Friday, 31 July 2015

Leybourne Lakes 2015


Indian Balsam, Impatiens glandulifera.   Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Himalayan Balsam, Impatiens glandulifera.   Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
I led a walk at Leybourne Lakes in mid-July, and went for a look around a week before to be prepared for whatever might be there.  These photos are from that recce.

Leybourne Lakes has been a country park since 2004.  It began as gravel diggings and has been converted to a wildlife and recreational centre.  There is also a good range of water-loving plant life to be found and I took photos of some, but not all, of it.

This first shot is an invasive species, Himalayan or Indian Balsam.  It has colonised just one side of this small stream.  It is sometimes called Touch-me-not, because when its seed pods are ripe they will explode when touched and throw the seeds a good distance.

Yellow Loosestrife, Lysimachia vulgaris.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Yellow Loosestrife, Lysimachia vulgaris.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Yellow Loosestrife, Lysimachia vulgaris.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
   Yellow Loosestrife, Lysimachia vulgaris.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Yellow Loosestrife is a good waterside species to find.  There is a similar garden species, Spotted Loosestrife.  As you can see, it grows quite tall and bushy, very unlike its two close relations Yellow Pimpernel and Creeping Jenny, both of which never leave ground level.  The Yellow Pimpernel is a woodland plant, but Creeping Jenny likes it damp, and we found a patch actually growing under some Yellow Loosestrife.  (No photos, sadly.  We found that on the walk, and I don't take my camera when I am leading a walk.)

Totally unrelated to the Yellow Loosestrife is Purple Loosestrife, which grows freely in wet environments in this area.  There are great stands of it at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve.

Purple Loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
It's from a different family.  These are not as big and lush as some I have seen, but they are well established.  Here are some closeups of Purple Loosestrife flowers, showing their odd pollination arrangements: Heterostyly.

Marsh Woundwort, Stachys palustris.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Marsh Woundwort, Stachys palustris.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
This rather weedy specimen is Marsh Woundwort, a close relation of the common Hedge Woundwort.  Hedge Woundwort is said to have an unpleasant smell when their leaves are crushed, but that is very variable, and actually I rather like the smell which at its best is strong, aromatic and rather medicinal in quality.  This marsh species does not have the same smell.

Other water-lovers seen, but not photographed, included Clustered Dock and Water Figwort.

Next time, some plants from Leybourne Lakes which are not particularly water-loving.









Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Three Clouds

Clouded Magpie, Calospilos sylvata.  Cuckoo Wood, High Elms, 9 July 2015.
Clouded Magpie, Calospilos sylvata.  Cuckoo Wood, High Elms, 9 July 2015.
Here are some related species of moth seen recently.  The first is a Clouded Magpie, caught at High Elms just long enough to photograph.  It's the first time I have seen one of these, and three of them came to my trap.  I think it's a real beauty.  The caterpillar eats various types of Elm.

Clouded Border, Lomaspilis marginata.  Hayes, 11 July 2015
And this one is a Clouded Border.  I have seen lots of these in the wild, but this is the first to come to my back garden.  The caterpillars eat Poplars and Willows, and there are not many of those nearby.  The basic colouration and pattern of this moth is always the same, so it is instantly recognisable, but the exact size and position of the brown "clouds" is variable.  This one is nicely balanced.

Clouded Silver, Lomographa temerata.  Hayes, 9 July 2015
Clouded Silver, Lomographa temerata.  Hayes, 9 July 2015
The Clouded Silver is also around in this season, and is also variable in detail.   This one was in my garden.  Its caterpillar eats  Hawthorns, Blackthorns and other common shrubs.

There are several other "clouded" moths, and other things too, like the Clouded Agaric, a common woodland mushroom.  But not today.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Butterflies By The Sea


Marbled White, Melanargia galathea.  Sandwich Bay, 3 June 2015.
Marbled White, Melanargia galathea.  Sandwich Bay, 3 June 2015.
It was windy in the dunes along Sandwich Bay.  Mostly, too windy to get good photos of anything small, because everything was moving.  But there was a sheltered spot with a range of flowering plants, and butterflies were feeding there in abundance.

There were dozens of Marbled Whites.  They are very pretty, and as is often the case, the undersides of their wings are more interesting than the upper surfaces.

