Pages

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Lizard Orchids in Kent

Another orchid foray into deep,deep,deepest Kent, all the way to Sandwich Bay. Lizard Orchids were the target and we were visiting the colony at Royal St. Georges golf course. Orchid hunting is either - turn up, see orchids - often in huge numbers, or of course, the reverse. A single small orchid and very hard to find. Today's excursion very much fell into the first category.

We left early morning and, for once, had an uneventful journey, only the closure of the toll bridge in Sandwich causing a minor diversion. We decided to head for the beach via the private toll road and approach the golf course from the sea and as we turned down King's Avenue Martin said " I think I've seen one". Sure enough in the gardens and hedgerows were Lizard Orchids, tall flowering spikes that the residents had mown around. This was definitely going to be a doddle. We turned down the opportunity to photograph the first specimens and continued with our plan to park on the beach road. As we parked up and left the car we could see Lizard Orchids just about everywhere, hundreds of them in the dunes gently swaying in the breeze.



Recorded for posterity, the two spikes that greeted us as we parked up.

No difficulty in finding them


Lizard Orchid, Himantoglossum hircinum



Lots of little lizards.


Lizard Orchid, Himantoglossum hircinum



Lizard Orchid, Himantoglossum hircinum



Plenty yet to bloom.


Lizard Orchid, Himantoglossum hircinum




Lizard Orchid, Himantoglossum hircinum



In the dunes were plenty of purple lollipops of the Pyramidal Orchid.




Pyramidal Orchid, Anacamptis pyramidalis



Pyramidal Orchid, Anacamptis pyramidalis


Plenty of really bright Viper's Bugloss, Echium vulgare  in flower and the bumblebees were happy.










Sea Holly, Eryngium maritimum, sadly no flowers yet.








Next site was a revisit to Park Gate Down, only because there had been a report that Musk Orchids were in bloom in the third field. We had a bit of a shock as we entered the reserve, a sea of Chalk Fragrant Orchids clothed the slopes of all three fields. Not only the fragrants, huge numbers of Common Spotted Orchids were all in flower. I recorded a few and then went off in search of anything unusual and I managed to find an almost white CSO and the white form of CFO Var. albiflora. 



Chalk Fragrant Orchid



Chalk Fragrant Orchid



Chalk Fragrant Orchid, Gymnadenia conopsea



Chalk Fragrant Orchid, Gymnadenia conopsea



Chalk Fragrant Orchid, Gymnadenia conopsea



Chalk Fragrant Orchid, Gymnadenia conopsea Var. albiflora


An almost white specimen of the Common Spotted Orchid, Dactyorhiza fuchsii




In the third field we found Greater Butterfly Orchids which I recorded. 





Greater Butterfly Orchid, Platanthera chlorantha




Greater Butterfly Orchid, Platanthera chlorantha




Greater Butterfly Orchid, Platanthera chlorantha



The search for Musk Orchids had proved fruitless so I sat down and had my lunch pondering what to do next. There were lots of small dried up Common Twayblades and these were distracting - just similar enough to the Musk to cause you study more closely.

I was just about to give up when I spotted a tiny little pale yellow spike nestling in the grass. As this area was a tad vulnerable I did a careful search to ensure that we would not damage anything before photographing the diminutive and delicate subject. In the end we found three, two normal size and one that really amounted to a half.




Musk Orchid, Herminium monorchis




Musk Orchid, Herminium monorchis



Well we were certainly having a good day. Then Martin suggested we revisit the Late Spider Orchid site. We had visited nearly a month earlier and all the specimens were in tight bud. I have a criterion that to tick an orchid then at least one flower must be open and visible. After that visit I went off to the Pyrenees but Martin had returned and recorded the orchids. I had given up seeing one this year but magically several were still in bloom and one or two looking fresh.


Late Spider Orchid, Ophrys fuciflora



Late Spider Orchid, Ophrys fuciflora



Late Spider Orchid, Ophrys fuciflora



So the end of a great day where we saw at least 10 species of orchid and amazingly the Lizards were the first I have seen in the UK. I have a suspicion that our orchid hunting will start to get a little more difficult from here on in - but I have to admit it has been great fun so far.


Monday, 3 June 2019

Military Orchids

Another perambulation in the English countryside, this time a trip into Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. I have seen Military Orchids abroad but not at home. So, having returned home from the Pyrenees, and having completed a fair amount of the outstanding chores I was allowed out. 

