Wednesday 24 June 2020

Cliffe is Hot Hot Hot... 24th June 2020

A local excursion this morning was the order of the day with a meet up with Jason Moule to have a look for Southern Emerald Damselfly at Cliffe Pools in the sweltering heat of a cloudless sky.   

There was somewhat more footwork than expected due to a geographically misplaced Mr Moule but it gave us the chance to check out the burgeoning Brambles and their attendant swarms of Common Blue Damsels, Commas, Meadow Browns, Bumble Bees, common Hoverflies and a few Andrenas.


Common Blue Damsel

High pitched whining made us both say Shrill Carder bee but we were wrong and it was in fact Anthophora bimaculata – the Little Flower Bee making all the noise.  Many of them were zooming from bloom to bloom and taking a picture was quite tricky.  A slightly larger rusty Anthophora without green eyes and that tell tale orange tip to the tail pointed to A.furcata that I saw in Ranscombe the other day.

Little Flower Bee - (Anthophora bimaculata)

Anthophora bimaculata

Anthophora bimaculata and an Eristalis tenax hoverfly

Anthophora bimaculata

I found my first Syritta pipiens of the year and there were several Eristalinus aeneus nectaring too.

Eristalis tenax

Eristalinus aeneus - you can just make out tat only the top half of the eyes are hairy

Syritta pipiens

Med Gulls drifted overhead with the Black-heads on their way back from the chalk pits where they go for a freshwater bath and it was a joy to be surrounded by that now common call of a Kentish Summer.

Med Gulls

Marbled Whites and Small Tortoiseshells were seen and Skippers, Whites and the odd Red Admiral and Peacock added more butterfly action.


The Radar Pool had flocks of just fledged Black-headed Gulls interacting all over it and we rescued one from the path and projected it back to the relative safety of the water.  Common Terns dipped for fish and Sedge and Reed Warblers, Blackcaps and Whitethroats were singing well from the ditches and bushes.  

Little Egret

Black-headed Gulls

Radar Pool looking towards DP World

Teneral Ruddy Darters were hunting the Brambles for insects with their golden wings shining in the sunshine and two Black-tailed Skimmers, two Blue-eyed Hawkers and an Emperor were also seen and the scent coming off a huge bank of native Honeysuckle was intoxicating.

Pyramidal Orchids - huge blooms for this species!

Ruddy Darters

Ruddy Darters
If only this was a scratch and sniff photo...

It is now quite tricky to see into the damselfly ditches and Jason had just commented that Southern Emerald Damsels will often sit up in dry juncus away from water ‘like this patch in the middle of the path’ when one appeared right in front of him.

Southern Damselfly

The white-black-white pterostigma were the first feature that we looked for. What a cracking Damselfly and my first since sometime in the early 1990s (I think) on a long hot walk with Adrian and Hazel Kettle on one of the sandwich Bay Golf Courses.

Southern Emerald Damselfly

Southern Emerald Damselfly

A Scarce Emerald briefly stopped in the same patch and we then found a male Common Emerald on the not so onerous walk back.

Common Emerald
Tubular Water Dropwort (Oenanthe fistulosa) - I reckon!

From here we drove the short way back to Cliffe Woods and followed a path into Chattenden Woods in the search of Purple Emperors. Our path led us to two fine Oaks – one English and one Turkuy and this is where several had been seen in recent days by Frank.  The Master Oak was indeed just that and situated about 50 yards further on. 

We both commented that it almost looked unreal, with major branches as if drawn by a child.  It was very open and airy but the closeness of the path precluded much chance to check the canopy so we walked a bit further on and bumped into Bob Knight who was watching White Admirals and orange Silver Washed Fritillaries before the Oaks drew us back.   

Silver Washed Fritillary
Shortly after midday Jason got his wish and we had some great views as several Purple Emperors glided on stiff wings around the oak opposite.  The light was perfect and it was a thrill to see this magisterial butterfly so close to home.  

It was pushing 30c so we called it a day and went our separate ways pleased with a ‘played for a got’ morning out in the field.


  1. Another fab write up. If you want to meet up for a walk next week (any day but Tues) just let me know. Happy to learn about all aspects of wildlife.