Small White, Pieris rapae.  Sandwich Bay, 3 June 2015.
Small White, Pieris rapae.  Sandwich Bay, 3 June 2015.
Marbled Whites really belong with the brown butterflies, in the family Nymphalidae. This Small White is a true white butterfly from the Pieridae.

Small Heath, Coenonympha pamphilus.  Sandwich Bay, 3 June 2015.
Small Heath, Coenonympha pamphilus.  Sandwich Bay, 3 June 2015.
The Small Heath is quite a furry-looking thing; like the Marbled White, it's of the Nymphalidae.  And there was yet another family represented:

Small Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris.  Sandwich Bay, 3 June 2015.
Small Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris.  Sandwich Bay, 3 June 2015.
The Hesperidae.  There were lots of these Small Skippers flitting around in the grass.  There is a closely related species, the Essex Skipper, which looks just like this except that the undersides of the tips of its antennae are sooty black.  In this photo you can see the exact spot you have to look for to tell the difference.  On this butterfly it's orange.

The Marbled White at the top is feeding from a Creeping Thistle. The Small White is just resting.  The Small Heath is investigating a bramble flower, and the Small Skipper is feeding from a Ragwort.  Those are all popular food sources  Bramble hedges in particular are always good for some insect life.

There were other Lepidoptera present too.  There were many Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnets, which are day-flying moths.

Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet.  Zygaena lonicerae.  Sandwich Bay, 3 June 2015.
Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet.  Zygaena lonicerae.  Sandwich Bay, 3 June 2015.
You can't tell these from the related (non-narrow-bordered) Five-spot Burnets from a photo, but the population here is known to be Narrow-bordered. 

Although I did not see a mature adult, there were Cinnabar larvae feeding on the Ragwort.

Cinnabar larva, Tyria jacobaeae.  Sandwich Bay, 3 June 2015.
Cinnabar larva, Tyria jacobaeae.  Sandwich Bay, 3 June 2015.
The Cinnabar is another day-flying moth.  These two moths are representatives of two more Lepidopteran families, the Zygaenidae and Erebidae respectively.  So we had a good range on display.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Some Coastal Plants

Sea Holly, Eryngium maritimum.  Apiaceae.   Sandwich Bay, 4 July 2015.
Sea Holly, Eryngium maritimum.  Sandwich Bay, 4 July 2015.
I visited a friend at the coast recently, and was taken for a walk, where I saw a range of plants I am not at all used to.  Plants that grow in the coastal dunes, or even in the shingle on the beach, are often quite different from the usual inland plants.  They need to be tolerant of salt, and sometimes of dry conditions, because sand and shingle do not retain moisture.

This Sea Holly is well known, and is quite showy even though its flowers blend in with the leaves.  But the star this time was Viper's Bugloss, first seen off to one side over a dune, then in larger numbers right beside the path.

Viper's Bugloss, Echium vulgare.   Sandwich Bay, 4 July 2015.
Viper's Bugloss, Echium vulgare.   Sandwich Bay, 4 July 2015.

Viper's Bugloss, Echium vulgare.   Sandwich Bay, 4 July 2015.
Viper's Bugloss, Echium vulgare.   Sandwich Bay, 4 July 2015.
The red anthers protruding from that mass of deep blue flowers give a startlingly colourful effect.

In the general coastal area, this occurs quite often:

Sea Bindweed, Convolvulus soldanella.   Sandwich Bay, 4 July 2015.
Sea Bindweed, Convolvulus soldanella.   Sandwich Bay, 4 July 2015.
At first glance it looks like a large Field Bindweed, which I see scattered freely around the countryside where I live, but closer up I could see that the leaves are a different shape and the flower is too consistently large.  It's called the Sea Bindweed.  It was also in my friend's lawn!

Sea Sandwort, Honkenya peploides.   Sandwich Bay, 4 July 2015.
Sea Sandwort, Honkenya peploides.   Sandwich Bay, 4 July 2015.
This succulent little thing grows in big healthy mounds right in the shingle at the top of the beach. I had no idea what it was and had to get it identified as Sea Sandwort on the very useful iSpot site.

Also in the shingle is ..

