Samphire Hoe is the newest part of the British Isles, created from the spoils when digging out the Channel Tunnel. It is located close to Dover docks and overlooked by chalk cliffs. It got its name from the rock and golden samphire which are found on the site, following a public competition.
Eleven of the group met up there this weekend. We started with an overcast sky and light breeze – by lunchtime the sun was out and in sheltered spots the temperature was quite pleasant. The result was that butterflies were about and their numbers increased as the day progressed. We spent the first hour and a half moving from the overflow car park and walking along the path beneath the cliffs towards the beach, catching up with beetles including green rose chafer, with its metallic green casing,
and butterflies such as marbled white, ringlet, gatekeeper, & small copper plus a small skipper.
A few managed to see a painted lady. Although the fragrant orchid, which was reported a couple of weeks ago and was a first for the site, was no longer standing, we did see pyramidal and spotted marsh orchid, the former being particularly splendid.
Overhead we all were able to admire a very pale common buzzard as it just ‘hung’ on the updraught created by the cliff face. It spent most of the day there. Also seen were raven, woodpigeon and peregrine. Smaller birds were scarce and, when spotted, hard to describe to others where to find them – one part of the cliff face being much like another! However, we were in no rush and eventually we got views of linnet, goldfinch and rock pipit. Also seen were whitethroat, swift and crows. At the beach the tide was out exposing seaweed covered rocks. A few cormorants were ‘drying’ their wings on the furthest rocks and loafing among the rocks were herring and black-headed gulls. It was here we found good examples of rock and golden samphire.
Heading back along the central path, skylark and meadow pipit were seen and heard. Lunch beckoned back at the centre and once suitably refreshed and, having taken in the scorpion flies in the undergrowth nearby, we headed along the sea wall in the direction of Dover docks. Rock sea lavender was in abundance as were the fishermen here! We proceeded to the end of the seawall up to where it meets the cliff face.
Here we heard and saw a pair of peregrines, either perching on the rock or making short flights along the cliff before returning – presumably to a nest site. Also seen , (and this was my personal highlight of the day), were the house martins nesting on the cliff rock face, building their mud nests under ledges where the rock face had previously broken away. Wonderful to see them in their natural habitat and, it seemed to me at least, that their black and white plumage made ‘sense’ against a chalk cliff backdrop. Here we also got better views of rock pipit and some of the group got brief views of black redstart .
Our final leg was to walk carefully back along the entrance road towards the tunnel where there is a small industrial complex. On the way we saw a clump of purple knapweed, with every flowering head hosting either a marbled white or a rose chafer — like a natural service station. The area near the tunnel entrance is often frequented by black redstart and sure enough we found one here, and although it had a habit of dropping behind a fence as quickly as it appeared we all managed to see it. We finished off the day with a lovely male stonechat. We had been informed that many of these have been coloured ringed on site to allow individuals to be identified and tracked – some apparently are residents, with others coming over from the continent. Not too dissimilar to the mix of visitors to Samphire Hoe that weekend!