Friday, 14 June 2019

Airport Flowers !

I have been on a bit of mission this year to try and see as many native Orchids as I can, preferably around Kent, not doing too badly at the moment with at least twelve species seen around various sites.

The Orchid season is relatively short I gather, running from about May to August, I have never had a lot of luck with Bee Orchids, most of my finds seem to be more accidental than design.

Recently, I could feel myself feeling slightly tetchy, as many Bee Orchids seem to be reaching there prime, everyone else seems to be finding them, and I still have not been able to get out and look for this lovely Orchid.

And so it was, once again as I parked my car in the short stay car park at Stansted Airport while collecting my daughter. I glanced at the grassy bank running in front of the terminal, unbelievably a Bee orchid, not just one but I counted at least thirty or so. I quickly grabbed some phone pictures to record the sighting, as the rest of my family do not share my enthusiasm.

Bee Orchids at Stansted Airport
Another accidental find, but I will take it.

Orchid Life List                                          2019 Orchid List

 Common Spotted Orchid                        Green Winged Orchid
 Early Purple Orchid                                Early Purple Orchid
Common Twayblade.                               Lady Orchid
Greater Butterfly Orchid                          Early Spider Orchid
 Lady Orchid                                            Fly Orchid
Pyramidal Orchid                                     Common Twayblade
 Bee Orchid                                              Man Orchid
Fragrant Orchid                                        Monkey Orchid
White Helleborine                                    White Helleborine
Southern Marsh Orchid                            Common Fragrant Orchid
Green Winged Orchid                               Bee Orchid
Early Spider Orchid
Fly Orchid
Man Orchid
Monkey Orchid

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Istanbul !

A short city break to the city of Istanbul in Turkey was a much needed break from our hectic lives of late, especially for my wife. This was a non birding holiday, but even so, couldn't stop myself, there's always something new to see.

There's a lot of Mosques in Istanbul as you would expect, those tall minarets and domes seem to attract the Swifts, what caught my eye was the Alpine Swifts mixed in with them, never seen so many. Especially around the Galata Tower.

Cruising the Bosphorus with the Galata Tower in the background

A cruise along the Bosphorus, a relatively small channel that joins the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea was another good opportunity, while my wife enjoyed the sites along the Bosphorus, I could not help but notice the small flocks of birds skimming  the wavetops flying in both directions along the channel. I suspected they were Shearwaters but could not see any real detail,
just that old birding term 'the Jizz' of a Shearwater

Some research on my return revealed that they were more than likely to have been Yelkouan Shearwaters, a hotspot  for sighting these birds as they migrate to and from the Black sea and the Mediterranean through the Bosphorus.

This was a new bird sighting for me albeit very distant, and a new addition to my life list. armed only with my mobile phone, an horrendous record shot to remind me of  this sighting.

Other birds noted here were numerous Shags, Yellow legged Gulls and a few flyover Grey Herons.

The green spaces in Istanbul are very popular with local population of Istanbul, a welcome escape from the heat of the day, families were enjoying each others company during the last few days of Ramadan.
The tall trees of the park seemed alive with Parakeets of some sort, couldn't actually see any, but I'm very familiar with there calls as they visit my garden each day, there are suppose to be both Ring Necked and Alexandrine Parakeets here.

I did manage to see a Common Myna bird which I wasn't really expecting.

Another new bird sighting for me around the streets of Istanbul, were the  Laughing Doves, again no photo opportunities.

 Underground Basilica Cistern
This ancient cistern, one of the largest, built in the 6th Century during the reign of a Byzantine emperor Justinian was pretty impressive, one of many underground cisterns that lie beneath the city

Children enjoying the old Tram line down Istiklar Street.

An interesting city to visit. !

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Queensdown Warren !

My first visit to Queensdown Warren, another chalk downland site a few weeks ago was not that successful, couldn't find any Orchids, just a few Green Hairstreaks.

After visiting Darland Bank not that far away, thought I would try this site again and look for Butterflies.

