Saturday, 26 July 2008

Longfield - Moths

For me there is always a risk of catching the same moths again running the trap on consecutive nights but with such hot weather I had to try so I waited until a little later in the night before switching the lamp on and managed to get a few different species this time.
Brown tail 1, riband wave 4, brimstone 3, Endotrichia flammealis 1, dark arches 3, bright-line brown eye 1, brown line bright eye 1, marbled beauty 1, garden carpet 1, common rustic 1, least carpet 1, uncertain 1, the coronet 1, square-spot rustic 1.

Brown-line Bright Eye, not to be confused with Bright-line Brown Eye!

Marbled Beauty

The Coronet

Friday, 25 July 2008

Queendown Warren

It had warmed up quite a bit when I arrived at Queendown Warren this morning. There were good numbers of butterflies in evidence mainly meadow browns and gatekeepers, they seemed to be everywhere. A quick look for adders revealed none in the usual spots but given the heat I was being optimistic but you never know. The top ride in Potters Wood had a good display of wild flowers and the couple of buddleia bushes there had around 10 peacocks feeding on them along with commas and more meadow browns. At the base of the beech trees you can find another orchid species called broad-leaved helleborine which does have very attractive flowers.
Broad-leaved Helleborine

Ride through Potters Wood with mullein sp. which I should have taken more notice of because I cannot identify it.

Thanks to Greenie, i've taken a little more time to check my other photos and have come to the conclusion that it is twiggy mullein an introduced species, mainly as the flowers are in clusters.

Loads of butterflies on the main chalk bank including the odd Essex skipper.

A couple of chalkhill blues were zooming around and also plenty of marbled whites and I couldn't resist this one on knapweed.
Marbled White

Longfield - Moths

Been away for a few days in the Bay Of Biscay performing a marine mammal survey and whilst the sea state wasn't that kind we did manage to see over 40 rorqual blows including 9 positively identified fin whales. Fin whales are the second largest animal on the planet after blue whale and usually the bay holds very good numbers during the summer that you can see from either the P&O ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao or the Brittany ferry from Plymouth to Santander. Anyway back nearer home, I managed to get the moth trap running last night and a good selection this morning of mostly the smaller micro moth species, so plenty of Latin names to get to grips with!

Mother of pearl 1, riband wave 5, Silver Y 1 (I tend to relate autumn to the emergence of these moths as they are a continental migrant during September and October), Crambus pascuella 2, bright-line brown eye 4, Phlyctaenia coronata 2, least minor 1, common rustic 2, Chrysoteuchia culmella 1, dark arches 2, flame shoulder 1, uncertain 1, rustic 1, least carpet 1, willow beauty 1, heart & dart 1, pale mottled willow 1, common footman 1, large yellow underwing 2.
Flame Shoulder

Phlyctaenia coronata

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Longfield - Moths

Another good night in the moth trap. Least carpet 1, common footman 1, Crambus pascuella 3, brown tail 1, riband wave 1, elephant hawk moth 2 (my best year for this lovely moth), rustic 1, lychnis 1, Phlyctaenia coronata 1, smoky wainscott 1, dark arches 1, heart & dart 1, least minor 1.

Elephant Hawk Moth

Saturday, 12 July 2008


My wife Lisa, has just finished an ITEC aromatherapy massage course, so we went to Castle Farm near Eynsford, where this weekend they have one of their open events were you can visit and get an insite into the production of the essential oils produced from lavender and a few other plant species. The lavender fields looked great and the acreage in Kent used for lavender production is the largest in the UK. I thought that all varieties of lavender were good for insects but you need to be careful as one variety is not attractive to insects. To be sure of attracting insects to your lavender plants be sure that you get Lavandula angustifolia. The picture below is a field of this type and not only bees and hoverflies loved it but also common blue damselfly and a fantastic male banded demoiselle.

I've taken an extract of info from the Castle Farm website:
'Castle Farm is one of the biggest lavender growers in the UK, producing pure lavender and lavandin oils, as well as rosemary and German chamomile. The lavender is grown on south or west facing slopes in the Darenth Valley and the varieties are harvested in sequence when they are in full bloom from mid-July to early August. The stems are cut by machine and immediately taken to the farm's 'still' where, over the next few hours, the oil is extracted by steam distillation. The pure oil is then stored for at least 6 months to mature before sale. Lavender water for ironing and scenting clothes is a by- product of the distillation process.'
Running through Eynsford on the way to Sevenoaks is the busy A225 with the traffic generally motoring past at high speed. Little do the occupants know that along the roadside verges is some great wildlife. Groups of Pyramidal orchids are still in flower looking stunning and amongst them are small skippers, meadow browns, ringlets and this unexpected marbled white.
Marbled White

There is also one incredible plant in the local area and I think this is possibly now the only place in Kent where it occurs. It has taken me a bit of time to research where it is but today I managed to find the right place. Below are a couple of shots of green-flowered helleborine, a species of orchid that is nationally scarce and certainly very rare in Kent. In this area I managed to see at least 30 plants.

