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

Wednesday 15 May 2019

Sword-leaved Helleborine and Burnt Orchids.

Two distinctly different sites today. We started in a leafy copse in Hampshire. home to many hundreds of Sword-Leaved Helleborine or sometimes known as the Narrow-leaved Helleborine. Anyway it's Cephelanthera longifolia to resolve any ambiguity. Lots of stems in full bloom, ideal photographic subjects, the only trouble was that under the dense beech canopy, light was at a premium. We stood in this leafy glade waiting for the sun to move round and illuminate a likely subject. Great care must be taken at this venue as one inadvertent step could destroy several specimens. It appeared that the local rabbit population was enjoying the odd snack or two as many of the plants by the path had been nibbled short.

In a leafy glade waiting for the sun.

There are also Fly Orchids at this venue, very small specimens but there were a couple in flower.

Solomon's Seal, Polygonatum multiflorum

On our way back to sunny West Sussex we stopped off to recce our Bird's Nest Orchid site, sure enough, ten healthy spikes rising from the leaf litter in yet another dark environment. None were actually in flower but as we returned to the car park there was a single plant almost in the middle of the path. It was duly recorded and I don't give much chance of it surviving the weekend.

Up on the Downs we had a clear blue sky and the sun was beating down. The heat, however, was offset by a fairly keen northerly breeze. The end result was it was rather comfortable. We had been up here at the end of last week and unfortunately found nothing. As always with orchids location has to be precise. Luckily we were put right by Dawn and Jim, not for the first time I hasten to add, and as we approached the area we met a gentleman we had met previously at Castle Hill, truly a fellow "Orchideer" and he put us on some perfect specimens of Burnt Orchid. So a big thank you to those concerned.

On our previous visit I managed to record Common Blue

Common Blue

Common Blue

At  Wolstonbury Hill  the Common Twayblades were just emerging, literally hundreds of them. We found Holly Blue, which was very obliging, intent on "puddling" on the path. Both recorded here for posterity.

Common Twayblade

Common Twayblade

Holly Blue

Holly Blue

Friday 3 May 2019

Orchids in Kent

Today was an early season foray into deepest Kent. More of a recce trip to familarise ourselves with some of the main orchid sites. An early start left us plenty of time to have a long walk around Denge Forest, the truth is that I had lost my bearings and we were lost too. 

First up was Bonsai Bank, a place that I visited mid May last year and I knew that we should catch up with some early Lady Orchids and hopefully a Duke of Burgundy butterfly as a bonus.  And so it proved, lots of emerging orchids,one or two almost in full flower and some cracking newly emerged Dukes.

Why do they always get a bit of  grass over the wing?

We also found evidence of other orchids,  Common Twayblades were well on their way and Greater Butterfly were not far behind. Early Purples were in good numbers but starting to go over.

Next site was Yockletts Bank, we only circumnavigated the northern section but managed to find more Lady Orchids, lots of Common Twayblades and just a single Fly Orchid. Had we been more diligent I am sure we could have found more Fly Orchids but we were early in the season and we wanted to press on.

There can be a wide variation in colour

A bonus Green Hairstreak

Third Venue was Park Gate Down were we found a host of Early Purple Orchids and precious little else. Another couple of weeks and the EPOs will have disappeared, to be replace by Monkey and Fly Orchids.

Final venue was Samphire Hoe, two reasons to pay a visit. Firstly the Early Spider Orchids but more importantly to have a cup of tea at the cafe. When we arrived we surveyed the area and Martin stated that it was a large area to cover and wondered where we might find the orchids. No problem - we asked the cheerful wardens who directed us to the overflow car park. Sure enough in the central circle of the car park and beneath the low wooden fence on the perimeter were plenty of ESOs. Click, click, click - job done and time for tea.

All in all a great day out which will make our visit in a fortnight's time much easier and give us the opportunity to visit one or two extra venues.

Some from earlier in the week, Pearl-bordered Fritillaries from the main ride of Rewell Wood in West Sussex - an annual event to witness their emergence.