For many of those that joined us for this morning visit to Lullingstone Country Park, the highlight was our visit to the Orchid Bank on the golf course. By the time we reached the bank the sun was shining and lots of butterflies could be seen. The star species was probably the Dark-green fritillary which, as well as being a strong flyer, likes to visit flowers for nectar. Today it was the large knapweed Centaurea scabiosa. Dark-green fritillary is quite scarce in Kent and Lullingstone is certainly one of best places to see them in our area.
Second in the league table was Marbled White. These were really numerous and they spent most of their time rushing around – quite aimlessly it seemed to me. But I suppose they know what they are doing. Other butterfly species that were good to see were Small Heath, Meadow Brown and Small Skipper. Did I miss any? And yes there were orchids – lots.
On the way back to the Visitor Centre we walked along the Darent looking out for dragonflies and damselflies. A few years ago I was very surprised to see White-legged damselfly on the Darent near Lullingstone Castle. In Kent this species is mainly associated with the Medway and Beult in the Weald. But this rather isolated colony on the Darent has been here for a few years now.
Today, mated pairs of the White-legged damselfly, were really common. Perhaps up to 10 pairs could be seen egg laying on water plants or coupled together on marginal plants.
But what about the birds you may ask? Well – we always have our eyes and, especially at this time of year, our ears fully open and on the alert. My personal target for the day was to see or hear a yellowhammer. Everyone else had managed this quite early in the walk but I was still struggling. So I was really pleased to eventually see a yellowhammer and (just) hear its song as we approached the golf course. But how many blackcaps were still singing? I thought about 20 males but Julie wanted to double that number. Lets just say it was a lot!
Clive wanted to see one of the ancient oaks that Lullingstone Park is justly famous for. So we went slightly “off piste” and managed to find two – standing in the wood, as they have done for 500 years. Just imagine that.
Thanks to John, Roy and Sally for the photographs and to Peter for not getting us lost.