Monday, 30 June 2008

Anything for the weekend sir?...Indiana Dave searches for the Fen and Musk Orchid! 29th June 2008.

Early Marsh Orchid
subspecies coccinea

Fen Orchid

Marsh Helleborine

Musk Orchid

Musk Orchid

Travelling down to South Wales, my first stop of the day was the excellent reserve Kenfig NNR.
This reserve is well known for its rare bird sightings, but it's also probably one of the best sites in the UK for orchids, as up to fifteen species of orchids are regularly recorded at this site.
The target at this reserve was Fen Orchid.

Getting up to date information from the visitor centre, I checked out the area in the dunes just east of the beach near Sker point.
Orchids I noted in the area included good numbers of Common Twayblade, Southern Marsh Orchid, Common Spotted Orchid, Pyramidal Orchid, a very late Green winged Orchid, Early Marsh Orchid of the subspecies coccinea and huge numbers of Marsh Helleborines.
After checking this area for over an hour, I finally found a single Fen Orchid in a group of Marsh Helleborines.
The orchid looked like that the local population of rabbits had eaten most of the flower, but at least you could still tell it was a Fen Orchid due to shape of the outer leaves and colouration of the plant.
Returning to the visitor centre I let them know of my find and I spoke to the staff about the numbers of Fen Orchids this year.
Apparently this year Fen Orchid numbers have been down, and the local rabbit population had removed the majority of the flower heads, which I had seen previously.
Hopefully next year the numbers will again be back to the levels I saw at Kenfig a couple of years ago.

Driving back to Leicester, I stopped off at Barrow Wake Country Park, near Gloucester to look for Musk Orchid.
Parking near the entrance to the country park, I soon located good numbers of Musk Orchids on the surrounding slopes.
Taking a number of photos of the orchids, I counted at least 100+ Musk Orchids on the slopes, and was the most Musk Orchids I had ever seen.
Other Orchids seen at this site included Common Twayblade, Pyramidal, and Heath Spotted Orchids.
Although I only found one Fen Orchid at Kenfig was a slight anticlimax, finding over a hundred Musk Orchids at this site was a excellent end to my trip to South Wales and the West Country.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Leicestershire Orchids part 2. June 22nd 2008.

Pyramidal Orchid.

Pyramidal Orchid.

Heath Spotted Orchid.

Heath Fragrant Orchid.

White variation of Common
Spotted Orchid.

22nd June cont:
Stonesby Quarry LRWT:
500+ Pyramidal Orchids.
Herbert's Meadow, Ulvercroft LRWT:
50+ Heath Fragrant Orchids, 100+ Heath Spotted Orchids and 5 Common Spotted Orchids.

Leicestershire Orchids part 1 22nd June 2008.

Common Fragrant Orchid

Common Spotted
x Southern Marsh Orchid Hybrid

Southern Marsh Orchid

Early Marsh Orchid

Bee Orchid

I went out on Sunday to check a few Orchid sites in Leicestershire and saw at least eight different species.
Here is a brief list of what I saw and were:

Merry's Meadow LRWT:
Four Common Twayblade, 2 Common Fragrant Orchids(former Chalk Fragrant Orchid), and Heath Spotted Orchid (15+).
Whilst at this site I also had 2 Crossbills flying over the reserve (probably part of main influx into this country from the continent?).

A1 Pickworth By-pass:
200+ Southern Marsh Orchids and 1 Common Spotted/Southern Marsh Orchid Hybrid.

A1 Pickworth By-pass Triangle:
At least 1 Bee Orchid!

Empingham North Meadows SSSI:
150+ Southern Marsh Orchids and 20+ Early Marsh Orchids.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

BBC NEWS | England | Orchid thrives in Cumbria

BBC NEWS England Orchid thrives in Cumbria

Looks like I'm not going to be a TV star then!

Bee Orchids Huncote embankment 16th June 2008.

Following an email message from Adey Baker, I drove over to Huncote embankment (part of Croft Quarry) to photo the group of 10 Bee Orchids he had found earlier.
I soon located the orchids just below the top of the embankment and took a number of photos of these lovely orchids.
What is slightly unusual about these orchids is that there have never occurred here at this site before?
One theory is that maybe the plants have been transported via the build up of the embankment a few years ago?
As the surrounding Croft Quarry is the wrong rock type for flowering Bee Orchids!

Monday, 9 June 2008

Indiana Dave quest for a Lady Slipper and some Stilts 6th June 2008.

Lady's Slipper Orchid
-the rarest orchid in the UK !

Lady's Slipper Orchid again!

Walk this way please!

Long pink legged bird
aka Black winged Stilt!

