Monday, 22 May 2017

Bird's-nests and common blues

After a few days of much needed rain, it was very green and lush as I walked around Pulpit Hill this morning. I decided to scrabble down the hillside to check on the bird's-nest orchids, to see how many there were this year and if any were flowering yet. They grow well off the beaten track, on the side of a steep slope, so it's always a bit of an adventure to visit them. I was pleased I did it though, as there were at least 30 plants flowering in one small area.

They're very unusual plants. With very small, stunted leaves and no green chlorophyll, they look almost like the dead stems of flowers that you're more likely to see in the autumn. They're very much alive though and form a relationship with fungus to get their nutrients, which in turn get their nutrients from the roots of the beech trees.

They're quite tricky to photograph, as their cream colour is hard to pick out and they grow in the deep shade of the beech trees, so it's usually quite gloomy. Occasionally the sunlight breaks through the trees in just the right place and puts one in the spotlight though.

There were plenty of white helleborines flowering at the same site. It seems like a good year for both the bird's nest-orchids and the helleborines. I was quite surprised the slugs hadn't eaten more of them, especially after all the rain we've had recently.

White helleborine - you can see how steep the slope is that they were growing on
I got back onto the path and made my way down the hill and into Grangelands and the Rifle Range. The first buds of the chalk scented and common spotted orchids are showing, with just the slightest hint of colour to them. It won't be very long now until the reserve is covered in glorious orchids again!
Chalk fragrant orchid
Common spotted orchid
I had a look for the musk orchids, but there's no sign of them yet. They are so tiny though that you can only really see them when they have sent up their buds. I'll keep an eye out for them over the next few weeks.

I spotted my first common blue butterflies as I walked around, 2 males and a female. The males are such a brilliant bright blue and a sure sign that summer is almost here.

I also saw a green-veined white and there seemed to be female brimstone butterflies flying everywhere, looking for places to lay their eggs.

Green-veined white

Brimstone laying an egg

The precious egg

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