Walks around the Bramshill plantation.Bramshill Orchids 2010
Bramshill and Riseley
Bramshill and Hazeley Heath 2014
Since my last posting on 26th May the sunshine was replaced by clouds and rain, repeating the dry March and wet April pattern. So walks at the peak period for Spring flowers have not been feasible (due to muddy paths as much as rain itself). Today was the one bright day in a long sequence of dull, wet days. Nature as ever is making the most of it, plants look lush and insects are doing very well in the wetter conditions.
This walk is now an annual pilgrimage to the Forestry Commission Woodland at Bramshill, an extensive two square mile of conifer forest with extensive boggy drains and ponds.
The number of damselflies was amazing, the extensive network of ditches in the wet weather must be to their liking. There were many deep blue demoiselles which eluded me, but I caught this female small red damselfly (I think) on the ground.
Butterflies were few and far between, I only saw Common Blue; Speckled Wood and Small Heath. I did track down this moth which is just as visually exciting it is Mother Shipton moth (Callistege mi) apparently named after the 'witch/old crone' like marking on the wings.
The main attraction of Bramshill at this time of year is the orchids. I explored a large proportion of the plantation in search of new localities, as it turned out the areas I already knew about proved the best. There were many Common Spotted Orchids dotted here and there.
The conifer plantation was devoid of much of interest, I kept my eyes out for a snake or lizard in sunny spots without luck. I did spot an enormous ant hill covered in wood ants being their normal industrious selves.
There was quite a lot of horseshoe vetch in brilliant yellow flower.
I was pleased to see a now fairly rare marshland plant 'ragged robin' Lychnis flos-cuculi along a track-side.
The most spectacular thing I saw were dragonflies, not just the ordinary spindly variety but the larger and fatter Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) which when I saw it first flying towards me, I wondered if it was a hornet. The females are yellow and the males are turquoise blue, I did see some of each gender. More impressive in flight but impossible to photograph I had to stalk this one carefully where it was sunning itself.
Back to the orchids. I have always wondered whether there is hybridisation going on here as some of them do not look like Southern Marsh orchids or Common Spotted orchids but somewhere in between. What do you think? The 'tail' varies considerably and the markings too. The first has the wavy bottom lip that is in between a Common Spotted and Southern Marsh. The bracts are long making it more like Southern Marsh.
The next looks like Southern Marsh as it has no separate 'tail' on the lower petal.
The third has lines rather than the usual dots and loops with sharp corners rather than the usual smooth curves.
And a close-up of a 'standard' Common Spotted flower.
A conifer plantation is not brilliant for birds, a buzzard was flying around and I did see long tailed tits and hear the more usual suspects in the woods. On one of the ponds a pair swans were feeding their two cygnets (a small number of offspring for swans - but there are foxes in the woods). I did try to get an artistic shot and this is the best I could do.
Another insect shot, I caught this intimate pair of shield bugs (Birch Shieldbug, Elasmostethus interstinctus) on figwort. If you look carefully there is a third one on the right as a peeping tom!
I took many pictures of the more common flowers, I think this might be Heath Speedwell (Veronica officinalis)
I found Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) on my first visit to Bramshill in summer and I have seen them on each visit since. However this year there do seem to be fewer than usual, it may be the weather or just their flowering has been delayed. They seem to like the sides of the ditches that criss-cross the area and I found isolated plants dotted all over the area. This was my best attempt to capture this strange flower.
Striking but probably an import was a small clump of lupins, very vibrant purpley blue and where I will leave my trip to Bramshill for this year.