As I had most of the week off from work and University I decided to travel up to Lancashire to look for the very rare and spell bounding Lady's Slipper Orchid, do some birding around Leighton Moss RSPB and on the way home check out the Black winged Stilts in Cheshire.
Leaving Leicester just after 9.00am, I arrived at Leighton Moss RSPB reserve at Silverdale at around 11.30am.
Walking away from the reserve and car park, I went straight to the Lady's Slipper site which was just around the corner from Leighton Moss.
At this site, the orchid is guarded by Natural England staff to protect it from halfwits who have in past have tried dig up the plant!
Talking to the warden, he showed me were the plant was and then left me to photo this mythical orchid.
Whilst photographing the orchid,a BBC local news team asked if it was ok for interview about why I had come to see the rare orchid!?
As I was think this was my fifteen minutes of fame, I naturally said yes.
Been interview by Peter Marshall, I was asked the standard questions, why I had come all the way to see this orchid, what were my feelings of seeing this plant and was it a spiritual moment!(Yeah Right!)
I was then interviewed with the warden as we talked about the orchid, and me taking photos of the orchid.
After filming me for fifteen minutes (maybe I should have got an agent?!?), the crew thanked me for the interview, and I walked back to Leighton Moss for a spot of Birding.
Walking round the main reserve, I was slightly disappointed of the lack of bird life, and the only thing of note was a male Marsh Harrier seen flying over the large reedbed.
The one saving grace of the reserve, was that it had a tearoom,and the staff made me a ham sandwich to go!
Driving over the tidal pools at the other side of the reserve, I walked down the track to the Eric Morecambe hide.
Viewing from the hide the first thing I noticed was a juvenile-type Spoonbill actually feeding around the tidal pool. Other notable birds included a large flock of 200+ Black Tailed Godwits, 10+ Avocets feeding young and good numbers of the all the usual common waders.
As it was mid afternoon by now, I decided it was time to leave this attractive part of the country, and head back towards the Midlands.
As previous stated on the way home I stopped off at Neuman's Flash near Northwich, Cheshire to view the breeding Black winged Stilts. Arriving at the RSPB viewpoint, I watched the Stilts feeding in the shallow lagoons for the next half an hour, and took a number of digishots of the breeding pair.
After digiscoping the Stilts I walked back to the car, and then tackled the M6 rush hour traffic on my way home.
What was pleasing about the day was that I had finally seen one of the truly mythical orchids in the UK and it was also nice to catching up with the breeding Stilts as this was the first time since 1983, that these birds had successful breed in the UK.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Indiana Dave and the quest for Derbyshire Orchids 6th June 2008.

Burnt tip Orchid

Fly Orchid

Frog Orchid

As I had the week off from University and work commitments, I made a quick trip to Derbyshire to check out a number of Orchid sites.
Parking my car not far from the first site near Cromford I was soon climbing the steep hillside to get into the quarry.
In the quarry bottom, I found straight the way a good number of Fly and Frog Orchids. Counting the Orchids there must have been thirty Frog Orchids in a small area of the quarry bottom and at least forty Fly Orchids in the surrounding area.
As you would expect I took a good number of photos of these good looking Orchids. Although this trip was to look for Orchids, I did note that the quarry had three singing Redstarts, which would have been fantastic for my home county of Leicestershire!
Moving up to the higher section of the quarry I found another twenty Fly Orchids, five Frog Orchids and a couple of Common Twayblades.
Driving up the hill from the last site, I reached the next site within minutes, the target here was Burnt tip Orchid.
Climbing over the fence to the entrance of the field I was hoping to find a few more orchids than last year, as there was only about fifteen flowering plants. Walking slowly over the field, I soon started to see small groups of Burnt tip Orchids, scanning through my binoculars I noticed that good numbers occurred towards to the top of the field.
At this point I started to take a few photos of this delicate small orchid.
Checking the rest of the field I counted at least 400 flowering plants, which was great to see, and a vast improvement on the previous year.
Walking back to the car pleased that I had seen the targets for the afternoon, I noted that the visibility was superb on this high point, as I could clearly seen Derby, Nottingham and in the distance Beacon Hill, near Loughborough which was at least forty miles away!!

Scarce Chaser and Nene Washes 4th June 2008.

Nice shot of a female Scarce Chaser by John!

Meeting with John, after he had finished work we drove over to Woodwalton Fen NNR in Cambridgeshire, to see if we could find any Scarce Chasers.
Parking by the entrance, we were soon checking out the ditches and found a male Scarce Chaser almost straight away. Although the Dragonfly was too distant to photo it was good to see the Chaser so quickly.
Checking out other parts of the reserve, we saw a couple of Hairy Dragonflies on the wing, and a small group of Roe Deer feeding in the fenland.
Moving back to the ditch next to the entrance, we soon picked up at least six female Scarce Chasers sitting in the vegetation opposite the ditch. At this point John and myself took a number of photos of the Chasers. Other Dragonflies seen in the same area included Four spotted Chaser, Hairy Dragonfly and numerous Damseflies.
As we were the leaving the reserve, we noticed a Barn Owl slowly quartering the nearby farmland, before moving onto the Nene Washes.
Going via Whittlesey for probably the worst fish and chips I've ever eaten,the final stop of the evening was the understated Nene Washes RSPB reserve.
The target at this reserve was to hear Corncrake calling, as John had previously heard Corncrake distinctive call a couple of weeks earlier on the reserve.
Walking down the long track we saw numerous birds over the Washes, with highlights including hearing drumming Snipe for the first time, a couple of Marsh Harriers and at least three Barn Owls hunting over the surrounding area.
Sadly though there was no sign or sound of any Corncrakes.
Walking slowly back to the car we tried on number occasions to tape-lure the Corncrakes via John's mobile phone, but this evening the Corncrakes were not play ball.
Although a slight disappointment at the end of the evening, myself and John were happy of what we had seen and heard at this magical underrated reserve.

