A cool and overcast fortnight has delayed Spring this year. Flowers that are normally out are still in bud and in the garden the plants grown from seed show little sign of active growth. I went on a trip with the local natural history group to aBBOWT reserve at Dancers End, for an official report read here. We had hoped to see a fair few butterflies, but with all the recent cool and wet conditions we only saw Orange Tips, Speckled Wood, Green veined White and Brimstone.
The reserve is to the east of Wendover with high chalk downs and steep valleys. The first thing I took a picture of was a small spider on a Figwort plant while we waited for others to arrive. As it is seen from underneath it is pretty hard to identify.
We walked to the central area of meadow which would normally be covered in orchids at this time of year. Only one or two had come into flower, this fly orchid (Ophrys insectifera) was the best I one I found. Compare this with the dozens I saw in June last year.
Bugle flowers have taken over from Ground Ivy.
There were flowering spikes of the Great Butterfly Orchid but no colour was showing. There was one Twayblades in flower with many still in bud.
In the meadow there was a diminutive relative of the rampant garden plant Alchelmilla mollis (Lady's Mantle), this was identified as Alchelmilla xanthrochlora but I have my doubts looking at my flora.
Close by was a bit of a rarity, this strange thing is not a flowering plant at all but a small fern, very descriptively named Adder's Tongue (Ophioglossum vulgatum). It often has a single plain frond, a difficult thing to spot as it is small and green.
Continuing the tongue theme, another plant yet to come into flower was a possible Hound's Tongue (Cynoglossum officionale)
The lack of butterflies was partly made up for by moths. Although you need an expert with you to find and identify them they have the advantage of staying still and so can be photographed. This carpet moth was in a specimen box - released unharmed after inspection.
Coming out from the woodland we moved onto a field that had been cleared with weed-killer and then re-seeded with wild-flowers. Various meadowland plants were gradually coming in, including Field madder (Sherardia arvensis).
We then saw one of the real rarities of the reserve: Slender bedstraw (Galium pumilum), unfortunately my picture was out of focus. You'll have to make do with a picture of the group as we climbed a hill strewn almost completely with buttercups.
At the top of the hill the reserve had constructed some 'butterfly scrapes'. These are shallow bowls cut into the chalk and left to colonise with wild-flowers, with a little shelter on the south side of the hill they should prove very attractive to butterflies. At present there were a few plants, one may have been Blue Pimpernel (Angalis foemina). Less exotic was Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis).
Among the plants in the field were a number of different speedwells, including Wall Speedwell (Veronica arvensis).
After lunch we moved on to a small meadow at Crong and we saw some Orange Tips and a few moths. The most pretty I think was the Green Carpet moth (Colostygia pectinataria).
The other co-operative moth was a Mother Shipton moth (Callistege mi).
A conspicuous flower in the woods at this time is Woodruff (Galium odoratum).
One last natural history picture for this walk. This was considered as a bee; a fly or a bee-fly, I think it is probably a hoverfly, feeding on Wood Spurge.
Now for a bit of a diversion. The previous day I made a trip to Worcester Cathedral and could not resist including a few images of the marvellous misericords in the choir-stalls. The first is a jousting scene (S13) according to this web site it is: 'Jousting scene. One knight has un-horsed another who has broken his spear, whose foot with a sharp pointed spur is out of his stirrup, and whose horse is now on its haunches. Both knights are fully armed. One squire [left] who appears horrified is falling backwards, and another [right] is blowing a serpentine horn'.
The second N06 'A woman with distaff and a man digging. Possibly a reference to “when Adam delved and Eve span” Left Supporter - Man, with grotesque head, and the legs and feet of a quadruped, wings of a bird and head and neck of swan. Right Supporter - Woman, with grotesque head, and the legs and feet of a quadruped, wings of a bird and head and neck of a swan.'
The third S06 'Man wearing a cap with a hood drawn over his ears, and a cloak and sword, and bearing in each hand a large branch of foliage. May. Supporters - Crested fowl with prominent eyes, facing inward.'