I have tended to keep my blogs fairly short but now and again it is good to 'reveal the hidden depths'... that's something I'm always saying a lot to my team. It's ideally what we want to do when folks visit the site - help them see things they might not otherwise see.
Roger has being looking close and doing some investigation work. If like him, you like orchids, get over here prontito. They won't be around for much longer.
Roger started his visits to look at the greater butterfly orchids on May 24th but they were barely showing then. They have been showing well over the last couple of weeks, but are now starting 'to go over' - hence the urgency if you're keen to see them.
Anyway, over to Roger.............
'.......My main photographic aim that day was to see how advanced the Greater Butterfly Orchids were. The Warden helpfully took me to the best meadow for this species of plant. The leaves of two species of orchid were visible on that first visit but there were no signs of any flower “spikes”. I have since revisited the reserve on a further five occasions over the next four weeks.
The two photos below show the entire flower spike and a closeup of a single blossom of the Greater Butterfly Orchid, Platanthera chlorantha. The distinction between this species and the Lesser Butterfly Orchid (P. bifolia) is most easily determined by a close inspection of the arrangement of the stamens. In the Lesser species the stamens are parallel and vertical. In the Greater species the stamens are arranged at a slight angle to one another, being more widely separated at their base than at their top. This does not show well on my photos but may be seen clearly through a magnifying glass. I took the photos with a Canon Macro EF-S 60mm lens on a Canon EOS 450D camera. The Macro lens is best used by varying the aperture. I stopped the lens down to f32 for best depth of focus but also used the camera for some photos with a much larger aperture and exposure times of up to 1/1000th of a second.
I believe the second species of orchid shown in the photos below is the Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii. Once again the images are of the full spike and a closeup of one of the blossoms, respectively.
As I write this (June 27th), only the lowermost flowers on the spike of these two species of orchid are out. Later in the season, the entire spikes will have elongated further and will be in blossom throughout more of their entire length.
While photographing the orchids, I happened to observe an unknown species of Dipteran at rest on one of the buds. Could this possibly be a mosquito? Similarly, the photo next to it shows a Hoverfly on what appears to be a Hawksbeard or Hawkweed blossom.
My last two photos are of “Cuckoo Spit” and the Hemipteran larval form hiding within it. I leave it to those more proficient in entomology to identify to a species level these three insects ... if they can from my photos. Curiously, the Hemipteran larval form does not undergo pupation and resembles closely the adult form. During its development into an adult, it merely grows wings and genitalia. In this last photo you may see that the larva already has legs. One of its eyespots is visible to the left end of the creature. The larger dark patch towards its centre is presumably one of its wings beginning to develop.
I do not need to make the point that there are many attractions other than birds at the Coombes Valley Reserve, for your many contributors to the blog amply demonstrate that on practically a daily basis.'
The Dipteran looks like www.nhm.ac.uk/.../index.html St Marks fly - named for the time of year that it commonly emerges in large numbers.
Thank you Roger - beautiful photos!