“Welcome to France” was the text from our mobile providers which tells you that we were on a a visit to somewhere on the south coast and Samphire Hoe in particular. This is the reserve created in the 1990’s when the spoil from the channel tunnel was piled at the base of the white cliffs to the west of Dover. With a concrete promonade we shared our walk with fishermen who had a healthy catch of mackerel for their tea. The site is famous for samphire, both rock and golden samphire are in abundance. Other plants along the reserve were restharrow, scarlet pimpernel, bristly ox-tongue and rock sea lavender (also known as statice). Walking eastwards towards the site where we had earlier seen a distant peregrine flying we were hopeful of black redstart, and after much patience we were rewarded with good views of both birds. As we waited we saw a humming-bird hawk-moth feeding on the lavender.
On a patch of wild carrot a rose chafer beetle (cetonia aurata) was spotted, soon we were looking at high numbers of these amazingly coloured beetles.
These are found over southern and central Europe and the south of the UK where they are often very localized. Although they have a bad reputation with gardeners for munching roses, their larvae feed on decaying leaves and vegetable matter and therefore apparently make very good composters.
Another great sight were high numbers of house martin who were feeding young in the nests lodged in crevices in the cliff face – a first for us in the UK, although Paul had seen them doing this in Norway a couple of years ago.
After a welcome lunch at the reserve cafe (and a browse through some old 78 rpm records) it was off to see the rest of the reserve. This time along the base of the cliffs in a grassy area where there were also a couple of ponds. A lone moorhen fed in one. Humming-bird hawk-moths were feeding – this time on buddleia which grows along the side of the railway line. Black-tailed skimmer and emperor dragonflies were flying over the largest pond in big numbers – at least 6 were spotted at one stage. Many blue damselflies were also flying over the reeds around the pond but most of them were too far for us to readily identify. A small copper butterfly fluttered ahead of us as we continued westwards. Here common centuary and yellow-wort were added to the floral mix.
Walking along the beach was hard work in the pebbles, but we were rewarded with linnet, a beautifully marked stonechat, more house martins, swallows, swift and kestrel. In the undergrowth at the base of the cliffs we saw milkwort, yellow poppy and great willowherb.
A great day out by the sea lovely sunny weather and clear views to Dungeness and France.