Thanks to John for the supplying the photo of the female Scarce Chaser.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Top Trumps in Norfolk 3rd June 2008.

Little Tern sitting in the harbour at Morston Quay

Can you see me?

crap shot of the Trumpeter Finch!

The target of the day was the Trumpeter Finch which had been on Blakeney Point, Norfolk for the previous few days. Leaving Leicester at around 4.45am in Dave Mack's car, we drove as quickly as possible with the help of Jane at TomTom to get to Morston for the boat crossing to Blakeney point at around 6.45am. Although we missed the boat by five minutes when we arrived at Morston quay, Bishop boats were excellent in there service as there did come back for us and ferried us over to the point at no extra cost. Reaching the point it only took myself and Dave Mack another ten minutes to walk to sea watching hide and excellent views of the Trumpeter Finch feeding on the shingle. Result!!

Watching the finch for the next half an hour, I took a few record shots of the bird,and then we took a slow walk back to the dropping point. At this point, Dave noted that one of the birders was none other than the actor Sean Wilson aka Martin Platt of Coronation Street fame. I was tempted to ask him for a photo for the blog, but decided against it as he probably gets it all the time from the general public.

The boat picked us up again at around 8.20am, with lots of happy faces on it, and arrived back at the quay within ten minutes of leaving the point. A brief stop at Stiffkey Village, had Dave scoring with the very mobile Hoopoe, but I wasn't quick enough, as the bird flew over the nearby houses. As the Hoopoe didn't show for the next half an hour,we decided to move on to the local Monty's site. Driving around the local lanes, we picked up the male Montagu's Harrier, as it flew slowly over the nearby road. Then viewing from the watch point we saw a couple of Marsh Harriers and the male Monty's again briefly. I must admit that Montagu's Harrier is probably my favourite bird of prey, and it's always a pleasure to see this rare raptor in the UK.

Our final stop of the day was Lakenheath RSPB reserve on the Suffolk/Norfolk border. This site is well known for breeding Golden Orioles, so we were hoping of maybe catching up with this attractive bird. Walking down to the main viewpoint we heard at least two Golden Orioles calling in the nearby plantation, but as usual there were very elusive in there appearance. Scanning over the large reedbed from the main viewpoint, we saw a couple of Marsh Harriers and then I picked up a small raptor sitting in a distant dead tree. Looking at the raptor I thought straight the way that the bird was the long staying female Red-footed Falcon, due to the fact of its small size and distinctive creamy head. Although most of the other birders at viewpoint were sceptical of the sighting due to the distance to the bird, I think if it hadn't viewed it through my Kowa 773 (probably the best scope on the market at the moment?)I wouldn't have been so confident of the ID of the bird. As the visibility improved over the reedbed, the bird became easier to see and the birders agreed with my identification. At around the same time, a Bittern flew over the reedbed, which was nice to see, and then to put the icing on the cake, two Common Cranes flew out of the reedbed and we heard there distinctive trumpet calls as there flew over the watchpoint.

As time was now pressing myself and Dave Mack decided that this was a good point to head home and reflected on an excellent day's birding with a couple of top trumps!!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Indiana Dave and the quest for the Butterfly Orchid 31st May.

Great Butterfly Orchid

Another Greater Butterfly Orchid,

and another Greater Butterfly Orchid!

Following a quick check at Wanlip Meadows LWT in the morning,I noted that the Garganeys were still on the scrape.
Moving on to Cloud Wood LWT, near Coalville I went to look for some orchids, but in particularly to check to see if any Greater Butterfly Orchids were in flower.
Walking through the wood, I spotted a few Common Spotted Orchids coming into flower along the rides.
Moving further round the wood, I soon spotted a few Greater Butterfly Orchids just off the path. Treading careful, I counted at least sixty flowering orchids and as you can imagine I took quite a few photos of this elegant flower.
Looking around the surrounding area, I also found at least five Common Twayblade and good numbers of Early Purple Orchid, of which the majority had gone over by now.
Whilst photographing the orchids, I received a text message from Jim Graham to let me know that he had just seen five Corn Buntings at Orton-on-the-Hill.
So I decided that after checking the rest of the wood, I would go over to Orton-on-the-Hill to look for the Corn Buntings.
Checking out the rest of the wood, I spotted a few more Common Spotted Orchids and a single Broad leaved Helleborine which was slowly coming into flower.

Driving over to Orton, I met Jim by the roadside in the usual spot for Corn Buntings just out of the village, which overlooks the surrounding cornfields.
Over the next half an hour or so we watched up to three Corn Buntings singing on nearby telegraphs wires and bushes (Jim had seen at least five birds earlier).
I took a few record shots of the Corn Buntings, and it was pleasing to know that Corn Buntings a threatened species nationally was still occurring locally not to far for home.