Yellow Horned Poppy, Glaucium flavum.   Sandwich Bay, 4 July 2015.
Yellow Horned Poppy, Glaucium flavum.   Sandwich Bay, 4 July 2015.
Yellow Horned Poppy, Glaucium flavum.   Sandwich Bay, 4 July 2015.
Yellow Horned Poppy, Glaucium flavum.   Sandwich Bay, 4 July 2015.
this Yellow Horned Poppy.  It's the poppy flower that is yellow, not the horns, so the last two words are sometimes hyphenated as Horned-poppy.   The horns are the seed pods.

The last beach flower I saw before turning inland again was this ...

Silver Ragwort, Senecio cinerea.   Sandwich Bay, 4 July 2015.
Silver Ragwort, Senecio cinerea.   Sandwich Bay, 4 July 2015.
Silver Ragwort.  As you can see, it's not actually in the shingle, but in the sand just above it.

Many of these coastal plants are very decorative.  I would have been interested to see them anyway, but I was amazed by what I actually saw.




Wednesday, 1 July 2015

An Unusual Orchid

Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii, var. rhodochila.  Downe Bank, 27 June 2015.
Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii, var. rhodochila.  Downe Bank, 27 June 2015.
Dactylorhiza fuchsii, var. rhodochila is a scarce, but widespread, variety of the Common Spotted Orchid.

Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii, var. rhodochila.  Downe Bank, 27 June 2015.
Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii, var. rhodochila.  Downe Bank, 27 June 2015.
This one was known to grow in the Downe Bank Nature Reserve, and Irene Palmer was kind enough to show me just where, so that I could take a few photos.  The orchid flowers are quite prolific this year and it is not easy to spot this one.

I also took a few photos in Downe village while waiting for Irene (I was there early). 

Wall Rue, Asplenium ruta-muraria.  On the churchyard wall in Downe, 27 June 2015.
Wall Rue, Asplenium ruta-muraria.  On the churchyard wall in Downe, 27 June 2015.

Wall Rue is a small fern that is happy on dry stone.  Other ferns, on the wall of the church, have frizzled up, but this plant, on the churchyard wall, is bright green and lush.

Barley, Hordeum vulgare.   Downe churchyard.  Downe, 27 June 2015.
Barley, Hordeum vulgare.   Downe churchyard.  Downe, 27 June 2015.
A little bunch of Barley is growing next to the church, perhaps escaped from birdseed.  It's like a giant version of Wall Barley, a common wayside grass, and is from the same genus.

Black Horehound, Ballota nigra.  Downe, 27 June 2015.
Black Horehound, Ballota nigra.  Downe, 27 June 2015.
Over the road, on a tiny patch of grass with a bench, this is Black Horehound.  The leaves are supposed to smell resinous and unpleasant when crushed.  Sometimes they do have a strong smell, but I like it.  It's similar to the smell of Hedge Woundwort, a related plant which you can also find in hedgerows.

Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui.   Fence on the track down to Downe Bank, 26 June 2015.
Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui.   Fence on the track down to Downe Bank, 26 June 2015.
Finally, a Painted Lady found on the track down to the nature reserve.  I was pleased to get a good shot of the underwing, which is less familiar than the top view.  This moth is a regular immigrant to the UK, and we are told that there are hordes of them on the continent just waiting for the right weather to come over.  Clearly, some are already here!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Monad Wonders

White Bryony, Bryonia dioica.  Female.  Hayes, 18 June 2015.
White Bryony, Bryonia dioica.  Female.  Hayes, 18 June 2015.
White Bryony, Bryonia dioica.  Male.  Hayes, 20 June 2015.
White Bryony, Bryonia dioica.  Male.  Hayes, 20 June 2015.

This White Bryony was in the hedgerow at the edge of Hayes churchyard.  It's a common hedgerow plant, a climber, related to cucumbers, and each plant is single-sexed.  They are not showy, but are beautiful in detail.

Snapdragon, Antirrhinum majus.  On Hayes churchyard wall.  18 June 2015.
Snapdragon, Antirrhinum majus.  On Hayes churchyard wall.  18 June 2015.
The wall that separates the churchyard from the road has an excellent flora of its own.  I would not have thought that a garden plant like a Snapdragon could flourish unattended with nothing but a crack in the stonework for its roots.   At the base of the Snapdragon you can also see a small Rustyback Fern, quite a rarity in Kent, and to the right is a Harebell, this one not in flower.

