Thursday, 14 November 2019

In Clover

At the back end of 2014 I posted my 'Top Ten Natural History Moments', the result of a trawl through my notebooks that I had kept since 1974. It was an enjoyable exercise. Five years have elapsed since then - but in that timeframe have I got another ten moments of natural history joy to share with you? You bet. So here they are, in descending order...

10. Clover-fest at Dungeness
In May 2018 I was staying at Dungeness Bird Observatory, spending a great deal of time in the company of Jacques Turner-Moss, the assistant warden at DBO. He was a delight to be with, a down-to-earth, unassuming and most talented naturalist. He had taken a keen interest in the plants that grew on the shingle, and when he became aware of my wish to track down Clustered Clover - a species of plant that had always evaded me - he was up for joining me in my quest.

First of all we travelled to the northern end of the Littlestone sand dunes, an area known to hold this species. A good couple of hours was spent searching a relatively small area of ground, most of the time on our hands and knees, forensically searching through the low vegetation. Even though were armed with grid-references for our target, it was just not showing. That is not to say that we were not finding plenty of clovers - Burrowing, Knotted, Birdsfoot, Rough and Haresfoot should have been more than compensation - but they weren't what we really yearned after. There were other specialist plants nearby, with Bird's-foot (not to be confused with the clover), Annual Knawel and Smooth Cat's-ear. It was a splendid afternoon.

The following day, and on the suggestion of DBO supremo David Walker, Jacques wandered off and found the prize - a host of flowering Clustered Clover at the entrance of West Beach Cottage. The combination of his youthful enthusiasm, good eyesight and the bit between the teeth had proved a winner. I spent a good while lying across the road photographing this most subtle of species. What was not lost on me was that I had walked past this species so many times. If it could hide in plain sight, could we carry on and find another (lost) clover species? Dave had shown me Suffocated Clover 20 years before, outside the observatory front door, but it hadn't been recorded for several years. Enter 'eagle-eyed' Turner-Moss, clearly on a clover roll. He went and found a mass of the stuff flowering on the track between the bird observatory and the railway sleeper path that crosses the moat. When you add White and Red to the tally, we had recorded nine species of clover in 24 hours.

Clustered Clover
Suffocated Clover
Burrowing Clover
Knotted Clover
Birdsfoot Clover
Rough Clover
Haresfoot Clover

2 comments:

  1. I'll be down there next year. but having failed to locate starry clover at Shoreham Beach this year I'm not expecting your strike rate.

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