Kent June 2010

Saturday 5th June

We arrived at Acorn Barn after a long wait to get over the Dartford Crossing (QE2 bridge) – the traffic kept us for 90 minutes! And after all the hustle and bustle of the M25 and loads of traffic we felt we had arrived in a different world – a world full of peace and tranquillity. We could hear birds all around us – yellowhammers and skylarks. Lovely little converted barn in Bilsington so really in the country although only a handful of miles from Ashford. We had a nice relaxing evening and settled to bed early – it was so dark without any streetlights that we could see all the stars and had no problems getting to sleep.

Sunday 6th June

After a tremendous thunderstorm in the night we awoke to a clear dull morning. A kestrel flew low over the field and a green woodpecker was pecking for ants in the paddock. There was a cuckoo in the distance and some hares came close to the barn and we were able to get some pictures (hares were looking decidedly bedraggled after the night’s storm)! After a trip to the supermarket in Ashford we went into Folkestone while the weather was dull and had a lovely lunch of pan fried prawns with noodles in the harbour market. After lunch we decided to visit Denge Woods to see if we were in time to see the duke of burgundy butterfly. We were! We counted 7 at Bonsai Bank along with over 20 Common Blues. The dukes looked in very good condition although we had to shelter from a downpour before finding them. After the rain the sun shone and it was a lovely afternoon. We also found large white, green veined white and small white. Back to the barn where the hares showed well in the evening sunshine and we got some much better shots than in the morning.

Monday 7th June

Bright and sunny despite the gloomy forecast we saw on TV! Off to Dungeness RSPB and spent a lovely morning watching the warblers – never seem able to identify them properly! We spent ages watching hobbies (8 of them) catching dragonflies above one of the lakes and a pair of marsh harriers in the distance. Sadly the water level was too high for any waders anywhere on the reserve but we did catch a glimpse of the purple heron. We had heard that there were colonies of dingy and grizzled skippers towards the end of Dungeness so we went to find them. Unfortunately we only saw 1 common blue! Never mind – we had a cup of tea in the Railway Café instead!

Tuesday 8th June

Another gloomy forecast today which this time turned out to be correct! So we decided to go to Rye in nearby Sussex. Rye is a lovely little town and we had a walk around looking in the little shops and the church – then the sun came out! We had a coffee and went to Rye Harbour nature reserve. It was turning into a lovely day – sunny and warm although not without a light shower or two. Birds and butterflies were plentiful – all three terns (common, sandwich and little) plus countless warblers. Butterflies included common blue, brown argus, painted lady, red admirals and commas. We visited The Woolpack in Brookland for crab salad with prawns – very tasty.

Wednesday 9th June

Weather not very promising today but bearing in mind that the forecast had turned out wrong every day so far we set off for Blean Woods near Canterbury to see if we could find heath fritillary. When we arrived there was a party of foresters but no information board or reserve leaflets. Fortunately we found a helpful RSPB warden who told us he had seen 11 earlier and told us where to find them. Numbers were well down this year (he had counted 1300 the year before!) – we only found out much later that they were later emerging this year. We did find some of our own – 7 to be exact in the sunshine. Then the sun disappeared and so did all the butterflies! They were all roosting somewhere but once I had my eye in we managed to find several and got some under wing shots. We had just made it back to the car when the heavens opened so we had our picnic in the car. Afterwards we went to Canterbury and filled up with petrol (expensive at £1.13) and did a little shopping while the weather decided what to do. The black clouds cleared and we went to Kingsdown (near Deal) where we had been told of a colony of small blue. The sun was out and it was very warm and when we found the area which was a shingle patch full of valerian and kidney vetch (next to Campbell’s Garage) it was full of small blue – probably around 50 butterflies in total. There was a mixture of worn and fresh specimens with lots of females egg laying. Also found common blue, large white, small white, small heath and painted lady. Next we walked onto the cliffs between Kingsdown and St Margaret’s Bay and found more common blue, large and small white, small copper, painted lady, orange tip and the highlight – 3 wall browns! Although by now it was getting late our journey back to the barn went past Lydden Down so we called in and saw lots of Adonis blue (around 30) – they were all at the bottom of the down and not on the top. Also saw brown argus, large and small white and orange tip. An altogether lovely day full of sunshine and butterflies.

Thursday 10th June

Guess what – weather forecast again not good! Decided to go to Port Lympne and use our Tesco vouchers. Brilliant day out including a “safari” ride (very strange to see giraffe and rhino in the middle of the Garden of England!). Loads of animals and spotted the first large skipper of the year. A little rain during the early afternoon but another mild day with sunny intervals.

Friday 11th June

Yet another dull start so we went to Dymchurch where we discovered that the council had stopped all street parking and there was only the expensive council car park with its pot holes. Not very impressed with this place so we went to Hythe which is a world apart – a lovely little town and then called in to see Mum who lives nearby. We walked along the military canal where we saw a cuckoo – closest we have ever been to this bird!

