A large group (30+) of members and visitors met at 10am at the RSPB reserve at Northward Hill. We had decided that we would head for the woodland – hoping to find some shade, in what was already a very hot day. With permission from Ruby, assistant warden, we headed off in the direction of the “sanctuary”, an area not open to the general public. We stopped at the “Sweeney” viewpoint, named to commemorate Owen and Linda Sweeney, both of whom were very active members of the Medway RSPB group and determined conservationists.
As Ruby had warned us there were very few birds “about” but once we had arrived at the Cherry Orchard (no cherries!), we hit a purple streak of butterfly sightings. Marbled White, Small Heath and Meadow Brown were seen flying over the grassland in good numbers. We were fortunate to have Peter and Karen with us. They are reserve volunteers and carry out surveys for butterflies and are also responsible for monitoring reptiles. Very quickly they found White Letter Hairstreaks on the elms. This is a very elusive butterfly, and because it’s foodplant is elm, its population has declined enormously since the arrival of dutch elm disease in the 1970s.
Northward Hill had a particularly large population and it used to be the place in Kent to go to see them. Peter and Karen then found some Purple Hairstreak butterflies flying in the canopy of the large oak trees. This is their foodplant and the butterflies are very common at Northward Hill. Indeed this species is probably the most abundant butterfly in the wood – but so elusive! We then passed along part of Peter and Karen’s reptile transect. I think it was refugium “9” that produced this Slow Worm. Great to see! – thanks to Peter and Karen for making this part of the walk so interesting.
Although I had thought that the grey herons and little egrets would have finished breeding, there were still a few herons about and little egrets were seen regularly flying over our heads into the wood to feed young. Great picture Steve!
We made our way back to the car park and were lucky to see a juvenile marsh harrier on the way. ( I should also have mentioned earlier that we started our walk with brilliant views of swallows feeding young on the wires above the car park).
Thanks to Steve, Sally, Sue and Terry for the photographs and thanks to Peter and Karen for their help. Thanks to Ruby for permission to visit the sanctuary – it made for a slightly cooler and much more interesting walk. I haven’t seen the hairstreaks for ages ……