Doesn't look much does it? The plant is able to self fertilise and is sometime able to perform cleistogamous (fertilisation occurring in the unopened flower). Now I'm hoping that in a week or so some of the flowers might have opened to allow me to get a photo.

This clump of plants were being used by red ants 'farming' aphids, and looked a little worse for wear but I liked the insect plant association.
I must admit to being quite excited about seeing these plants, once again being so close to home.

Friday, 11 July 2008


Spent the morning at the Kent County Show helping out at the Kent Mammal Group stand. At £17.00 for adult entry I think it has to be one of those events were you only really go if you have a specific purchase in mind especially as most of the supplier stands were offering show discounts. A lot of effort had gone into setting up the KMG stand and I think it looked really good.

The enthusiasm of visitors to the stand was contagious and with a large map of Kent at the back of the stand we were able to obtain a lot of casual mammal sighting records, some of which will certainly help with the forthcoming new Kent mammal atlas. It was interesting to note that many people commented on the scarcity of hedgehogs whereas some locations in Kent seemed to be just bristling with mammals.

Some of our stars had to be enticed out of their hiding places, here Hazel Ryan gives a field vole some gentle encouragement mind you the wood mouse next door was also fast asleep.

Not the harvest mouse though, such a small and cute beastie with a wonderful prehensile tail. This chap was definitely the star performer of the morning.

If you do head off to the show please drop in to the wildlife area and say hello to the folks manning the Kent Mammal Group stand. They'll be pleased to see you.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Longfield - Moths

A good variety of moths last night. Pale mottled willow 1, riband wave 4, burnished brass 1, elephant hawk moth 1, shuttle shaped dart 1, heart and dart 3, heart and club 4, garden carpet 1, buff ermine 2, common footman4, rustic 3, least carpet 1, willow beauty 1, dark arches 3, bright-line brown eye 1, single-dotted wave 1 and a species of micro moth in the pyralid group call Chrysoteuchia culmella 4.
Burnished Brass. One of my favourites.

Heart and Club

Buff Ermine, so called because of the furry ermine like hair on the thorax. This one is a male because of the feathered antennea.

This one is a female with the unfeathered antennea.

Friday, 4 July 2008


Not wishing to sound like a scratched record but I haven't been to Sandwich for around 15 years. I 'd been following the weather all week and Friday still looked the best day to allow me to try and see marsh helleborine for the first time. I didn't set out from Longfield until midday and whilst packing up the car I had a hummingbird hawk moth feeding on the red valerian in the front garden, nice start. It was 62 miles and £6.00 toll to enter the private Sandwich estate but I finally arrived at the field studies centre shortly after 13:00. The staff there could not have been more helpful and I also bumped into an old birding friend Ian Hodgson who is now the site manager. I followed a couple of the bird ringers to one of sites for the helleborines and it wasn't long before I was happily snapping away. The display of orchids was amazing, I think I had hit it just right for the helleborines and there had also been an incredible show of southern marsh orchids probably only a week earlier but most of them were now over although the odd good flower still existed. A few ragged robin were still in flower.

Marsh Helleborine, only part of the amazing floral display.

Southern Marsh Orchid. These appeared in good sized clusters and when at their prime must have looked amazing.

Southern Marsh Orchid

Needless to say with all this excellent meadow habitat and sunshine, insects were out in force. In fact I think this has to be my best butterfly encounter to date this year. Wherever you looked there were butterflies on the wing marbled white, large white, small white, meadow brown, ringlet, small copper, small skipper, Essex skipper, small heath and large skipper. I also found this six-spot burnet moth feeding on some tufted vetch. I'd never noticed before the amazing antennae, they remind me of the horns of the old western long-horn cattle.
Six-spot Burnet Moth

Marbled White

Small Copper. I was particularly pleased to see up to 4 of these as I do have trouble finding them now in north west Kent.

On returning to the field studies centre for a celebration cup of tea, I was told about the scarce chaser dragonfly that you can also see in the area. So from the centre, I wandered down to the river and it wasn't too long before I started to see some dragonflies. This is where a digital camera comes in handy because when you are not sure what you might be seeing having a few photos can help with identification after the event. I ended up seeing two males both with blue abdomens holding territories that were close to each other, in fact as soon as one was on the wing the other would shoot out and grapple with it before both returned to their respective perches. I was lucky in that I managed to get photos of both. The first one is a male black-tailed skimmer which does look a lot like a scarce chaser. However if you look closely at the base of the wings where they join the thorax there are no dark markings i.e. the wings are clear.
Black-tailed Skimmer

Scarce Chaser. On the hind wings you can see a dark patch at the base of the wings where they join the thorax. To me the abdomen also looks shorter and slightly broader with the black tip not extending as far up.

I believe that there are only 3 sites in Kent where you can see scarce chaser and from what I heard at Sandwich the species is doing very well there.
Given it was quite windy, sunny, the afternoon and July, I did manage to see a few birds amongst which hobby 1, marsh harrier 1 and peregrine 1 were noteable.
So what a great afternoon, a new species of orchid and dragonfly for me, along with yet another excellent wildlife experience.