Sunday, 12 July 2009

Trosley Country Park

Despite the reasonably strong wind the sunny weather (and all of Greenies excellent butterfly posts) found me at Trosley Country Park over lunchtime. I checked out the ride where I have seen violet helleborine in the past and there are at least 6 good plants that I reckon in a week or so will looking their best. On the sunny south facing slopes above Trottiscliffe chalk hill blues (30) were out in force along with meadow browns(40), ringlets (20), gatekeepers(5) and small (4) and large whites (8). I then saw what I'm sure was a white admiral flying up the slope along the edge of a bramble hedge toward the wood at the top. A first for me at Trosley and I'm not sure whether they do actually occur there. Back in the woods and walking to the cafe I heard around 3 crossbills but couldn't see them, not until a hot brew and bakewell tart were being enjoyed did a further 3 crossbills fly across the car park clearing. Walking back to the car I noticed a small female type adder curled up next to some refugia. All in all a great couple of hours.

Also had an adult Med gull flying over Longfield yesterday, they seem to be getting more frequent in the area.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Longfield - Garden

On Friday I noticed my first hummingbird hawk moth of the year feeding on the valerian and also had a hornet inspect the lounge and then return back to the garden via the open patio doors. I think we passed inspection. Not something I see very often but always an impressive insect.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

June Round Up

The month started off with a visit to Jeskyns where I went for a wander around the orchard an area that I had not visited before. I had a number of small heath butterflies along one of the paths but my attention was drawn to the calls of up to 6 Mediterranean gulls circling overhead and then drifting off west before returning again. I thought to myself that it wouldn't be long before I started to see them over Longfield. Well I didn't have long to wait, in fact early the next morning (2nd June) I had two adults circling over my garden calling and this then occurred regularly for the rest of that week and then none since. When I lived in Hampshire, I can remember when Med gull was something of a scarcity, although they had already started to breed in the county albeit in very small numbers. I saw my first one at Fareham Creek and marvelled at how David Billet the warden of Farlington Marshes was able to pick one up by call one day. Back in Longfield that same morning I heard a turtle dove calling from the garden, so two garden ticks in one morning, nice.

For once, just slightly outside of the county, I went across the Bay of Biscay mid month as team leader for a whale and dolphin survey on behalf of Organisation Cetacea, a charity I volunteer for. The surveys are great as we have access to the bridge of the Pont Avon, the commercial passenger ferry that runs from Plymouth to Santander in north Spain and then back to Portsmouth. We had very calm sea states for the whole crossing and whilst seeing 5 species of cetacean I would have expected to see more given the calm seas. However we did have an amazing encounter with a super pod of common dolphins of around 1,000 animals with some groups of 20-30 coming into the bow of the vessel. I managed to get a shot of 2 out of the 1,000.

Common Dolphin

I know of two locations in Kent where you stand a chance of seeing meadow clary an interesting looking plant of chalk downland and overgrown grassy verges. Some UK range maps of the species do not even show Kent as having any plants and I know that at one site a couple of years ago flowering plants were dug up. Its name comes from 'clear-eye', and an infusion was traditionally used as an eye-wash, particularly in the days when smoke from indoor fires made the eyes smart.
Meadow Clary

I remember that about 3 years ago was the summer of the bee orchid, they seemed to appear in large numbers in locations where normally only a few emerged. This year, I must admit to having struggled to find that many. However there is an amazing roadside orchid experience that can be had near Tyland Barn on the A229 and this year the spectacle of common spotted orchids was amazing and whilst checking this out I came across small numbers of bee orchids and it started raining. To the passing traffic, I must have looked an odd sight on the roadside, bent down, bottom in the air in the pouring rain....but what a wonderful looking flower.
Bee Orchid

A very similar looking orchid and member of the Ophrys group is the late spider orchid, a rare UK orchid species, whose origins in Kent are unknown. However in the east of the county a small population occurs and I had almost left it too late in the month to visit the site.
Late Spider Orchid

The small populations are protected by cages to try and keep rabbits from taking a nibble, looks to me like plant prison.

I've started to build up a portfolio of photos for submission to an agency and looking at their submission guidelines I've discovered that a lot of my older photos are not up to spec. Luckily my new camera purchased earlier in the year just reaches the minimum pixel size required and this has meant that I've had to re-visit a number of locations to try and build up a collection of stock shots. One thing on my hit list was field poppy and as I was driving around the county I kept on the lookout for any red fields of poppies. Eventually I found some probably the best fields I had ever seen, my problem was that getting too them wasn't going to be easy. The best route was a non starter, a footpath from a church carpark would have taken me straight to the site within minutes but a wedding had filled the car park and being in a village with narrow lanes there was no other safe place to park up. Eventually I found a small pull in and another footpath in a village a mile or so away and yomped back to the poppy fields in the June heat. It was worth it, what a sight, I'm not sure what the original crop was as it was hard to make out given the number of poppies, just stunning.
Field Poppy

When I can, I continue to wander around the local area and it was this time last year that I discovered a Kent Wildlife Trust roadside nature reserve near Longfield railway station. To my amazement the bank next to the road contained many pyramidal orchids although by the time I discovered this they had gone over. This year I kept going back checking on the status of the orchids and eventually got a count of 556 plants, just incredible and only 5 minutes from my front door, how lucky is that! Opposite the main bank on the other side of the road is an area of grass that has been left to grow and looks to be turning into a verge side meadow, and I thought there had to be more pyramidal orchids in there somewhere. One morning I decided to check it out and sure enough a few pyramidal orchids where hiding within the tall grass but to my astonishment I found over 20 bee orchids and not just small ones, these boys had between 6-8 flowers on them and were over foot tall. I now have 5 species of orchid that I can easily see within walking distance of my house, just cannot believe it.
The roadside verge nature reserve, pyramidal orchids on the left, bee orchids on the right!
Bee Orchid - Longfield

I have managed to get a bit of mothing under the belt as well adding a few new species to the garden moth list including this excellent beastie called peach blossom. I think the patterning reminds me of some mid seventies curtain material, sorry mum!
Peach Blossom

This one is a local rarity that I tend to catch maybe once every 3 years called small ranunculus. At one time it had been considered extinct for 50 years and then started to turn up in a few localities in Essex and Kent with one of them being Gravesend.
Small Ranunculus

I have a lot of ivy in my garden so it is no real surprise that I catch this beautiful moth called swallowtail as ivy is their preferred food plant.
Swallowtail Moth

Early one morning I decided to visit Lullingstone Country Park to check out the dark green fritillary butterflies and orchid situation. Whilst the fragrant orchids had gone over there were many dark green fritillaries on the wing and I was able to locate two mating individuals at the base of some long grass. They allowed me to get very close, in fact by moving slowly I was able to get close enough to start taking photos using my macro lens and at one point was able to get below the pair to give the odd 'stained glass window' shot.
Dark Green Fritillary

The 'stained glass window' shot.