Monday, 30 July 2018

Joint KBRG / BSBI Field Trip to Folkestone Warren, Kent - 09/06/18

This joint field trip involved a hefty climb down, and then up several hundred steps on the steep chalk cliffs of Folkestone Warren. However a surprisingly large number of people still turned up to punish themselves physically in the name of botany.

Above are some of the group this day with the joint leaders Owen Leyshon (2nd from left) and Sue Buckingham (3rd from left). 

The photo below shows how high these cliffs were and our route would take us down to sea level. Folkestone pier is in the distance.

Rather than try and recall the order I found things in, I''ll just post them here in alphabetical order, so as not to miss anything important! As most will know, I photograph the everyday flowers such as this Agrimony as well as the rarities.

Agrimonia eupatoria

Pyramidal Orchids just coming into bloom.

Anacamptis pyramidalis 

A hoverfly bee mimic on Field Bindweed

Convolvulous arvensis

The rather dull but numerous pale green flowers of Sea Beet.

Beta vulgaris subsp maritimum

Red Valerian towering over us as we descended.

Centranthus ruber

A tatty Common Blue on Wood Spurge.

Euphorbia amygdaloides 

A beautiful Cream-Spot Tiger Moth on Ivy in the wooded areas.

A Cricket nymph

Rock Samphire was abundant on the barer chalk cliffs and along the foreshore, much of which comprised of old concrete (locally called The Apron).

Crithmum maritimum

Every now and again were groups of Common Spotted Orchids, most quite small compared to inland specimens.

There were a few all white variants that created some interest among the group.

And of course, the usual colour form. Though Common Spotted vary tremendously in colour and markings, even in a single population.

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Daucus carota subsp carota

Wild Carrot is a common sight in Kent and here at the Warren. Apparently Sea Carrot was also seen, but I somehow managed to miss that!

Echium vulgare

Another coastal plant but also found inland on the chalk was Viper's Bugloss, seen here growing in a concrete crack along with  Rock Sea-lavender - Limonium binerversum

Some photos of the long walk down (and longer walk up!)

Common Eyebright - plenty of expert botanists around to help me identify it!

Euphrasia nemorosa

A photo of typical flora in the slump zone of a chalk cliff.

A nice diversion was this Green Hairstreak butterfly on Wild Privet, found and pointed out by Owen.

Some of the chalk turf was so steep, we left it to the gulls!

 I noted three Hypericums, the first was this beautiful Tutsan

Hypericum androesaemum

Then Hairy St John's Wort.

Hypericum hirsutum

and finally Hypericum perforatum (not photographed)

Fine displays of Stinking Iris in full bloom.

Iris foetidissima

This isn't just a view shot. In the foreground was a plant I'd never seen before, which was Wild Madder. Apparently common in the West, it is very rare in Kent.

Unfortunately gone to seed, but very shrubby and rough to the touch. Much like a giant Hedge Bedstraw!

Rubia peregrina 

Views each way from our lunch spot, now at sea level. It was here that I was shown two grasses and from this moment decided to try and crack this group of plants so that I could ID them myself on future recording trips. Most changes of direction need a catalyst and this was one.

So what wonder grass influenced me? One of the group had noticed two closely related grasses growing in the concrete cracks, one rare, the other common. He took the time to show me the differences and that was my catalyst.

Here's the common one, called Hard Grass. Doesn't look much does it, but if you sat on it, the blade tips were rather like needles going through one's trousers! Ouch!

Parapholis strigosa

This is the rarer one, Curved Hard Grass, which has a lot more Ouch! than the former species.

Apart from being curved, the most obvious difference is the lack of flowers on this one compared to P. strigosa above.

Parapholis incurva

 A Nursery Web Spider waits for its prey to land on the leaf when it can grab it with lightning speed.

The pink rhino horned flower of Common Restharrow in the chalk turf.

Ononis repens

Along the cliff tops and in places on the way down were stands of the rare Nottimgham Catchfly whose petals unroll after dark to attract pollinating moths.

Silene nutans

Small flowered Sweet Briar Rose was found and the apple scented glands on the leaves shown to us all.

However, this may not be the flower that goes with it! I think this is actually a Field Rose, but the leaf below definitely relates to the former species!

