Monday, 20 June 2011

Fourth Time Lucky at Badbury Rings

It doesn't really matter how grotty the weather is if your going orchid hunting, and this morning was very grotty indeed. I set off for Badbury Rings near Wimborne Minster in Dorset not long after 6.00am. Why so early? To beat the crowds, which on a wet Monday were probably going to be none existent! It was nice to have the place almost to myself when I arrived though. I'm happy to report that two years after the 'sheep controversy' (any long term readers (hope there are some left) will remember my tirade at the National Trust in 2009, which I'm too embarrassed to put a link to) the orchids seem to have recovered. I saw seven species today including the one I've looked for in vain on three previous occasions here, Frog Orchid. If you don't know exactly where it's growing, it's a difficult one to spot, it's quite diminutive and the red and green colours blend in with the surrounding vegetation. It took me almost two hours to find one today. I only found three in total and two of them were only just coming out of bud (so at least some things aren't early this year). When I returned to the car park it was just beginning to fill up nicely, with a couple of large groups arriving, so I had made the right choice arriving early. As well as seeing a new orchid I saw some good birds too. While walking along the top of one of the ramparts I flushed a couple of Grey Partridges which must have been down in the ditch below, they flew up right in front of me, first I've seen for ages. There are several pairs of nesting Tree Pipits on the site and some of them are very confiding indeed, foraging on the ground and singing from low shrubs just feet away. So near that I was able to get decent photos of one with my super-zoom. Yes,  it really was that near!
 Badbury Rings: 
Looking very atmospheric now the National Trust have decided to remove all the fences from the surrounding land to create a more natural looking landscape.

There were some smashing Bee Orchids along side the entrance road.

 The ones on the earthworks themselves were quite puny and very soggy!
'Spectacular' Frog Orchid

 Very pretty close up though, I think. Talking of up close....
Fearless Tree Pipit!
It was so preoccupied with trying to out-sing a bird a few hundred yards away it wasn't in the least bit bothered by my presence.

I saw another new orchid this week on the East Devon Commons, Early Marsh Orchid. They are a complicated group with many subspecies and named variants. I think the ones I saw were subspecies pulchella, going by the colour, flower shape and habitat.

Early Marsh Orchid,  Dactyloriza incarnata pulchella.
 There were also several of these beautiful white forms.I thought these were probably the variety ochrantha, which often grows amongst pulchella but it is described as unmarked creamy-yellow.
Up close you can see the flowers are very subtly washed pink and have a few very faint pink spots at the base of the lip which leads me to think that they may be very pale forms of the subspecies incarnata. If they are Dactyloriza incarnata incarnata, then the purple ones could possibly be a purple variant of that subspecies and not pulchella after all. See, I told you they were complicated! Let's just say they are Early Marsh Orchids and leave it at that!!
Another new plant species for me was this Grass Vetchling, which until it flowers just looks like any other grass so I've probably overlooked it before.


Anonymous said...


Perhaps your warden at Whitecross was upset as a HS2 rail line is going thru that part of Bucks - certainly thru Black Hairstreak territory at finemere wood. Please check out BBOWT website for details of many sites to be trashed by HS2.



Karen Woolley said...

Indeed Ed, it's a terrible thing! ....But that doesn't give her the right to talk down to, insult the intelligence of, and generally alienate visitors to the reserve. It certainly doesn't help anyone.

James Lowen said...

hi Karen

I am in purbeck for a week this week and would be keen to try for the frogs at badbury rings. i don't know the site, but if you were able to drop me an email with a description of where you saw them, that would be grand. I am lowen.james at .

many thanks, James Lowen