Sunday, 14 June 2015

#30DaysWild day 14: A wild frog chase

Bug Mad Girl has a theory that you can reverse jinx the weather, so as long as you say how awful it is, it will end up being OK. Seemed to work yesterday for our butterfly walk, as it rained all the way there then stopped when we arrived, with even a few minutes of sunshine. We remarked again about how awful the weather was this morning as we set out in the drizzle after a morning of heavy rain. We really weren't sure the reverse jinx would work this morning, but it was worth a go!

We were looking for frog orchids on Watlington Hill. They're found in a few places locally, but that site is especially well known for them, so we thought we'd have a look. They're supposed to be tiny (only 5 - 10cm tall when out in the open) with red-tinged green flowers and are rumoured to be really hard to find (you can finally spot one, then you realize that you are surrounded by them). Apparently the best way to find them is to get down close to the ground, as they are so small. The rain had actually stopped on the way there, but everything was a bit wet for that, but we like a challenge!!

Rain drops caught on a seed head
Walking through the short grass on one side of the hill, we found hundreds of twayblades in flower as well as a few common spotted orchids. Twayblades have green flowers, so they weren't helping with our frog hunt. When the twayblade flowers first open, the long lip (or the dangly legs) stick up in the air and the flower twists around so that they dangle downwards.

Newly opened twayblade flowers, with the lip pointing

The flowers have twisted round so the lip (or legs)
are dangling down

Common spotted orchid
Common spotted orchid
No sign of any frog orchids yet, but we kept hunting and Bug Mad Girl found several owl pellets. One appeared to be full of feathers, while most of the others were furry, so we took them home to dissect another day and see if we can identify the type of owl and its dinner.
Owl pellets
We also found a couple of common blues hiding from the rain under flower heads.
Common blue

Common blue
As we got to the end of the hill, the sun suddenly appeared and we sat and enjoyed the wonderful views.

Then we walked back along the hill on the other side, which had no orchids at all on it, but was more sheltered. The common blues suddenly started flying and we saw several small heaths. Two painted ladies also flew past us, but they were in a hurry and didn't stay around for a photograph. (We'll log them on the BC website).
Small heath
The red kites made the most of the sunshine and were circling overhead. They flew very low past us as they swooped over the slopes, so it was a really good spot to get a close look at them.

Red Kites circling ahead of us

Flying past and keeping an eye on us

It's always worth having a good look at the yellow meadow ant hills, as there are lots of plants and mosses that only grow on them. Today we found a small fungus that was growing on the top of the ant hills and nowhere else. It was cream with veins across the top, but I'm not sure what it's called. Interesting though that it would grow only in those specific places. 
Ant hill fungus

Ant hill fungus
So we tried hard but couldn't find any frog orchids .We had a lot of fun looking though!


  1. Shame you didn't find the frog orchids. Got my own rare orchid hunt on Friday. I'm hoping to see the endangered fen orchid. It's so rare that the places it grows isn't open to the public! I've got special access! I'll make sure I get some good shots for you to see.

  2. Good luck finding them. Hopefully you have a good idea of the area to look in. We were hunting for a tiny green needle in a huge green haystack! Still enjoyed looking though and we haven't given up on them yet!

    1. I'll be shown around by a warden so I should find them ok.