Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Scrub Clearing in South Foreland Valley

It is always difficult to imagine that an industrial scale clearance is a in fact a progressive conservation measure. Well it is. I must admit that ideally this could have taken place a couple of weeks earlier, but even if that had been the plan I think that the weather would have prevented it.

Returning the area to its original condition of chalk grassland it the objective. Original in that it was probably created about 4000 years ago in the bronze age. Lots of agencies are involved in the maintenance of this land, I'm sure that the Parish Council are able to fill in all the details, but as an SSSI there is a duty to keep it in the correct condition. Ancient chalk grassland is a very rich habit with up to 40 different plant species per square metre. It is also a rare habitat in Britain with more that 80% being lost in the last 60 years.
It not only supports many grassland species of flowers including many of the British Orchids but it is also crucial for many of our most beautiful butterflies. Some of the other plants that are typical of ancient chalk grassland include marjoram, wild thyme, salad burnet, rock rose, eyebright and squinancywort. As for Butterflies, 29 of the 58 species of butterfly normally found in Britain can be seen on chalk grassland. The blue butterflies are most characteristic of chalk grassland; in ideal circumstances they can be seen in large numbers during the summer. Many butterflies such as the Adonis Blue or the Chalkhill Blue require short grazed grassland, whereas others species such as the Meadow Brown or Marbled White depend on longer grassland. More about this important habitat can be found on the White Cliffs Project WEB site.

While I was looking at this work in progress I took a look at the Windmill. It took a picture from almost the same spot as on July 2nd. Take a look at the difference with the leaves off the trees.

After all my moaning that Bramblings had given the garden a miss this year they decided to visit today. Unfortunately I didn't get a shot of the male coming into breeding plumage that was with the Chaffinch flock for a couple of minutes. This slightly duller bird still stood out from the 40+ other finches on the lawn. There are a lot of Chaffinches moving at the moment, I saw several flocks of over 50 passing along the cliffs in about 30 minutes around lunch time.

Moth of the Day. A new species for the year this morning was the rather subtle Pale Pinion.

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