We made an early morning start for Holmfield Wood, a nature reserve just outside Marlow. Our best efforts to avoid the traffic failed and we endured what seemed to be an inordinately long journey. As with all orchid hunts we were acting on partial information, mostly from the internet and of course never quite complete. After a minor error we were in the correct location and with the help of another orchid hunter were amongst some fine specimens of Orchis militaris. Most of them were just past their best, showing some damage and browning of the blooms. However, one or two specimens were well worth a photograph or two.


Military Orchid



Military Orchid



Military Orchid


Military Orchid


Military Orchid




Fly Orchids were present but I was pleased to find a single specimen of the Bee Orchid in flower, there is something about an Ophrys that says "Photograph me" and I duly obliged.



Bee Orchid


Bee Orchid


Also there was a small group of pale Common Spotted Orchids that also begged to be recorded, judging by the flattened grass in front of them I wasn't alone in recording them.



Common Spotted Orchid


Plenty of Common Twayblades about.








Next visit was to Warburg Nature Reserve, Martin had some information that there was a Lesser Butterfly Orchid in bloom and as it is on our target list we just had to pay a call. The information board at the unattended visitor centre also gave locations for both Lesser and Greater but we could not find them. Despite searching widely, all we could find were sundry Common Spotted Orchids and a lone White Helleborine. I hasten to add that we didn't look for Bird's Nest Orchids, which, I was informed later, are quite numerous.

Then a change of county, disappointed, we headed off for Hartslock Nature reserve which is adjacent to Goring on Thames in Berkshire, just a tad further along the river from Goring railway bridge where we had a memorable encounter with an emerging Common Clubtail dragonfly. Luckily we met another orchideer who was returning to the railway station where we had parked and he gave us information on the location of some fresher specimens. I recorded the fading Lady x Monkey hybrids that the site is famous for and went in search of Monkey Orchids.  When I photographed them I had the distinct impression that they were pure Monkeys. However, processing the photographs at home nagging doubts set in that these just might have a touch of Lady in them. Such is the world of orchids, nothing is ever straightforward and you can never be quite sure of the parentage of some specimens.




Lady x Monkey hybrid



Lady x Monkey hybrid



Lady x Monkey hybrid



Monkey Orchid??



Monkey Orchid??



Monkey Orchid??



Monkey Orchid??













Friday, 17 May 2019

Men, Monkeys, Spiders and Flies

Perhaps a bit of clarification, of course the title refers to Man, Monkey, Late Spider and Fly Orchids. Another foray into Kent gave us all of them but unfortunately the Late Spider, a single specimen, was a couple of days from being in flower. Still three and a half from four isn't bad.

We started the day at Darland Banks, a nature reserve on the outskirts of Gillingham, and our target was the Man Orchid. Well, I expected that we should find a few but I wasn't prepared for the spectacle that we found.  There were thousands and, as we learned later, we weren't in the hot spot.

The Man Orchid isn't the brightest of orchids, blending well into the background, and as it ages its flower changes subtly, acquiring reddish tones.




Man Orchid



Three Men of Kent




A pale (new) specimen - not sure.








Older flowers take on a red trim.



Man Orchids in profusion

Man Orchid



Man Orchid



This was an attempt at isolating the subject from its background, pretty much a failure as my plain green sweater came out more or less grey and certainly not plain - must try harder.








Next  was a quick stop to monitor the progress of the Late Spider Orchids, we found several but none in bloom, although one would have a flower in a couple of days. Our third and final stop for the day was a revisit to Park Gate Down, last week there had been a profusion of Early Purple Orchids and the promise of Common Twayblades. These were now showing their age but thankfully our intended target, the Monkey Orchid was just starting to flower. We counted over 60 spikes of various sizes, the majority of which were still in tight bud. Nice to see them in both the first and second fields of the reserve. In the third field we found plenty of Fly Orchids, mostly single specimens, no clumps as I had found on a previous visit.



Tight bud


On the way




That's better










The botanist who named it the Monkey Orchid had a good imagination.









A good shot in a few days time




Fly Orchid



Fly Orchid



Fly Orchid


As I was recording this blog the phone rang and with in half an hour Martin and myself were on our way to record Early and Southern Marsh Orchid at a fairly local site. We were a tad early in the season, two more weeks and there would be hundreds of spikes, however we found both species in reasonable numbers.


Early Marsh Orchid



Early Marsh Orchid



Southern Marsh Orchid


Southern Marsh Orchid



Southern Marsh Orchid