Friday, 1 May 2009

Friday 1st.May 2009

The flower of the Hawthorn-Crataegus monogyna , a member of the Rose family , also known as Whitethorn , Quickthorn and May Bush , and the flower known as the Mayflower , were used to crown the 'Queen of the May' - May Queen , steeped on folklore and tradition .

This morning , I did the Down House bird survey . Nothing exceptional was seen , but 20 species were recorded , the best being Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Yellowhammer . The Butterflies on the way round were not much better , with 6 species being recorded , Orange Tip and Holly Blue being the pick of the bunch . In the woodland , around which Charles Darwin walked , the Bluebells in the soft morning sun looked really good .
Behind Down House is West Kent Golf Course , and after surveying the gounds at Down House , I walked over to do the same there . Birds were not much better there , but I added Goldcrest , Blackcap and 6 Rose Ringed Parakeets to the list . On the butterfly front , just Brimstone was added to what was seen previously . Along the hedgerows , the numbers of St.Mark's Flies were much higher than on previous days , at some places , almost in swarm proportions . Very little flower colour was found , just the occassional Bird's Foot Trefoil , but on the way back up the bank to the road , I did find my first of the year White Helleborines-Cephalanthera damasonium , another member of the Orchid family , although they haven't burst flower bud yet . Surprising really , as there is no sign of them yet at High Elms Country Park . Under five old bits of tin found around the site , I did record 4 Slow Worms . One of the reasons for going there , was to check up on the Kidney Vetch , the foodplant of the Small Blue butterfly , after Steve/Kingsdowner had posted pictures of the plant in flower this week . No such thing there , not even leaves showing yet , amazing how early things are down his end of the county . Although Small Blues have been seen already , I normally reckon on the Biggin Hill Air Show in ealry June as the time to go looking , if the small colony has managed to hang on , on this site . I stopped and watched a Bee land and disappear down it's tunnel underground , and waited for it to reappear . It took a little while , but eventually , in stages , it came back up and flew off . It must have taken 3/4 minutes from first showing to the moment of take off .
After lunch , I paid a visit to the farm lake , in the hope of finding the first Damselfly of the season , but it was not to be . All's pretty much the same , A Grey Heron flew off on my arrival ,the female Mallard has lost one of her brood , but still has eight . The Little Grebes have increased to three , with this one being banished to the far side of the lake from the other two . The nest that was being built seems to have been abandoned now , for some reason or another .Once again , a pair of Swallows came to skim a drink off the surface , I'm not sure if they have started nest building yet , up in the stables . The tadpoles are still in large numbers in the shallows , and seem to be growing by the day . Butterflies recorded on the site were , Large , Small and Green Veined White , Speckled Wood , Brimstone , Orange Tip , Comma and Peacock . The Commas are looking tired now , not surprising as they have been around as adults since about September last year . The ones we have been seeing will have bred and a new generation will appear about July . They in turn will breed , and a third generation will appear in about September , and they will overwinter , and we will see them next Spring . The Peacocks will hang on a bit longer than the Commas , but then they will disappear , having lived for about ten months , to be replaced by another generation in August , to overwinter as adults in sheds , hollow trees and roof spaces .
To finish , a shot of the pappuses of Coltsfoot , that caught my eye as I walked around the lake .


Warren Baker said...

nice varied post again greenie,
Those st.marks flies swarm everywhere, but are gone after a couple of weeks. Do they all die, after a frenzy of sexual activity?

Greenie said...

Warren ,
I can't guarantee that they all have a frenzy of sexual activity , but the do all die . Usually gone by early June .
The females lay eggs in leaf litter etc , which will be next year's flies . They are predated on a lot by Damsel/Dragonflies , and especially Spotted Flycatchers .
Your Blue Tailed Damselfly is very early , usually early June , but I have seen reports of adult Variable Damselfly , not expected till about that time . Still haven't seen a single Damselfly yet .
Great Fox close up shot .

Ruth The Wildlife Gardener said...

Hi Greenie, I've been out photographing hawthorn flowers and bluebells in Staffhurst Wood today. Managed to photograph a red damselfly!

Greenie said...

Ruth ,
I think I've been past Staffhurst Wood , Surrey WT I seem to remember , well known for it's Bluebells .
Thought afterwards , if you have a compost heap , place an old piece of carpet or the like on top , could well attract a Slow Worm .
Well done with the Large Red Damselfly , still nothing here .

Ruth The Wildlife Gardener said...

Yes - Staffhurst is well worth a stop - fabulous, beautiful bluebells. I've got a piece of black plastic over my full/maturing compost heap. I'll take a look. I'd be less surprised if there was a grass snake in there though.

Phil and Mandy said...

a great selection of photos again Greenie. Thanks for your input on my butterfly Id. Phil