Well the longest day is nearly upon us. The summer solstice. The first day of summer in the northern hemisphere. Astronomically this is correct but I always think of summer as starting on the first of June. I suppose it's easier to just partition the year into four easy quarters. March, April and May for spring, June, July and August for summer etc. But whichever way you prefer, there's no denying that weather wise it's been a pretty disastrous spring (especially for wildlife) and a disappointing start to summer. As I write this it's cool, windy and damp outside and I believe there will be little change at least in the next few days.
On a rare warmer day last week Carol and I walked the banks of the River Medway upstream from West Farleigh, to the village of Yalding.
I was disappointed and surprised that we didn't find a single dragonfly on our travels. But we did see fairly good numbers of one of my favourite damselflies, the Banded Demoiselle. The male is pictured at the top of the post and the female above.
It was pretty quiet bird wise too, surprisingly not a single Kingfisher seen. The only flash of blue being from an adult Blue Tit who was feeding its young in this brick wall adjacent to the river.
A couple of hours at New Hythe at the start of the week produced a couple of butterfly year ticks. The first being the Grizzled Skipper above and the second this pristine Common Blue male pictured below on Birds-foot Trefoil I believe.
Also a year tick for New Hythe was the Large Red damselfly below, found and pictured close to the divers' foot bridge. Two dragonfly species as well, first the Hairy Dragonfly (pictured in the previous post at Dungeness) and better still a very nice Downy Emerald spotted in the finger lake adjacent to the Brook House track. This is not a particularly common species at NH and can easily be missed.
Just one addition to the bird list at New Hythe in the shape of a high flying Peregrine, spotted by myself but photographed and identified by Terry Laws.
Talking of Terry, many thanks to him and Martin W. for inviting me along to Oare marshes during the week where we nearly froze in the viciously cold NE wind to catch a distant glimpse of a very lethargic and somewhat bored looking Bonaparte's Gull. Almost pictured above, looking like 'Billy no mates'. Which is not surprising given that they're as rare as hen's teeth in these parts. Talking of eggs, comic relief was provided by a Herring Gull who had managed to purloin a large egg from somewhere and was patiently and repeatedly flying up in the air with it and dropping it on the ground to break it open. Except it bounced and remained intact every time. If anybody lost a hard boiled egg from their picnic or lunch box at Oare last week, it was last seen, bouncing along, on the small island in the north east corner of the east flood. Should still be OK!
As usual this time of year, my eyes wandered to the undergrowth to see what might be lurking. The best I found, in some numbers, were Cardinal Beetles. Pictured above. What a super little beetle, always good to see. Dragonflies once again didn't show and I saw just one butterfly, a Speckled Wood.
The moth above is a Cinnabar, it posed very briefly before flying weakly away, exposing its brilliant red hindwings. Its black and yellow srtriped caterpillar will be seen during the summer feeding on Yellow Ragwort.
A Grass Snake is always great to see and this one alongside Long lake was no exception. Its blue eyes indicating that it will soon be sloughing its skin. This is only the second one i've seen so far this year, hopefully there'll be more.
The last picture I took before leaving rainy Sevenoaks was this juvenile Carrion Crow which was clinging to the side of a tree and took absolutely no notice of me as I walked past very close. It could of course be a Rook, they're very similar when young. But i'm going to stick with Crow.
And so to the garden, where this newly fledged Coal Tit called in and promptly flew into the patio door. I left it for a while before scooping it up and moving it out of the bitter wind. Ten minutes later it was gone, hopefully reunited with its parents.
And finally........I was delighted to spot this Hedgehog in our garden early one morning at the weekend. I presume this is a sow as she was clearly nest building in some thick vegetation close to our hedgerow boundary. I saw her make at least a dozen journeys up the garden to collect nesting material, always using the exact same route to and fro. Hence I was able to lay in wait for her and capture a couple of shots. Could we soon have the patter of tiny hoglets???