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....

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Lindisfarne Helleborines!

Out of 50 species of orchid that regularly occur in Britain & Ireland and having been on a quest to see them all for the past 8 years, I had finally got down to just one species left to find – Lindisfarne Helleborine.
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
Endemic to just the small island of Lindisfarne off the north Northumberland coast, this unobtrusive and at first glance relatively plain looking orchid is in fact rather special – it grows nowhere else in the world and is restricted to just a few dune slacks towards the western edge of the island. With plants quickly going over if the weather is particularly hot, as soon as I got word that the Helleborines were in flower I arranged a day off work so we could travel up to see this British speciality. Usually flowering at the start of July, the particularly wet season meant that this year they were several weeks late – just coming into their peak on the third weekend of the month.
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
With Lindisfarne cut off from the mainland during high tide, we had arranged overnight accommodation nearby ready for a morning crossing, and meeting one of the wardens on site at just after 11 we were led through the dunes and to the outskirts of the colony. 
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
To prevent trampling and destruction of the site due to curious orchid hunters searching for the plants, the wardens led us to a small group on the edge of the dune slacks where about 7 plants were in flower, the aim being to preserve the main colony and allowing those interested to admire and photograph the orchids to their hearts content.
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Helleborines - Lindisfarne
Spot the Helleborines!
Snook - Lindisfarne
Similar to the closely related Dune Helleborine in both looks and habitat, DNA testing confirmed that Lindisfarne Helleborines are indeed separate and worthy of full species status. With around 200 flowering plants on the Snook (a section of the island) and growing nowhere else in the world, their existence could potentially be precarious - habitat degradation or severe flooding may prove disastrous for this isolated colony.
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Snook
Whilst the abundant Early and Northern Marsh Orchids scattered across the dunes were already over, the Marsh Helleborines also on site were in prime condition, creating a beautiful carpet of white frilled flowers across the wetter dune slacks.
Marsh Helleborine - Lindisfarne
Marsh Helleborines - Lindisfarne
Marsh Helleborines - Lindisfarne
As the tide was fully in over lunchtime rendering the causeway flooded and unpassable until after 5pm, this presented an opportunity to explore the rest of the island, with several Grey seals, a colony of nesting terns across the bay and a female Eider with her fully young in tow all notable highlights as we walked to the castle.
Lindisfarne Castle - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Castle
Lindisfarne Priory - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Priory - Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Priory
Lindisfarne Causeway
The causeway!
With an 8 year long quest now completed and having seen and photographed all of the regular flowering orchids in Britain & Ireland, this now just leaves the almost mythical Ghost Orchid to track down deep in the Herefordshire or Chilterns woodlands – no small task by any means!
Lindisfarne Helleborine - Lindisfarne

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