Rosa micrantha

Some of the group botanising the cliff base where the Moon Carrot was found.

Of course, there were many other species seen and recorded from Common Milkwort, Squinancywort and Thyme on the chalk to a massive display of Hartstongue ferns down the cliff path and beach species such as both Sea Spurries. It is an amazing venue and a big thank you to Sue and Owen for arranging the field trip for us all.


Sunday, 29 July 2018

Monkton Quarry & Sandwich Dunes, Kent - 02/06/18

Amazingly, I've made it to June for my blogs and it's only the end of July! To be fair, I spend much of the summer immersed in recording under-recorded monads for the 2020 BSBI atlas. I also try to ensure I contribute to #wildflowerhour on Twitter to engage the general public with wildflowers. It doesn't leave a lot of time to detail my blogs in the summer months.

This day,  we visited Monkton Quarry, a private charity run nature reserve in an old disused chalk quarry on the Isle of Thanet.

It was a baking hot day (unbeknown to us, one of many to come).

In the car park were numerous stands of Welted Thistles. Superficially, these looked like Marsh Thistles, but the welts run right up the stem to the flowers, whereas Marsh Thistles don't.

There's also only a single flower on each stem, whereas the Marsh Thistle has several.

Carduus crispus

We still haven't identified these caterpillars, but it's the second year of visiting that they have hung down on a stout thread across our path, possibly from a Spindle tree.

It wasn't long before we found several Southern Marsh Orchids in flower.

Dactylorhiza praetermissa


Euphrasia were evident, though at this time I didn't try to key it out to a species level.

Euphrasia agg.

Up on the cliffs were some fantastic views of the quarry and the tamed "wasteland" of arable fields beyond.

An indication of soil suitability for orchids was the presence of the Common Twayblade.

Neottia ovata

There were hundreds of Man Orchids here

Orchis anthropophora

Of course, flowers weren't the only thing to view here. Here's a Goldfinch on a feeder.

Mica Inkcaps fungi

In other years there were Common Spotted, Greater Butterfly, Lizard and Bee Orchids, so there's always plenty to see here.

From here we made our way to the private Sandwich estate, There's a toll to pay, but it's on a par with other seaside parking charges in the south east.

This is Wild Onion, though the flowers haven't come out yet.

Allium vineale

The first flowers of Pyramidal Orchids were coming out.

Anacamptis pyramidalis

A grass you cannot miss is this Greater Quaking Grass. It's a naturalised alien species and can be found in the rabbit proofed enclosure north of the car park.

Briza major

Of course, Sandwich is renowned for its colonies of Lizard Orchids, it was a bit early for them to be in flower, but I found some on a road verge. There were hundreds more in the fixed dunes by the seaside road.

Himantoglossum hircinum

Sea Sandwort was in flower in droves. These colonise the shingle (or sand) close to the high tide mark and here was no exception.

Honckenya peploides

On the drive into Sandwich from Deal we saw lots of Lupins growing wild. We found these to be Tree Lupins, not common but not a rare naturalised alien either.

Lupinus arborea

This is one of the species that Sandwich is renowned for, overlooked by the orchidophiles who flock here for the Lizard Orchids. This is the ultra rare Bedstraw Broomrape.

You can make out a Bedstraw host in the photo above.

Orobanche carophyllacea

It's a parasite of Bedstraws, and here it grows on both Lady's and Hedge Bedstraw. It's of continental origin and is only found here in all of the UK.

As such, it is much rarer than the sought after Lizard Orchids that adorn the dunes.

Common Broomrape is also numerous here. Whilst most parasitise clovers and the like, a few attach themselves to Sea Holly and bring forth a form known as :

Orobanche minor subspecies minor

A Gorse Shieldbug provided the fauna of the day.

In the barer ptches of the dunes you will find these Sand Catchfly. They are very small and mostly no more than a few centimetres tall.

Silene conica

These snails are prolific in the dunes and particularly like Wild Onion stems.

I've no idea what species the snail is, but it's very common here.

Given the time of the year, I kept an eye out for rare clovers.  I didn't find any, but did find this Rough Clover.

Trifolium scabrum

There were many more flowers here, but that is all I photographed today. I hope you enjoyed them.