Thursday, June 16, 2022

Burnt Burnt Orchids at Knocking Hoe.

Summer. Each year I compile a lits of target orchids, butterflies etc an places that I will definitely this time go and see, but days of heat and pollen seem to sap my enthusiasm and I never seem to find the opportunity.

But not today. Mike and I pitched up at a small car park just west of Hitchin and made our way to Knocking Hoe reserve. A piece of hillside grassland festooned with flowers. We spent an hour plus marvelling at many species we were unable to name.

Some we were, mainly the orchids. Common Spotted Orchid in a fine stand where we entered, then hundreds of Pyramidal Orchids scattered around, and amongst them many Fragrant Orchids. Apparently DNA analysis has shown there are three species of fragrant Orchid. Lacking my DNA testing kit I was unable to say which ones these were.

Our target was Burnt Orchid, or Burnt Tip Orchid. A lifer for the two of us. We eventually worked out that the tiny stems with dessicated seed heads next to Orange flags were Burnt Orchids two weeks or so beyond their flowering life. Fortunately a couple of examples were still making a fist of it. Next year, beginning of June ...

My prospect for more orchids has been significantly enhanced by discovering Orchid Hunter on YouTube. Clear explanations of where to go and what to look for, and a genuine feel for the ups and downs of the hunt that is familiar to birders as well as other naturalists. Recommended

Here's some photos. 

One of the few Burnt Orchids still standing.

Fragrant orchid.

A white/very pale pink Fragrant orchid. Just the one noticed.

Nice. A few of these. No idea what it is.

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Glorious Day in The Brecks

Mike and I had a few common gaps in our year list that could be filled at some sites in the Brecks. We started our treck at RSPB Lakenheath, and were soon getting decent birds. Two Knot on the Washlands, one just coming into summer plumage, a Hobby hunting back and forth; then a flyover Bittern, first of a few, that gave great views as it slowly flopped into the riverside and wandered through vegetation. At Joist Fen we had more hobbies, a hovering Kingfisher, and a few Marsh Harriers. Three cuckoos called, but we couldn't see any.

The board in the centre had mentioned Variable Damselfly, a species of Odonata of which I was only dimly aware. We wandered down a mowed path with small blue damselflies zipping everywhere. Mike had mentioned that close up they are a slightly different blue to Azure, so when I saw an electric blue one I said there that's it and Mike soon corrected me - no its Azure John. Then a slightly darker duller one landed and I said there that's definitely one, and much to my astonishment it actually was! A greyish tinge to the blue, darker terminal segments, and the clincher through Mike's monocolar was the wine-goblet shape S2.

Next up was Weeting, where after an anxious ten minutes from the hide with just Curlew and Shelduck, I located four Stone Curlew lounging around. (I mention that I found them because otherwise the casual reader may conclude that mine and Mike's days out simply consist of Mike finding birds and me going great thanks Mike nice one). The staff showed us a Pine Hawkmoth from the trap.

Two year ticks down and onto Santon Downham. A couple of singing Tree Pipits were the third year tick for me, and as we admired them two doves flew past and into trees; rufous, blue grey, with distinctive white tail edgings, a pair of Turtle Doves! Otherwise a Stonechat, and distantly a cuckoo called.

We'd cleaned up, so a last short trip to Lynford Arboretum for a coffee and a possible Firecrest. I heard plenty as I sipped my Cappuccino, but could see none. We had a short walk round and stopped at a rhododendron bush to admire the insect life. Suddenly Mike was onto a Hawkmoth, but not the standard orange-tinted Hummingbird kind either. I was way beyond my experience here, but registered a lime-green colour, with a russet-brown band, yellow tail with a couple of black blobs. I took some phone footage and photos, and googling indicated one of the Bee Hawkmoths, and yes we could now make out the red borders to the translucent wings. We must have stayed for an hour marvelling at this creature whizzing back and forth.

Eventually we headed off, just a few minutes eventually tracking down a Firecrest, heard a cuckoo calling distantly, then home.

On checking the literature we agreed on Broad-Bordered Bee Hawkmoth. Apparently well distributed in Norfolk! I've attached a video from my phone. I don't know where the sound comes from - the moth did not make the sound of a tractor.

A great day. Still buzzing. The target birds put you in a place, give you a purpose, but the things that make a good day great are the unexpected, the great views of birds you thought you might get just a peak at, the species that drop in unexpectedly, and today a couple of great insects too.

Commonly Spotted Orchids

We are fortunate in the UK in that the commonest orchids are also amongst the most beautiful. I spent a morning photographing some on the lo...