Wildlife of Dungeness

As we were staying in Hythe we used the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway to visit Dungeness. It was a remarkably windy day but it was dry and the sun was shining intermittently which is something to be pleased about in England. Accordingly we did find quite a few invertebrates and plants.There were several species of butterfly. The gatekeeper with the two spots in the forewing. Pyronia tithonus.  Image is from butterfly conservation they were too flighty to photograph



A number of meadow brown butterflies Maniola jurtina. Image is from butterfly.org as they wouldn’t stay still for us.



There were a number of common blue butterflies. Polyommatus icarus. Here is a photo from butterfly conservation to illustrate the species.



We found a couple of Painted lady butterflies Cynthia vanessa. These are often migrants blown across from the continent.

Painted lady


We also saw at least three red admirals Vanessa atalanta.

red admiral


Alongside these were both large white butterflies Pieris brassicae, small white butterflies Pieris rapae and green veined white butterflies Pieris napi. In the past these three species were all grouped together as cabbage white butterflies.

Green veined white and large white with small white beneath. The photos are from butterfly conservation to illustrate the differences.

small white butterfly


We found the carline thistle Carlina vulgaris . I had not seen one before and I was struck with its  architectural shape.

Carline thistle

Beside the train station we found the aptly named yellow horned sea poppy. Glaucium flavum.   It only grows along the sea shore. It is toxic but I found it very attractive. (Sorry a bit of whimsey here). It even features in a poem.

Yellow-horned sea poppy

A poppy grows upon the shore,

Bursts her twin cups in summer late:

Her leaves are glaucus-green and hoar,

Her petals yellow, delicate.

She has no lovers like the red,

That dances with the noble corn:

Her blossoms on the waves are shed,

Where she stands shivering and forlorn.
Shorter Poems Robert Bridges


Sea kale  Crambe maritima was abundant it always appears so leathery I am surprised it was once considered a popular vegetable. Although I would not recommend gathering any plant material from a nature reserve

Sea Kale

In Dungeness a species of  bumble bee used to live.  Its latin name is  Bombus subterraneus but commonly it is called the short haired bumblebee. It is one of  only 27 bumblebee species native to the UK. (This is one reason for learning to identify them, twenty seven species is manageable whereas over 2,000 moths is less so).

(This image is from the BWARS website as we didn’t find one.)

bombus subterranis

This bee was once widespread across the south of England, occurring as far north as Humberside, but from the 1960s onwards its population declined, probably due to the loss of species rich grassland habitats. Consequently its distribution became fragmented with colonies isolated. It was last recorded near the RSBP Dungeness nature reserve in 1988 and declared extinct in 2000.  Thankfully a population of UK origin survives in New Zealand, where they were introduced in 1895 to pollinate red clover. Attempts were made to captive rear and export queens back from New Zealand to the UK but with limited success. Results from genetic analysis showed high levels of inbreeding. Thus, in 2011, Natural England and the project partners agreed to change the reintroduction source location from New Zealand to a European source. Sweden was chosen as it supports the most robust population and has a broadly similar climate to the UK. Once suitable source locations had been found, a sample of bees were collected and  checked for diseases. 89 queen bees were collected from southern Sweden and put into quarantine. At the end of May, 51 healthy queens were released at RSPB’s Dungeness reserve. This process was repeated the following year with 100 queens bees collected and 49 released. During July that year seven workers were seen in the Dungeness area, one of which was melanistic (dark form), proving that at least two queens had successfully founded nests. In Spring 2014 a further 46 healthy queens were released at the Dungeness site and during July and August that year, three worker bees were seen around Dungeness and a fourth outside the area, providing encouraging signs that the bees may be nesting in the surrounding area. In 2015 25 queens were released in the site and three workers were seen in a single day and over the following four days. This indicates that  the habitat is suitable to support a healthy colony.  We searched extensively for this bumblebee but we didn’t find any. Since it is a huge area this is not surprising but rather disappointing.

Despite our disappointment we did find large numbers of most of the common species of  bumblebee;

The common carder Bombus pascorum, (Image is from BWARS website).

bombus pascuorum


The white tailed bumblebee Bombus leucorum,


Common Carder bumblevee on teasel

The buff tailed bumblebee Bombus terrestris (Image is from BWARS website)

bombus terrestris 2


The red tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius. (Image is from bumblebee. org)

bombus lapidarius


We found the wind rather trying whilst we attempted to photograph the insects and consequently many of the images are from butterfly conservation or BWARS images.

We also found common blue damselfly 

Enallagma cyathigerum

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