Monday, 21 August 2017

Rye Harbour NR East Sussex - 08/07/17

We have walked this reserve many times, but always from Rye Harbour. this time we approached from Winchelsea Beach to the West and did a few miles circular walk from that end.
The area is similar to Dungeness, being predominantly shingle with thin turf inland. However, this area had a few more damp areas than Dungeness which made it interesting.

Here's Yellow Horned Poppy on the beach at Winchelsea.

Glaucium flavum

Wild Teasel was out in force, with their bands of purple flowers around their spiny flower heads.

Dipsacus fullonum 

Common Fleabane is a big showy flower that really is actually still common! Butterflies and bees like it a lot.

Pulicaria dysenterica

This is Sticky Groundsel which is full of glandular hairs that smell like gone off lemons.

The flowers have rays unlike nearly all of the usual Groundsel. 

You can find both Sticky and Groundsel in the same areas, but only sticky is sticky and smelly!

Senecio viscosus

Houndstongue is a declining wildflower. In flower it has small deep red flowers on a big silvery grey foliage plant. However, here are the seeds which stick to the fur of passing animals (or my jeans) and thus get dispersed away from the parent plant.

Cynoglossum officinale

Here and there were dense stands of Tufted Vetch, a big hit with these Six Spot Burnet Moths.

Vicia cracca

I then saw these behind a barbed wire fence. I instantly recognised them as Marsh Mallow. It was great to see so many, but it would have been nice to get some close up photos. This was a pond in a horse field, so horses don't like them apparently.

Only about 50 yards further on, I came to a damp area full of them, so I needn't have worried.

Althaea officinalis 

These are rare plants in Kent a few miles to the East, and I expect they are in Sussex as well.

Marshmallow used to be made from the root of this plant, but are now made synthetically.

As they are now rare, please don't dig them up to try making some!

In one of the ponds I photographed this frog. Having said that, they were in all the ponds and ditches, not just this one.

In a damp depression in the shingle were numerous water loving plants, but one area was covered in a mat forming small plant. I didn't recognise it and had to search for several minutes to find a flower. I then realised it was Sea Milkwort, a supposedly common seaside plant, though I'd not seen them in 4 years of botanising.

Glaux maritima

I really should remember to put a coin in a photo to show scale, these were very tiny flowers.

Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers and other butterflies were on the wing in the sunshine which was nice after the wind and rain of Angelsey recently.

That was it for this trip. We did stop off at KWT Turner's Field near Tenterden after having fish and chips in the town. It was a nice little reserve with cattle grazing a meadow in the centre and a stream running through a valley all the way around it. There were lots of gone to seed orchid spikes there so it would be worth a revisit next June.

In a dried up pond were Purple Loosestrife, an untidy yet at the same time "Lookatme" type of flower.

It's currently brightening up damp places throughout the UK.

Lythrum salicaria

Nearby was Water Forget-me-not, one of the bigger flowered FMNs. I've seen these in the past free floating by a river bank or on a lake margin.

Myosotis scorpioides

From there we made our way home. It was a nice day out, though it seemed odd not having wilderness and mountains about us. It's amazing how just one week away can change one's perspective so much. 

Until next time.


Saturday, 19 August 2017

Anglesey Adventures - The Last Day - 30/06/17

This was our final full day on Anglesey. We had visited most "must see" locations for interesting flora on the island in our short week and on this day had no-where in particular to go. As such I decided to drive up to the North of the island and explore those areas and a few on the way back if there was time.

Trearddur Bay

As ever, the scenery was beautiful and in the main, places were deserted. The weather was a bit better in that there was no rain this day, but the wind had picked up to a near gale force Northerly, so it was a bit chilly for the end of June!

At Trearddur Bay we had a short walk along the sea front by the car park where I found Sea Holly in flower with its lovely blue flowers.

The little green plants in the foreground are Sea Sandwort.

Eryngium maritimum

As you can see, the flower is actually comprised of numeorus mini flowers, all bunched into a single head.  Bumblebees really like this plant.

Nearby at Porth Diana, I found a stand of Northern Marsh Orchids in a damp field.

Dactylorhiza purpurella

Japanese Rose had escaped from a nearby garden onto the cliffs. Although their big showy flowers look great, they can spread and form dense invasive thickets as they have done in Kent and East Sussex dunes.

It would be wise to weed these out!

Rosa rugosa

This was close to a small nature reserve where Spotted Rock-Rose can be found.

Again, I failed to find any in flower, though it was still morning (their petals drop by noon).

I did take this photo of Tormentil (yellow) and Cross-leaved Heath there though.

Potentilla erecta
Erica tetralix 

From here we drove off Holy Island back onto Anglesey itself and had a slow drive to Cemlyn Bay on the North coast.

It's a favoured bird watching place as it has a long shingle ridge sheltering a brackish lagoon behind it.

We braced the strong winds and went for a walk out towards a headland away from the usual bird watching areas.

Here's a Perennial Sowthistle with Sea Kale going to seed next to it.  In the background is Sea Beet.

