Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Baby birds and butterflies

I've been looking forward to seeing the bird's-nest orchids on Pulpit Hill for almost a year. I found out about them last summer and found the flowers after they'd gone over, so I've been waiting (not very) patiently for them to flower this year. They're off the beaten track, growing on a very steep slope in the deep shade of the beech trees, so it's a bit of an adventure to go and look for them. When I got there I could see a few of last years dead flowers still standing, so had a good hunt around and there they were. I found about a dozen of them, but I suspect more will pop up soon.

This years buds with the dead flowers from last year in the background
They're not quite in flower yet, but they are very close. I'll be back soon to see them when their flowers open.

They're very unusual orchids as they have no chlorophyll, hence the pale cream coloured leaves. They form a parasitic relationship with a fungus to obtain their nutrients, and the fungus has a parasitic relationship with the surrounding trees.
So close to flowering
I love it when all the orchids start to flower. Elsewhere in the woods, the white helleborines are just showing the first glimpse of buds.
White helleborine bud
Out on the grassland, the common spotted orchids are getting bigger and the twayblades will soon be in flower. I had a quick look for the musk orchids, but there's no sign of them yet. They're so tiny though that they're hard to spot even when they're in flower, so they'd be really hard to spot from their leaves alone.
Common spotted orchids with animal print leaves

Twayblade bud
I walked through a field full of cowslips and the purple spikes of bugle. Every ant hill was topped with the dainty little blue flowers of germander speedwell. The view wasn't bad either and it made me feel lucky to live in such a great part of the country.


Germander speedwell

The view across the Chilterns
Further round, in Grangelands, the horseshoe vetch was in flower all over the slope. It's the food plant of the caterpillars of the chalkhill blue butterflies, which will be flying there in a coupe of months.

Horseshoe vetch
It was a bit chilly and the sun was in and out all morning, but I was still surprised that I hadn't seen any butterflies flying. Then I walked round to a slightly more sheltered side of the slope, the sun came out, and I realised there were lots of tiny dingy skippers buzzing around low to the ground. They weren't sitting still for long and disappeared as soon as the sun went in, but they were the first ones I'd seen this year.
Dingy skipper
Another first for the year was a common blue that stopped for one photo before flying off. A sure sign that summer is on the way!

Common blue

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