodpeckers, 1 great spotted woodpecker and 2 chiffchaffs.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008


Hedgehog Rescue. This evening whilst parking up the car I noticed a hedgehog curled up in the road a few houses down. Fearing the worst I went to have a look but it had started to wander across the road so I wrapped it up in my raincoat and then put it in my back garden giving it a feed of cat food.


Sunday, 25 May 2008


I'd been told about a site where there were good numbers of white helleborines in flower so as I was in the area I decided to take a look. This area of narrow country lanes looked fantastic and amongst a stand of sycamores was a group of beech trees and below these the helleborines. Late afternoon, little breeze and dappled sunlight through the canopy.

White Helleborine

On the roadside verge I noticed this large snail, certainly the largest snail I have seen in the UK. I've identified it as Helix pomatia the roman snail or edible snail. It is now protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, due to its numbers suffering serious decline. This is a big snail, as the penny hopefully helps to indicate.

Helix pomatia

Just by the car there was a set aside field and within it was this lovely brown hare just catching a few rays.

Brown Hare

Faversham Area

By the afternoon the heavy rain had subsided and I went looking for monkey orchid near Faversham. On arriving at the site I was dismayed to see a small herd of goats foraging where the orchids occur. Even though the man orchids and monkey orchids had been protected by mesh covers some had open tops and had been eaten! The meadow area did look excellent and hopefully this management strategy will pay dividends as long as the orchids can withstand it. There were around 20 monkey orchids and 3 man orchids.

Caged Monkey Orchids

Monkey Orchid

There were also 5 common blue and 2 brown argus butterflies, along with 3 blackcaps.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Trosley Country Park

An early morning trip to Trosley C.P. saw me there just after 7:30am. At this time it wasn't too windy and the odd sunny spell occurred. I headed through the woodland to the southern bank of the downs and started to look for orchids in the western section. There was a single man orchid and only 2 common spotted orchids in a place were normally I have seen up to 10. In the past couple of years I have also seen a single greater butterfly orchid here but this time no sign. There were still a few common twayblade and 4 white helleborine in flower and looking good. I decided to walk the length of the reserve along the downs. Apart from the 2 Dartmoor Ponies which I suspect might have nibbled the odd orchid I initially saw very little. I then noticed that a couple of reptile mats had been placed down and under the first one was a lovely female slow worm and under the second were 2 adders, certainly one being a female which quickly slithered off. The other adder was very small and could possibly have been born this year, not sure?
A bit of bird song around me but not much really. Blackcaps were the most evident with at least 6 a single whitethroat and chiffchaff. I finally managed to start seeing a few butterflies with the odd common blue and finally saw a total of 14 along with 1 peacock, 1 holly blue and a single dingy skipper, there was also a single female broad bodied chaser.
Back in the wood I found another couple of sets of reptile mats and managed to see a second female slow worm and then I stumbled upon a beautiful male adder basking on a tree trunk with his scales flattened to catch the most of the warming sun.

Holly Blue (female)

Adder (male)

With the ground being so dry and hard, I wondered if these holes in the wood chip path had been made by foraging badgers.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Stockbury Woods

After a quick cuppa and sausage sandwich at the excellent cafe at Brooklands Lake it was off to Stockbury Wood. Once again I was hopeful for an orchid fest from the several species that this site has to offer and I wasn't disappointed. I managed to see 3 lesser butterfly, 2 fly, 54 lady, 4 bird's-nest orchids and many common twayblade. Also in the same woodland are several man orchids but I couldn't find them this time and the early purple orchids had gone over.

Fly Orchid

Lesser Butterfly Orchid

I then learnt of another 4 bird's-nest orchids a few hundred yards south of Stockbury.

Bird's-nest Orchid

Longfield - Moths

MV trap run again last night. Still only a few moths but a couple of new ones for me in chocolate tip and sandy carpet.

Muslin Moth

Chocolate Tip

Sandy Carpet

Holborough Marshes

This is a great but small KWT reserve, in the Medway valley. It is the only place in Kent I know to reliably see early marsh orchid and at this time of year they should be in flower along with some of the early flowering southern marsh orchids and common spotted orchids also occur. There are usually some good clumps of ragged robin and flag iris and the buttercups are impressive too.

Southern Marsh Orchid

You do have to be careful at Holborough as there are not really pathways across the reserve and it would be all too easy to accidentally tread on a plant just coming up.
The best place I have found for early marsh orchid is in the south western part where I found a number of plants in a scattered group. The shot below is actually looking north east from the south western corner so probably not too much help. Not quite Marden Meadow but a rare plant in Kent.

Early Marsh Orchids

I had around 15 early marsh and 20 southern marsh orchids, 3 hairy dragonflies, many of blue-tailed damselfy, azure damselfly, large red damselfly. 3 green-veined whites, 4 large whites, 1 peacock, 3 common blue, 3 orange tip, seems to be a good year for these. Also 2 blackcaps, 1 cuckoo, 1 lesser whitethroat, 3 nightingales, 2 whitethroat, 1 sedge warbler, 4 house martins and 5 swifts.

Azure Damselfly

Large Red Damselfly

Common Blue

Orange Tip

Capea nemoralis, a common snail species but looks rather smart.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Denge Wood

I've never been to Denge Wood and Bonsai Bank which is now managed by the Forestry Commission, to look for Duke of Burgundy so today was the day. To be honest it didn't look too good. It was windy cold and not too sunny but I was optimistic. It's 50 miles from Longfield but in a lovely part of Kent, next to the Wye valley. I arrived around 10:30 and immediately loved the place as the beech woodland was looking great in the odd spot of sunshine. Bonsai bank wasn't hard to find but after an hour of wandering around and keeping to the paths I had only seen a few moth species and not a single butterfly but the lady orchids were superb. There were also a few speckled yellow moths on the wing.

Speckled Yellow

There was a lot of variation in the lady orchids including this white variant that i've never seen before.

Lady Orchid

Then there were a few darker flowered plants.

A group of the more typical looking flowers.

I also managed to find this one having the best looking flower spike and nicely flanked by spurge.

After a bit more searching I finally found my first duke of burgundy resting on some spurge and what a little cracker.

Duke of Burgundy (female)

Then another two in an area of bramble.

In total I managed to see 6 along with large white, holly blue and brimstone.

On the way back to the car on the track I bumped into this lovely beastie a glow worm larva.

Glow Worm (larva)

Also saw 3 early purple orchids although they had gone over, a few white helleborines and there were some excellent groups of red campion. A few birds around too with 1 garden warbler, 2 blackcaps, 1 goldcrest, 1 bullfinch and 1 great spotted woodpecker.