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
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.
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.