Sunday, 13 July 2014

Dark Red Helleborines

For a while now, we have intended to get up to Bishop Middleham Quarry in Durham for the Dark Red Helleborines, but circumstances have prevented us. However, yesterday was looking pretty good, and the timing was right so we went.
We arrived mid morning and already the heat was building up, and it got quite hot in the quarry.
The first thing I noticed were the large number of Fragrant Orchids, in full flower and appearing rather large. My suspicions were confirmed that they were Marsh Fragrants, and not the normal Chalk form that I am familiar with.

Looking around I spotted a few Dark red Helleborines, had a stroll and found many hundreds more-they were everywhere. The quarry is regarded as the best site for them in the UK and it is easy to see why.

The other thing the quarry is known for is the Castle Eden form of the Northern Brown Argus. i found one individual, rather worn, with fairly prominent white spots on the forewing, and later encountered another while I was with a local trying and failing to locate bee Orchids-he thinks they have gone over or been eaten.

We then headed south to the North Yorkshire Moors, stopping off for a bit to scan the moorland. Two red Grouse were found as well as a large number of meadow Pipits and Skylarks. A lot of Small Heath butterflies were also on the wing. Not what we wanted as we were targeting Large Heath.
Our first proper search site was the Fen Bogs reserve, unfortunately we arrived in the middle of a fell race and so it was rather busy. The reserve itself was quiet, but we could not locate any Large Heath despite the very warm sunny conditions. Lots of Small Heath, a single Dark Green Fritillary, some Keeled Skimmers, and Heath Spotted and Northern Marsh Orchids. Stopped on the North York Moor railway line but nothing was seen here. However a train passed and I was able to garb a few shots.

In view of the lack of Large Heaths we abandoned plans to visit another nearby site and headed home, diverting to Thorn Waste south of the Humber where we have had success in the past. By now the sun had gone in but the humidity had gone through the roof and it was rather unpleasant walking through the wood to the more open areas. Common Hawker, Common Darter and many Emerald damselflies were encountered. A few suspicious looking candidates always turned out to be well marked Meadow Browns once they had settled but eventually a butterfly was found with a distinctive bouncing flight and eventually it settled giving good views.

On the way back the sky got darker and it became difficult to keep track of the dragonflies-the Common Hawker did not settle unfortunately. However a female type Darter did, and I realised by the dark undersides that it was a Black Darter.

Back at the car, buzzing calls announced a nice bonus in a pair of Willow Tits in a small tit flock.

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