Tuesday 15 May 2018

The Lady, The Duke and the Diminutive Fly

Kent 15th May 2018

Unlike yesterday when I was a TV slob, I decided to make the most of today and a chance call to Miss Khan saw me heading towards Canterbury to join her for an Orchid and Butterfly search in the heart of some of her RSPB Turtle Dove plots.

The morning clag moved off east and it was gloriously sunny by the time Nicole and I arrived at KWT Yockletts. The walk back up the lane from the lay by (where I seem to remember being parked over twenty-five years ago) produced a singing Yellowhammer from the wires and Skylarks up above. Lords & Ladies dotted the verge with Wild Strawberries flowering in the hedge bank with Red Campion and banks of pungent Ramsons.

Wild Strawberry


Purple Honesty vied with Green Alcanet and Garlic Mustard was being attended by several Rhingia campestris hoverflies.  Bullfinches called and even sang as we entered the wood and my guide pointed out the first of many delightfully simple Common Twayblade – a subtle green flowered orchid.

Green Alkanet
Lords & Ladies

Herb Paris
Common Twayblade

Common Twayblade

This old forest floor was a profusion of greenery with Dogs Mercury dominating and everything else poking its head through with Yellow Archangel, the tiny Sanicle, Herb Paris, towering Lady Orchids and diminutive Fly Orchids with their curious little faces. Nicole says Jelly Babies – I say The Tick but you may have to look that up! 

Yellow Archangel

Lady Orchid

Lady Orchid

Lady Orchid - they seem vary variable in colour and pattern

Lady Orchid

Lady Orchid

Fly Orchid

Fly Orchid - The Tick albeit not blue...

A clearing offered better views in some sunlight and we also found a couple of almost gone over Early Purple Orchid one of which was quite pale and the nearly open spikes of several Greater Butterfly Orchid.

Greater Butterfly Orchid


Early Purple Orchid

Not so purple Early Purple Orchid - I think

Black Bryony, Old Man’s Beard and Honeysuckle anchored things down and Tarzan would have been at home swinging on some of the clematis!

Bee-flies droned around and a very active small red-tailed bee was carrying inch long pieces of dead grass off to an invisible nest but I could not get a picture while a couple of Xylota segnis and at least one Cheilosia hoverfly were noted. St Mark's Flies circled round with their legs dangling in a sinister fashion...

Xylota segnis - scurrying over  a bramble leaf
A curly little chalk snail species...
Cowslips and Primroses were over but I did find a solitary Oxslip still in bloom which was nice.



The loop round the north section took us through the dark Yews where a Turtle dove was purring down somewhere towards the woodland edge and even here there were clumps of Twayblade, Flies and Ladies dotted around.

Common Twayblade

A very tall Fly Orchid

We crossed the road into the south section and headed towards a meadow where glowing sulphur Brimstones and flashing Green Hairstreaks descended to nectar on the Bugle. There were no Duke of Burgundys to be seen but Dingy Skippers, Small Copper, Small and Large White and a flashy Peacock were added to the butterfly list while several Hornets cruised about at low level.

Brimstone on Bugle

Common Gromwell - a new one on me

A Broad-bodied Chaser used a tall Bugle spike as a perch from which to sally forth after a snack and a Marsh Tit sneezed itself eventually into the open.

Time to move on, retracing our steps to the car with a second Turtle Dove purring loudly from the lane and at ground level the first of the White Helleborines poking through along with the out of place looking Spurge-Laurel.

White Helleborine


Speckled Wood

A ten minute drive too us to Denge Wood and we parked at the north end at the Woodland Trust entrance before dropping down a long wooded glad between the trees edged with Red Campion, Broom and Brambles and a host of perambulating Wood Ants. Wearing sandals meant that I did not linger for long in any one spot. 

Wood Ants

Yellow Pimpernel

Broom - no citrus scent from this species

Bluebells still carpeted the ground in places with equally tall Bugle spikes amongst them and the first of two Garden Warblers rambled on as we passed by. This is still one of my favourite summer songs and unfortunately for the Blackcap knocks it onto second place although Eastern Orphean still wins it for the Sylvia stakes for me any day!


Green Tiger Beetles hunted the bare areas of the path in front with their characteristic run-run-run-fly a short way behaviour. At least six were seen but were noticeably avoiding the Wood Ants and their formic acid.

Green Tiger Beetle

Green Tiger Beetle

The butterfly clearing was where Nicole suggested and we sat on the bench and enjoyed the view across the valley with the odd Yew and Wayfaring Tree dotted across the meadow.  Dingy Skippers buzzed through but no Dukes and it was not until another couple approached and said they had seen them at this very spot just a short while before that the first one magically appeared.

Dingy Skipper - nice to see them after finding the first for RSPB Rainham Marshes on Wednesday

I had only seen them once before and was surprised at how small and fluttery they were but they had a penchant for landing and them burrowing further in which precluded good views let alone a picture but with some patience Duke happiness was acquired.

Duke of Burgundy Metalmark

A pesky Green Hairstreak likewise gave up trying to be a leaf and let me get close enough to count antenna bands. 

Green Hairstreak

Somehow four hours had whizzed by and with the Canterbury rush to avoid we called it a day after a successful venture into the leafy corners of Kent’s ancient countryside.

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