The Icklingham Roller and a walk along Devil's Dyke, 26 June 2021

The lure of the Roller showing well just outside Icklingham proved too much for me - and as I'd wanted to explore the flowers of the Devil's Dyke at Newmarket it was ideal to tie the two up in one trip. 

I'd discovered that Saturday afternoon was 'race day' at Newmarket so it was initially a bit of a dash to get there and out again by lunchtime to beat the crowds and also the likely parking problems! So it was a quick pop in to see the Roller first. It was grey and the bird distant so I didn't linger too long. The plan was to call in again on my way back after going to Newmarket.

Luckily, apart from 2 incidents of  'racehorses crossing' going through the town I managed to park close to the south end of July Course section of Devil's Dyke and was up on the dyke in no time with no bother. It was immediately apparant that there was a big emergence of Marbled Whites and in he time I was there I saw 120+, by far the biggest concentration I've ever had. Other butterflies were Painted Lady, Meadow Brown and Small Heath. It was 2 rare plants I'd really come to see though and I managed to locate 2 small patches of Bastard Toadflax beside a chalky path and Squinancywort was pretty common in the same area. A bonus rare find was Horseshoe Vetch just feet away from the toadflax. Amongst the commoner species I also found plenty of Dropwort plus Goatsbeard, Sanfoin, Kidney Vetch, Spiny Restharrow, Common Restharrow, Salad Burnet, Small Scabious, Wild Thyme, Common Milkwort, Pyramidal Orchids everywhere, c12 Lizard Orchids in prime condition and single Chalk Fragrant Orchid that was well past it's prime. Birdwise there were plenty of Willow Warblers and one I looked at was a very grey and white individual like those that breed up north. 

Second dabs at the Roller on the way back was a good call as it was much closer, very active and the sun was out allowing me to get some photographs. Braving the traffic on the A1101 there was not for the faint-hearted!

A quick pop in to Nunn's Bridges in Thetford while passing for the Creeping Marshwort (in full flower) followed before I headed for home.

                                                                                                                                    Marbled White
                                                                                                                                   Bastard Toadflax
                                                                                                                                    Horseshoe Vetch
                                                                                                                                   Spiny Restharrow
                                                                                                                                 Pyramidal Orchids

                                                                                                                                  Lizard Orchids
                                                                                                                                Common Restharrow
                                                                                                                                Creeping Marshwort

Strumpshaw Fen, 25 June 2021

After a visit to the camping and leisure shop in Blofield I popped in to Strumpshaw for a walk and to look for some plants I know grow there. I'd contacted Jeremy Bartlett but was unable to get hold of him so it was a case of finding them myself. Luckily they aren't small! 

I opted to walk along the Lackford Run first and in the end that was all I needed to find everything - Marsh Pea was numerous in one particular area and in a dyke I found one small patch of the impressive umbellifer Cowbane. Into the bargain I also found Annual Beard Grass, Marsh Bedstraw, Marsh Fern, Pennywort, a couple of examples of the 'schoenephila' form of Southern Marsh Orchid and the curious long-leaved stingless form of Stinging Nettle known as Fen or Stingless Nettle that favours marshes.

                                                                                                                                      Marsh Pea


                                                                                                     'schoenephila' Southern Marsh Orchids
                                                                                                                                   Marsh Fern
                                                                                                                          'Fen' or 'Stingless' Nettle
                                                                                                                             Annual Beard Grass

Nine Bee-eaters in Yarmouth! 21 June 2021

What a way to celebrate the Summer Solstice! 

They say 'never chase rainbows' in respect of Bee-eaters as they are notorious for disappearing before you get there. That's precisely what Jus and I did after knocking off from work early on Monday afternoon. We arrived at Gapton Retail Park to news that they had flown off! After just a few minutes hanging around the rather dodgy surroundings at the back of the retail park news filtered through that they were at the other end of the retail site - in a field next to Maccy D's. A hurried walk ensued and we were soon watching 1, then 2, then 9 Bee-eaters that put on a great show. Initially in close bushes and then, all together in a bush further away. This was my 2nd biggest flock in the UK after a flock of 17 in Oxfordshire many moons ago. A Hobby also hawked over carrying prey while we were there and a Red Kite was over the A140 at Swainsthorpe on the way home.

Earlier, after finishing painting at Jus's a quick visit to Kirby Bedon church got me Shining Cranesbill growing in profusion just inside the church gate.

                                                                                                                                     Shining Cranesbill

Kessingland North Beach, 20 June 2021

We were in Kessingland on Sunday viewing a motorhome that we are hoping to buy (stop press - we are buying it!). While there and needing to talk over our impending purchase we had a short walk on Kessingland North Beach. As ever my eyes were drawn dowwards and in doing so I found a few nice plants worthy of a quick mention - the best for me (being a new one) was Yellow Wort a scarce plant in Suffolk but I also found Sea Pea, Sea Kale, White Stonecrop, Biting Stonecrop, Hop Trefoil and Heath Groundsel.

It was then some chips for lunch at the village chippy before we returned to test drive the motorhome.

                                                                                                                                     Yellow Wort
                                                                                                                                            Sea Pea
                                                                                                                                    Biting Stonecrop
                                                                                                                                   Heath Groundsel
                                                                                                                                      White Stonecrop


Long-lipped Tongue Orchid (Serapias vomeracea), a new British Orchid, Kent, 16 June 2021

The 'mystery' I referred to in my last blog post was a totally unexpected and unplanned encounter with an orchid never before seen in the wild in the UK - Long-lipped Tongue Orchid, Serapias vomeracea. We found out about this amazing occurence while we were already in Kent so it was a complete no-brainer, we simply had to go for it! 

