The Delights of Spring

©Lynne & Peter Flower

"Come and share with us what we have seen on our wanderings down a Kent countryside lane". Go on a virtual walk with Lynne and Peter Flower, voluntary wardens for Kent Wildlife Trust.

While we humans must keep our distance, we like to lean a little closer to nature to wonder at her secrets. As we set off on our walk in the Kent countryside near our home, the dancing orange tip butterflies are easily seen along the verge, and then we catch a glimpse of pale blue scampering up and over the hedge.  The newly hatched holly blue butterflies have no time to wait, we see one taking nectar from the roadside forget-me-nots; pale sky blue wings with tiny black dots on the underwing.  A lack of dark colouring on the edges of upper wings indicates a male. 

Funny times to be thinking of holly and ivy – but those are the plants the females will be searching for.  She will lay the eggs of the first spring brood on holly flower buds while the females of the late summer brood will lay eggs on the buds of ivy. These lovely butterflies might visit your garden if you encourage them by growing lady’s-smock and honesty for the orange tip, holly and ivy for the holly blue, and nectar-rich plants for pollinating insects.

Kent Wildlife Trust is encouraging the public to take a pledge for insects like these incredible butterflies and when you do you’ll receive a free guide on how to take better Action for Insects.

Male holly

Male flowers on holly; there will be no berries on this tree. On holly, the male and female flowers appear on separate trees, the flower shown has stamens only, and no ovaries. ©Lynne & Peter Flower

A fresh green of bursting leaves creep over the hawthorn bushes, and already bees and hoverflies are searching out the first white flowers.

From deep within, the short bouncy notes of a blackcap can be heard.  Flown from its overwintering grounds in Southern Europe or North Africa.

As our path crosses the field we stop to look with our binoculars down into the depths of the farm pond. A single bubble briefly disturbs the surface, and we see a male common newt turn quickly from taking a breath of air, and wiggle away, darkly blotched, a wavy crest over his back, dives to greet a golden-brown speckled female. He follows her in a courtship dance, flashing the colours at the base of his tail as he wafts his irresistible scent to attract her to pick up the sperm packet he will drop for her. If you have a pond in your garden, you may see this spectacle yourself. Newts and other wildlife are quick to colonise garden ponds.

Common Newt

Male Smooth (Common) newt  ©John Phillips

Before moving on, we quietly lift the corrugated metal cover in the sun nearby, placed by a surveyor for KRAG (Kent Reptile & Amphibian Group) and are delighted to see a male and female grass-snake recently woken from their winter hibernation, warming ready for action. Around the cover is a spread of a low growing plant in flower. Treading on the leaves releases a pungent aroma – this is ground ivy – the plant was once used to flavour and preserve beer, loved by bees.

grass snakes

Grass snakes ©John Phillips

Not everyone is lucky enough to have access to Kent’s countryside in these difficult times, but if we all work together for a Wilder Kent, we may be able to encourage more of these wonderful creatures into our towns and gardens. Visit the Wild about Gardens page for more information on how you can create wilder spaces.