Pale Yellow-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium striatum.  Hayes Street Farm, 18 June 2015.
Pale Yellow-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium striatum.  Hayes Street Farm, 18 June 2015.
Back at the farm, I found this Pale Yellow-eyed Grass in an unattended corner.  It took me some while to identify it.  It's not in the book I use most of the time because it's only found in the wild "naturalised, often short-lived, on tips, waste ground, banks and waysides," which describes where I found it quite well.  With leaves like an Iris (to whose family it belongs) but flowers like no Iris ever, I found it after a long Googling session!  The flowers are:

Pale Yellow-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium striatum.  Hayes Street Farm, 18 June 2015.
Pale Yellow-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium striatum.  Hayes Street Farm, 18 June 2015.
Light yellow with darker centres.

Peacock larvae, Aglais io, on Common Nettle, Urtica dioica.  Hayes Street Farm, 18 June 2015.
Peacock larvae, Aglais io, on Common Nettle, Urtica dioica.  Hayes Street Farm, 18 June 2015.
I was looking through a large stand of stinging nettles nearby, watching for damselflies, when I spotted these caterpillars.  They belong to the Peacock butterfly and they are immediately identifiable by their host plant and their habit of cocooning it up, and those black spines along their backs. 

White Campion, Silene latifolia.  Hayes Street Farm.  18 June 2015.
White Campion, Silene latifolia.  Hayes Street Farm.  18 June 2015.
And last for today, also on the farm, near the Clustered Dock I showed last time, was this White Campion.  I was pleased to add this to my species list.  The Red Campion is common in the local woods, but I see this relative much less often.

The more I walk around my monads with open eyes, the more interesting things I find - and all 15 or 20 minutes' walk from my door.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Monad Treasures

Bee on a yellow Composite.  Lasioglossum species.  Hayes Street Farm, 18 June 2015.
Bee on a yellow Composite.  Lasioglossum species.  Hayes Street Farm, 18 June 2015.
For the last two years I have been joining in a large project to record all the wild flowers in the Greater London area.  Those who take part pick a monad, a one kilometer square, and walk round it during the year to see what can be found.  You have to go round several times in different seasons to pick up everything.

I have two monads this year.  One of them includes a couple of small suburban parks, a churchyard and graveyard, and some farmland. I have found some surprising plants here, some of them scarce in Kent.  Of course, I also see insects, like the bee above, a Lasioglossum.  I'm afraid I don't know the species.

Clustered Dock, Rumex conglomeratus, on Hayes Street Farm. 18 June 2015
Clustered Dock, Rumex conglomeratus, on Hayes Street Farm. 18 June 2015
Most docks are tricky to identify unless you can examine their seeds, but this one is easier.  It has many branches that come off at nearly 90 degrees from an angled stem, and it is leafy almost right to the tip.  It's Clustered Dock, and it usually grows in wet places, so I was surprised to find it next to a farm track.  In fact I also found it in the pond mud in Husseywell Park.  Here's a closeup:

Clustered Dock, Rumex conglomeratus, on Hayes Street Farm. 18 June 2015
Clustered Dock, Rumex conglomeratus, on Hayes Street Farm. 18 June 2015
Because it's not easy to see the details of the whole plant against the green background. This is a delicate and lovely little dock, quite unlike most of the others which are sometimes very large and cabbagey.

Husseywell Park also gave me a Wall Lettuce:

Wall Lettuce, Mycelis muralis, by the pond in Husseywell Park, Hayes.  18 June 2015.
Wall Lettuce, Mycelis muralis, by the pond in Husseywell Park, Hayes.  18 June 2015.
What called my attention to this, which at any distance is just another yellow composite, were the flowers:

Wall Lettuce, Mycelis muralis, by the pond in Husseywell Park, Hayes.  18 June 2015.
Wall Lettuce, Mycelis muralis, by the pond in Husseywell Park, Hayes.  18 June 2015.
They all have exactly five florets, a real giveaway.  This is the first time I have found one of these in my area, so despite the rather ratty and mildewed look of this plant, I was delighted.

I also found this ...

Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, in Husseywell Park, Hayes.  18 June 2015.
Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, in Husseywell Park, Hayes.  18 June 2015.
 The Moorhens have batches of chicks, and they show little fear of people.  Look at the size of those feet! 

The name "Husseywell" comes from Housewife's Well.