Sonchus arvensis

The sea was pretty rough here with an onshore near gale force wind and photography was challenging to say the least.
Cemlyn Bay

 All the common coastal species were present, including the familiar Rock Samphire, an often seen plant on the chalk cliffs of the Kent coastline.

Crithmum maritimum

I then found this unusual plant. It was very small and blowing about stupidly in the hooligan of a wind. In order to get any photo I had to sacrifice depth of field, so this is the best shot I could get in those conditions.

It's Smith's Pepperwort an uncommon plant I've only seen a few times before.

Lepidium heterophyllum

While taking this photo, lumps of sea foam were hitting me and landing in the grass, the sea whipped up into a foam.  Look closely and you could class this photo as a selfie!

Wild Thyme and Sheep's Bit was numerous along the coastal turf and occassionally they overlapped as here.

Thymus polytricha and Jasione montana

This final plant had me flummoxed as I couldn't identify it past it being a Ragwort. I took lots of photos that I sent to my County Recorder when I got home. He is of the opinion it is a hybrid between Common and Marsh Ragwort. Obviously I don't have space to put the photos here, but the leaves ended in a terminal lobe much like Marsh Ragwort, but the overall appearance didn't fit Marsh alone.

As I've never seen Marsh Ragwort let alone a hybrid, it makes this a first, which is always nice.

Senecio x ostenfeldii

It's not always the flowers that get photographed.

 From Cemlyn, we passed through Amlwch and then visited the old copper mine area. These huge spoil heaps looked amazing and I can easily imagine them being film sets for the likes of Dr Who or a post apocalypse type of film.

I assumed the soil would be so poisonous not much would grow, but plenty did. Many common species were found here, especially Heather and Bell Heather.

Here's a Tutsan in flower on this soil. It looked very odd and stunted, no doubt due to the lack of nutrients in the soil.

Hypericum androsaemum

From here we drove back South and near Pentraeth stopped for a cup of tea in a layby. The grass around it was full of Common Spotted Orchids, possibly over a hundred by the side of the road.

Looking at the OS map, I thought we could take a walk along a path to some open access land nearby, so we parked up and went for another walk.

There was no let up in the numbers of Common Spotted Orchids as we walked the path.

Here's a Small Skipper butterfly on one.

Dactylorhiza fucshii

After a while, the path opened up into a damp meadow which was the open access land.
It was very wet and uneven ground so I was glad to have the walking boots on.

Here's one of over 50 Lesser Butterfly Orchids we found in flower here.

Very hard to find in Kent and all gone over as well in the SE so I was surprised to find them still going strong here.

Platanthera bifolia

There were also hundreds of Heath Spotted Orchids and with the Common Spotted only about 50 yards away, I looked for hybrids, though failed to spot any.

Dactylorhiza maculata

I then found some little gems, not found in Kent, the Early Marsh Orchid, subsp pulchella which has pink flowers (incarnata - white, coccinea - scarlet)

The Kent subspecies of Early Marsh is subsp incarnata and had long gone to seed down my way, so I was very pleasantly surprised to find some still flowering here.

Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp pulchella

So ended this day with a plethora of orchids, quite unplanned and quite unexpected.

When we got back to our cottage, we had a rest then decided to drive home that night rather than risk the roads on a busy Saturday morning. So by about 1am we were back in Kent. Out of curiousity, we looked at the travel reports that morning and it would have been horrendous coming home on the Saturday with several major accidents and huge delays all along the route home. For once a good decision made.

It was a shame about the weather, but a holiday for me isn't about hot sun and lounging about by a pool, I enjoyed the changeable conditions and it concentrated the mind to make the most of any weather windows that occurred. I highly recommend a visit to Anglesey and/or North Wales, for both botany, the stunning scenery and the welcoming, friendly people.

I have lots of Kent blogs to catch up on since coming home, so keep looking in won't you.


Friday, 18 August 2017

Anglesey Adventures - Newborough Warren 29/0617

After a couple of days exploring the mainland, we set off to Newborough Warren back on Anglesey. This is home to many special plants and I hoped to find some today.

It wasn't a long drive to Newborough, but it felt quite remote being in the extreme South of the island. On entering the car park I was immediately taken by the huge amount of common wildflowers there. Wildflowers surrounded the car park rather than mowed grass, commendable management by the owners.  The weather was reasonable as well, overcast but dry, though rain was forecast.

Close to the car park on the edge of the pine plantation were a few Northern Marsh Orchids.

This is  species I am unfamiliar with being from the South, and there appears to be as much variation on these as I usually see on Southern Marsh Orchids.

Dactylorhiza purpurella

Another beautiful orchid caught my eye and I can't work out if it's a Common Spotted or a Heath Spotted Orchid, probably the former, though the side lobes of the lower petals are winged, much like the Heath Spotted.

Dactylorhiza fucshii or
D. maculata

As I carried on away from the car park, I found some umbellifers flowering, these were Rough Chervil. They can all look very similar but these have purple marks on the stems and are very rough to the touch.

