Thursday, June 25, 2009

Buckinghamshire Chilterns II

After the intensity of the first few days of the week, I really valued the opportunity to spend the greater part of today with members of the Bedfordshire Natural History Society as we visited various sites in the Chilterns, primarily to view some members of the incredible orchid family. After the deep disappointment of our first visit of the day to see the Red Helleborines (see report below), we enjoyed a marvellous time in the sunshine, exploring the treasures of this wonderful landscape.

Violet Helleborine is not particularly uncommon, but this form - var. rosea - which contains no chlorophyll, is quite rare.

After lunch we entered the Pulpit Hill/Grangelands Reserve. This Red Kite flew right over our heads.

Our Musk Orchids in Bedfordshire are the most northerly population in the UK, but we haven't seen any flower-heads for the last couple of years. You have to get your eye in to spot them and there were just two here. Is that a tiny fly in the photo? The books says that the insects who get to pollinate these minute flowers have to be tiny themselves (up to 1 mm long!).

At Aston Clinton Rag Pits were were taken aback by the thousands of Fragrant Orchids, even though they were past their best now. Pyramidal Orchids were dotted about - 3 can be seen in the photo above. Other plants here included White Helleborine, Common Twayblade, and Broad-leaved Helleborine.

We'd just been saying how surprised we had been not to have seen a Bee Orchid all day when we came across this beauty!

It was getting late, now, so we moved on to one last Reserve.

This is the first Fly Orchid that I have seen. It's right at the end of its flowering season and this was the only flowering spike, so I was very fortunate. What an incredible plant it is - it even secretes sex pheromones to attract a particular species of male Digger Wasp to pollinate it....amazing!

Our full list of orchids for the day comprised:

Common Spotted Orchid; Fragrant Orchid; Pyramidal Orchid; Bee Orchid; Greater Butterfly Orchid; Musk Orchid; Common Twayblade; Fly Orchid; Violet Helleborine; Red Helleborine; White Helleborine; Broad-leaved Helleborine; Narrow-lipped Helleborine.

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