Wednesday, 24 June 2015

#30DaysWild day 24: Foxes, frogs and bees

It was a beautiful morning, so I headed up to Watlington Hill with my Mum to see if we could find any frog orchids. We'd looked up there a couple of weeks ago with no luck, but we were hoping they'd burst into life and appeared since our last visit.

It's a wonderful site, with amazing views and a stunning array of wildlife.  The slope was covered in wild thyme and marjoram, which in turn was covered in meadow brown butterflies. It felt and smelt like we were walking through a wild herb garden.

We started searching, but the frogs weren't leaping out of the ground at us. Then I found one small area with twelve lovely bee orchids growing in it. They're amazing orchids, mimicking bees with their furry bodies, antennae and hairy knees! These were tall plants with several open flowers on each stem.

Then, growing nearby, Mum spotted our first frog orchid. They're not as glamorous as the bee orchids, but after all our searching it was very exciting to actually find one. I struggle a bit to see a frog shape in the flower, but I suppose it could look a little like a frogs body with outstretched legs behind. I think whoever named them must have had a very vivid imagination!

Now we were on a roll, so carried on searching, expecting to find lots more. We looked everywhere, but only found that one! Never mind, we'd seen one and we found other orchids and lots of butterflies during our hunt, including common blues, a green hairstreak, small heaths and meadow browns.

Pyramidal orchid just starting to flower

Common spotted orchid

 We also found rosebay willowherb that was just about to bloom and some lovely scarlet pimpernel.

Rosebay willowherb
Scarlet pimpernel
On the way home we drove past the Sculpture Trail, so popped in to take a look at the foxgloves. I'm so glad we did as they are fantastic at the moment. They seem to be having a good year and the sight of them really takes your breath away. There are just so many of them growing in the woods and at the side of the rides and they're so tall with so many flower buds on them. They're beautiful!



What a great way to spend a morning and finally we found a frog orchid! I still feel like there should be more though, so may just have to go back to Aston Rowant for another look up there!


  1. As discussed on Twitter, the fly on your Pyramidal Orchid is Ogcodes gibbosus, the Smart-banded Hunchback. These flies have turned the tables on spiders - the flies' larvae attach themselves to spiders and feed inside the spider's body. Hunchback flies are very elusive and difficult to observe, so they are rarely recorded. Yours will be the first record for Oxfordshire since 2006, in the recording scheme database! If you can work out a grid reference for it, or let me know which side of the hill you saw it, that would be appreciated - thanks. Steven Falk has some more information about these flies here:

    1. Thanks Martin - exciting stuff! I'll work out the grid reference and tweet you with it later today. Just shows you should pay attention to the small stuff!

  2. Well done for finally finding the frog orchids. They seem interesting but not the best looking though.

    1. I agree. Not very frog like or showy! It'd had been such a trial to find them that I had to see at least one though.