Chaerophyllum temulum

I left the forest canopy and walked along a path along the back of the sandy dunes.  This area had a much more diverse flora with the bright pink beacons of Pyramidal Orchids making them stand out from the crowd.

Anacamptis pyramidalis

I was rather surprised to find Sea Rocket here. I usually find it close to the sea which distributes its seeds. This path was over 100m from the sea behind large vegetated dunes. Perhpas it was sown from bird droppings or the seeds stuck in a walkers boot ending up here?

Cakile maritima

There were numerous stands of the fine looking Sea Spurge, a rare plant in the South East of England, I don't know its status here, but nice to see.

It's easy to confuse this (and Wood Spurge) with Portland Spurge, a much rarer form found in similar locations. However, Portland Spurge flowers in early Spring, so if you find one flowering in June, it isn't Portland Spurge.

Euphorbia paralias

I was very pleasantly surprised to find a lone Bee Orchid still flowering on the dunes.

They've gone over by now in most places and I suspect this is the last one to be found flowering here as well.

As you can see it had started drizzling again.

Ophrys apifera

Here and there were these beautiful Common Evening Primroses.  There are several species they could be, but I took photographs of all parts of the flower and plant, so could properly identify it later.

Oenothera biennis

The scant soil on the dunes encouraged low growing plants like this Haresfoot Clover.

Tiny white pea flowers are hidden under the raindrops.

Trifolium arvense

There were a few poppies around, but this one looked different, mainly because it was more orange than red. A closer look at a gone to seed stem showed it to be Long headed Poppy which has smooth but elongated seed heads.

Assuming it's not a single plant, break a stem to see the juice as there is a Yellow-juiced Poppy with the same type of seed heads.

Papaver dubium

Under the trees to my left were several of these big, tall plants.  Fortunately I had seen the species before so could immediately identify it as Common Valerian.

However, with this one I could identify it to sub species level as I had good photos of the leaves as well.

Valeriana officinalis subsp sambucifolia

Here's a close up of the flower head.

I was rather hoping to find a Dune Helleborine in flower. However, my hopes weren't high as like the Dark Red Helleborines of the Great Orme they flower 1-2 weeks later than when I was here.

I kept a lookout for any, but I hadn't seen any so far, not even those just in leaf, so I wasn't hopeful.
Back to the dune flora and every now and then there were carpets of Biting Stonecrop. their bright yellow flowers giving a showy display for such a small plant.

Sedum acre

I was coming to the end of the track with the forest on one side and dunes on the other.
I had another look under the trees for Dune Helleborine.

I didn't find any, but I found something just as special and very beautiful.

Here were patches of Dune Pansy, a beautiful variant of the Wild Pansy only found in dunes and not found in Kent at all.  These were the yellow form often shown in the field guide books for wildflowers.

Viola tricolor subsp curtisii

However, nearby were patches of the blue and yellow form, simply amazing!


At the edge of the forest, I saw a couple of people kneeling down in the dunes. They appeared to be fiddling about with wires and holes in the sand. I was a bit concerned they were setting traps, so I went over and engaged in conversation with them.

It turned out they were scientists measuring the water table of the dune system, one being a Professor (I think) who also has a student studying hydrology at Sandwich dunes in Kent. Small world! It was nice to find that these people weren't ne'er do wells but professionals going about their science.

By going off the beaten track to meet them, I found myself suddenly in an area of dunes obviously damp. It didn't take long to find the first of many Marsh Helleborines coming into flower. It was almost as if this was destined to happen as I was about to turn back to the car park before I saw these people.

Epipactis palustre

One of my favourite wild orchids of the UK.

If that wasn't enough, I noticed tiny pink and white flowers nearby, only about 6-8" tall. I was very pleased to find they were one of the must see species here, Round-leaved Wintergreen.

These are a weird looking flower and quite small.  They used to be found in damp chalk areas of Kent such as the quarries where Bluewater now is. Sadly, I haven't re-found any locally to me - yet.

Pyrola rotundifolia subsp maritima

This was the whole plant, a lot smaller than I had anticipated. However, on looking around, there were loads of them coming up, but not yet flowering.

My final photo was the wonderful and elusive Dune Helleborine, found near the Wintergreens. I found about 20 plants in bud but this was the only flower out that I could find. How lucky was that! I know from later reports that there was a fine display of these only a week or so later, with plants having multiple flowers per stem.

Epipactis dunensis

Once back at the car, the heavens opened and the drizzle turned into a downpour. We were very lucky that the weather held long enough to enjoy the walk and lucky to have found such amazing plants as well.

Before I go, I must give a mention to the Red Squirrel cafe in Newborough village. There's a lovely lady there who serves great breakfasts and fantastic coffee and was a delight to converse with. I highly recommend a refreshment stop there on the way to the Warren.  At the time I knew no Welsh at all, but now I can say to her - Diolch yn fawr

We did visit a nearby wood on the way back hoping to spot a Red Squirrel, but they didn't feel like coming out to play, probably due to the weather.

So ended yet another amazing day on Ynys Mon (Anglesey) with its amazing flora and scenery.

Take care