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Sunday 31 May 2015

Some native Orchids in Piedmont, Italy this week on an HF holiday at Ca' del lupo hotel, Montelupo.

 Man orchids growing alongside the aptly named Via della Orchidee near Montelupo Albese in Piemonte, Italy.  We were there on an HF holiday and found these orchids within a kilometer or so of our hotel, Ca' del Lupo (which we highly recommend).

 On bare earth next to the road was this delightful specimen.  It looks like it might be a Tongue Orchid, Serapias sp., which are rarely found in Southern England when seed is blown from the Mediterranean area or Africa.

Within a couple of hundred meters of the hotel were these lovely orchids.
 Superficially like bee orchids they are Late Spider orchids, which are found only in East Kent in the UK and the population there is vulnerable.

 And on this roadside bank were Greater-Butterfly-orchids, which are quite common in this area.
Other orchids from other walks included Twayblades, White Helleborines, Fragrant (gone to seed), Common-spotted, and a very large orchid gone to seed and unidentifiable for me.
This is a lovely area for orchid-lovers.

Monday 25 May 2015

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Wild orchids of Sussex; Burnt Orchid, Orchis ustulata on the Sussex Downs today

 The weather was chilly, blustery and spitting with rain today on the Downs.
Nonetheless, of all the native orchids of Sussex, the Burnt Orchid, Orchis ustulata is one of the prettiest blooming on the Sussex Downs today

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Monday 11 May 2015

Mayflies; Ephemera vulgata in their hundreds today in the Loder valley.

These like slow moving waters with plenty of mud at the bottom,  A perfect habitat for Ephemera vulgata. 

A Hornet, Vespa crabro, at Wakehurst Place today

 Opening the magnetically locked (numerical code operated) gate from the Loder Valley back into Wakehurst Place, imagine the surprise to be face-to face with a Hornet.
 What to do?  Well take some pic's for sure.  How beautiful you are with your five eyes; two compound and your three ocelli, simple eyes.

 And say "Hi!  Please don't sting me if I just place my fingers near you for an idea of scale."
Hornets have a powerful sting, yet are reckoned to be less aggressive that other wasps.  Had I known that at the time it could have walked on my hand.  But I was cautious of the unknown then.

Sunday 10 May 2015

Black Garden Ants and the predator ant Formica sanguinea at Ockham Common today

 This is a rare heathland habitat of heather, Scots pine and birch.  Mainly sandy, it is in places wet, boggy and mossy.

 On a sandy path there were several ants scurrying around, which I assumed were Wood ants Formica rufa.  

Examining the photo' they seem however, to be Formica sanguinea, which according to Michael Chinery's "Collins Complete Guide to British Insects" ISBN : 978-0-00-729899-0 is "a rather rare ant [which] resembles the Wood Ant but its thorax is a brighter red and the legs are also much redder.  The species is best known for its "slave raids" during which the workers invade the nests of related species and take away the pupae.  The latter are installed in the sanguinea" nests, and when the adults emerge they work for their new mistresses.  The nests are usually established in tree stumps in open woodland or on heathland."  This is exactly what Ockham Common is like!

Black Garden Ants, Lasius niger, above and below, are tiny by comparison.

 The goal for today was to photograph Damselflies and Dragonflies, which was not achieved.

The other insect life was fascinating none the less.  This fly looks like a Caddis fly.

 And this bee, feeding on gorse flowers is difficult to identify from this angle.

Another interesting fly above.  Can anyone suggest what it may be?

Saturday 9 May 2015

John Leitch finds rare Fly orchids in Brockham Quarry in the Surrey Hills today.

 It was smiles all round when John Leitch very kindly showed us the above exquisite and rare Fly orchid in Brockham Quarry this afternoon.  It was surrounded by very many other orchids; Common Twayblades below, living up to their old Norse name with two leaves and common.

Above John carefully cups this rare find in his hand to illustrate its tiny form.

It is John's 70th birthday next week and we wish him many more decades walking the Surrey Hills and enjoying its rare and beautiful wildlife.

For pictures of Fly orchids from earlier years please see
and for when I bumped into the BBC "Secret Britain" film crew with Julia Bradbury,

Thursday 7 May 2015

Beautiful Pearl-bordered fritillaries & Duke of Burgundy butterflies at Rewell Wood & Heyshott Down in West Sussex, England today

My enormous thanks are due to Butterfly Conservation Sussex sightings page at  Thanks to this fabulous resource, today I was able to see and photograph both Pearl-bordered fritillaries at Rewell Wood...

...and rare Duke of Burgundy butterflies at Heyshott Down.
Retirement doesn't get better than this.  What a great day out in West Sussex.
To get to Rewell Wood it is a short walk from Fairmile Bottom on the A29, across the meadow
 with blooming cowslips ,
along the bridleway through an ancient yew wood...
 passing through a coppiced chestnut wood, you emerge into the sunshine at a crossroad of bridleways.
Here is a recently coppiced wood; a haven for butterflies and moths.

From here it is a short drive to Cocking,  From the A286, the South Downs Way goes up Hillbarn Lane
towards Heyshot Down, which is  off to the left as you walk along, where...
...lunch was eaten surrounded by Early-purple Orchids and cowslips.  Ignore the herbivore dung!  It's well aged.

What an awesome place; an old overgrown chalk quarry, rich in chalk-land plants and butterflies.
 Brimstone on a cowslip.
 A Duke of Burgundy.

Five hours up on the Downs in such scenery and with beautiful butterflies and plants is simply joyous.  Be aware that some of these paths are very steep and slippery.  Walking boots (and perhaps a pole) are desirable.

Thanks Bob Foreman for your website, which made this day possible for me.

Join now, if you enjoy butterflies and wish to protect them in habitats such as these.

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