US social scientist Kenneth Boulding : ‘If you believe exponential growth can go on in a finite world, you are either a madman or an economist’.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

3/8/10: Ruddy hell! Grain Wall Brown joy and Eryngium maritimum bonanza

An unexpected, short-notice trip over to the Isle of Grain in Kent today with Mervyn Brown, and old acquaintance from North Kent Wildlife Preservation Society days. Mervyn showed up at my door out of the blue a few months ago when he found out I was back in the area. He has been working with Eric Philp on the new Flora of Kent. He used to focus on moths but is now hot on grasses. The purpose of the visit was to look at a colony of Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum), as he is an afficianado of the genus.

The area looked at was the Thames shoreline, north and west of the village of Grain itself.

Looking east from the cliff-top towards the mouth of the Medway, with Sheerness beyond. Remains of anti-tank defences towards the foreground.

A short way west of the car park was a rough grassy area over a crumbly clay. A number of grasses were identified, including Sea Couch, the Couch/Sea Couch hybrid, Creeping Bent and Yellow Oat Grass. There were a number of Opium Poppies, Hoary Ragwort, Sea Mayweed and White Melilot.

Wild Carrot amongst abundant Horseradish

Creeping Bent (in the foreground)

View of the Thames looking north-west (upriver)

In a depression between some banking were Common Fleabane in flower, Hairy Tare and Common Toadflax.

Common Fleabane (foreground) with the Thames and Essex coast beyond

A lot of Coltsfoot was sprouting from several incongruous mounds of sand

The botanical highlight was the huge amount of Sea Holly. I haven't been able to resist including several pictures of it .....

A long strip behind the beach in a fenced-off area contained a phenomenal number of plants - it was as if a farmer had deliberately sown a field of them stretching into the distance. Neither Mervyn nor I had ever seen the species growing at this sort of density before.

Other coastal plants included Sea Purslane and lots of Sea Sandwort.

Insects seen included Common Blue Damselflies, good close-up views of my first definite Ruddy Darters, Common Blue butterflies, a Small Copper, a Red Admiral and Gatekeepers.

I thought I'd seen something a bit different earlier on, but when I called out to Mervyn 'It's a Wall Brown!' he didn't quite believe me. It was very obliging and we both took several pictures - even though it flew up a couple of times, it kept coming back to a nearby spot and opening its wings. I used to get Wall Browns on the Buddleia in my front garden in Barnehurst (and no Speckled Woods). Without hunting out my old records my guess is that the last one I saw was in my garden in around 1980-1982, more than half a life-time ago now. The Wall Brown disappeared from much of its range for unknown reasons, but for a long time now I have had Speckled Woods.

Long time no see - a Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera) by the Thames, just west of Grain village, on the Isle of Grain, Kent

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