Yesterday was spent in Kent where the main target was the Black Winged Pratincole that had been at Grove Ferry for some time. It has been a long time since we had visited this site, which along with the western portion at Stodmarsh had been a fairly regular late spring destination.
The Pratincole was not viewable from the 'mound' and had been reported from Marsh Hide, a fair walk. We stopped off occasionally to see the vocal Marsh Frogs and I managed to get some good images of the Variable Damselflies, while overhead several Hobby's hawked. Suddenly a shout alerted us to the fact that the Pratincole was flying back to the mound so we returned.
Initially on the ground among the ducks and Lapwing the heat haze made things awkward but it was clearly darker than the Collared seen last week. It eventually took to the air where the diagnostic dark underwing and lack of white on the wing trailing edge was easy to see. Photographically it was much harder, the bird stayed high and distant and the fast flight made it hard to track.
Our next stop was Denge Wood where I hoped to find one of the two Duke of Burgundy colonies. I had wanted to visit a site in the Chilterns to see this butterfly last week, but I was put off by the dreadful weather. Unfortunately, the maps in this wood bore little relation to the paths and we spent two hours without finding the right areas. What was obvious though, was that there were large numbers of Painted Ladies on the move, all heading west.
Park Gate Down is one of the best sites in the region for Orchids, with Monkey being a speciality. This turned out to be one of the commonest, though outnumbered by Common Twayblade. There were small numbers of Common Spotted Orchids and faded Early Purples, one or two Common Fragrant Orchid and a lone specimen of Lady Orchid. Again there were large numbers of westward heading Painted Ladies.
Our final visit to Queendon Warren, another orchid site seemed disappointing at first. There were a lot of Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat calling, and a dead tree held calling Woodpecker chicks, but orchids seemed very scarce. We eventually found several stands of Common Fragrant, and there were one or two White Helleborines in the wooded area.