Thursday, 7 August 2014

In search of Chiltern Gentian

We decided to see if we could find some Chiltern Gentian today. It's pretty rare and is found only in the Chilterns (hence the name). It's the county flower of Buckinghamshire and should be flowering right now.

The first spot we tried was Aston Rowant nature reserve, which is renowned for it's fabulous displays. Unfortunately we couldn't find any, but we did see masses of Common, Chalk-Hill and Adonis Blue butterflies. There were lots of people around with big cameras taking photos of them!

Chalk-Hill Blue

Chalk-Hill Blues

Common Blue
Other interesting things we saw up there were some squirrel drays, a big hairy caterpillar, a tree covered in red and black berries and lots of yellow meadow ant hills. It's estimated that there are 500 million yellow meadow ants at the nature reserve, and that's not counting the 20 other types of ants that are up there (read that from the info available at the car park!). Each mound alone has around 5,000 ants in it.

Yellow meadow ant hill

Squirrel dray

A very hairy caterpillar

Undeterred, we decided to try one last place that Nanny Moth knew about. A few miles away from the nature reserve, we parked on the side of the road, walked across a field, through a woodland path and then a large grassy bank opened out in front of us. The view was amazing and the grass and flowers were alive with butterflies. Then Nanny Moth spotted our first Chiltern Gentian, right by our feet!

#100DaysOfNature Day 15 - Chiltern Gentian

We were suitably excited, then looked around and it was actually everywhere. I warned Bug Mad Girl to be careful not to stand on it, but it was actually difficult not to stand on some of it as there was so much.

What an amazing place. It was like a secret garden, hidden away from the rest of the world. The butterflies were too numerous to ever try and count and included Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Common and Chalk-hill Blues, Brimstones, Large and Small Whites. We may even have seen a Silver Spotted Skipper and definitely saw a Peacock.

We also found some patches of Harebells and Common Restharrow.

Common Restharrow
On the way back to the car we looked in an old cow shed and found some nests; probably Swallows nests.

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