Most years Nigel and I try to have an 'Old Boys Outing' to Kent, primarily to see the Duke of Burgundy in a lovely woodland setting. However, it is not just the Duke that we go for as the site and surrounding area is also excellent for many of the special Kent Orchids as well as many other insects that inhabit this ancient woodland.
The weather forecast was unsurprisingly not good, the story of 2021 so far!! However, despite the weather sounding as though it may improve the following week we decided to risk it, as the forecast would probably change for the worse next week anyway.
We arrived in what felt like freezing conditions, certainly a cool breeze was blowing down the woodland ride. The good thing about going on bad weather days is that you don't see too many other people, of course the problem is that you don't see too many butterflies either!
Anyway, we wandered around the site for a couple of hours enjoying the Orchids as well as the odd sighting of my favourite micro moth, Anania funebris (White-spotted Sable). These beautiful moths unfortunately rarely settle in a good spot and when they do its never long enough for a couple of old blokes to get close enough for a photo. Fortunately I do have a few decent shots from previous visits to here as well as a Sussex site where they used to be.
Anania funebris from 2015.
During the time we were at the wood the temperature did increase a little, but not enough to get any Dukes flying, so it was a case of hoping to find one roosting on the bushes. Whilst hunting for them we did find many Orchids, mainly Lady Orchid but also several Fly Orchid. The Lady Orchids came in a variety of colours.
Pale form of Lady Orhid.
Also several different insects of interest.
Green Cabbage Bug.
Big-headed Mining Bee.
2 years ago when we were last here I photographed a micro moth that turned out to be quite a rarity and a moth that has never been recorded in Sussex. Therefore, I was on the lookout for it again as it seems that this woodland is a real stronghold for the moth. The Eucosma aspidiscana actually uses the same foodplant as the Anania funebris, Golden Rod. After seeing a couple of these moths I found one that landed on a grass blade that gave a clear sighting of the moth. These are really tiny and generally they land under leaves or amongst the foliage so to get one in this position was excellent.
Nigel spotted me photographing the moth and fortunately the moth stayed there as we swopped position. It was whilst Nigel was photographing the moth that my eye was suddenly drawn to a male Duke of Burgundy that had probably just emerged and had climbed a small bush to expand its wings. I was so lucky to have seen this little beauty and it was even sitting in a great position for its photo to be taken. After both of us taking many photographs we left it in peace to carry on with its life.
Male Duke of Burgundy.
We had actually given up any hope by then of seeing a Duke so it turned out to be a massive bonus, and at that point we decided to move on to a nearby site that we saw a rare form of green Fly Orchid 2 years ago. I had heard that there was a plant that had just come into flower so we were hopeful that despite the gloom we would at least see it again. As it was the plant only had one flower on it, but with possibly 2 other plants nearby that looked as though they would also be the green form anybody going a few days later would do better. It was still great to see this little green beauty though despite it being in the darkest part of the wood, and this finished off a cold, miserable but fantastic day.
Fly Orchid var. ochroleuca.