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July 2012

posted 4 Aug 2012, 03:51 by Jane Arnold   [ updated 4 Aug 2012, 08:47 ]

At the beginning of July we had two work parties to clear some of the creeping thistle that is growing well this year. The work parties were well attended and we managed to clear quite a large area. The cattle were very curious about what we were doing and came to inspect and seemed very interested in our bags and coats! Whilst these were not edible they soon started to eat the long grass in between where the thistles had been. Presumably this previously inaccessible grass tasted good! Thanks to everyone who came on the work party and helped tackle the thistle.

Cows inpecting waterproof jacket

Whilst clearing the thistle we came across some bee orchids that were still flowering, although a bit past their best. These orchids are so called because the flower looks like the body of a female bee. A male bee is attracted to the flower and tries to mate with it and in doing so pollinates the flower. However, it seems that in the UK, we do not have the right type of bee and the flowers instead self-pollinate. The seed that is produced can be dispersed over a large distance (kilometres) which is why bee orchids suddenly appear in an area. There is a fascinating story of how the seeds of bee orchids and orchids in general, rely on symbiotic fungi in the soil to develop - but I am afraid I need to read up on this!

Bee Orchid

The warmer and sunnier weather we had for some of July allowed the butterflies to be more visible. One of the species that you might see is the comma butterfly (see photo). This is mainly found in woodland but feeds on nectar sources such as bramble and nettle and so can often be found on the edges of woodland (as well as in gardens). This species is so called as when the wings are closed, a white mark is visible, which resembles a comma (see photo on right). This butterfly is also well camouflaged. Its jagged wings, when closed, look like a leaf, which give it excellant protection if it is resting against a trunk of a tree. Other butterfly species that have recently been seen include gatekeeper, small skipper, small copper and a speckled wood. So it is definitely worth while keeping a watchful eye out for some of these lovely butterflies next time you are on the Green (and the sun is shining!). Brown hawker dragonfly can also be spotted near the stream. Thanks to Bob Russon for the up-dates!

Bee Orchid
Image  courtesy of Bob Russon, Lichfield & District Local RSPB Group