For illustrated talks on natural history and history see

For illustrated talks on natural history and history click here for

Sunday 22 May 2016

Three native orchid species flowering on Box Hill today: Bird's Nest Orchids, Common Twayblades and White Helleborines.

There was quite a profusion of Bird's Nest orchid flowers at this spot today, including the dead seed heads from last year.  Being saprophytic they have no chlorophyll or green leaves.

Common Twayblades (two leaves in old Norse) were flowering.

An occasional White Helleborine was in perfect flower, others will peak in the days to come.

Details of an illustrated talk on native orchids can be seen at 

Monday 16 May 2016

National Trust Orchid Talk and Walk from Saddlescombe Farm in June

Early-purple orchids are flowering now on the South Downs and next month the even more beautiful Fragrant Orchids will be in bloom.

Graham Wellfare, Ranger with the National Trust at Saddlescombe farm is leading a walk in June to see these beauties, preceded by an illustrated talk in the learning centre.  Places are limited and the cost is £10.00.  Booking is essential.  A few places remain: details at

For an idea of what you may see on the Downs at this time please see

And if you type "orchids" in the search box you will find forty more entries on native orchids.

Wednesday 11 May 2016

An unusual English churchyard with Green-winged Orchids and former home of George Washington's grandmother nearby.

This 19th century Sussex church is interesting in itself: more info' at

American readers may be interested to know that George Washington's grandmother lived in this village before this church was built.

The churchyard has both English and Irish yew trees -- two Irish yews either side of the path above.
What is so lovely about this churchyard is the sensitive way in which it is managed.  Some paths are mowed between the gravestones leaving the greater proportion of grass uncut and allowing these beautiful native orchids to flourish.

A rare shaft of sunlight illuminated this patch of orchids above.  Overcast skies are better though for photographing such delicate flowers.

With this village's links to the American Revolutionary war, here is a poem by the American author, Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep 
I am not there. I do not sleep. 
I am a thousand winds that blow. 
I am the diamond glints on snow. 
I am the sunlight on ripened grain. 
I am the gentle autumn rain. 
When you awaken in the morning's hush 
I am the swift uplifting rush 
Of quiet birds in circled flight. 
I am the soft stars that shine at night. 
Do not stand at my grave and cry; 
I am not there. I did not die.

Other dignitaries in the founding of America also had links with Sussex, e.g. William Penn.  Please see 

And finally, if you are interested in native orchids a limited and unique opportunity exists in June.  Please see

Monday 9 May 2016

Podalonia hirsuta wasp (?)

This wasp corpse was in an enclosed glazed area today in Cuckfield.  On death some wasps' antennae do curl so are not necessarily representative of the living wasp.  It is tiny: above by my index finger.
 The nearest likeness that I can find is Podalonia hirsuta.  If you can confirm that or suggest a better match, I would be grateful.
Podalonia hirsuta is one of 110 or so digger wasps in the UK in which the female digs her own nest and stocks it with paralised prey insects or spiders.  Podalonia hirsuta hunts caterpillars  to stock her nest for her grubs to feed on.  Isn't the insect world just amazing?
Reference: Collins complete guide to British Insects by Michael Chinery ISBN: 978-0-00-729899-0

Sunday 8 May 2016

How do fairies tell the time? By the Town-hall clock plant of course.

The tiny cube-shaped flowers of the Town-hall clock plant, Adoxa moschetellina  resemble a miniature town-hall clock with a fifth facet on the top for any fairies flying overhead.
 These pictures were taken last Friday, 6th May 2016 in the woods on the north slope of Wolstonbury Hill and growing on the rotting stump of a dead tree probably from the 1987 hurricane.
It is found in damp woodlands.
 More information at

Saturday 7 May 2016

Meadow Pipits on the South Downs of Sussex (Wolstonbury Hill) yesterday are on the amber list of conservation concern.

Meadow pipit numbers in the UK have been declining since the mid-1970s, resulting in this species being included on the amber list of conservation concern.  Reference:

 A  pair of Meadow Pipits on Wolstonstonbury Hill yesterday appeared to be nest building.  At this time of year, all ground nesting birds are vulnerable to disturbance and dog walkers sympathetic to such ground nesting birds may chose to keep their pet on a long lead.

 Click any picture to expand it.

Friday 6 May 2016

Butterflies on the South Downs yesterday: Green Hairstreak, Dingy Skipper, and Peacocks.

 A brilliant and tiny Green Hairstreak on a bramble leaf.
 A Dingy Skipper sunbathing.  Three were seen.  Click on any picture to expand it.

Sexual deceit & native Orchids of Sussex: Early purple-orchids & Early spider-orchids at Castle Hill yesterday

 Two native Orchids of Sussex: Early purple & Early spider-orchids were photographed yesterday at Castle Hill in glorious weather.  A high pollen count made for some discomfort though.

 The Early purple-orchids flowering among cowslips is a joy to see.
 The diminutive Early Spider-orchid attracts pollinators by sexual deceit.  A male solitary bee gets the pollinia stuck to the front of its head.  You can see a tiny bee in the picture below.  The plant has a three year cycle form seed to flowering.  Reference: Britain's Orchids by David Lang.

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