A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Pugsley's Marsh Orchid on Anglesey

With just two native species of orchid left to see in Britain (not counting those elusive Ghost Orchids), we planned a visit during half term to Cors Erddreiniog NNR on Anglesey to find one of my last remaining species – Pugsley’s Marsh Orchid.
Pugsley's Marsh Orchid - Anglesey
A fine specimen of Pugsley's Marsh Orchid - Anglesey
Pugsley’s Marsh Orchids are considerably scarce and local, only growing in a few select locations, including the rich fens of Anglesey.

Stopping over in Llandudno for the night, myself and Alex headed over to this fantastic fen reserve the next day in an effort to locate them, the weather following the trend for the week and providing us with clear blue skies and glorious sunshine.

Treading the path down through the reserve gates and over the boardwalk, we had soon found our prize – a large group of Dactylorhizas nestled within the wet marshy grass right at the end of the trail.

Consisting of a mix with Early Marsh Orchids (subsp. Incarnata) present, I was soon able to pick out the Pugsley’s Marsh Orchids within what I can only presume was a mixture of variations and Dact hybrids – the marked purple flowers didn’t really seem consistent with any species!

Never the less, we found a number of plants that fitted the characteristics of Pugsley’s Marsh perfectly (Mr Orchid himself Sean also later confirmed from photos) and I happily set about photographing these delicate and subtle beauties.
Pugsley's Marsh Orchid - Anglesey
Pugsley's Marsh Orchid - Anglesey
Pugsley's Marsh Orchid - Anglesey
Relatively hard to identify without knowing what to look for, a range of features give Pugsley’s Marsh Orchids a subtle but distinctive appearance. The flowering spike is usually distinctly one sided (with all flowers facing roughly the same way) and there tends to be a limited number (on average 6-14) well-spaced flowers on the spike. 
Pugsley's Marsh Orchid - Anglesey
A typically lop sided flower spike
The lip is also prominently 3 lobed with the central lobe projecting out as a prominent ‘tooth’, while the few leaves are relatively narrow (hence its former name of Narrow-leaved Marsh Orchid). The upper stem is also washed purple, as are the upper bracts, and the whole plant seems to have a rather delicate appearance. 
Pugsley's Marsh Orchid - Anglesey
Pugsley's Marsh Orchid - Anglesey
Note the purple washed stem and upper bracts.
A number of individuals in the colony should always be examined to confirm the identity, and Pugsley’s Marsh Orchids rarely bloom as just a single specimen in a mixed colony of Dactylorhiza.
Pugsley's Marsh Orchid - Anglesey
There has also been a considerable amount of research conducted centred on the genetic background and ancestry of Pugsley’s Marsh Orchid. Populations in Norfolk, Suffolk and elsewhere in southern England (south of a line from The Wash to the Severn) were long placed with Pugsley’s Marsh Orchid until 2012, when new genetic evidence suggested that they were instead a subspecies of Southern Marsh Orchid. It now seems that only the northern populations can be classed as true Pugsley’s Marsh Orchids.
Pugsley's Marsh Orchid - Anglesey
Pugsley's Marsh Orchid - Anglesey
Pugsley's Marsh Orchid - Anglesey
Pugsley's Marsh Orchid - Anglesey
I had previously visited Parsonage Moor reserve in Oxfordshire in the search for Pugsley’s Marsh Orchids, but sadly had only come across what at the time appeared to be a hybrid. Regardless, with the recent genetic analysis and revised distribution, this would now have been classes as a subspecies of Southern Marsh anyway.
Southern Marsh Orchid - Parsonage Moor
Southern Marsh Orchid at Parsonage Moor
Alongside the orchids we also found an interesting selection of carnivorous plants (always a favourite of mine) with several dew-drop laden leaves of Round-leaved Sundews visible growing on the moist mossy tussocks, as well as an abundance of Common Butterwort – a new species for me in the wild. Each had several small flies entrapped on the sticky leaves – fascinating, especially as wild carnivorous plants are not something I encounter all too often!
Round-leaved Sundew - Anglesey
Round-leaved Sundew - Anglesey
Round-leaved Sundew
Common Butterwort - Anglesey
Common Butterwort - Anglesey
Common Butterwort
With just once species of orchid left to see in the UK (Lindisfarne Helleborine) I’ll hopefully be able to catch up with my final target later on in the summer - fingers crossed for a good flowering season up on Lindisfarne!

How to get there:

There is no parking at Cors Erddreiniog itself, but there are spaces in the nearby village of Capel Coch - just a two minute walk from the reserve entrance gate. The post code for parking is LL73 8PH and the reserve is on the east side of the road down a small track next to a white cottage. Once through the gate, follow the track down the hill to a second gate and entrance board sign.
Cors Erddreiniog - Anglesey

Friday, 15 July 2016

Lady's Slipper Orchids at Gait Barrows NNR, Cumbria - The Lady of the Limestone

The Lady’s Slipper Orchid – perhaps the most well-known and charismatic of all our British orchids. Collected from its limestone haunts to near extinction in Victorian times, just one native plant now remains in Yorkshire – guarded each year and shrouded in secrecy to ensure its survival.
Lady's Slipper Orchid - Gait Barrows, Cumbria
Surely one of our most impressive looking native flowers, the sheer class of a Lady’s Slipper Orchid in full bloom is unrivalled – I have yet to meet anyone that doesn’t exclaim “wow” when they see one for the first time. Tall and elegant, with thick green leaves shrouding the delicate golden pouches framed perfectly by the twisting curls of rich maroon purple sepals – there is no doubt about it, the Lady’s Slipper Orchid brings a touch of glamour and the exotic to our British countryside. 
Lady's Slipper Orchid - Gait Barrows, Cumbria
Lady's Slipper Orchids - Gait Barrows, Cumbria

Thursday, 7 July 2016

White-winged Scoter off Murcar, Aberdeen!

White-winged Scoter is one exceptionally good looking bird. Ever since seeing the pictures of a drake photographed off Musselburgh back in 2013, I wanted to see one for myself – the extravagant flick of bold white eyeliner contrasting against the midnight black tones and striking pink bill elevating them a cut above the rest in Scoter terms. Yes, Velvet Scoters are attractive, but White-winged Scoters are in a whole different league.
White-winged Scoter - Murcar, Aberdeen
Record shot of the American White-winged Scoter
With very few records of either race (Deglandi or Stejnegeri) occurring in British seas (just one record of Deglandi from Aberdeen in 2011 and one record of Stejnegeri photographed in Lothian in 2013 – but not actually seen at the time) White-winged Scoters are a truly rare bird in Britain indeed, so when reports surfaced of an adult drake Deglandi type mixed in with the regular Scoter flock off Murcar Links Golf Course in Aberdeen, it was a no brainer to get up there.

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