Monday, 25 June 2012

Old Burghclere and Fly Orchids

Once again the weather not promising enough for a full day's walk. I was reminded last week that I had probably missed out on Fly Orchids again as the time of their peak flowering has already passed. Taking the opportunity from a cancelled meeting I sped over to Old Burghclere where there is a dis-used chalk quarry. The quarry is now overgrown and because it is such a poor soil over chalk, a number of rarities have taken root. It is a BBOWT nature reserve. One of the first plants I noticed at the quarry was Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor), a partially parasitic plant that helps keep the invading grasses at bay.

yellow rattle,Rhinanthus minor

I scanned the areas on the west side that were fenced off for some reason, but all I saw were masses of kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria).

kidney vetch,Anthyllis vulneraria

The whole area was carpeted with Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) just like at The Holies last week. They are beautiful flowers; it became all too easy to be unimpressed with so many of them after a time. It was hard to walk without treading on them.

common spotted orchid,Dactylorhiza fuchsii

The other orchid in huge numbers was the harder to spot Twayblades (Listera ovata) as it is a green flowering spike amongst all the grasses.

Twayblades,Listera ovata

And at last I spotted a fly orchid (Ophrys insectifera), they are fairly short (about six inches) and easy to mistake as dark grass flowers in the distance, they have little foliage.

fly orchid,Ophrys insectifera

Once found they became far easier to spot and there were many (I saw fifty+) dotted around and sometimes in groups, usually on or near small banks. I can see the reason for the name 'fly' in a way, but they are a bit less convincing than bee orchids to me.

fly orchid,Ophrys insectifera

One plant that indicates undisturbed soil is Broomrape, which is another parasitic plant. It is difficult to identify as different species of broomrape are parasitic on different hosts, as thyme was close to hand, it could be Thyme Broomrape.

Thyme Broomrape

All over the ground were the tiny blue flowers of Milkwort, a plant I have seen a lot of this year. It is hard to catch with the macro lens as it all too easy to focus on the wrong part. It is such a vibrant blue and so dainty.

Milkwort

Back to orchids again; I do like the less flashy Twayblade flowers and there were hundreds of them. They are like little people with outstretched arms.

Twayblades,Listera ovata

And a final fly orchid, as this was the intended target of the walk. I am very lucky to have so many different types of orchid within twenty miles: monkey; butterfly;southern marsh; common spotted; pyramidal; ladies' tresses; birds nest; bee and now fly orchid. There are only a couple more left that I can hope to see locally.

fly orchid,Ophrys insectifera

It just so happens that today (25th June) is the start of Wimbledon, so I was pleased to see a small group of wild strawberries producing the goods just on time.

Wild strawberry

My last posting included a Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris), and I like the flower so much that I can't resist including it again as I spotted it on the walk back from the quarry.

Bladder Campion,Silene vulgaris

I made my way back to the car, and my path took my past Burghclere Manor with its stone lions.

lion gateway

Old Burghclere has an important old church, now unused and looking unloved, it is an early Norman one (1100-1120) as you can see from the semi-round north door. The burial vault of the Earl of Carnarvon's family (from nearby Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey is filmed) is at the end of the church.

Old Burghclere Church

Just behind the car was a magnificent, vigorous honeysuckle bush, it just shows that you don't have to walk far to see stunning wild flowers. Soon it will be the turn of butterflies to take over from flowers as my main targets for the camera. Butterflies were still few and far between, no doubt due to the cool; wet and windy weather this month.

Honeysuckle