This time I ventured further into the site, sun was shining and I was enjoying the walk through the reserve. I could see in the distance, a couple of likely suspects on the hillside peering intently down into the grassland, I headed in there direction in the hope that  they would point me in the right direction

As our paths crossed, the usual exchange of sightings and pleasantries were made, there information being infinitely more interesting than mine, they pointed me to an area close by where they had been watching many Adonis Butterflies, I could hardly believe my luck, not only that, I had stumbled across an area containing a new Orchid for the year. the Common Fragrant Orchid, these are said to have thee scent of orange blossom, to be honest I couldn't detect any scent on the spikes that I came across, to be fair these looked fairly small.

Common Fragrant orchid

Orchid Life List                                          2019 Orchid List

 Common Spotted Orchid                         Green Winged Orchid
 Early Purple Orchid                                 Early Purple Orchid
 Common Twayblade.                               Lady Orchid
 Greater Butterfly Orchid                          Early Spider Orchid
 Lady Orchid                                             Fly Orchid
 Pyramidal Orchid                                     Common Twayblade
 Bee orchid                                                Man Orchid
 Fragrant Orchid                                        Monkey Orchid
White Helleborine                                     White Helleborine
Southern Marsh Orchid                             Common Fragrant Orchid
Green Winged Orchid
Early Spider Orchid
Fly Orchid
Man Orchid
Monkey Orchid

Blue Butterflies seemed to be all around me, the majority being Adonis Blue Butterflies, these seem quite easy to photograph as they seemed content to sunbathe on the grass for several minutes at a time.
Having seen a few of these beautiful Butterflies this year I can now differentiate quite easily between these and the Common Blues that share the same grassy habitat.

Adonis Blue

And a couple of images of the female Adonis Blue Butterfly, most females do not have any blue showing apparently.
Female Adonis Blue Butterfly

I was unsure if these were Adonis Blue females, but a quick confirmation from Kent Butterflies gave me this explanation. Female Adonis Butterfly,  [clear white marking around the underwing spots, black lines through the fringe, and blue above and below the lunules on the hindwings. It may well be an ab. with all that colouring.]

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Chalk Downlands !

Were quite lucky here in Kent, Chalk downlands abound, why it's taken me so long to discover these reserves is beyond me.

I 'm making more effort this year to visit our Kentish wildlife sites, especially those that I have never visited before, new sites inevitably bring new and unseen wildlife sightings, these chalk Downlands also make for an exhilarating walk in some beautiful countryside.

With this in mind it was back to Darland Bank to search for Butterflies, those of the blue variety, a speciality of these chalk grasslands. I was a little to early for the Chalkhill Blue, I was told to come back in July.

As expected my first Blue Butterfly soon appeared in the form of a Common Blue, as its name suggests the most common blue butterfly seen on these downlands.

Common Blue
Common Blue
As I walked along the scruby border at the bottom of the hillside, my next blue Butterfly made an appearance the Holly Blue.

Holly Blue
Walking back up onto the grassy slopes, a new Butterfly for me, the Small Blue our smallest Butterfly in the country, fiesty little Butterfly saw it on a few occasions sparring with passing Common Blues, also strangely not blue but a dark brown, the male has a scattering of blue scales mixed in with the brown. the underside of the wings is reminiscent of the Holly Blue above.
These all look like males, the females have no blue on the upper wing surface  I believe.

Small Blue

Small Blue Male

And then the Butterfly I really wanted to see, and one that has eluded me for years, mainly because I haven't been visiting the right places. This one is quite rare though, the Adonis Blue.

Adonis Blue

These are quite distinctive when you see them, the blue is very bright almost metallic looking, and the black veins pass through the white fringe of the wings giving a chequered appearance. Pleased with seeing two individuals on this visit.

Other interesting sightings made as I walked the paths along the hillsides where the many Man Orchids were showing everywhere. I noticed this Crab Spider trying to blend into the background.. they can change colour to yellow, but this does take some time. I didn't see many insects visiting the Orchids, so he may have a long wait.

Crab Spider on a Man Orchid

Plenty of Bee's on view,with one lucky observation of the Brown Banded Carder Bee the rarest of the three carder Bees found in the country and known to frequent this site. I did ask for confirmation from the  "UK Bees, Wasps and Ants site and got a positive response., well pleased with that sighting.

