Sunday 31 May 2009

Goat Island and Lizard Peninsula

Yesterday I took a long stroll up on Axe Cliff , which also included my first ever visit to Goat Island, "where's that?" you might well ask. It is a large area of grassland detached from the 'mainland' during the 1839 landslip which created the whole undercliff area. Having been spared the attention of farmers for over a century and a half it is now a superb area for wildflowers including orchids. I didn't suppose there would be any particularly 'desirable' ones there, just the usual species that I can see elsewhere on patch, but whilst I was looking for information on Goat Island on the web I came across a post on a forum by someone who had made a visit there. They had posted some photos of the lovely Common Spotted Orchids they had seen including a 'nice white one'. I could see from the photo that this wasn't a Common Spotted Orchid, it was a Butterfly Orchid!! I was planning on visiting Somerset or Dorset for this species but now it was available on patch, or so it seemed. I found the 'secret pathway' down through the chasm separating Goat Island from the rest of Axe Cliff and after several minutes of scrambling, climbing and getting my legs scratched (shorts were a bad choice) I emerged onto the island. What an incredible place, the solitude was blissful as were the views, here are a couple of them:

There was a sheer cliff at the southern end, which I kept well away from!

You can't see from the photos but the grassland up there was smothered with orchids, mostly Common Spotted, Southern Marsh and hybrids of the two. But there were also about a dozen Butterfly Orchids!

Very elegant.
A close up view of the flowers revealed that it was in fact a Greater Butterfly Orchid.

The position of the pollinia (those yellow dumbbell shaped bits) distinguish the Greater from Lesser Butterfly Orchid. Appaerntly these orchids 'glow in the dark' to attract moths!

I felt very privileged to be on this part of the reserve, especially as I know that volunteer working parties put in a lot of graft managing the grassland and keeping the scrub down, so much so that I may well join one later in the year.

After leaving here I was making my way across Axe Cliff on one of my usual routes when I was staggered to see a small group of Southern Marsh Orchids almost right next to the path, I certainly haven't seen any here in previous years, don't know how I've missed them, they are pretty obvious.

Here they are being modeled by Rex.
The best thing about a photo of Rex is that you can't smell him! (unless he's within half a mile of you while your viewing it)

Also on Axe Cliff a few of the usuals amused me for a while as I tried to take reasonable shots of them from a distance with the S3, a challenge I suppose...

Not one of the usuals until last weekend. The S3 likes butterflies:-)




Today Bun and I went to The Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall hoping to see the Choughs, which would be a lifer for me. We visited both Kynance Cove and Lizard Point where the RSPB watchpoint is situated. We had good views at both sites but the views were more prolonged and closer at Kynance Cove, especially in flight. Great birds, much more than just 'crows with red bills'. We also had a bonus or three! Here are a few photos from today:

Kynance Cove was idyllic here; the hoards arrived a couple of hours later

The Choughs were nesting in a cave along this piece of coastline.

A couple of stunning shots of the Choughs

Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary, there were scores of these at Kynance Cove

A Grey Seal put in a brief appearance... but best of all...

Fantastic views of a Red Kite,
only my third ever and definitely the best views I've had.
Low enough for a photo! :-)

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