Greater Tongue Orchid (Serapias lingua) new to the UK! 29 June 2017

A small colony of Greater Tongue Orchids (Serapias lingua), a Mediterranean species was very recently discovered in Essex and this morning I was lucky enough to be able to see them.
Having been initially found by J Pickering doing a survey, photos appeared briefly on the internet but were quickly taken down. The plot thickened! Cue a huge amount of detective work by 'Mr Orchid' Sean Cole culminating in two visits to Essex from his home in Worcestershire. Upon his 2nd visit armed with a little more detail from an eagle-eyed Mike Waller who had miraculously found them the day before and with myself, James Lowen, Dave Andrews and Will Soar we were able to locate them without too much trouble. Sadly they had mostly gone over but of the 80 flowering spikes 4 still had single reasonable flowers on top. As well as the 80 flowering spikes there were also 20-30 less well developed plants. As they spread vegetatively it suggests this small colony has been at this location for a few years.
We'll never truly know their true origin but the number, location and habitat could well point towards a natural occurence. Apparantly there are no known orchid growers within a large radius of the site so who knows!
In the same area 7 Bee Orchids were also seen.

Update - that evening Jon Dunn, orchid guru managed to successfully 'twitch' them from his home in Shetland (fair play!) and Jus also caught up with them. By the following morning they had all gone over leaving us all looking forward to June 2018!

Greater Tongue Orchids 
 Orchid nutcases! Photo copyright James Lowen.

Mid-summer ramble, 24 June 2017

With not much else happening Belinda and I went on a walk around the Beccles/Barsham area yesterday. Despite the overcast conditions it was humid and there were plenty of the common butterflies on the wing with loads of Ringlets, Small Tortoiseshells and Meadow Browns with smaller numbers of Red Admiral, Green-veined Whites and Commas. Towards the end of the walk a roadside verge held several Essex Skippers - my first of the year. Also around the walk were my first Southern Hawker of 2017 plus Sedge Warbler and Garden Warbler. A couple of new plants were also id'd yesterday - Hoary Willowherb and Narrow-leaved Everlasting Pea

Essex Skipper


Hoary Willowherb

Narrow-leaved Everlasting Pea

Cranwich Camp and some moths, 17 June 2017

Due to the high temperatures (up to 36 c) it's been a weekend where we haven't ventured too far or done a huge amount!
I ran my moth trap on Friday night and had probably the biggest catch I've ever had. No less than 14 Elephant Hawkmoths and 2 Privet Hawkmoths plus new moths for the garden in the form of Miller, Common Emerald, Small  Fan-foot, Cream-bordered Green Pea and Light Arches. In all I had c300 moths with the following species also being recorded - Scorched Wing, Beautiful Golden Y, Clouded Border, Double Square-spot, Clouded Silver, Buff Arches, Buff Ermine, Peppered Moth, Middle-barred Minor, Tawny Minor, Common Carpet, Beautiful Hook-tip, Blood-vein, Common Marbled Carpet, Brimstone Moth, Common Footman, Straw-dot, Bright-line Brown-eye, Vine's Rustic, Heart and Dart, Heart and Club, Large Yellow Underwing, Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, The Flame, Flame Shoulder, Dark Arches, Shoulder-striped Wainscot, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Dot Moth and Snout. A rather large Hornet also graced the trap!

Buff Arches

Clouded Silver


Privet Hawkmoth

Scorched Wing


Following a tip off and some good directions we headed west for a quick visit to Cranwich Camp in the afternoon. Using those directions I was able to find both my target plants, the uber-rare Proliferous Pink (at it's only UK site) and the gorgeous Spanish Catchfly. While there I photographed some other plants to help continue my wild flower education - Spiny Restharrow, Biting Stonecrop, Devil's-bit Scabious, Peach-leaved Bellflower, Narrow-leaved Vetch and Wild Mignonette. Some Greater Knapweed was not quite in flower and butterflies included loads of Small Heaths plus Common Blue, Comma, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown and Brimstone.

Proliferous Pink

Spanish Catchfly

Biting Stonecrop

Narrow-leaved Vetch

Peach-leaved Bellflower

Spiny Restharrow

    Wild Mignonette

Elegant Tern twitch, Pagham Harbour, 13 June 2017

Due to a last minute change of plans it was just Andy and I who met at 02.30am in Attleborough and headed down south for our date with a mega!
When it had got light we scored with a Tawny Owl and a Fallow Deer in rural Sussex en-route before we reached the small carpark at Church Norton and just managed to squeeze the car into a space.

