Sunday, 29 May 2016

Military fly-by

We visited Homefield Wood today as part of a BBOWT guided walk with Peter Creed. We were there to see the fabulous military orchids, although Bug Mad Girl's orchid enthusiasm only last about 20 minutes, so she was also hoping for plenty of bugs.

The military orchids are large, statuesque orchids, that stand tall above the grass, making them easy to spot. They're listed as vulnerable and are one of our rarest orchids, with only a handful of sites in the country. They were thought to be extinct until they were rediscovered at Homefield Wood in 1947 and the site was kept secret for many years for fear people would dig them up.

The upper petals form a pointed hood that looks like a helmet and the lip forms the shape of a soldier with outstretched arms. Tufts of purple hairs form dots down the centre of the lip that are said to resemble the shiny buttons on the soldiers uniform.

There was a small amount of variation in colour in the flowers from pale pink to a deeper violet. Many of the flowers were caged to protect them from being eaten and trodden on.

As well as the military orchids, there were some wonderful fly orchids in flower. I've only ever seen them with 1 or 2 flowers on where they've been hiding in grass and scrub, but these were out in the open and were much taller with 7 or 8 flowers on.

They're much more delicate than the military orchids and you could very easily miss them completely as you walked around. They resemble flies sitting on a stalk, with folded wings, glistening eyes and antennae.

We also found several common spotted orchids starting to flower, a single white helleborine and plenty of twayblades.
Common spotted orchid
White helleborine
As for the bugs ... we didn't do too badly, despite it being quite overcast and chilly. We saw a soldier beetle with pollinia from an orchid stuck to its head. Presumably it was helping with the pollination, which is unusual as these aren't one of the insects that usually pollinate military or fly orchids.

There were a few common blues flying and we saw a speckled wood in the
dappled shade of the woods

Garden chafer with a metallic green head and copper coloured body

Orchid beetle - they eat the roots of the orchids

Nettle weevils - as they get older, the green scales rub off and they can
look almost black

Spider eating a fly

We spotted a lovely little crab spider

Bug Mad Girl got a close up photo of the crab spider

Bug Mad Girl's photo

Back at the car park we spotted a caterpillar in one of the trees.
It may be a hawk moth caterpillar, as it has the distinctive hawk moth tail.
I'm not sure about that though!


  1. Love all the orchids you found today. Very beautiful. I found my swallowtail this afternoon by the way.

    1. Thanks - well done for seeing swallowtails. I'm very jealous!

  2. I think that is an hummingbird hawkmoth as they have the white stripes down the side. What an exciting find!

  3. I think that is an hummingbird hawkmoth as they have the white stripes down the side. What an exciting find!