Sunday, 6 May 2018

Our Annual Orchid Count at Westwell Gorse

We went to Westwell Gorse, the BBOWT reserve south-west of Burford yesterday to repeat our count and measurements  this time last year of Early purple orchids   We have a  sample area which is unmarked but can be recognised by trees and bushes which we use as the boundary.  This year we counted 63 flowering spikes compared to 83 last year, due almost certainly to rabbits, the signs of which were very noticeable.  There were two or three chewed spikes on the ground.   On average the plants were shorter, (15.3 cm v 16.5cm, but the difference was not statistically significant.   The average number of flowers per spike was the same (9.8 both years).


We watched this sample area for 20 minutes just after noon in full sun.  During that period there were three insect interactions, one very brief.  One of the 63 plants was visited twice, surprisingly as it was only just breaking into flower.   The insects involved were all Rhingia campestris, not a known pollinator (The Flower of the European Orchid; Claessens and Kleynen), and indeed checking the plants involved, none of the pollinia had been removed.

The previous day I joined a recording group at Foxholes Wood, another BBOWT reserve, this time near Kingham.   As ever I found my patience and ID skills were well short of what was required, so I wandered off to see if I could find Herb Paris for which there are a few records.   I was not successful, and on rejoining the group they pointed me in the direction of some Early purple orchids which I had missed, growing in a damp shaded area by a stream, a complete contrast to the habitat at Westwell - grazed turf. 


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