If you look closely at the rather industrial picture above you'll see a family of four Kestrels. I first saw them on sunday when I had a quick hour at New Hythe between (and during) the showers. I saw them again yesterday as they practised their flying skills while calling noisily around the country park. Hence the name of the post. I can almost hear you groaning. I'm very sorry!
There were a couple of House Martins flying over the Brooklands car park, which served as a reminder that it was summer, despite the monotonous gloom and rain. There was a Turtle Dove on the wire over the sunken marsh which flew off northwards as I watched it. I followed its progress and saw another one join it as it swung round along the river. I think that's the first time i've seen two at the same time at NH.
Apart from the seemingly ever increasing numbers of Herons, the only other real interest was a pair of Shelducks, who proudly (or disappointedly), showed off their single chick. I don't know how many they started off with but I guess there has been some predation. While at the river I got a call from Terry Laws who had just arrived on site and we agreed to meet at the entrance to the small wood, home of the infamous bucket seat. We had a quick chat, moaned about the weather, surveyed the river from said wood and headed off towards the mound, commenting on the way about the lack of butterflies and whether we would even see a Purple Hairstreak at NH this year.
Then I happened to glance down the bank to some flower heads swaying in the breeze and lo and behold there was a Purple Hairstreak. Bold as brass, down at almost ground level in grey, cool conditions.
Now and again a few distant Swifts were spotted, a reminder that they will soon be heading back to Africa. This species is definitely the one whose departure I mourn the most, this year in particular. Their high pitched screech as they wheel around the sky on a warm evening is one of the real pleasures of summer and I feel like this dismal season has robbed us of it and now they'll soon be gone. I won't forgive it easily.
Over the east scrub we checked a piece of refugia and found a Slow Worm spaghetti beneath it. There were probably ten or more, all different sizes and a mass of heads and tails. They were certainly better off under there because the Kestrel family were criss crossing the scrub and would no doubt have liked to practise their hunting skills on them given half a chance.
In the west scrub we checked out the Orchids, plenty of Common Spotted and Pyramidals whose bright colous managed to shine in the dullness of the day. Here also we found our only dragonfly, an immature or female Black-tailed Skimmer who hung on a low bush with little inclination to fly. Apart from the single Purple Hairstreak and a handful of Red Admirals (thank goodness for them), we found just one Small Skipper, above and below, not a particularly plentiful species here.
And finally, we had both received a text a few days ago from Jerry Warne telling of a Lizard Orchid on a roadside verge just outside Maidstone. So after a bacon buttie from the Brooklands cafe we headed for the hills. Jerry's directions were spot on and we were soon taking pictures of my first Lizard Orchid, a spectacular specimen, albeit a tad past its best. But aren't we all!