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Monday, 4 June 2018

Staying local

After seven days of chasing butterflies up and down the French Pyrenees it was a pleasant change to catch up with some local ticks. First up were the Bee Orchids on Cissbury Ring, Dawn and Jim had posted a tweet giving the heads up so I set off just after the morning rush. Post my Pyrenean adventures, my knees were protesting loudly so I climbed the not so steep westerly access very slowly. It was a good job that no one was present to witness my extremely slow descent.

I found the orchids exactly as described by D and J and set about recording them.









One bonus was that this year there is a bumper crop of Wild Strawberry, Fragaria Vesca, should have taken a pot of cream up with me.




I had a reserve venue further west where I had located Bees before so set off to find them. Unfortunately not a single one, but I did find Southern Marsh Orchid, Common Spotted Orchids and a Pyramidal just poking its very tight buds above the sward.













This site normally produces 1000+ specimens of 3 species of orchid and is protected by West Sussex County Council "Notable Verge" signs. Sadly these are now in need of repair or replacement and I guess, with tight budgets, these are not a high priority. I just hope that no enthusiastic contractor drives a mower through such a vulnerable habitat.









Next up was a tick that I had dipped previously. Martin and I had found Common Clubtails on the Thames last year and whilst I was on holiday Martin had connected with them on the Sussex Rother at Fittleworth. I wasn't too optimistic as there was considerable cloud cover and as I wandered downstream of the bridge even the Banded Demoiselles were reluctant to fly. However, the sun emerged just for a few minutes and two CCs were on the wing. At last one perched on a reed some way off and I just managed to get a record.








It could have stayed a bit longer


Nice to be back on the patch, just got to find one of those Sussex Wood Whites.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Bird's-nest Orchid

Today's plan was simple - early start to get the Bird's-nest Orchid then a short hop to Chiddingfold Forest to get the Wood White. What I hadn't taken into account was the amount of time it would take to find the orchid. After three miles of trudging through thick beech woods I had just about given up. All I had to show for my efforts were a Common Twayblade and a woodland Fly Orchid.  Sauntering back to the car, all thoughts of going for the Wood White banished, when I came upon, completely by serendipity, a glorious stand of nine spikes of some of the best BnOs I have ever seen.

The description Bird's nest comes not from what is seen above ground but from the fact that the tangled roots resemble a bird's nest. Their preferred habitat is the deep gloom created by heavy beech canopy, hence finding them can be a tad difficult. I have to confess when I found these a smile of smug satisfaction spread across my face. It is evident that this site has had little disturbance as last year's stalks with empty seed heads were still standing between this year's blooms.




No human damage but falling timber has destroyed some plants.



Taken without flash using natural daylight and a silly ISO


I counted nine spikes

Some days I would be happy to go home with just one orchid recorded, the Fly Orchid was an added bonus.




In the deep gloom even the deer couldn't see me but they were aware of my camera shutter clicking away






Sunday, 20 May 2018

Orchids in Kent

Birders look away now - this blog is all about plants! 

Most of my trips out with the camera are about birds or butterflies, occasionally other insects get some attention but a day hunting for orchids is a bit of a rarity. So, when Greenwings advertised a day out with Jon Dunn, he of Orchid Summer fame, then I grasped the opportunity and signed up straight away.

I rose early on a fine day and made my way via extremely quiet motorways to deepest, darkest Kent.The Royal Wedding was distracting everyone and I guessed it would be quiet everywhere, a double bonus as a long day in the field meant that I would avoid all the television coverage - bliss.

I arrived in the charming village of Wye, just east of Ashford, parked up and went for a stroll around the churchyard. Hopes of a Redstart or Spotted Flycatcher amongst the forest of headstones were dashed so I occupied the visitor's bench and waited for the others to arrive.  Andy and Sally arrived to keep me company and we chewed the fat about nature matters until Jon herded us all together into the mini bus and we were off.

All the venues we visited have public access, most are well known and we made no visits to private land. Of course what we did have was Jon, whose knowledge is immeasurable and Alfie, the man with the deep local gen.

What follows is my photo-diary of the day, all in chronological order, probably far too many photos for a blog.



First stop was Denge Wood and the aptly named " Bonsai Bank" so named due to an unsuccessful attempt to grow conifers. No matter it is now a stunning location for Lady Orchids, here there are hundreds. With a supporting cast of Early Purple, Common Twayblade, Greater Butterfly and White Helleborine it could keep the enthusiast occupied for a day - or more.



Lady Orchid,  Orchis purpurea



Lady Orchid,  Orchis purpurea



Lady Orchid,  Orchis purpurea, a light "champagne" coloured specimen


Lady Orchid,  Orchis purpurea

Lady Orchid,  Orchis purpurea



Lady Orchid,  Orchis purpurea, a really dark specimen


Lady Orchid,  Orchis purpurea, a really dark specimen



It seemed that those growing in shade developed more "spots"

The spots are composed of tufts of papillae

Supposedly like "Angels"


Lady Orchid,  Orchis purpurea, var albida


Lady Orchid,  Orchis purpurea, var albida - using Andy's black trousers as a background.







Finally - the largest spike I could find.

A tad early for the Greater Butterfly Orchids, Platanthera chlorantha
  
Similarly for the White Helleborine, Cephalanthera damasonium

Though I managed to record one open bloom.

Common Twayblades,  Neottia ovata  were everywhere - spiders love them.

Common Twayblade


Common Twayblade



Common Twayblade


Butterflies added an extra dimension, Duke of Burgundy, Green Hairstreak and Brimstones all on the wing.

Duke of Burgundy


Green Hairstreak


For balance, having seen so many Lady Orchids it was time to record some Man Orchids, Orchis anthroprophora.



Man Orchid, Orchis anthroprophora



Man Orchid, Orchis anthroprophora



Man Orchid, Orchis anthroprophora



Man Orchid, Orchis anthroprophora

After all the excitement it was nice to have a lunch break at the Tickled Trout in Wye, then it was back out on the trail.

The first venue in the afternoon kicked off the excitement all over again, a single specimen of the rare Late Spider Orchid, Ophrys fuciflora   conveniently in bloom early.


Late Spider Orchid, Ophrys fuciflora


Late Spider Orchid, Ophrys fuciflora

Late Spider Orchid, Ophrys fuciflora



Late Spider Orchid, Ophrys fuciflora



Late Spider Orchid, Ophrys fuciflora

Late Spider Orchid, Ophrys fuciflora



Queuing patiently to record a rarity.


After that we just had to find Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes  most of the specimens we found were just past their best, top blooms only in reasonable condition.


Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes


Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes




Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes



The final venue gave us Monkey Orchids, Orchis simia, Fly Orchids, Orchis insectifera and some fresher Early Purples, Orchis mascula.




Monkey Orchid, Orchis simia



Monkey Orchid, Orchis simia



Monkey Orchid, Orchis simia




Monkey Orchid, Orchis simia



Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula




Fly Orchid, Orchis insectifera 




Fly Orchid, Orchis insectifera 




Fly Orchid, Orchis insectifera 




Fly Orchid, Orchis insectifera 



Fly Orchid, Orchis insectifera 



Fly Orchid, Orchis insectifera 



Fly Orchid, Orchis insectifera 



Fly Orchid, Orchis insectifera 



Then we had run out of time, arriving back in Wye after 18:00, the end of a great day. Though I have a suspicion that most of us would have carried on until dark.