Thursday 17 February 2022

Kentish Nature Walk #25 - Great Crabbles Wood

Yesterday was a working at home day and given the thrashing trees, scudding clouds and periodic squalls it was a day well chosen to be indoors. Today on the other had was the lull between the two incoming systems and with blue skies I decided to head out for a short circuit of Crabbles Bottom Orchard and Great Crabbles Wood.

The wind had not abated but it was not cold and I had hopes of finding some insect life in some of the warmer spots.  The wood itself is undergoing some much needed coppicing and a very neatly stacked woodpile greeted me upon arrival – I do like a pile of logs.

I followed the inside path looking for early signs of spring. There were very few Celandines even in leaf but the Bluebells were doing a sterling effort to get going.  New Dog’s Mercury and Lords and Ladies were showing with the latter pushing through the leaf litter like a green rolled tongue (if you are capable of doing that!) before unfurling to spearhead glory – some with spots and some without.


Lords and Ladies

The same can be said for the Early Purple Orchids up by the Pit with plenty of rosettes with and without dark adornments.  Some where already racing away but it seems that grazing has already happened on several so lets hope they come to fruition.

Early Purple Orchid

Early Purple Orchid

Butcher's Broom

Not quite sure on this tiny conical snail...

Up in the wood I found several large shopping bags stuffed full of the glorious ‘tumbleweed’ Moss that forms patches across the site.  I suspect that someone was either collecting it for garden baskets or for selling as such so I accidentally emptied them all out across the woodland floor before stashing the six bags for collection on my way back.

The wood was quiet with little birdlife but the Bullfinches were vocal but invisible as ever but I did find some flies with by first Hover of the year with the expected Eristalis tenax – a female. A few other flies were basking and I reckon that most that I got a good look at were Phaonia.

Phaonia sp

Eristalis tenax

Spurge Laurel clumps were in flower and only a single Cherry Plum added a splash of spring white to the proceedings.  Many other trees were budding and the Brambles were riddled with the mines of Stigmella aurella along with just a single Coptotriche marginea while most Hollies had Phytomyza ilicis mines on them.


Cherry Plum

Cherry Plum

Wayfaring Tree


Spurge Laurel 

Spurge Laurel 

Stigmella aurella 

Coptotriche marginea

King Alfred’s Cakes and Jelly Ears adorned decaying tree limbs where I stopped for a coffee just outside the wood at the bottom of Bowesden Lane.

King Alfred’s Cakes

Jelly Ears 

I was unsure where to go at this point but fancied having a look for Firecrests in the Holly that screen the huge front gardens as you walk up the lane.  It took me all of a minute to find a singing bird as her followed his mate back and forth across the road giving wondrous views.


Cyclamens and naturalised Crocuses littered the verge as I continued up to Peartree Lane and the gleaming yellow council salt bin was attracting sunbathers with three male Eristalis tenax, two Calliphora vicina (no ginger beards) and another small fly that I think may be a smaller Calliphora.



Sweet Violets

Eristalis tenax

Calliphora vicina 

Calliphora? - wing veins look same as above but fly half size

A Buzzard circled overhead but the wind was getting up again and I could hear nothing so I cut back into the wood via the next footpath. I felt pretty safe in amongst the trees with the tall Chestnuts swaying in unison, clattering and creaking as the gusts found their way through the branches and I followed a path down towards the main path I had come in on, remembering to collect the moss burglar’s bags on my way.


I found this naturalised Hellebore last spring and it is doing even better this year

Monday 7 February 2022

Some notes on nature... late January and early February 2022

There has been precious little to show for the couple of weeks since my last post with plenty of staring out of the work window at RSPB Rainham Marshes producing the same suspects as for the past few months with the Spoonbill and Barnacle Geese remaining and the Ravens giving some superb performances.  Two of the species ‘seen by others’ out on trail that I had not encountered from inside fell to my rather half hearted ticking with three Bearded Tits bimbling across the foreshore reedbed one morning and a Jack Snipe that was pushed up off the foreshore over the super high tide this past Wednesday while a solitary Pink-footed Goose south was bonus the same day.

I managed a couple of days of further car park hedge work and have faced up and part topped another long side as well as clearing (with help from Maureen, Jake and Phil) the micro meadow behind my wicker fence of wicked two year old Slow suckers.  Cowslip and Primrose leaves are already visible once again.  The work party cleared and burnt all my huge piles of brash the next day and the front ‘S’ hedge now looks fabulous and the House Sparrows all agree too.

As for real birding, well, a short ride out on Friday the 28th to Marsh Farm, South Woodham Ferrers saw me dipping the Red-breasted Goose that had been parading there on previous days.  Unfortunately it was with a splinter group that day at Blue House Farm but was not relocated until after I had headed for home – oh well.  That’s not to say that did not see anything.  It was a pleasant if chilly stroll along the Crouch with a good selection of waders and parties of Little Grebes drifting with the tide.

Clever Carrion Crow dropping bivalves onto the path

The Dark-bellied Brent flock eventually settled in a pasture where I could easily check them but alas the RBG was missing although but the cracking Black Brants were parading around and bossing their Palearctic cousins.  I spent a content couple of hours with them as the flock of 350 birds chortled and grumbled away to each other.

A Black Brant in each picture

Eleven Corn Buntings plipped along the river wall and small flocks of Greenfinch, Linnet and Reed Bunting were encountered along with a Stonechat and at least four Bearded Tits, Kingfisher and two Water Rails were found in the borrowdykes.

Mute Swan

 Corn Bunting

Knowing that my luck was elsewhere I ambled back but with not a single bird of prey seen during the whole morning.

A bit of tinkering up my Strood garden saw the first Primroses and Snowdrops opening up and there are the tips of other bulb leaves showing so fingers crossed while the Early Purple Orchid rosette is still intact and today I found that one of the two Man Orchids from last year is also now resurfacing.  Mr Fox was having a snooze in the pile of rubbish that next door have 'collected' at the top of their garden.  He sat up looked around, yawned, ignored me and curled up once again.


Snowdrops getting there...

Mr Fox

A tip off from Stephen Goss so me briefly escape the house today to drive to Fawkham where, as promised the spread of Winter Aconites and Snowdrops around the tiny church were quite special. There was even a little bit of sunshine to make them sparkle.

Winter Aconites