Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Pretty clouds of yellow and other lovely natural things

Recently a fair proportion of my time has been spent down at Oare Marshes for one Kent Wildlife Trust volunteer task or another. On Monday 5th August I joined in with some water vole monitoring as part of the Water for Wildlife project. We met at 8am and The project officer, Chloe, informed me of all the signs we were looking for to ascertain whether there were indeed water voles present. We used a map of all the dykes and ditches on the West flood and worked our way along. During the morning I stayed with one of the others until I felt confident I knew what I was looking for. It was a productive day, recording over 250 signs that the WVs were present! The things we were monitoring included feeding signs, droppings, latrines and burrows. Obviously, we were keeping an eye out for the elusive little critters, but the closest we got was a few large plops into the water and a 90% sure view of one. 

In addition to actually looking for signs of wildlife, we were completely surrounded by nature. Walking through the long grass towards the reed beds, we came across the brightly coloured wasp spider shown below. It was feasting on a moth of a similar size to itself and it looked so exotic. The stabilimentum is the prominent zigzag pattern in the web and although its function isn't completely clear, but there are a few ideas which if you are interested can be found on this website... Spiders: Argiope Bruennichi

We also had the privilege of watching dragonflies (some variety of hawker) emerge from their exuviae and hundreds of blue tailed damsleflies floating through the air, occasionally coming across a blade of grass and settling momentarily. Fabulous!

Wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi)


In the same afternoon I spent a little time watching the multitude of butterflies which were feeding on our buddleia. Small tortoiseshells, red admirals, peacocks and large whites all dancing around the beautiful purple source of nectar.
Large White

Peacock and a white-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum) sharing a buddleia flower
The lilies in our garden opened up on the morning of the 7th and looked glorious over the next week or so.

Perfect Lily

I once again spent the day volunteering with KWT at Oare on Thursday 8th. Our task for the day - more ragwort clearing. Before we had donned our gloves and got to work, one of the other volunteers noticed a yellow butterfly flit past. At first it was thought to be a brimstone but quickly this identification was corrected and it was indeed a CLOUDED YELLOW! I had never seen one before and was delighted to see this wonderful butterfly! I followed it around for a bit, but it was fairly reluctant to sit still for a photo shoot. Eventually it settled on a beautifully contrasting thistle flower and allowed a couple of snaps before it set off again. We were very happy to see there were actually quite a few of them around. Other wonderful things seen included a garden spider, a common or viviparous lizard, a garden pebble moth, several silver Y moths, yellow wags, common gulls, herons, little egrets, avocets and huge numbers of godwits on the East flood. All in all, another wonderful day in the great outdoors, pulling ragwort and observing insects, birds and reptiles on this diverse reserve.
Star of the show... Clouded Yellow

I realise this is quite out of focus, but I like it anyway! I love its face!

Araneus diadematus

Common lizard (Zootoca vivipara)

Garden Pebble moth I think... CT??
After pushing the muscles in my back to their limit, I spent the evening with a few of my friends, chilling at the beach and cooking yummy food on a home made barbecue (by Laura and Noah), composed of an old satellite dish and some hand chopped wood. Top marks for inventiveness!

The sun setting over the beach huts at Tankerton

Still so behind, thank you for reading and hopefully I will catch up soon! :)

Next post.... A day trip to France!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Saxon Shore Way

The Saxon Shore Way stretches roughly 160 miles from Gravesend (in North Kent) to Hastings (in East Sussex). The Kent County Council website states that "The Saxon Shore Way long distance walking route is named after the line of historic fortifications that defended the Kent coast at the end of the Roman era". It passes through a number of Sites of Special Scientific Interest and also several Nature Reserves. 

We are lucky enough to live within walking distance from one of the footpaths which joins up with this historic walking route and a couple of Sundays ago my mum and I decided to pack a picnic and walk the section from Graveney to The Sportsman in Seasalter. Bracken came along in the hope that it would tire him out and we would get a nice peaceful evening! The section we walked was about 4 miles and part of it featured in the recent channel 4 drama Southcliffe! We chose a great day to do the walk because it was a little bit cloudy with sunny spells, so pup didn't get too hot and bothered. We took plenty of water for him and a few tasty snacks that he could scoff while we ate our lunch. It was another occasion where we hadn't set out to see anything in particular and therefore whatever we saw was a delight to see! The Kent Wildlife Trust own part of this route and there are a number of sea birds, including common and black headed gulls and also little terns, which unfortunately were too far away to get a good photo of. Below are a selection of photos from the walk.  
Young swallow

Having a little rest after undertaking insect catching lessons

The creek which runs from Faversham into the Swale Estuary

One of the old barges alongside a bed of sea lavender

Bracken enjoying his super long walk!

