Thursday 30 April 2015

Snake's Head Fritillary

I've never seen Snake's Head Fritillary in the wild and have always wanted but never quite managed to get to Criklade in Wiltshire to see them in their thousands. I still haven't been there but when I found out that there was a small colony on a Dorset Wildlife Trust reserve not far from Bridport I went over there straight away. And when I say small colony I mean small as this year it appears to only consist of two plants and both of these are of the rarer white form. They looked lovely in the early morning sunshine bejeweled in a heavy dew.

Snake's Head Fritillary - Fritillaria meleagris

I've added this close up of some of the water droplets. I love the way that they act like tiny lenses showing a miniature inverted image.

I took a few shots with my 400mm lens from its minimum focusing distance of 3 metres away and they came out really well, I love the 'dreamy' feel to them.

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Green-winged Orchid and Pearl-bordered Fritillary

Early on Monday morning I drove over to Barrington Hill Meadows NNR in Somerset to see the display of Green-winged Orchids. There were fewer than last year but  having said that still thousands of flowers. Green-winged Orchids come in a great variety of colour forms and it's always fun trying to see how many different ones there are. They vary from deep purple to completely white with the majority falling somewhere in between.

A small section of one of the meadows showing how abundant the flowers are.

This is one of the loveliest specimens I've ever seen.

Lots of Cowslips too. Always lovely to see!

While busy looking at rarer flowers like orchids it is very easy to overlook some common flowers that are just as beautiful, the humble Horse Chestnut for example. This tree was by the entrance to the reseve and the low branches gave me an opportunity to get a photo of its showy flowers.

Apparently the flower colour changes from yellow to pink once the flower as been pollinated as a signal to bees to not bother visiting it.

Yesterday I went to the Haldon Forest near Exeter to look for Pearl-bordered Fritillary. There were only males on the wing as it's still pretty early in their flight season, they were mostly really new ones though and looked superb. 

Freshly emerged individuals like this one have a lovely velvety bloom about them.

A few cloudy spells allowed for an opportunity to photograph the exquisite under-wing while the butterflies rested waiting for the next sunny spell.

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Early Spider Orchid and a Couple of Close Encounters from The Car

Another Sunday meant another trip over the border into Dorset. This time the destination was Dancing Ledge on the Purbeck Coast to look for Early Spider Orchid. I'd visited here before back in 2010, so after five long years it was about time I had a second look at them. It was a couple of weeks earlier in the season this time but there were plenty of flowers on show, you need to 'get your eye in' though as  they are pretty inconspicuous.

We had a nice surprise encounter on the way there. We were just leaving Lyme Regis when I spotted two Red Kites flying low over the road, we slid to a stop at the side of the road and I managed to get a few shots of them as they passed overhead. Unfortunately they were both going away but one of them kindly looked round at me.

 Red Kite 

At the top of the path down to Dancing Ledge with St. Aldhelm's Head in the distance.
The Early Spider Orchids grow on the short turf of the lower slopes.

Early Spider Orchid - Ophrys sphegodes
 This flower looks a bit like a furry smiling frog...or is it just me?!

 I took a few shots of some with my 400mm lens too. The photos have a very different feel to them, they seem to have a nice dreamy quality, due to the out of focus background and some lovely bokeh.

I was surprised to see this Fox out and about at lunchtime especially considering the amount of people around. 

Our second close encounter from the car came on the way home. We stopped in a lay-by on the Dorset Heaths and there was a male Dartford Warbler singing away in the gorse bushes immediately next to us. I took a few shots before he just melted away into the the vegetation, like they do.

Dartford Warbler

Finally a couple of photos from this morning's visit to Salcombe Hill. It was pretty quiet again but saying that I wasn't able to give it very long.

The predictable Wheatear .. but this time in a tree.

Willow Warbler


Thursday 16 April 2015

Stonehill Down and Creech Wood, Dorset.

As mentioned on my last blog post, on Sunday I visited a site in Dorset looking for Toothwort and that site was Stonehill Down, a Dorset Wildlife Trust reserve near Corfe Castle. The path up to the down goes through a small coppiced woodland, known as Creech Wood. What a fabulous woodland it is, the woodland floor was carpeted with Ramsons (not yet in flower unfortunately) and Dog's Mercury, with other woodland flowers also occurring in profusion.

The view from the top of the down looking north east towards Poole Harbour was spectacular.

Creech Wood.
 A lovely example of an ancient coppice.


The plant I went to see, Toothwort.
 A bizarre looking plant lacking any chlorophyll, giving it a pale and ghostly appearance, it is sometimes known as 'corpse flower'. It is parasitic on the roots of several trees and shrubs most commonly hazel.

It comes in various shades of cream, pink and purple, some very pale like this one.

..And this one. 

A nice back-lit one.
Some are quite a bit more colourful too. 

Toothwort - Lathraea squamaria

Wood Anemone - Anemone nemorosa

Early Dog-violet - Viola reichenbachiana

Moschatel - Adoxa moschatellina
Sometimes called 'Town Hall Clock' due to its unusual four sided flowers with another flower on the top, it's also sometimes called 'five-faced bishop' apparently.

I think they've seen me!

I was out on Salcombe Hill again this morning. It was pretty quiet on the whole but I saw another two Wheatears in the usual field. Heard my first Common Whitethroat and saw a Red Kite fly over Sidmouth to the west. There were a few Swallows flying in off too.

A very 'peachy' male Wheatear.

Distant Red Kite 

This Swallow was singing his head off. Celebrating his arrival I like to imagine!

This stopped me in my tracks for a few moments until I got my bins onto it...

... 'Phantom of the opera' Blackbird!