Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A change of scenery...

I'll not bang on about the awful weather we've been getting other than to say that, tiring of trudging around the usual footpaths that you'll see in the photo below are now somewhat damp-a change of location seemed in order...

On the way to Tenterden from home in Cranbrook, most of the arable fields seem to have a rape-seed crop this year and although the smell from the crop as it ripens is not at all nice, in fact, reminiscent of rotting cabbage-the beautiful,fertile,Kent countryside does look like it's been painted with sunshine even on the worst of days.

I haven't visited the old railway line at Tenterden, that has now become a public footpath and nature reserve owned and run by Kent Wildlife Trust since last year, and so it felt like as good a time as any to do just that.

If you click on the image above for a larger view, you should be able to read the notice board text.
Before walking round Turners Field itself a stroll along the old railway line was in order-this is now a wide,surfaced footpath that's bordered on either side by banks of wild-flowers.

At this time of year, it's just coming in to its most attractive season for both flowers and invertebrates.

My first invertebrate find of the day was this tiny leaf hopper. I think this one could be Tachycixius pilosus but I'm just a bit concerned that the eye colour is a touch different than I've seen before.

I last visited this walk in early April of 2011 and on that occasion, found a little robin fledgeling:this time another was spotted in almost the exact location and although it's now a full month later in the season, it was at a pretty well identical stage.

Earlier in the week I'd found my first wasp beetle of the year and I was pleased to find another today. They are impressive looking beetles with both wasp-like colouring and even, what seems to me to be a waspish way of walking!

Clytus arietis-A Wasp Beetle
Another first was this black weevil that I discovered on Hazel-I think this may well be the only one of these that I've found thus far and it was a tad surprising to find it on Hazel as it's known as the Birch Leaf-roller Weevil. These are around 5-6mm in size.

Deporaus betulae-A Birch Leaf-roller Weevil
Next up was this rather bright sawfly and as males of this species are pretty well unknown-I'm going for this being a female. I think the species may be Rhogogaster genistae but there are a couple of similar ones and so can't be completely sure, other than to say that the markings do seem to match for this species.

There did seem to be a real lack of Jack-by-the-hedge this year and so that in turn meant the great looking brassica bugs I was expecting to find here weren't to be seen. It was also too early for the mullein to be in flower and so another visit a bit later on will be needed to catch photos of the terrific mullein moth larvae.

Phasia hemiptera (f)
I like this walk in spring because it always seems to yield interesting invertebrates to photograph and in this photo above, which is a natural light shot, is pictured a Tachinid fly that although I've seen the species before, I've not found a female until now. Slightly less impressive to look at than the males who have fantastic, patterned wings. Still quite an easy one to identify with those yellow hairs on the sides of the thorax.

These are parasites of shield-bugs and in particular forest and green shield-bugs, hence the name 'hemiptera'.

At the far end of the old railway-line walk from where I'd parked the car, was the nature reserve itself. The lower part that constitutes the woods and pond etc. seemed fairly wet from all of the recent rain and so today's stroll was confined to the edges of the field itself.

Even so I was delighted when investigating a rustling noise in leaf-litter to find that it was in fact not only something that I've rarely seen since my childhood but was also one of the largest I can recall seeing ever.

Anguis fragilis-A Slow worm
Slow worms are actually not snakes at all but legless lizards. By the way, that definition isn't supposed to mean a lizard that's been out on the razzle, just in case you were wonderin'? No, a lizard because it has eyelids in the way that lizards do, and snakes do not.

As this was a rare sighting for me, I would really have liked the chance to take rather more than these few snatched shots but once again I was disturbed by yet another dog walker!
This one had two dogs and one spotted me on the ground taking photos and made directly for me.
 Guess what? The guy walking the dogs said nothing to deter his dog from pestering me, other  than to call him once. It took no notice and so I had to pick up the slow worm and find a safe spot for it before the mutt made lunch out of it.
At this point, the slow worm became rather frightened I guess and I can now vouch for the fact that slow worm poo isn't the most fragrant smell in the world.

When the walker reached me, he had one of the best excuses I've heard so far, and I've heard lots! He told me that the dog wasn't his and he had no control over it at all and "it is just a hooligan" Brilliant!

If time allows, I'll be re-visiting this area very soon and hope to update the blog also.

Until the next time then...

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