An oystercatcher

3 individual photos stitched together to show the flight path of this oystercatcher from one post to another

The Shipwright's Arms - a pub my parents enjoyed taking me to when I was a wee nipper

The sea wall

Another photo of a happy Bracken

This dog must have springs in his feet! He leapt onto the wall effortlessly, which, as you can probably tell is about twice his height! He obviously thought that by trotting (often bounding!!) along the wall it made him king of the castle!

Any idea on this daisy plant? I thought it might be oxeye... but does that grow on the beach?!
Edit: Corn chamomile - Thank you to Suzie :)

Painted Lady

Such symmetrical beauty!
Thanks to the regular readers and those who comment and also to anyone who pops by for a gander at the photos :) all very much appreciated!

Next post will showcase the fluttery, leggy things I've seen recently whilst out volunteering :)

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Garden Inhabitants, Dog Walks and Oare Marshes

While the sun has been shining, I have been inundated with opportunities for taking photos! Especially of little insects which love the warm (usually unheard of) conditions this summer!

On the 1st day of August it was my Auntie's Birthday. I took a few hoverfly pics in the morning, then we went for a scrummy lunch in Canterbury in the searing heat. Then a late evening dog walk to avoid the intense heat. He thought he would pretend to be a pig and wallow in one of the only puddles around to cool off. He full on rolled in it. Yucky stagnant watery sludge. How delightful. Nose to tail smothered in vile smelling mud and boy did he pleased with himself. Not so smug when we had to wash him when we returned. Mum and I resorted to tipping bowlfuls of water over him out the front of the house.

Episyrphus balteatus commonly found in gardens and here seems to be enjoying our lovely Tansy plant (Tanacetum vulgare)

Is that a grin on your face young Bracken?!

On the 2nd day of August mum went to water the plants. It was early morning and this moth made a wise choice clinging to the wall. CT am I right in thinking this is a silver Y?? I also had one on my bedroom wall last night so they must be quite prevalent around here! You will also be pleased to know that on Sunday night I saved a huge moth from the horrible fly fryer in the pub kitchen. While my boss stood waiting for me to leave so he could lock the doors, I was jumping around trying to gently catch the moth in my hands to release it outside. Not sure what it was, but guessing it was some kind of hawk moth!

Silver Y

Buddleia in the morning sunlight

The individual flowers of the agapanthus are almost all out now. I thought it looked pretty with the highlighted spider spindly web

Worker honey bee (Apis mellifera) on the Tansy plant

Another species of hoverfly - Sphaerophoria scripta

Male house sparrow looking rather inquisitive

In the afternoon of the 2nd we made an impromptu trip to Oare. After first having a drink in the Three Mariners and Lunch in the Castle due to the former being fully booked for lunch, we drove the short distance to the Kent Wildlife Trust reserve and took a wander around. Lots of nice boats and barges which kept my Dad entertained. Lots of bugs and birds which Mum and I enjoyed. All happy!

Not sure of this species...
Edit: Wild carrot (Thank you Brian)
Ruddy darter - male

Hundreds of godwits, a couple of avocets and a scattering of coots

Sea lavender in the foreground. On the other side of the creek is the saxon shore way - a route we walked on the 4th day of August ... separate blog post to follow.

Does anyone have a clue what this red stuff is on the rose leaves? Some sort of parasite or fungi or disease???

Big spider alert.... a funnel weaver which is a member of the Agelenidae family

Agelena labyrinthica

Summer plumage golden plovers, avocets, black headed gulls and a lapwing all on one little island

Thank you to everyone who reads and comments, much appreciated. My next post will have photos of our 5 hour long walk along the saxon shore way and news on recent KWT volunteering :)