Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Marbelous Darland Banks and Volunteering with Dragons

Last Sunday (21st) My mum and I went for a little jaunt with one of my school friends and her parents, to Darland Banks which is a Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT) reserve, in search of butterflies! They very kindly picked us up and off we went. It is a lovely area, chalkland hills and butterflies everywhere - was hard to believe the motorway was only a few minutes drive away! We were hoping to see marbled whites and adonis blues. For a while it seemed like the only flutterbyes around were meadow browns and gatekeepers but once the first marbled white had been spotted, there appeared to be plenty! They were particularly fond of the greater knapweed and the scabious which blanketed the ground. Our insect friends didn't mind us scrabbling around trying to get decent angles to photograph them either!

We also saw five-spot and six-spot burnet moths, which when in flight look fantastic. They look equally, if not more impressive when you see them feeding on the various purple flowers!

Six-spot burnet sharing this one greater knapweed flower with a red-tailed bumble-bee

Most of the pyramidal orchids had finished but in the shade of the hedgerow were a couple of fine specimens.

Any ideas on this flower sp? I thought some type of vetch but no orangey ones in my book other than the yellowy-organe birds foot trefoil but don't think this is bft?
Moth experts - help....

The marbled whites were so near the edge of the path that Caz's dad (Phil) and myself were ushered to the front of our single file path so that we could get some more shots of the very accommodating butterflies.

Amongst the brown coloured butterflies, we noticed a few darker brown ones... Ringlets! I had never seen them before so that was an unexpected delight. They rarely settle so when this beauty was spotted, Phil and I spent a little while trying to get a good photo. It had chosen a leaf to rest on that was far from easy to get a clear shot, so these are my best attempts!

We made our way back to the car and drove a little way to Queendown Warren which is another KWT site. It was quite hidden away so driver (Phil) and navigator (Caz's mum - Judith) did well! We arrived, walked along a little way and found a spot to have a cup of coffee from our flasks. Phil noticed a blue butterfly - possibly an adonis blue so we followed it for a bit, hoping it would settle but soon we lost sight of it and didn't see it again. I had to get home for work, so we made our way back to the car. One last six-spot burnet saw us off the premises. A wonderful walk catching up with one of my besties and scrabbling around trying to get photos of lovely insects with someone else! 

 Monday (22nd) brought another early morning and a few hours of volunteering. The Monday before saw me kicking myself for not taking my camera. Said kicking was because the emperors and the chasers were out in force. This didn't seem to matter though because I wasn't silly enough to leave my camera behind this time (with memory card inserted - another vital component which on several occasions I have left in my laptop). Once again the daddy of our UK dragons - the emperor dragonfly could be seen patrolling both of the year old ponds. Every now and again an imposter would swing by and there would be dragonfly equivalent of a punch up. I spent a while at lunch time trying (being the key word) to get some in flight shots of this impressive member of the Aeshnidae family of insects.

My best attempt!

 Thankfully the male broad bodied chaser was also still around the area. It was continuing to use the sticks which Kevin placed at the edge of the ponds to perch on and warm up. I managed to get pretty darn close and could see its gorgeous blue body pulsate! The female popped to the pond occasionally but unfortunately wasn't laying eggs in her endearing manner, as she was last week.

 After we had spent a few long hours pulling/scything dock and thistle and raking up the cuttings Kevin and I spent 15 minutes or so waiting for the emperor to take a well deserved rest. He did eventually and I was sat in the perfect position :)

 This cheeky looking azure damselfly perched effortlessly on a blade of grass approximately 1 metre from me and I am quite pleased with this photo :)

I'll finish my post with a few photos of a rather dramatic sky from last Wednesday... Then I shall be nearly up to date :) Thanks to all you lot who keep reading even though I haven't got round to replying to comments and reading your blogs!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Backlog numero 2

So far behind! The last week or so has been filled with the usual dog walks, volunteering, pub work and catching up with friends. All time consuming, but lovely activities (well apart from working at the pub, which is anything but lovely!). Anyway I'm going to cut to the chase, here are some photos from last week and I'll narrate using the caption facility under each photo :)
18th July
What is this?! It resides on a tansy plant which has also been invaded by black fly that are being farmed by ants...

Usually I would try and ID hoverflies but I couldn't see it's pattern from above so I am clueless about this one!

Wild raspberry picking on a sunny afternoon walk. Bracken now stops every time we go past this point, waiting for his mid-walk fruity treat to be picked and fed to him. He has learnt (clever dog) that we have the same plant in the garden and often tries to pick them himself. Mum - not impressed!


His/her white comma mark clearly noticable!

Mad dog back to his usual self :)

Common mallow and poppies against the corn which is just turning and the local village church :)

 19th July

Agapanthus just emerging

Lilies ready to burst forth and bring beautiful sweet scents to our garden!

Last Friday (19th) I thought I'd take mum to Stalisfield where I had been situated for a fair bit of volling for KWT. We stopped off on route along the lovely road which passes through this gorgeous dappled woodland.

Fab view across the valley

Not sure of this flower? Anyone any idea?
I had also wanted to go with mum so she could see the broad bodied chasers that we saw near the ponds. We were disappointed that they seemed to have moved on. All was redeemed when we were surprised by a hare, who we had sadly disturbed. I forget how huge they are and how fast they run! Wonderful sight! We also saw a warbler of some description with some juveniles, however they weren't playing ball and I couldn't get a decent look. We also saw a marbled white butterfly which was a treat as the last one I saw was down at dungeness last year or the year before!

Anyway we headed back to the car and briefly hung around the ponds. No luck, then as we were just leaving a male broad bodied chased zoomed our way and perched on a twig in the hedges!! Great!! I didn't get a very good photo though so won't include it.

