Somerset & Hampshire, 25 - 27 May 2019

A last minute decision to spend my birthday and the bank holiday weekend down south. Based mainly on some orchids I wanted to see and a cheap Airbnb deal!

I was out with the boys having a few beers in Norwich on Friday so it wasn't the early start we usually make. We did however get going at about 07.15 which was pretty good considering. The traffic was heavy on the M25 and as per usual we also got held up on the A303 near Stonehenge but a couple of Red Kites later we arrived at the orchid roadside site at lunchtime. After Belinda initially located some Bee Orchids I found what I was looking for 3 Bee Orchid x Fly Orchid hybrid plants. As you might expect these specimens show mixed characterisics of both 'parents' and one plant in particular was large full of hybrid vigour! 6 Bee Orchids and a single Pyramidal Orchid in bud were also nearby.

We then left for a nice walk aound a nearby iron age fort noting plenty of Common Blues and 2 Red Admirals before a drink in the garden of the village pub 'The Camelot'.

Winding our way through the lanes we eventually reached Glastonbury, checked into our Airbnb and promptly fell asleep! Luckily we woke up in time to hit the town with a nice meal in the George Pilgrim in the town centre. It had been one of the better birthdays for sure!

Bee x Fly Orchid hybrids

Bee Orchids

 Pyramidal Orchid

We spent Sunday walking up Glastonbury Tor, visiting the Chalice Well, Glastonbury town and then a walk on nearby Collard Hill. We knew we were a couple of weeks early for Large Blue but we did at least have Grey Wagtail and Tall Ramping Fumitory in Glastonbury. The evening was a really good one of 2 music events in the town (one blues and the other an open mic night) and some huge portions of vegan food in the Blue Note bar.

 Tall Ramping Fumitory

Ot was Bank Holiday Monday and we had to drive back today. Not wanting to waste the day we headed south to begin our long meander home. First stop was Lydlinch Common where I was surprised and chuffed to get a singing Nightingale and then my target butterfly within minutes - Marsh Fritillary. I'd not seen one for years so it was very welcome indeed. The overcast conditions meant it sat nicely for some photos and even allowed me to pick it up. Small Copper, Small Heath and a good selection of Common Spotted Orchids were also there.

Marsh Fritillary

 Common Spotted Orchids

The main place I wanted to spend some time at on the way home was the beautiful reserve at Martin Down southwest of Salisbury. We did a lengthy walk at the site and after looking at loads of Common Blues I eventually found a few Adonis Blues, another butterfly it was nice to become re-aquainted with after far too long. Also in a productive ditch were Small Blue, Dingy Skipper, Grizzled Skipper, Brimstone and another Marsh Fritillary. Small Heath was out in numbers. Also around the down were several singing Corn Buntings, more Skylarks than I've ever seen before, some nice Sainfoin plants, Common Spotted Orchids and some of the white form of Chalk Milkwort. Mother Shipton and Burnet Companion moths were also nice to see. I could have spent all day at the site but sadly we had to drive home!

Adonis Blues

Chalk Milkwort (white form)


Dingy Skipper

Grizzled Skipper

Small Blue
As we were passing Barton Mills on the way back it would have been rude not to call in to see the Suffolk Military Orchids. They seem to be having a rather poor year though with numbers well down on 2018 although there are more to come. Common Twayblade was also added to the weekend orchid list there.

 Military Orchids


A Fantastic Day out in East Sussex/Kent, 18 May 2019

If Carlsberg did nature days out...

I met Jeremy Gaskell and Matt Shore at Thickthorn services and we we soon on our way south to East Sussex. Arriving at Abbots Wood near Hailsham and 10.45 we made our way to the grid reference I'd managed to glean from the internet just as the sun began to come out. We quickly found a wide ride and walking down it a fritillary flew past us not stopping. Around the corner the ride opened out into a clearing and within just a few minutes we'd nailed and confirmed Pearl-bordered Fritillary. We went on to see 8-10 individuals in the next hour in the clearing that has obviously been managed to help this rapidly declining species. Most of them were flighty but eventually one individual played ball nicely and allowed some photographic opportunties. This was a very welcome butterfly for me, one I've been wanting to see for years and missed several times. My penultimate UK species!

Also in the clearing we had 1 Green Hairstreak, 1 Common Blue, 1 Broad-bodied Chaser plus singing Cuckoo, Garden Warbler and Willow Warbler. A Red Kite was also clocked up en-route. We left the site in good spirits and headed east to into Kent.

Pearl-bordered Fritillaries

 Green Hairstreak

First stop in Kent was Denge Wood and a walk through the woods to Bonsai Bank. Here loads of Lady Orchids of good variety were accompanied by Early Puple Orchids, Common Twayblades, budding Common Spotted Orchids and more importantly 3 Duke of Burgundy butterflies.

Duke of Burgundys

Lady Orchids

 Common Twayblades

Next up was nearby Yockletts Bank where, with very gratefully recieved directions I managed to find the stunning 'chlorantha' Fly Orchid with no trouble at all. This was a real 'eureka' moment for me as I'd delayed last year and missed my chance. There were also several Lady Orchids, regular Fly Orchids and loads of Common Twayblades there plus a singing Firecrest.

'chlorantha' Fly Orchid

 Fly Orchid

Our final destination was Park Gate Down where, in double quick time I'd located Monkey Orchids. One of my all time fave orchids. Most were in bud but we found c40 including several that were more advanced plus Early Purple Orchids, 3 Greater Butterfly Orchids very nearly out and singing Yellowhammers.

Monkey Orchids

Early Purple Orchid

 Greater Butterfly Orchid