Thursday 4 June 2009

Flies, Bees and Bats

Yesterday morning I went out in search of Fly Orchids, The nearest site I know of is in Dorset about 10 miles to the north of Dorchester in a private woodland, which conveniently slopes down to the roadside. Next to the woodland is an area called Batcombe Hill picnic site, or so I thought. I had found a reference to it on the web and printed out details of a walk around the site written by 'Butterfly Conservation' in which it talked about Duke of Burgundy Fritillary, amongst others. When I arrived the site wasn't called Batcombe Hill anymore but Hillfield Hill and the map I had seemed hopelessly out of date hence I struggled to follow the walk detailed on it. At one point it said " to the right of the lane there is a woodbank with ash saplings planted on it" This was there but the saplings were now about 15-20ft tall! My information must have been at least ten years out of date! There wasn't any sign of the Duke of Burgundy or any other butterflies for that matter and the only bird I saw was a Chaffinch. Quite a poor reserve I thought.

The private woodland however was superb, well from what I could see from the road it was. There were hundreds of Common Twayblades and after several minutes scanning with bins I spotted the Fly Orchids I'd been hoping to find here. I could only see about seven from the road, they were on a very steep bank and it was pretty dark too, so not ideal for photos. I tried to get some though because they're a really fascinating flower mimicking not a fly as the name would suggest but a digger wasp.

Three flowers on a stem, high on a steep bank.
See the road far below!

A closer view of two of the flowers, a bit blurred but you can see the resemblance to a black wasp. The white area apparently imitates iridescent folded wings, male digger wasps fall for it anyway.

This flower caught a small shaft of sunlight allowing for a better close up and also showing up the deep wine red colour.

On the way to this site I had to pass through the village of Cerne Abbas, and past the 'Cerne Abbas Giant' viewpoint. So on the way home I stopped at said viewpoint to do the touristy thing and take a few snaps of it. Actually I hadn't ever seen the 'actual' giant before (only photos) so didn't want to waste the opportunity.

Giant Hill and The Giant from the National Trust viewpoint.
Can't see it... here's a closer view.

The people you may be able to see walking about on it are from the National Trust, they were titivating him a bit.

In the evening Bun and I were going to Buckfastleigh to see the Greater Horseshoe Bats come out from their roost, but on the way we stopped in Honiton, at a business park where we had heard that a Bee Orchid was growing. Sure enough, there it was on a tiny bit of parched soil, under a little hedge, next to the carpark. It had shrivelled, yellowed leaves and a bad attack of blackfly, but had one beautiful flower like so:

Lovely Bee Orchid flower. If you look closely you can see the blackfly and an ant feeding from them. Also if you enlarge it there's also some sort of menacing looking whitish caspid walking about on the aphids too.

There was a very small area of 'meadowland' or overgrown lawn at one side of the carpark and when we looked closely at it we could see masses more Bee Orchids, Loads of 'em! 102 to be exact. They were gorgeous, I'd only ever seen a single one before.

At Buckfastleigh the bats didn't perform for us at all well, which was a little disappointing. We did see some, I'd guess around 50 or so and some were extremely close, but they came in dribs and drabs, ones and twos mostly, not the vast numbers that are more usual ( over 1000 bats roost in the caves here). Perhaps it was just the luck of the draw, or just 'something in the air ' ;-) We will certainly be going again though. Soon.

Sorry for the total lack of any birds, I'll see something soon hopefully, even if I have to resort to twitching!!Add Image

1 comment:

Gavin Haig said...

Those bee orchids are just stunning!