Nearly caught up now... the next post will be about the wonderful day I had on Sunday and the dragons that I saw on Monday!

Monday, 22 July 2013


All this hot sunny weather means I have been busier than usual... lots of photos and not enough time to sort through them and blog. Or read any other blogs for that matter, so sorry about that! This week is going to be busy too so will try and do a few short ones to catch up!

I took this set of photos on Thursday 11th. My mum and I went along to someone's house that my mum knows from her art class. At the end of the term they usually have a food and painting evening, and I am invited too because I have been to art with mum occasionally. There wasn't much painting done and instead quite a lot of eating took place. I took my camera because although I like painting, I'm not very good and I get frustrated too easily. They have a beautiful garden so I wandered around trying to capture a few of the pretty flowers in the evening sunshine.

Black-tipped soldier beetle

They have a wonderful terraced area near the end of their garden with a little cabin bit where they sit and paint. How lucky they are! Even their own poly tunnel for home grown veg!

Scaeva pyrastri

In this wonderful heatwave I have been sitting out in the garden quite a bit, often whilst being bothered by Bracken to throw his toy. Heaven knows why he enjoys running around getting too hot and puffed out! It is safe to say he has 100% recovered from his op! Last week I noticed this little spider tightrope scuttling across the washing line... some species of zebra spider I do believe.

Zebra spider species?

Crinkly poppy
There have also been a fair few moths around in this warm humid weather, a few have ventured indoors.... Not too sure on IDs and frankly right now I'm too warm and can't be bothered to trawl through moth books to find out. If anyone (CT or Ragged Robin or any other moth experts) would like to comment and tell me what they are I would be very grateful :) Also apologies for the awful photos of the second one, caught in a glass with pup barking because he wanted to eat said moth and tired!

Some species of wave?!

Some type of plumed micro moth?!

Right I have made some headway so will leave you with these for a day or two whilst I write up the next lot and try and catch up with everyone else's blogs :) Stay tuned for some weird fury white bugs and some pretty butterflies :)

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Fledglings and flowers

Forgive me, it has taken about 4 days to actually write this post! Various activities have been keeping me busy and for some reason blogger has been refusing to save or publish my post. Not sure whether my internet is playing up or blogger is. Either way it is frustrating! In the end I had to copy and paste the writing and photos into a new post and delete the old one. I do hate technology sometimes!

Anyway our hottest July since 2006 is upon us. I wonder if it will hold up?! Last weekend was a scorcher and most of it was spent in the garden and in the pub. Unfortunately for moi, I was the wrong side of the bar and serving pimms left right and centre. Torture!!

Friday consisted of breakfast in the early morning warmth, lunch in a lovely pub garden and... our pup having his manhood taken away!! The latter resulting in a very grumpy Bracken. Whilst pup wasn't having a very enjoyable morning, I was. Sat in the glorious sunshine, watching the housemartin chicks which I thought must be nearly ready to fledge. They were sticking their heads right out of the nest and when a parent returned to their cleverly crafted abode, the chicks would go crazy! Meanwhile in the nest a couple of metres along, another pair seem to be canoodling or possibly incubating? A bit late, I thought there was a pair doing their thing back in early June but nothing came of it. Hopefully this time they will be successful. Anyway they seemed to be having some sort of domestic because their were lots of bubbling and chattering noises and one appeared to be holding onto the other, keeping it from flying away from the nest. Interesting behaviour to observe.

With the sun dappling the garden flowers in speckles of light and the swifts screaming playfully through the garden, so low I could hear their wing beats, I thought; this is utter bliss! This is pretty much all my day consisted of, how lucky am I?! :)

Honeysuckle against a cloudless blue sky

Rose, petunia and lobelia in a lovely pot painted by my cousins for my mum

Hot lips - great name for a plant! (it is some variety of salvia I do believe)
 Friday evening I went to work and mum had to deal with Bracken being a weirdo. Even more than usual due to his brief time under anaesthetic.

Saturday morning and after breakfast al fresco we sat for a bit longer, enjoying the morning rays. To our delight we had the pleasure of watching the housemartin chicks fledge! It simply amazes me how they just take off and that's it. They can fly! I think they tooed and froed from the nest for the day, but by Sunday I think the parents were already preparing for their next brood! Throughout the day I took a few more photos of the garden flowers.

Female Bombus lucorum I think?!

Female bombus lucorum??


Pup looking sorry for himself


Valarian going to seed

By Sunday morning pup seemed to have got used to his cone collar. He also seemed more like himself so thought he would be up for a decent walk. We have to keep him on his lead for 10 days! We are already going a little crazy. Just so annoying that he can't be running around in the long grass and splashing around in the ditches as per. But it is to make sure his wound heals with no infection so we'll have to bear it for the time being.

Female scorpion fly

A rather rotund donkey :)

Beautiful poppy

 Before I went to work on Sunday evening we had a delicious roast and we ate our own home grown Kale :)

The glorious weather continued and on Monday I did some more voluntary work for Kent Wildlife Trust. The task in hand was... Ragwort management. All the other volunteers had warned me of this task. I rather enjoyed it though. I got a weird sense of satisfaction when I pulled up a hefty one with lots of root in tact. It seems odd to pull up plants that are the home of the cinnabar moth caterpillars but I was informed that if ragwort is not managed then there is a considerable fine for the charity.

In addition to the laborious task we also saw 4 broad bodied chasers near the newly created ponds! Very exciting because I had never knowingly seen one. Another new species for the day was a pyramidal orchid! I have never really looked for them but I was SO excited to see one! Thanks to Kevin, the warden who pointed out both the orchid and the chasers to me :) I was gutted to not have my camera with me, as the chasers were posing nicely on some wild roses!

Well folks, I hope you have all been enjoying our fine weather and enjoyed reading my post :)