Jus, Andy and I had been lucky (or quick) enough to obtain tickets for a guided walk from Sandwich Bird Observatory to see their Dainty Damselflies. Wednesday was the day. Wanting to make a whole day of it we left for Kent at 04.30 with the aim of doing some orchids before the 11.00 rendezvous at the observatory. These are the places we visited in chronological order
We had been here absolutely years ago and it was great to return. The Late Spider Orchids were just where we left them all that time ago. Safe in their little cages we counted 35 plus some Chalk Fragrant Orchids and a single Pyramidal Orchid. The other famous resident of the site is the very rare Black-veined Moth and we found a couple with no effort. Common Blue and Large Skipper were the other insects of interest while plants included loads of Fairy Flax, Common Milkwort, Greater Knapweed and Crosswort. The icing on the cake was a male Long-horned Bee 'mating' with one of the Late Spider Orchids - pollination in action!
This lovely little reserve nestled in the North Downs is a favourite of mine and I've been several times over the years. These days it has the added attraction of a stunning Fly Orchid var. chlorantha and it didn't take us long to locate this lovely plant positively glowing in it's gloomy surroundings. Also here were plenty of normal Fly Orchids, several 'going over' Lady Orchids, White Helleborines, Common Twayblades, Common Spotted Orchids and a single Greater Butterfly Orchid plus Sanicle and then along the lane back to the car a singing Firecrest showed well followed by a Turtle Dove.
Park Gate Down
Time was starting to run out so we paid a flying visit to this downland site. Our target was Monkey Orchid at one of it's 2 classics sites. We found about half a dozen with ease amongst Chalk Fragrant Orchids and a few shrivelled Early Purple Orchids but didn't have the time to linger as we had an appointment to keep!
Sandwich Bird Observatory and area
We got to the carpark at the obs with time for a quick bite to eat and an application of sunscreen as the temperatures hit 30+. The 11.00 guided walk by Stefan the warden was only a short one and within literally a minute of arrival at the site we saw our first of literally hundreds of Dainty Damselflies. Over the next hour and a half we filled our boots with them. I managed to get some very pleasing photographs too. Amongst them were the odd Azure Damselfly and Blue-tailed Damselfly but 99% of them were Dainties! A pair of Emperor Dragonflies patrolled the pool. After offering our thanks to the warden we then moved onto the beach area nearby where some excellent directions kindly given by Nigel Jarman had us photographing the rare Clove-scented Broomrape and nearby Lizard Orchids which were in their prime. Further along we found White Stonecrop, some gone-over Sand Catchflies, Sea Sandwort and California Poppies.
After a torturous drive through Deal we reached the undercliff at Kingsdown. Walking west at the foot of the white cliffs we reached another spot given to us by Nigel and got ourselves the other rare broomrape - Ox-tongue Broomrape. A couple were nicely up with plenty more to come. Kidney Vetch was abundant there and we also had Wild Cabbage, Wild Carrot and a Hoary Stock plant on the cliff - a new plant for me. Also here 2 Peregrines (ad and juv) entertained as did Rock Pipits, cliff-nesting House Martins and Fulmars.
We had planned to go to East Blean Woods next but decided we didn't have enough time with the other plans we had so gave that a miss. Instead we headed for something else which I will reveal fully in another blog post shortly! Needless to say it was completely unexpected and really rather exciting!
Now out of Kent and heading for home up the A12 we decided we had time to stop at Tiptree because Andy had never seen the Greater Tongue Orchids there. It was a quick visit but we were delighted to find 80+ plants (the best numbers yet) plus Grass Vetchling and Hairy Tare. Cuckoo, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were also seen. We celebrated a truly remarkable and enjoyable day with a BK nearby before heading for home.
More on that 'mystery' sighting very soon...