Friday, 1 June 2018

Burnt Orchids; third time lucky!

I first saw Burnt (Burnt-tip) Orchids at Knocking Hoe NNR in Bedfordshire about 15 years ago. I was stoked to hear that they grow at a small number of sites in Wensleydale in North Yorkshire, including Leyburn Old Glebe YWT, a nature reserve I am now responsible for. I have tried the last two years to find them without success, whilst colleagues and members of the public have been more successful. This year, I headed up with some colleagues in order to locate the remaining plants and GPS them, so we can monitor their progress.

Leyburn Old Glebe is simply stunning in late May, with a carpet of Salad Burnet, Cowslips, Fairy Flax, Milkwort and several hundred Green-winged orchids. Most of the Green-wings are standard colour, but at least three were pure white, and two a light pink. Really lovely.

Green-winged Orchids.

Among the Green-wings there were lots of Common Twayblades and the spotty leaves of Common Spotted Orchids, which will flower in profusion next month.

After a bit of searching, I found a cluster of three exquisite Burnt Orchids on the eastern side of the meadow - third time lucky I guess! With my colleagues help, we found a further four plants. Rabbit grazing is a major problem here, so we decided to protect the cluster of three with a cage. The other four were nestled among longer grass and so appeared to be less vulnerable. It is unclear why this beautiful plant is declining here whilst other species are doing well. This is something we will investigate to see if we can tweak the management to improve its fortunes. It could be management of the grassland, it could be that the fly that pollinates the orchid has declined or that the fungus the orchid relies upon in the soil is dwindling. Alternatively, it could be the pesky rabbits, or worse still, people stealing the flowers, which has happened here apparently.

Burnt Orchids. Really gorgeous.

Mid-morning, I looked up and was surprised to see an Osprey flying over! A bit late perhaps for a migrant, so maybe lingering in the area. A male Redstart was singing away from the big Ash in the hedgerow too. 


The previous evening, this Honeybee swarm appeared on a neighbour's hedge. Cool! They had gone by the morning.

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