Thursday, 1 September 2016

End of the summer holidays

The summer holidays are almost over and we've been really busy. We've still spent plenty of time outdoors though, so this is a bit of a round up of some of our best bits from the last week ....

We had two exciting finds from our walk around Whiteleaf Hill this morning. The first was a stinkhorn, covered in flies and smelling suitably stinky. They smell of rotting flesh to attract the flies, which then disperse the spores. We found one in almost the same place about 4 years ago and every time we walk past we have to look (and smell) for one. Bug Mad Girl's is always sniffing for stinkhorns, so it was great to find one again. We also had a bit of a laugh about what it looks like!

Then we found a large skull in the grass. It's about 20cm long and belongs to a herbivore (judging by its teeth), so I would guess it's a type of deer. We brought it home, so we'll clean it up a bit and try to find out what it is.

A walk through the woods on Chinnor Hill is a real treat at this time of year, even if it's a bit cloudy and drizzly.
The woods on Chinnor Hill
Hiding away in the deepest, darkest corners, there were still a few violet helleborines in flower, although many had already gone over. They're some of our taller helleborines with lots of flowers on each spike, so when you do spot them, they're very impressive (but hard to photograph in the gloom).

Most have gone to seed already
It's been a bit too dry for most fungi recently, but if you're lucky you can find a few treasures. This one was growing around the base of a beech tree and I only noticed it because I happened to look up when I was photographing the violet helleborines. Looks a bit like an oyster mushroom with the shell shaped cap, but it was very thick and solid, with several caps growing out of a single base. It didn't really appear to have any obvious gills or pores underneath, so I'm not sure what it was. Quite impressive though!

No obvious gills underneath the cap
When you break through the trees, the views from the plain on the top of the hill are spectacular. We always have to pause for a minute and take a look out over Chinnor and across towards Oxford.

We can't visit Chinnor Hill at this time of year without taking a look at the Chiltern Gentian. They're such beautiful flowers and really brighten up a bit of a gloomy day.

Chiltern Gentian

Chiltern Gentian and friends!
We've also been to Watlington Hill this week, for more fantastic views.

It's a great place to spot butterflies and we were lucky enough to see one silver spotted skipper. We followed it around for a while, but only managed a few out of focus photos!

Silver spotted skipper
There were lots of common blues flitting around and we even managed a slightly better photo of one of them!
Common blue
Bug Mad Girl spotted this bolette in the grass. I believe this is a bitter beech bolette as it has a distinctive red stipe. It really feels like the fungi season is just about to kick into gear soon!

Bitter beech bolette
If you read this blog regularly, you'll know that we've spent quite a lot of time searching for frog orchids on Watlington Hill and Aston Rowant Nature Reserve, both this year and last year. We managed to find a handful of plants at both sites, but we stumbled across dozens of them on this visit. They're past their best, but at least we know where to look for them next year. We must have walked right past them on previous searches. I just happened to be kneeling down to take a photo of the bolette that Bug Mad Girl spotted, when I noticed a frog orchid nearby. I looked closer and they were everywhere. Another lucky find!

Frog orchid

A fun way to end the summer holidays!

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