Monday, 15 June 2015

#30DaysWild day 15: Frog hunt part 2

After yesterdays unsuccessful hunt for Frog Orchids, we decided to try one of the other local sites to see if we could find them. Also it was a beautiful sunny morning and Aston Rowant Nature Reserve is always full of butterflies and wild flowers, so we were hopeful we'd see some interesting things.

The reserve is split in two by the M40 and I'd found a document online saying the Frog Orchids could be found either on Beacon Hill, or near Bald Hill on the other half of the reserve. We chose to try Beacon Hill today and set out along the top of the steep slope.

Common Blues were flying around in the sunshine and we spotted lots of very small brown butterflies that we believe were Brown Arguses (although they're easy to confuse with the dark brown female Common Blues). The slopes were covered in Rock Rose, which is the foodplant of the caterpillars of the Brown Argus, so its possible that's what they were (although you have to carefully compare the spots on the underwing to be sure).

We also spotted a very tatty Green Hairstreak, then a fantastic male Adonis Blue flew around us for a while, settling just long enough to get a few photos. We saw something shoot past us, that may have been a Painted Lady, as well as a couple of Small Heaths.

Male Adonis Blue
Male Adonis Blue

A very tatty looking Green Hairstreak
Whilst staggering around on the steep slope trying to get some photos of the butterflies, we spotted a couple of lovely Bee Orchids.

We reached Beacon Hill and started our search, finding a handful of Common Spotted Orchids, but despite our best efforts we couldn't find any Frog Orchids.
Common Spotted Orchid
We saw somebody on top of the hill, crawling around doing some sort of survey of an ant hill, so I asked him if he knew where they were. He didn't think they had been on Beacon Hill for years, but suggested we try the other side of the reserve and told us where they can usually be found. So now we have a bit of insider information and somewhere to search. As you can't get to the other side of the reserve from where we were, we decided it was a search for another day (I may have to go and look tomorrow) and made our way off Beacon Hill and down to the bottom of the slope.

On the way down, you get a fantastic view of the Red Kites soaring over the reserve and the M40!

We walked along a sunken path that runs along the bottom of the slope. It was a real sun trap and full of Common Spotted Orchids, including an unusual completely white one. There were also a few Pyramidal Orchids starting to flower.

Pyramidal Orchid

Common Spotted Orchid showing the usual spots and
stripes on the petals

White Common Spotted Orchid
As we walked back up through the woods to the car park we saw three Speckled Woods flying around and briefly landing in the dappled sunshine.

I'm beginning to wonder whether the little green Frog Orchids are worth all the hunting, but we've been having a lot of fun trying to find them, so I'm going to have to take a look at the other side of the reserve. I just hope I can find them after all this!

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