Friday 29 May 2020

Green Urban Birding: The Upnor – Chattenden Barracks Loop 29th May 2020

After the trauma of yesterday lunchtime at Shorne, I was all of a dither as to which way to go today or whether to even bother but the sun was shining and so the boots went back on and off I went.

With no great plan in mind I made my way through Strood (where the retail park was back to being busy by 9am) and then cut through to the Submarine.  The Medway was rushing out at an astonishing lick and the waters were going in all directions at once with fierce eddies and swirls.  You would not fancy your chances in those murky waters.

The chalky bit of ‘waste ground’ by the Riverside Tavern still had Pied Wagtails but also an amazing spread of flowers that must have been lurking there all along in the seed bank with Kidney Vetch, Poppies and even Corn Marigolds

Pied Wagtail

Kidney Vetch

Corn Marigold

The next open area where the gulls normally hang about now had Tree Mallow and Purple Toadflax flowering along the fenceline and it seems that if there is the tiniest patch of soil then there is a chance of a seed germinating.

Tree Mallow

Purple Toadflax

A few Garden Snails aestivating on the fence

Field and Opium Poppies around the edges

I made my way up the slope to All Saints Frindsbury hoping that I would at last find a churchyard with a pair of Spotted Flycatchers but alas I drew another blank and the old quarry top field did not have any orchids as I thought it might but I did find a rather splendid female Broad Bodied Chaser.

Broad Bodied Chaser

I checked the Marsh Warbler looking habitat by the sewage works before heading past Gundulph Pool and into Upnor.

From here I chose not to follow the river be continued on Upchat Road below the woods. The houses here push into the old quarry on the east side and it was interesting to look over the rooftops to see the rather narrow stratified banks above the naked Chalk. I may have to do some geological online digging.

There is a fence preventing you going up to the edge and tumbling down into the tree below – apart from a section opposite a huge rusting cylinder suspended in a metal shed over the edge looking like some redundant Medway Anti Aircraft gun!. I presume it was something to do with the old quarrying process.

Learned opinions welcomed!

I had not walked this little stretch before and it was good to find another singing Lesser Whitethroat and family of Great Spots. I crossed the main road and cut up towards the defunct Chattenden Barracks and onto the now closed off old road where I had all the Nightingales. 

I had the place to myself and was hoping that I might be lucky and find an early Silver Washed Frit but I only saw Speckled Woods and a couple of Holly Blues. There was the odd snatch of Nightingale song and a bit of huweeting and croaking so hopefully they are having a successful breeding season.

Holly Blue

The upper ride that I found that took me into Chattenden Woods is obviously often damp as there were Sedges and Rushes (looked like Flase Fox Sedge and Juncus that we get at work) growing in amongst the Brambles, Nettles and Grasses. I lingered and picked up a few Hovers including lots of territorial Eristalis intracaria and a few Syphus and Helophilus pendulus. 

Syphus ribesii - I saw the back legs better!

I am pretty sure that I added two new bumbles to my walk list with several Southern Cuckoo Bee (B.vestalis) and Garden Bumblebee (B.hortorum) amongst the other regular species.

Garden Bumble Bee (B.hortorum)

Garden Bumblebee (B.hortorum)

Southern Cuckoo Bee (B.vestalis)
Early Bumblebee (B.sylvarum)

Dog Roses were in full bloom in shades of pink and white and I may have found Burnet Rose lower down with proper poached egg flowers and small fine leaves.

Dog Rose

Burnet Rose- I think!
I did discover two very wild animals lurking in the verge and it took some stealth and fieldcraft to get such good images without disturbing the subjects.

The rarely seen North Kent Banded Tapir

and the Medway Squiffy-eyed Kangaroo

From here I emerged into the orchards and the lane toward Dillywood and home with only a Hobby and a new Yellow Wagtail territory from a bird point of view.

The fields of what I thought were multicoloured lettuce leaves would appear to actually be some sort of mini Chard or Spinach and have already been skilfully scalped by some clever harvester unlike the roadside banks that have been completely obliterated of Alexanders, Campion and Stitchwort that was so full of life...

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