Then began a rather long vigil! It was just after 06.00 and the bird had been see flying out to sea at 04.30! Eventually I picked the Elegant Tern flying over the tern island at 08.50 and called it to the assembled crowd. Unfortunately it quickly dropped down onto the island and out of view. Most people hadn't see it, including Andy! Luckily the frustration was short-lived as it showed 3 more times during the morning before we quite the scene at 12.30. While scanning I also picked up a 1s Little Gull, 2 Peregrines sat together on the saltings and there were c150 Mediterranean Gulls amongst the Black-headed Gulls, Sandwich Terns and Common Terns. 2 Little Egrets having a serious scrap was also rather entertaining! A wander along the shingle spit at the harbour mouth failed to yield Childing Pink but I did identify Scarlet Pimpernel and Common Centaury.  

Elegant Tern twitch

Scarlet Pimpernel

Common Centaury

Our other destination for the day was the lovely Hampshire Wildlife Trust reserve of Noar Hill which I'd not visited for many years. The main attraction for us here was Musk Orchid and we easily found 500+ scattered widely over the reserve. The sheer number of orchids here is amazing - thousands of Common Twayblades, Common Fragrant Orchids (including 3 white 'albiflora' specimens), Pyramidal Orchids and Common Spotted Orchids. I also found a large Knapweed Broomrape. Butterflies were also superb although not numerous. I eventually tracked down 2 Small Blues which was my 'most wanted' but a rather early Marbled White was also lovely. Other than that is was mostly Small Heaths and Common Blues. Birdwise Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker and Garden Warbler was about it.

Small Blue

Marbled White

Small Heath

Musk Orchid

Common Fragrant Orchid

Common Fragrant Orchid, var albiflora

       Knapweed Broomrape

Walberswick, 11 June 2017

A day for a long walk and we chose Walberswick taking in a section of Westwood Marshes, Corporation Marsh and Walberswick Common.
En-route the best sighting was an unexpected Great White Egret on Corporation Marsh where there were also plenty of Reed Buntings, c6 Bearded Tits, Kingfisher, Reed Warblers and a brief booming Bittern. Further round the walk on Walberswick Common a Lesser Whitethroat was singing.

On the way home we called in to our local meadow where it was nice to see the regular Frog Orchids out with both red and green specimens and plenty of Pyramidal Orchids are just starting to flower.

Frog Orchid, red form

Frog Orchid, green form

  Pyramidal Orchid

Broads bonanza, 10 June 2017

Owing to a complete absence of anything else we could think of doing Jus and I opted for a day out in the Broads yesterday.

Leaving Jus's we called in quickly at Beighton church where we we rewarded with views of 2 Turtle Doves, one of which was singing like mad and undertaking dispay flights between trees.

Next up was a little reserve where we were able to renew our aquaitance with several of the uber-rare Fen Orchid. Into the bargain here there were plenty of Norfolk Hawkers out and loads of Black-tailed Skimmers. A couple of early Ringlets, a single Large Skipper plus Brimstone and Speckled Wood were also seen.

Fen Orchids

Norfolk Hawker


Potter Heigham Marsh has hit the headlines this week with news that the Black-winged Stilt chicks have successfully left the nest so it would have been wrong not to pat homage to this rare breeding event. We got some lovely scope views of the 2 adults and 4 fluffy chicks running about on an island. The adults were constantly chasing off a succesion of gulls, crows etc so fingers crossed these most protective of parents are rewarded for their efforts! Also on the same and adjacent pool were 12 Spoonbills (plus another that flew in later), 2 Garganey, 2 Mediterranean Gulls and no shortage of Little Egrets all lending to the general 'Mediterranean' vibe the place has at the moment! again there were plenty of Norfolk Hawkers buzzing back and forth plus Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell.

Spoonbills (featuring Garganey!) 


We nipped in to Catfield Fen next where conditions were a bit too windy for clearwing pheromone lures but in 10 mins we scored with c4 Swallowtails and more Norfolk Hawkers before news from Winterton broke and we hot-footed it there!

The news from Winterton was that the White-winged Black Tern which put in an appearance in the tern colony on Thursday had returned after a days absence. A sweaty walk later we were watching this beauty (a full adult) sat in the fenced Little Tern colony and flying around. After we'd had our fill and counted c200 Little Terns we made our way into the dunes and found 3 Red-veined Darters very easily at the first suitable pond we checked! All males and territorial. On the walk back to the car through the dunes we  found a pair of Stonechats and then called in to a group of c40 Bee Orchids to finished a stonking day of mixed wildlife!

 White-winged Black Tern

Little Terns
 Red-veined Darter