Saturday, 1 May 2010

Don't Touch - you have been warned!

A walk along the cliffs to Fan Bay started in bright sunshine and at times it was really quite warm, which made me wonder why most of the bank holiday visitors were dressed in layer upon layer of winter clothing?

I did get a quick glimpse of a Raven flying away from me, towards Dover, but once it had disappeared from view that was the last I saw of it today.

At Fan Bay two things were apparent. First, despite their somewhat slow arrival there are now loads of Whitethroats about. I could hear three singing within about fifty yards as I sat watching the Gulls and Fulmars from the top of the hollow. The second thing that I noticed was the large number of Brown-tail moth caterpillars there are, covering the hawthorn bushes as their leaves emerge. I'm sure we will be reading in the papers, again this year, that there is a plague of these caterpillars. They are to be avoided as they can cause quite nasty skin rashes. Dover District Council even has a WEB page about the control of this "pest".

Although the nearest Whitethroat was feeding in a bush full of these caterpillars it didn't go near them, instead finding rather more palatable caterpillars or grubs on the leaves.

While I was watching the Whitethroats this attractive little moth landed in front of me. I didn't have to move to get it's photograph. It is a male Common Heath Moth and is one of a group of day flying moths that can be found alongside the grassland butterflies, such as Skippers that can be found on the cliff top.

On the 7th May last year I lifted up and old metal notice and found a fantastic male Slow Worm. This year I was a week earlier, but lifting the same lump of metal there was an reasonably large Slow Worm underneath, warming up in the radiated heat. This one was much duller and may be it was a younger one or a female. Slow Worms are legless lizards and their main food is slugs and worms. In gardens they are often found in compost heaps. Although they look like snakes there are several differences. Unlike snakes they have eyelids, and if handled they can shed their tails as a defence mechanism, so they should either be left alone or handled with great care if you need to move one when digging out your compost.

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