Saturday 12th June

At last – a sunny day was forecast. Decision was made to return to Blean Wood and Bonsai Bank. Unfortunately (although probably to be expected) the weather forecast was wrong and it turned dull and a little gloomy. However we did make our way to the rides where we had seen the heath fritillary earlier. In the dull conditions we only found 5 roosting. Disappointed in the numbers as we had hoped to see “clouds of butterflies” like I remembered from childhood. It was not to be so we drove to Bonsai Bank where the sun came out and it was a lovely afternoon. There were only 2 dukes to be found now but it was nice to show them to Mum. We also spotted common blue, brown argus, red admiral, painted lady, large white, holly blue, speckled wood and a green hairstreak. Plenty of orchids around also with lady orchids being especially plentiful.

Sunday 13th June

Half way through our stay in Kent now but we intend to make the most of this week. Dull start and we went to Tenterden to have a look around. Sometimes it does not pay to be out too early as Tenterden was closed (it was Sunday!) Nice little place with a railway but we did not hang around too long as the sun came out. We decided to visit Orlestone Forest which was supposed to be good for butterflies (it wasn’t – not sure how it is being managed but there was not a single butterfly to be found! Ham Street nature reserve which we found nearby was much better where we had our picnic and saw red admiral, speckled wood, small tortoiseshell, common blue and comma. Then as the sun was still shining and it was warm we went to Hothfield Heathlands to look for reptiles. We saw in total none! We did find sundew and also common blue, brown argus, speckled wood and another large skipper.

Monday 14th June

Monday was forecast to be a dull and showery day so we switched our plan from butterflies to birds for the day. Needless to say the weather was lovely! Sunny but there was a stiff north easterly breeze meaning that the temperature only peaked at 17 degrees. We went to Oare Marsh but it was very disappointing for bird life so we decided to travel a little further afield to Elmley Marsh as we were in the general vicinity. What a fantastic place – very long drive along a bumpy road to get to the car park but the place itself was really nice and interesting. We saw several marsh harriers, lapwings, oystercatchers and redshanks all close to the car as we arrived. From the car park there was a further long walk to the bird hides but they were all interesting and the reserve was full of wildlife. Avocets, shelducks, loads of redshanks, skylarks and meadow pipits. There was even a hare on the way out!

Tuesday 15th June

We restocked our food supply in Asda and with lots of sunny intervals appearing we went to Darland Banks. We stopped at Tyland Barn on the way for an interesting look around (headquarters of Kent Wildlife Trust). Darland Banks is a lovely reserve and we would gladly have spent all day there! It is a lovely chalk grassland site and was full of butterflies. We found lots of common, adonis and small blue, large and small skipper, large white, brown argus and painted lady. After a wonderful afternoon we went back to the barn where at 9:30 a barn owl flew past!

Wednesday 16th June

Another sunny but windy day. We spent the morning in Dover while waiting for the weather to brighten up. When it did (although the wind did not drop at all) we went back to Lydden Down hoping to find some sheltered areas. A very kind lady in a charity shop told us where to look – she was right as there were plenty of adonis and common blue, large skipper, small and large white, brown argus, small tortoiseshell and wall brown. Away from this warm sheltered spot there was not too much flying due to the wind. Then back to the barn to see if we could find any more hares.

Thursday 17th June

Running out of days now so we went back to one of our favourite places – Dungeness. It was sunny but unseasonally cold – only around 13 degrees in June! Partly due to the cold north wind that was blowing again. We were looking for marsh frogs and although we heard plenty of them we only spotted one and that was jumping into the water. We had some glimpses of a possible purple heron in the distance and there were plenty of warblers around but the highlight was a bittern flying across in front of us in addition to hearing one boom. We had tea out today in Lydd (The George) – it was ok but we probably will not be back there – just us and Mum in a room on our own.

Friday 18th June

Our last day in Kent! Dull so gave up on butterflies and went to Canterbury where we had a lovely time walking around along the city walls – near the cathedral and in the lovely little shops in the cathedral area. We were disappointed to find that we could not get to the cathedral as there was now a huge charge just to get into the grounds never mind the cathedral. The only people going in were school trips – think they may have overcharged and stopped a lot of people visiting. Never mind we had a nice time in Canterbury anyway. Weather then brightened up so we went back to Blean Wood (East Blean this time) – more heath fritillaries here. This is a Kent Wildlife Trust site whereas the other Blean Wood site was RSPB.

Saturday 19th June

An extra day! We went to visit Don Wilks in Minster as he did a lot of butterfly breeding. Lovely garden – lots of butterfly food plants and he had a greenhouse to die for! Well at least if you are interested in butterflies. I learned a lot and even came away with a nettle full of New Zealand red admiral ova! Stayed overnight in the Pegwell Bay hotel which was really nice and then journey home on the Sunday.
Lovely holiday – shame the weather was so cold but that’s an English summer for you![/size]