Went up to the reserve this morning to meet up with a researcher who might be doing a project on orchid phenology this year. While I was there I took a moment to walk round the main orchid slope and check out what was on the move. The site is incredibly dry because we have had no rain for over a month and the warm Easter weather has just baked the slope.
The good news is that the 2 flowering Lady orchids are doing well … and the 80 or so flowering hybrids are looking nice but are smaller this year. There are no signs of any Monkey orchids flowering yet and those that I looked at were already showing signed of aborting – their basal leaves were going yellow and the stems of buds just haven’t developed. This is all due to the sequence in which the various species start to grow – the Lady is first and it looks like they developed while there was some latent moisture in the ground. The hybrids come next and most of those seem to have developed enough to flower but the drought has just made them shorter. While the Monkey orchids flower last and they seem to have been hit worst of all by this year’s drought – many have buds but it doesn’t look like many will make it into flowers unless we have some rain fairly soon.
The invertebrates are doing very well but everything is at least 2-3 weeks earlier than it should be. Today I spotted Grizzled & Dingy Skippers, Green Hairstreak, Holly Blue, Speckled Wood (a very orange one), Small White & Brimstone. A visitor (sorry, didn’t get your name!) reported that he’d seen Club-tailed Dragonfly, Common Blue and a few Small Heath too. These are all incredibly early records.
I will close by just appealing to anyone thinking of coming up to the site to perhaps avoid Hartslock this season. The drought has made the soils on the slope very dry and unstable, which is already leading to a lot of bare patches and erosion. We will be setting out tapes to guide visitors but I think this year will be very bad for seeing Monkey orchid flowers.