12 Jul 2013

Orchids and Horse Flies

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden
Last Monday John, Howard and myself continued with the Butterfly Orchid count in the NorthTrawscoed meadow, which is at the start of the Welsh Country Walk..  Unfortunately some of the marker poles that had been left behind the previous Tuesday had disappeared, so it took a while to work out the area that had already been covered.  The counting process itself involves marking out the area with poles and ropes, then it becomes a bit like a police search with each of us walking in a line counting as we go.  We added another 87 to the 233 already counted making a grand total of 320 in an area of around 1000 square feet. 
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On Tuesday the main objective was to count the Butterfly Orchids in the top Hay Meadow in Waun Las.  So our usual group of John, Howard, Michael and Simon, together with Bryony, a work experience student, Lees and Chris from Swansea Metropolitan, set off, armed with ropes and poles, whilst I waited behind for any others.  And when Marigold and Susan turned up we set off on a leisurely walk in the same direction admiring the many wild flowers, moths and other insects on the way.  No sign of the Yellow Wagtails at the entrance to Waun Las, so with luck they have all fledged.  But up past the old farm buildings in the meadow beyond we came across the herd of Black Cattle, including plenty of calves – except for one.  Somehow or other he had managed to get into the opposite, Whorled Caraway meadow and after a little his mother came up and started ‘shouting’ to him to come out. So Marigold opened the gate and gently shepherded him back – and off they frisked.
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By the time we reached the others they had already started the count, and this continued until we had covered the main areas where the Orchids were.  Quite a sight to see 8 people carefully marching side by side and to hear them muttering, ‘one, two – are you counting this one or is it mine’ – ‘you have that one’, and so on. The end result was 213 and that was only the ones that we could see in flower.  The grass was too long for us to properly assess those that were just in leaf.  So a very good year, not only for Butterfly Orchids but also for Common Spotted and Southern Marsh which were also there and indeed wherever you go at this time of year in Wales.  Possibly the result of 2 wet summers encouraging the Fungi on which they depend.
Of course, it was not only Orchids that we looked at and Michael caught a Horsefly and we all had a very good look at it through magnifying glasses.  Only the male Horsefly bites, so we were all safe and could admire the iridescent blues and greens of the eyes.
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Thanks as always to John James for his photos and if any volunteer or member is interested in joining us, or even starting something similar on a different day, then send an email to colin_miles@talktalk.net – also if you see or photograph anything exciting in the Garden. If you click on any of the images in these blogs, or anywhere else you will see a larger picture. And if you click on the Wildlife Walks heading on the left-hand side under News you will see a list of the last 10 Wildlife Walk blogs.