Kent June 2012

Saturday 9th June

Two years since our last trip to Kent when we stayed at Acorn Barn near Bilsington. As there were so many hares within easy reach of the camera we decided to visit again. Should be interesting to see what has changed.

We set off on Saturday planning to stop at Rainham Marshes (RSPB) on the way down as it was just off our route. Weather wasn’t too bad but we had seen the forecast for the next week – not promising! Gales and rain and lots of both. Interesting place though – a bit too windy for many birds to fly but we managed to spot several egrets amongst the reeds. Plenty of marsh frogs also – heard but not many seen! There were a couple of red admirals also.

After the usual shopping for provisions for the week ahead we arrived at Acorn Barn to sunshine. Everything looked the same at the barn and we got a friendly greeting from the owners. We did notice a huge new housing development near the Tesco in Ashford which wasn’t there in 2010! During the week we found quite a few housing developments where there used to be fields or countryside. Whatever happened to our green and pleasant land?

Evening sun brought the chance to take some pictures of the view from the barn as well as the hares – there was even one on the drive to welcome us!

Sunday 10th June

We planned to visit Dungeness today as the forecast wasn’t too bad. However as there had been so much rain all the water levels were very high and there was no space for waders. For the first time ever we visited the hides but they were all empty – nothing to see. We did find a group of people waiting for the purple heron (had been there hours with no success) but having not seen anything we made our way back. Made the wrong decision and decide to take the long walk back to the visitor centre – rain arrived on a day which was forecast to be dry and we got soaked! Still a nice day – still windy though. Made our way back to the barn where the hares were still out in the field so managed to get some more shots of them. I made it my mission to take pictures every morning and evening of the hares. A kestrel came and sat on the fence (had gone before I got the camera) and there were several thrushes around also. Butterflies today – red admiral and a few green veined whites. Think it is too cold and damp for our usual species to be flying.

Monday 11th June

We were going to revisit Dungeness but as the forecast was wet decided to go to Wingham Wildlife Park – made a pleasant change to see overseas animals – meerkats, lemurs, lions and tigers. However it was a lovely warm day with no rain. So we know that this week is going to be difficult to gauge the weather! More hares before breakfast and after dinner today again. More in the sunshine and pictures seem to get better each day! Guess they are getting more used to this strange man with a big lens being around. Kestrel visited again too. We took a short drive out to the military canal and some pictures of a lovely sky over it before coming back home.

Tuesday 12th June

Dry forecast so we knew what was going to happen! Decided to go to Rye as it was a nice little town when we visited before – morning was supposed to be wet with a dry afternoon before the weather closed in overnight. It was a damp but otherwise ok morning which we spent wandering round the town before heading to Rye harbour nature reserve for the dry afternoon. As you can guess it was far from dry! Got soaked and the hides only showed black headed gulls (plenty of chicks) but nothing much else. There was also one avocet which flew off fairly quickly. Back to the barn to dry out – more hares some very close this time. There is a horse in the field which seems to have encouraged the hares to come out of the field – they like to sit at the bottom of the garden just the other side of the fence. Also today we saw a lesser spotted woodpecker family (think they are in the large oak tree next to the barn); a pied wagtail which sat on the fence and the evenings highlight was a fly past from a barn owl!

Wednesday 13th June

Blean woods for heath fritillary and then Denge woods for Duke of Burgundy. Sunny, warm the right time of year but no butterflies. We did the whole circuit of the RSPB footpath which went to where all the new coppicing had been done but despite being plenty of food plant and flowers and also being warm and sunny we did not see a single butterfly. Very strange and we can only assume that the rain and wind had finished off the spring butterflies. Plenty of orchids at Bonsai Bank however (and we did see a female common blue here so hopefully the next generation of blues will be around later in the year). Fragrant orchids were just flowering and there were lady and butterfly orchids although these had seen better days. By far the most common orchid was the common spotted.

Thursday 14th June

Park Gate Down for orchids followed by sandwich bay nature reserve. Lovely warm sunny summers day although a little windy – we have noticed that in recent years it can be either sunny and breezy or wet and still! There were quite a few monkey orchids around among the butterfly, fragrant, and common spotted orchids. After spending a lovely few hours here we drove to Sandwich bay nature reserve and had a windy picnic looking at the bay. Tide was out which was bad news for spotting birds but we did the walk through the reserve calling at the hide – although as the tide was so far out we could only spot wildlife through binoculars. Shelduck and curlew were plentiful, the latter being repeatedly disturbed by an erratic aeroplane which kept flying low and disturbing them. It was nice to see a large flock of them take to the wing but not so sure about the continual disturbance by low flying planes! Plenty of orchids here too (spotted and fragrant) and a few more butterflies – holly and common blue plus a red admiral. Next stop was Kingsdown were the small blue colony lived but like all the other butterfly sites we had visited there were none. This is a wonderful site although it has come to the attention of wildlife groups who plan to “manage” it. Reading the management plan it seems the first thing they want to do is pull out the valerian which is one of the nicest parts about the little area and an important nectar source for insects – in particular the humming bird hawk moth which loves it. Then on the way home we called in at Samphire Hoe for a cup of tea only to find that they had closed! Before 4 o clock in June! We had planned a walk but as it was so windy decided to abort the visit and find the nearest pub for a drink and an early tea! A few hares around when we got home but there seem to have been less as we move through the week.

Friday 15th June

There was a terrific storm overnight with thunder, lightning and very heavy rain. Kept us awake and awoke this morning to find bits of oak tree (there is a very large one just behind the barn) scattered all over the car and lawn! However good weather today! We decided to do something different and just plan a walk somewhere – we chose to go to Dover and park at the white cliffs and then do the short 2 mile walk along the cliff top to the South Foreland lighthouse. Windy but we had some magnificent views over the channel and also had a bonus when we saw a spitfire flying around. It was accompanied by two helicopters which were full of people taking photos if the spitfire flying over the white cliffs. After a very nice piece of cake at Mrs Nott’s tea rooms we had a guided tour of the lighthouse and it was extremely interesting. We learned all about its history and the history of the area as well as lighthouses in general. To be recommended! Then it was the walk back with some stops to take in the landscape before another windy picnic on the cliff tops above the very busy harbour. Then a quick browse around the national trust shop before heading back to Acorn Barn to pack have tea and watch England in their second group game of Euro 2012.

Saturday 16th June

Home sadly. We have enjoyed our second stay at Acorn Barn and will be back. It is the only place we have returned to for a holiday (people always say never go back – it is never the same the second time but it has been as good as the first week we spent there). We called at Rye Meads on the way back home and although no kingfishers were seen (they were sitting on eggs) we did have the unexpected bonus of seeing a pair of green sandpipers. Then home and prepare for work the next day! All good things come to an end but it means our next break is that much closer – North Wales in July.[/size]