Kent Wildlife Trust Sevenoaks Reserve - 21/03/18

The cold has affected most of the UK with spring flowering species 2-3 weeks behind last year's flowering times. However, that isn't an excuse to sit indoors and wait for those warm spring days, so out we went to this reserve near Sevenoaks. It comprises several flooded old gravel pits with p aths around much of them. It's best known for birding and at this time of year I will photograph anything of interest within nature that I can find.

On a path that caught the sun were the first Ground- Ivy plants I had seen in flower this year.

They're quite small at this time of the year, smaller than the Sweet Violets now out and easily missed.

Glechoma hederifolia

I spotted the first Lesser Celandine in flower on 1st January 2018 on the BSBI's New Year Plant Hunt on the coast at Folkestone. However, it is only from now onwards that this plant flowers en masse.

Huge drifts of them can now be seen on  many roadside verges and woodland paths.

There are a couple of sub species that can only be accurately determined once the plant has fully matured. Bubils will form in the axils (where the stem forks) between the leaf stems. These are subspecies verna and usually have smaller sorry looking flowers and pale leaves (but not always). It may or may not seed a few seeds.

Subspecies fertilis has no bubils and usually bigger flowers and sometimes marbled leaves and a full head of fruits after flowering.

Ficaria verna

This is Green Alkanet, a garden plant that rapidly escaped into the wild and is now widespread in the countryside. I would say that I rarely find it too far away from habitation or a fly tipped road verge.

This colony on the reserve isn't too far from the car park and were probably established from fly tipping in the 1960s before it became a nature reserve.

 Pentaglottis sempervirens

This species can be identified without flowers from the rough hairy leaves which have small silver coloured blisters on them.

We had some company along the way from this Robin

We also saw this Blue Tit, Great and Long-tailed Tits and Siskins, the latter kindly shown to me by a birder when I asked about his rather long lens!

In sunnier spots not swamped by the ever present stinging nettles were patches of Primrose, a lovely native Spring flower found in many woodlands and road verges now.

Primula vulgaris

Perhaps the botanical highlight of the walk was spotting a large clump of native Marsh Marigold in flower on the banks of the river Darent. Unfortunately it was on the opposite bank in an out of bounds area, so I couldn't get any close up photos.
This species is often planted as an ornamental, and why not, it's big, brashy and native, a perfect garden water feature plant.

Caltha palustris

If you look closely at the photo below this Heron has made its nest on an Alder tree with its catkins now out and draping down. The nutlet cases of last year's flowering still hanging dried and dark on the trees.

Alnus glutinosa

That was it for the plants, here are some other nature finds from the walk.

A single Lapwing (at range) among hundreds of gulls.

A common Magpie with its beautiful metallic plumage that is only visible up close.

A representative from the kingdom of fungi, the beautiful Scarlet Elf Cup.

These are fairly common on the reserve and I found them around most of the main paths. They particularly like rotting Silver Birch logs.  There are also earthstars here but I didn't see any today.

That was it, not too many wildflowers yet, but in a few weeks there will be an explosion of colour in the wilder parts of the countryside. This will include Bluebells, Wood Anemone, Wood Sorrel, Greater Stitchwort and much much more. Bees and butterflies, beetles and bugs will also burst forth in numbers.
So become a part of it, get out and about, breathe in the fresh Spring air and replenish your soul in your local woodland soon. It's well worth it.



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