Sunday, 17 April 2016

Red kites, rose moss and beautiful beech trees

Aston Rowant National Nature reserve is a wonderful place. High up on the top of the Chilterns you get wonderful views along the hills and out towards Oxford and Didcot. It can be quite noisy as the M40 cuts the reserve in half, but the motorway is down below you, so you feel quite detached from it, perched up high on the top of the chalk grassland slope.
M40 cutting the reserve in two
We were looking for early purple orchids today, hoping to find some flowers or at least some leaves. Even though we looked in the same places we'd seen them last year (under a hawthorn bush in particular), there was no sign of them. We'll have to try again in a couple of weeks, as it seems to be a bit too early for them at this site.

While we were there we decided to see if we could find the rare rose moss. We'd been shown where it was last year on a guided moss walk, so we knew where to look. It likes one small section of chalk grassland on the reserve and is very particular, growing only on the north side of the yellow meadow ant hills. With its rosette of leaves, it really does look like a tiny green rose.


Aston Rowant NR is covered in ant hills, but the rose moss only grows on a
few of them
There are some fabulous trees on the reserve, including some very old beech trees, that hang onto the steep slopes and have grown into beautiful shapes.
This one always looks like it might get up and start walking around!

Bendy branches!
The beech leaves are really starting to break now. I love the way their fur lined, deeply grooved leaves burst out of the tight leaf buds. Another sure sign of spring!


I was hoping we might see some green hairstreak butterflies too. Even though it was very sunny, there had been a frost overnight so I think it was a bit too cold (in fact we didn't see any butterflies at all). They should be appearing in the next week or two though, so I'll keep an eye out for them.

Back at the house one of the red kites was sat in a tree, so I couldn't resist taking a few photos!

Having a shake

1 comment:

  1. I took so many photos until my fingers couldn't feel the shutter anymore. They were frozen through have a peek at these guys