May 2022 report

The Lady, Monkey & hybrid orchids all seem to be flowering well though the Lady will be looking past it’s best as we near the end of the month. This year we had the usual ~200 hybrids plus one Lady orchid and then a scattering of Monkey orchids concentrated mainly in the northern/western facing parts of the slope. This indicates to me that the Monkey orchids are under pressure but not from the hybrids – they in fact grow very happily in the same side of the slope purely because the soils there hold more moisture and are less exposed to the drying effect of the sun and wind. Nearly all of our losses have been on the exposed southern face of the slope, which used to hold the majority of the plants but in recent years the dry Spring weather has parched this side, wiping out most of the Monkey orchids that lived there.

On rather promising sign has been that where the soils are wetter and there orchids get more shelter, such as down on slope 1, there are quite a few good-sized Monkey orchids. I found these 2 (below) hiding in the grass and scrub about 1/3 of the way up the slope in the middle of the field. These have been seen on numerous occasions in previous years but can be hard to find.

Earlier in the month we had good numbers of Dingy Skipper, Small Heath and Green Hairstreak plus a few Grizzled Skippers too. I wasn’t there to confirm it but even a Marsh Fritillary was reported, which would be quite a coup for the site. On the 15th Dr Michael Geiser from the Natural History Museum in London came out to have a look round for interesting beetles and found over 40 species in just 3 rather rainy hours. It just goes to show how important it is to encourage experts to come and study the species so that we can have a better understanding of how to manage the site and also how we rank amongst other similar sites across the country. Many of the specimens Michael took away were also going to be added to the Darwin Tree of Life project’s cryogenic storage where their genomes will be scanned for future study.

Victoria, my entomologist helper, watching Michael sort through his beating tray for interesting beetles and caterpillars.

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