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.



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