Thursday, 30 April 2009

April Roundup

A different blog approach for me, with an April roundup of images and narrative, just so I can spend less time in front of the PC and more time out in the field.

In early April, I decided to try and look for some wild daffodils, never having really given them a second thought before. I have a copy of the Atlas of Kent Flora, which I was given a long time ago and checking out the dots on the appropriate map it looked like there is a site quite close to Longfield. A check on on O/S map for a suitable looking woodland and before I knew it I had arrived at Cobham Woods and got lost wandering about the various tracks. I did find some daffodils in the woodland but they looked very cultivated to me and I started to give up hope. I was on my way back to the car having now wandered around for a couple of miles and by this time had forgotten about any daffodils when suddenly I noticed four right by the side of the path and they just had to be the wild variety.

I was quite excited by the find as my investigation and ability to look for suitable woodland habitat had paid off. Generally wild daffodils have a greyish cast to the petals which are very upright and not so tall as the cultivated varieties, so fingers crossed I got it right.

The next day, Lisa and I returned just for a local wander through the same woodland which also backs onto Ranscombe Farm. What should I then find on the walk but loads of wild daffodils in reasonably large groups and I hadn't taken my camera! Oh well at least I know where to go now and it is a local site for me, something for next year.

From Cobham village the main track into the woods had a good hedge of blackthorn which in early April was in full bloom and on a sunny day attracted this peacock.

A little bit of damage on one of the hind wings but otherwise a stunner and in my opinion one of the best European butterflies.

Although I have been putting my moth trap out on a few nights during the month, I haven't really been having that much success, only catching a handful of moths. One of the nicest looking catches was the herald.

This common moth is one of the few species in the UK that overwinters as an adult. During the day it tends to favour resting in dead leaves.
For the regulars to my blog, they know that I visit the Kent Wildlife Trust reserve at Queendown Warren quite a lot. The reserve has a very good flora, especially orchids and one of the first orchid species to come into flower there is the early spider.

The population of early spiders on the reserve is quite small, I've probably only seen maybe a dozen at the most in some years and they tend to be very small plants, certainly compared to those that occur at Samphire Hoe. It is always a challenge to try and find them even if you know the spots where they occur and no matter how often I see them I always find the delicate flower heads just amazing. The orchid in the photo above had its flower head facing upward rather than parallel with the stem which made it ideal to try and photograph. I went back to look for the same plant in late April and found that the stem had been nibbled and broken and the flower head had lost its colour. This had probably been done by one of the local rabbits but you cannot be mad at them as they do a good job in keeping the grass low on the chalk bank where the plants occur. If the grass and invasive/aggressive plants took a hold then the wonderful plant diversity wouldn't exist.
I also cannot mention Queendown without another pic of an adder, this one a male, catching the suns warmth.

By the end of the month the adders I had been regularly seeing there had dispersed as on a couple of trips I couldn't find one in the usual places. The dispersal of the males and females is a usual event but generally occurs a little later in the spring, maybe the warmer April days had encouraged them to move on earlier.
On my last visit to Queendown in late April I wanted to try and get some photos of green hairstreak as I've found this site to be excellent for getting very good close up views of them. In fact I've challenged myself to get a close up shot of one with a 60mm macro lens but haven't quite managed it yet. An early morning walk through the brambles in Potters Wood resulted in a couple of green-veined whites, one of which posed nicely.

I then moved onto the main bank and in the sunshine it wasn't too long before I noticed a green hairstreak feeding on the common milkwort.

I think these small butterflies are full of character, with their black and white banded antennae and white furry bodies contrasting with the iridescent green on the wings.

Well that was it for April, it is now May 1st and I should be going out soon.


Warren Baker said...

Ah! So you are still out there John, and been busy by the looks of it. Great photo's,

Greenie said...

John ,
Good to hear from you again .
Re. the Adders , they seem to have dispersed and mated very early this year , much earlier than last year's warm Spring . Your male is in full breeding colours , apparently a hormone thing changes thier colour if a female , ready to mate is in the area . This is why , if combat is witnessed , it is always between silver/black animals .

Simon said...

Some Brilliant photos John. I particularly like the shots of the Peacock on the Blackthorn.

I too popped to Queensdown a few times this April looking mainly for Adder...saw quite a few females but no males - there are Adders in Mote Park but I haven't yet had the opportunity to photograph them.

Greenie said...

John ,
Forgot to mention that I think the few smaller Early Spider Orchids at Queendown Warren are much nicer plants than the robust specimens , found in their thousands at Samphire Hoe .

Anonymous said...

I am another impressed by your photos of the Peacock on Blackthorn - a tricky exposure to make, I'd imagine. Nice one.

Kelly said... the second Peacock butterfly on the white blossoms. The contrast is beautiful.