Brown Banded Carder Bee  Bombus Humilis
Carder species ?

Red-Tailed Bumblebee

Bombus vestalis, the vestal cuckoo bumblebee ?
Bombus vestalis, the vestal cuckoo bumblebee

I think that yellow band in front of the white tail could indicate that this is not the White tailed Bumblebee I first thought but Bombus vestalis, the vestal cuckoo bumblebee.

Some other Butterflies on show included, a few Brimstone, a single Small Heath, Green Hairstreak.
Brown Argus.

Green Hairstreak

A mystery Orchid about to bloom next to a Man Orchid, probably Pyramidal or Common Spotted.

Man Orchid and emerging Orchid.
A return visit in July for the Chalkhill Blue is definitely on the cards.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Return to Bonsai !

As I was pretty close to Denge woods and the Bonsai Bank after visiting P.G.D. thought I would have a quick look to see how the Lady Orchids had developed, only a few were showing on my last visit at the beginning of May,
they were now looking really good and seemed to be everywhere on the Bonsai Bank.

Lady Orchids at Bonsai Bank, Denge Woods

I was also looking for Butterfly Orchids seen here a few years ago, couldn't find any, but should be showing soon. I did come across two White Helleborine and a few Common Twayblade.

White Helleborine
A couple of day flying moths were seen the Speckled Yellow shown below.

Speckled Yellow
Mint Moth ?
Plenty of Duke Of  Burgundy Butterflies on show, more than I have ever seen, thanks must go to the volunteers who keep the site to there liking..

Duke of Burgundy

Another two Orchids to add to my Orchids seen list.

 Orchid Life List                                          2019 Orchid List

 Common Spotted Orchid                         Green Winged Orchid
 Early Purple Orchid                                 Early Purple Orchid
 Common Twayblade.                               Lady Orchid
 Greater Butterfly Orchid                          Early Spider Orchid
 Lady Orchid                                             Fly Orchid
 Pyramidal Orchid                                     Common Twayblade
 Bee orchid                                                Man Orchid
 Fragrant Orchid                                        Monkey Orchid
White Helleborine                                     White Helleborine
Southern Marsh Orchid
Green Winged Orchid
Early Spider Orchid
Fly Orchid
Man Orchid
Monkey Orchid

Park Gate Down !


Decided to visit Park Gate Down in the depths of the Kentish countryside today, another reserve on my 'to visit' list for 2019. Once again this was one of those car journeys where my 'sat nav' was essential for directions, although it's always a bit worrying when you have been travelling down a single track road for some time, then a grassy central reservation appears down the centre of the track giving the appearance of an old cart track. fortunately no oncoming traffic , and it was with some relief  when I pulled into the small lay-by near the entrance to the reserve.

Park Gate Down has been renamed of late and is now known as the Hector Wilks Reserve after an English botanist and conservationist who was involved developing the reserve from its early stages, a fairly small reserve but set in beautiful countryside setting.

My main area of interest were the flowers, in particular the Orchids known to grow here,  one of three sites in the country where the Monkey Orchid can be found amongst others, hopefully a Butterfly or two. ( the flying kind )

The reserve is set on a some fairly steep chalk grassland, but the footpaths are well marked.
It wasn't long before I picked out the Orchid I was interested in, just coming into bloom and one of the best looking native Orchids I have seen.
There were also  Early Purple Orchids showing but way past their best, a few Common Twayblade, this site also boasts other Orchids growing here, Late Spider Orchid, Musk Orchid, Lady Orchid, Pyramidal, Common Spotted, Bee, up to twelve different species, I could only find three but I am a Orchid novice, the grassland was covered in other wildflowers unknown to me. I must try and learn some of these.

The Monkeys

Emerging Monkey Orchids

Common Twayblade
Butterflies on show included one possible Wall Brown but moving very fast, Brimstone, no sign of any Chalkhill Blues or Marbled Whites on my visit. Lovely reserve to visit in the right season, May to June, must try and fit one more visit in before season ends.