Thursday, 9 June 2016

Bramshill 2016

Here is the report for the 2016 visit to Bramshill Plantation, one of the best wildlife havens in the area. After a cool Spring there has been a week of warm weather and nature is trying to catch up as best it can. The Spring rain has made everything very lush. I covered much the same ground as I did last year on 10th June 2015 so it was interesting to compare how things stood.

I first walked to the ford across the River Blackwater. In the field I was delighted to see a Small Copper butterfly (Lycaena phlaeas). Luckily it stayed still and I was able to get my best picture yet of this attractive little butterfly.

small copper butterfly

The section of the Blackwater is most appealing and there were many Banded Demoiselles flitting around. A sedge warbler was singing away from poplar trees across the river.

I then headed back to Bramshill Plantation. On the first and largest lake dragonflies and damselflies were most evident. These two were locked in amorous embrace. There are a lot more dragonflies/damselflies than I ever imagined and they can be hard to identify. I think these are Common Blue Damselflies (Enallagma cyathigerum).

Common Blue Damselfly

The next thing of interest is a plant. I think it is a Grass Vetchling (Lathyrus nissolia), it has vetch like flowers but the leaves are just like a grass. There were isolated plants over much of the plantation

Grass Vetchling,Lathyrus nissolia

A small plant with an attractive flower that I have seen here before is Heath Speedwell (Veronica officinalis).

Heath Speedwell,Veronica officinalis

The main attraction of Bramshill in June are the orchids. There is no great carpet of them though; most of the time you see one or two along the path edge. This orchid had no suggestion of spotting on flowers or foliage, so it may be a hybrid of some kind (Dactylorhiza family).

orchid

The areas of most interest are the ten or so ponds scattered throughout the plantation. This pond, near the centre, is one of the most attractive.

pond

I always like to check on the Bee orchids (Ophrys apifera). Near this pool is one main area where I counted over 20 flowering spikes this year - fairly average. There are three other locations where I also saw them - but only isolated plants. One year I saw hundreds of them - but that now looks like it was exceptional.

Bee orchid,Ophrys apifera

The next pond I visited was noisy with the croaking of Marsh frogs. I did not manage to see any though. What I did see were more 'dragonflies' flitting back and forth over the water. I thought they were Broad-bodied Chasers but when I got back and checked I now think they are Black-tailed Skimmers. (Orthetrum cancellatum). This is the male resting nicely on a twig.

male Black-tailed Skimmer,Orthetrum cancellatum

And this the female of the same species.

Black-tailed Skimmer,Orthetrum cancellatum

Dragonflies feed by catching other insects including damselflies. This Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) had so far escaped their clutches - I did elsewhere see a dragonfly carrying a dead damselfly around with it.

Small Red Damselfly,Ceriagrion tenellum

I then reached the pool which has dozens of Southern Marsh Orchids around its edges. A few specimens are colonizing new 'scrapes' that have been dug for their benefit. This is the best plant group right by the waterside.

Continuing my perambulations I came across a very dense patch of foxgloves, must have been fifty flower spikes all together.

While I was admiring them I happened to notice an insect crawling around in the grass. This insect is similar to the 'shield bugs' probably the Dock or Squash bug (Coreus marginatus).

DOck bug,Squash bug,Coreus marginatus

Normally I would have posted lots of pictures of butterflies, alas no, they were in short supply. I only saw Speckled Woods and Common Blues apart from the Small Copper. Disappointing as just a hundred yards from home I had seen a Painted Lady the previous day. The cool conditions must be holding back the Skippers from emerging. This female Common blue is about the best I can offer.

A very tricky subject for pictures is the common figwort; this is because there is no flat surface on the flowers to focus on. Using manual focus I captured this macro image of the tiny but colourful flowers.

Last year I managed to find a few Lousewort plants (Pedicularis sylvatica), these are strange semi-parasitic plants. One plant was just almost white in flower colour. It is an exotic looking thing, and a suitable note to end the report for 2016 on.