Monday, 6 July 2015

Pulpit Hill and Grangelands guided walk

On Sunday we joined a guided walk organized by BBOWT around Pulpit Hill and Grangelands. We know the site well and consider it our 'local patch', but we were still looking forward to some expert info from our guide, Peter Creed, and even hoped he may share a few of the sites secrets with us. We were mainly there to look at the orchids and other plants that are flowering at the moment, but we knew there would be plenty of butterflies and bugs to keep Bug Mad Girl amused (she hasn't quite got the same level of enthusiasm for flowers as she has for spiders, butterflies and beetles ... yet!)

It didn't take long before BMG was off on a bug hunt while the rest of us admired the beautiful orchids.
Bug hunting while we admired the orchids
There were common spotted, fragrant and pyramidal orchids all over the site. It really is an amazingly beautiful place.

Looking a little bit 'crisp' after last weeks heat wave

The pyramidal orchids are at their best now
Bug Mad Girl found a stripe winged grasshopper that sat on her hand as we walked around, only jumping off after about half an hour.

We hopped over a stile and had a quick look at the steep, bare slope where the white helleborines grow. They were well over and had gone to seed, but we found some hairy rock-cress growing at the same place.
The white helleborines had gone over

Hairy rock-cress
Out on the chalk grassland of Grangelands we found all sorts of wonderful flowers, including ...

Common centuary

Deadly nightshade

Ribwort plantain

Dwarf thistle

Welted thistle
There were lots of butterflies flying, but the marbled whites are a bit of a favourite and seemed to be everywhere when the sun came out.

3 males chasing after one female marbled white

We also saw lots of ringlets, meadow browns and skippers.
Small skipper
Still keeping an eye out for bugs, we found cinnabar moth caterpillars, soldier beetles and a dock beetle.

Cinnabar moth caterpillars eating ragwort

Dock beetle

Soldier beetle
We had a look at the musk orchids and even managed to find a few individual flowers growing slightly apart from the main patch of about 40 flowers.

BMG is still not particularly excited by the extremely rare, tiny, green musk orchids, so she had a hunt around and found a couple of small owl pellets. They're much smaller than the ones we dissected from Brush Hill or the ones she found at Watlington Hill. We'll have to dissect them in the summer holidays and see if we can work out what sort of owl made them.

What sort of owl made the two small owl pellets? The large one on the
right came from Watlington Hill and is probably from a tawny owl
We even managed to find out a couple of secrets about the site ... there is a small area out on the chalk grassland where toasted waxcaps, a rare fungus that looks like burnt toast, grows at the end of October. There is also a patch of woodland, up a steep side of the hill along what looks like an animal trail, where 50 - 60 Bird's-nest Orchids usually flower, so we can scrabble up there and look for them next year. We also found out a special secret about another one of our local sites, but I'm going to look for that tomorrow, so I'll tell you about it if I find it!

What a brilliant way to spend a Sunday morning at one of our favourite locations!


  1. As well as you know somewhere, there is always something more to learn about it! I love finding grasshoppers :) I found a pellet on a wall a few weeks ago... I think mine is a kestrel pellet but I'm not sure. I brought it home to dissect one day!

    1. by the way, BMG would have enjoyed the insect festival I went to on Sunday! Maybe you could go next time, which I think will be in 2017.

    2. It's great fun being a bit of a detective and trying to work out who made the pellet. I wonder if the small ones are red kite pellets (as we have loads of them around here) so it will be fun to see what's inside!
      BMG would love an insect festival!