Enid B invited me to join her on a visit to Hothfield Heathlands between Lenham and Ashford this morning and this chance to be shown around a relict piece of peat bog in Kent by my favourite tame botanist was too good to pass up. A lazy start saw us in a busy car park before 11am to be greeted by the overpowering smell of the masses of flowering Sweet Chestnut that so defines the Kentish air at this time of year. As usual I am just not quite sure about it!
We crossed the road and made out way through the trees and then out onto the open heath before finding the boardwalk through the perfectly preserved peat boglet.
Cotton Grass was
blowing in the stiff breeze with spires of Heath Spotted Orchids and yellow Bog
Asphodel were dotted amongst them. Cross-leaved Heather was in full flower and
closer to the ground we found perfect Round-leaved Sundews with one in flower,
Louse-wort, Bog Pimpernel and Marsh St John’s Wort.
|Cross Leaved Heath
|Marsh St John’s Wort
When the sun came out the temperature rose and out came a
few Dragons with Broad Bodied and Four Spotted Chasers competing with sleek
powder blue Keeled Skimmers for a spot to lay their eggs and just like at Old
Lodge a large Tabanid was doing just the same.
|Broad Bodied Chaser
Up on the sandy heath we found flowering Common Heather and
what I am sure are Woodland Grasshoppers – another species I have not seen for
many years and certainly not in Kent.
In the more marginal areas there were countless Meadow and a
few Field Grasshoppers along with a single chunky Stripe-winged and lots of
immature Long-winged Coneheads.
Yellowhammers were singing from several vantage points and I
could hear bubbling Garden Warblers and softly calling Bullfinches. There were
very few flies and not many bees or butterflies but we did pick up Meadow
Browns, Small Copper, Small Heath, Comma and Ringlet before we got to the trees again.
It was dark in there but there was still stuff to find with
flowering Ground Elder and Upright Hedge Parsley and some fruiting Redcurrents
too. The Aspens were riddled with grazing
damage and I found the very slug-like larvae of a Sawfly munching away.
|Amazing beetle burrows - can anyone else see the scowling Gorilla face?
A big bank of Hogweed was practically devoid of anything bar
a single Red Soldier Beetle and just one hoverfly with a red-eyed male Chrysogaster
solstitialis. A single Neomyia cornicina
was my first this side of the country this summer.
|Red Soldier Beetle
We crossed a wet meadow to try and find the Great Stour (same one as up the other side of Canterbury) putting up hundreds of Grasshopper and Cricket nymphs and found some good plants too with a Persicaria and Marsh Cudweed and the highly aromatic Pineapple Weed and Scented Mayweed.
|Pineapple Weed and Scented Mayweed.
|A Spitfire roared over in the blue and grey sky - always a Kentish summer joy.
I was glancing at the
trees for leafmines and a shadow on a Sallow caused me to turn over a leaf only
to find a young Puss Moth cat suddenly stationary. This is the first one I have ever found in the
field. Enid then picked up some almost
adult Red-legged Shieldbugs (thanks Yvonne) under another leaf.
I found a couple of Grypocoris stysi on a Hogweed head and
the ditch behind had four male Banded Demoiselles loafing around – it was now
quite cool while Enid pointed out the impressively tall Reed Sweet Grass (Glyceria
maxima) growing there.
|Grypocoris stysi and a green plant bug too
|Reed Sweet Grass (Glyceria maxima)
|Reed Sweet Grass (Glyceria maxima)
We found the river by crossing a meadow burgeoning with
flowers with mounds of Red and White Clover, Buttercups and Bird’s Foot Trefoil
with patches of Fleabane in waiting.
However it was rather insect free with just a few Bumblebees of the
usual species and the odd Meadow Brown and all three Skippers.
There were almost no flies at all.
We stood on the little bridge of
the Great Stour adding a Large Red Damselfly on the Angelica to the list along
with a Marbled White and two more very tall smart grasses – Hairy Brome (Bromus
ramosus) and Reed Canary Grass (Phalaris arundinacea). I have to admit that I do not do grasses or
sedges but am always happy to learn is someone tells me what they are! Even the Meadowsweet had no insects on it and
a big patch of Rosebay Willowherb contained several fascinated blooms.
|Large Red Damselfly
|Hairy Brome (Bromus ramosus)
|Reed Canary Grass (Phalaris arundinacea)
|The scent of Lime flowers filled the air
|Rosebay Willowherb with fasciated stem
Retracing our steps we cut across
the dry sandy heath area (surely there are Nightjars here?) finding Marsh
Pennywort in a damp hollow on the way before lunch back at the car where we
were careful to step over the nest burrows of Bee Wolves and Ornate Tailed
Marsh Pennywort Bee Wolf (Philanthus triangulum) Bee Wolf (Philanthus triangulum) Bee Wolf (Philanthus triangulum) Ornate Tailed Digger Wasp - Cerceris rybyensis Ornate Tailed Digger Wasp - Cerceris rybyensis This large female Tabanid watched us during lunch Riddled by the Horse-chestnut Leaf miner (Cameraria ohridella)
Round two took us back onto the
heath and then the other way round. Two
big patches of Vervain in the middle of the path distracted us before we found
another boggy area. Marsh Bedstraw was new for me along with Creeping Forget-me-not
and mats of Water Purslane (Lythrum portula). While Enid studied sedges I tried
to get to grips with some micro moths but they all eluded me!
|Water Purslane (Lythrum portula)
A Common Carpet was bigger and
easier to see properly! Water Plantain, Greater Bird's Foot Trefoil, Ragged Robin, Water Mint and False
Watercress were all found and single Xanthogramma pedissequum and Eumerus were
the best of just a few Hoverflies.
|Greater Bird's Foot Trefoil
|The first Cinnabar cats of the year
|A last legs Common Blue
|Four Spotted Longhorn Beetle - Leptura quadrifasciata
It suddenly went dark and we could
feel a few spots getting through the canopy but it looked ok to cross the heath
but we had not got far before a dash to the shelter of the Birches was required
as the heavens opened for a few minutes.
A circling Red Kite saw us back to
the car and the end of a splendid excursion to somewhere I never even knew
existed. Always places to go and things to