Arriving at the spot (still not knowing exactly which species we were going to find) we immediately set eyes upon what is a really attractive but 'different' looking orchid - and it was in absolutely superb condition. It's location also hints at a 'natural' occurence rather than a planted one but in the murky world of orchids you can never say for sure! One theory is that seed arrived on the wheels of vehicles from France and this seems to me like the most likely explanation. The species is widespread and quite frequent in France and it's range extends to the north of the country so it may be rather overdue as a colonist or straggler to our southern counties. Originally found by a survey group last year they were announced in a BSBI bulletin earlier this year, obviously with no location details.

Due to promises made I will not be divulging the location or who my 'informant' was. My apologies. 


Dainty Damselfies and a whole lot more! Kent, 16 June 2021

Jus, Andy and I had been lucky (or quick) enough to obtain tickets for a guided walk from Sandwich Bird Observatory to see their Dainty Damselflies. Wednesday was the day. Wanting to make a whole day of it we left for Kent at 04.30 with the aim of doing some orchids before the 11.00 rendezvous at the observatory. These are the places we visited in chronological order

Wye Downs

We had been here absolutely years ago and it was great to return. The Late Spider Orchids were just where we left them all that time ago. Safe in their little cages we counted 35 plus some Chalk Fragrant Orchids and a single Pyramidal Orchid. The other famous resident of the site is the very rare Black-veined Moth and we found a couple with no effort. Common Blue and Large Skipper were the other insects of interest while plants included loads of Fairy Flax, Common Milkwort, Greater Knapweed and Crosswort. The icing on the cake was a male Long-horned Bee 'mating' with one of the Late Spider Orchids - pollination in action!

                                                                                                                                Late Spider Orchids
                                                                                                                                 Black-veined Moth
                                                                                                                           Chalk Fragrant Orchid
                                                                                                                             Fairy Flax


Yocklett's Bank

This lovely little reserve nestled in the North Downs is a favourite of mine and I've been several times over the years. These days it has the added attraction of a stunning Fly Orchid var. chlorantha and it didn't take us long to locate this lovely plant positively glowing in it's gloomy surroundings. Also here were plenty of normal Fly Orchids, several 'going over' Lady Orchids, White Helleborines, Common Twayblades, Common Spotted Orchids and a single Greater Butterfly Orchid plus Sanicle and then along the lane back to the car a singing Firecrest showed well followed by a Turtle Dove.

                                                                                                                   Fly Orchid var. chlorantha
                                                                                                                            Greater Butterfly Orchid
                                                                                                                                Lady Orchid
                                                                                                                                White Helleborine
                                                                                                                                    Fly Orchid

Park Gate Down

Time was starting to run out so we paid a flying visit to this downland site. Our target was Monkey Orchid at one of it's 2 classics sites. We found about half a dozen with ease amongst Chalk Fragrant Orchids and a few shrivelled Early Purple Orchids but didn't have the time to linger as we had an appointment to keep!

                                                                                                                             Monkey Orchids

Sandwich Bird Observatory and area

We got to the carpark at the obs with time for a quick bite to eat and an application of sunscreen as the temperatures hit 30+. The 11.00 guided walk by Stefan the warden was only a short one and within literally a minute of arrival at the site we saw our first of literally hundreds of Dainty Damselflies. Over the next hour and a half we filled our boots with them. I managed to get some very pleasing photographs too. Amongst them were the odd Azure Damselfly and Blue-tailed Damselfly but 99% of them were Dainties! A pair of Emperor Dragonflies patrolled the pool. After offering our thanks to the warden we then moved onto the beach area nearby where some excellent directions kindly given by Nigel Jarman had us photographing the rare Clove-scented Broomrape and nearby Lizard Orchids which were in their prime. Further along we found White Stonecrop, some gone-over Sand Catchflies, Sea Sandwort and California Poppies.

                                                                                                                             Dainty Damselflies

                                                                                                                     Clove-scented Broomrape

                                                                                                                                   Lizard Orchids


After a torturous drive through Deal we reached the undercliff at Kingsdown. Walking west at the foot of the white cliffs we reached another spot given to us by Nigel and got ourselves the other rare broomrape - Ox-tongue Broomrape. A couple were nicely up with plenty more to come. Kidney Vetch was abundant there and we also had Wild Cabbage, Wild Carrot and a Hoary Stock plant on the cliff - a new plant for me. Also here 2 Peregrines (ad and juv) entertained as did Rock Pipits, cliff-nesting House Martins and Fulmars

We had planned to go to East Blean Woods next but decided we didn't have enough time with the other plans we had so gave that a miss. Instead we headed for something else which I will reveal fully in another blog post shortly! Needless to say it was completely unexpected and really rather exciting!

                                                                                                                            Ox-tongue Broomrape
                                                                                                                                   Hoary Stock
                                                                                                                                      Kidney Vetch
                                                                                                                                          Wild Carrot


Now out of Kent and heading for home up the A12 we decided we had time to stop at Tiptree because Andy had never seen the Greater Tongue Orchids there. It was a quick visit but we were delighted to find 80+ plants (the best numbers yet) plus Grass Vetchling and Hairy Tare. Cuckoo, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were also seen. We celebrated a truly remarkable and enjoyable day with a BK nearby before heading for home. 

More on that 'mystery' sighting very soon... 

                                                                                                                          Greater Tongue Orchids