Thursday, 19 May 2016

Early purple orchids

This morning we went back to Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve to see if the early purple orchids were flowering. We were there about a month ago and there was no sign of them, but they had popped up since then and were flowering today. They're one of the earliest orchids to flower and really signify the start of the orchid season.

There were several flowers in amongst the grass of the steep slope, but they were all fairly short. They seemed to be smaller and there were less of them than last year. I hope that's not a sign of things to come for all of the orchids this season!

Last year I found them growing under a small clump of hawthorn and oak and they were growing there again this year.

You never know what you might find ... 
Again, they seemed smaller and there were less of them, but they were still significantly larger than the flowers out in the open. It was a prickly business getting under there to take a photo of them, but at least they were well protected.
Hiding under some very prickly hawthorn
These flowers all seemed to have pale faces and their leaves were spotty, whereas the flowers in the open were much darker and they had leaves with no spots.

It wasn't really butterfly weather today, but we did disturb a couple of butterflies as we walked around the reserve.
Common blue

Dingy skipper
We also couldn't help but admire the beautiful cowslips ...

... and we saw two soldier beetles in the grass.

It's a wonderful reserve to explore, even though the M40 motorway cuts it in two.
The motorway cuts through the Chiltern hills ...

... then winds its way off towards Oxford
During a difficult time earlier in the year, I had to travel backwards and forwards to Oxford every day. Driving home, I'd get off the motorway at Aston Rowant and could see the reserve in front of me. It always made me smile and think of good times.

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