Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Strawberries and Bitterns

Tower Pits - cool, cloudy, NE 3 - So much for "Flaming June". A fleece was required this morning, as indicated by a couple of hundred Swifts and House Martins hawking insects over ARC lake in the cool weather conditions.
  I continued on with the Cetti`s Warbler survey for RSPB, rummaging around the back of the pits and along the railway track, but all the while getting distracted, mostly by Bittern activity and eventually settled down for a couple of hours to wait and see, once the Cetti`s were mapped. I watched what I assumed to be a female bird fly to and fro between ARC and Tower with food; on one visit she landed in a reedbed to feed squawking nestlings with a wriggling Grass Snake clamped firmly in her beak! Half an hour later she was back with a bulging crop, probably of Marsh Frogs judging from how many thousands were `laughing` in the shallows.
  There was plenty of evidence of other breeding birds from singing Dabchick, Reed, Sedge and Cetti`s Warblers, Blackcap, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Cuckoo, Green Woodpecker, Linnet Reed Bunting and Song Thrush. Hobby, Marsh Harrier, Yellow Wagtail and two flyover Avocets were also noted.
  It appears to have been an exceptional year for flora across the Dungeness NNR; the sheer abundance of bi-annuals such as Foxgloves and Bugloss is quite staggering and with a third of the British wild flower species having been recorded across the shingle cuspate there`s certainly no shortage of identification challenges! Quite often I found myself stumbling along looking at an overwhelming carpet of herbage and taking pics of unidentified plants (of which there are many) for later analysis in Collins.

                                            Southern Marsh Orchid

  One of the pleasures of taking part in an `official` survey is that it is permissible to go off-piste, poking around in corners of the reserve that are normally off limits, and today was one such memorable occasion. Rounding a corner of sallows I wandered into a wide banjo-shaped inlet concealed within a thicket only to be confronted by a scene of wonder - the floor was carpeted in Wild Strawberry plants, hundreds, maybe thousands, in various stages of development, some still in flower and others with ripe berries; and made a mental note to recheck the site on a sunny day for Grizzled Skippers. I hadn't seen a sight like it since a kid when foraging in a Chiltern`s beech woods near our village; I remember picking a yogurt pot full of the tiny, woody but sweet fruits that day.

                                Wild Strawberries

  On the way home I called in at the Kerton Road Café to view the wild flower meadows, front and back, in full bloom. The Stinking Hawksbeard plants were also in particularly fine fettle, having prospered due to recent ground disturbance during construction work.

                                Stinking Hawksbeard

Lade - An evening wander over the local patch revealed a mixed flock of 50 House Martins and Swifts feeding over south lake in a keen northerly airflow. 

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