Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Four Orchids and a Funeral

On Monday I had a funeral to attend to down in Southampton. Now, it wasn't someone that I was particularly close to - in fact I'd only met him a couple of times but I still felt that I ought to pay my respects. The night before I got to wondering if there was anything worthwhile to see on the way back home after the service so I started to do a bit of last minute research. There was no obvious birdage and with the rather dodgy weather forecast there wasn't going to be much in the way of insects to look at so that left plants. This was more weather independent and I soon came across a beech wood nature reserve called Chappetts Copse that was not too far away that was a very good spot for some interesting Orchid species. I did a bit of research and programmed the location into my Sat Nav. for the next day.

It was a rather fraught journey down where despite allowing a good margin for error I only arrived ten minutes before the service was due to start. Still he had a good send-off and it was actually quite interesting to learn all about his life during the various speeches. Afterwards I had time for a brief catch-up with the rest of my family before heading off. So it was that on a still-rainy afternoon I found myself navigating my way down increasingly narrow Hampshire country lanes to park up by a small track at the south end of the Chappetts Copse reserve. One nice thing about a beech wood is that it shelters you very nicely from the elements so whilst the weather did its worst outside, I was nicely cocooned in  a beautiful and magical twilight green world.

Chappetts Copse
Right from the beginning there were interesting woodland plants to see with Sanicle and Wood Ruff dotted about the place in amongst the ground cover.

Sanicle

Wood Ruff
As I walked along, keeping my eyes peeled for Orchids, I did rather wonder how easy they might be to find but I needn't have worried as I soon came to a clearing where there was loads of them. The speciality species here is Narrow-leaved Helleborine which turned out to be a gorgeously understated simple white flower - really beautiful and elegant with long fine leaves.







Narrow-leaved Helleborines
There were actually some White Helleborines in amongst the Narrow-leaved ones. You can tell them apart by the fact that the leaves on the Whites lie in one plane whereas the Narrow-leaved have leaves radiating in all directions. Also the Narrow-leaved leaves are of course much narrower and the bracts are much smaller than on the Whites where they come up past the base of the flowers


White Helleborine
White Helleborine
Another speciality of this location was Fly Orchid and fortunately each individual plant was marked with a yellow wooden post to avoid people treading on them which made them very easy to find.
 


Fly Orchid - the detail on the flower is absolutely amazing!
I was just busy photographing the Fly's when when I heard the distinctive song of a male Firecrest. Whilst this is quite a rare bird in Oxon, apparently in Hants there are around 2000 breeding pairs. I spent a few minutes trying to see it but it was well hidden in the canopy. Nevertheless, it's song accompanied me on a fair bit of my wanderings about the wood.

I'd now found three out of the four Orchid species already but the fourth, Bird's-nest Orchid, I was expecting to have more trouble with as they are such an inconspicuous colour. After wandering about the most likely area several times I was just stopping for a rest when I glanced down and there were half a dozen right by my feet!


The rather creepy Birds-nest Orchid
I could easily have passed several more hours in this wonderful other-worldly green-tinted place but sadly time was marching on so after one more circuit around the most productive area, I bade farewell to the Orchids and headed back to the car. I then retraced my route back to the A34 and onward back towards Casa Gnome. It had been a very pleasant little detour to a magical little reserve.
 






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