Radipole Lake

Weymouth wetlands

Weymouth wetlands
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Radipole Lake

  • Radipole's Exotic Species: The Brown Bee Orchid

    Ophyrs apifera va. atrofuscus

     

    June is traditionally the peak time of year for our bee orchids which appear on both Radipole and Lodmoor. Radipole has become well known for the 'Atrofuscus' or 'Brown Bee', a variety of bee orchid which I first discovered in 2008. (The very first atrofuscus which I discovered is my blog avatar). Below is my account of the discovery of the orchid which appears in Biodiversity News in 2011:

     

    Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) grow in a variety of base rich habitats – grassland, scrub, sand dunes, spoil heaps and roadsides. Though its usual sites are well drained, the orchids can also thrive equally well in damp habitats.   Bee Orchids are notorious for being prolific one year on a site and either few or no plants appearing the following year. A key characteristic of the Bee Orchid is the lip, which bears a resemblance to a bee, is a warm rich red-brown colour with golden bands and a golden tip folded underneath.

    In 2008 I discovered an unusual Bee Orchid by one of the footpaths at the RSPB’s Weymouth Wetlands, at Radipole Lake. Instead of the typical bee markings on the lip, this plant had a completely plain red-brown lip and the markings were completely absent. In 2009 I counted a record thirty-one Bee Orchid plants on the reserve.   This year also saw a second flowering of the ‘Brown Bee’, as it came to be known, on the same site but this time a second plant was found two metres away.

    As the markings on this Bee Orchid were so unusual I undertook some research and established that it was a variety called Ophrys apifera var atrofuscus. This variety had first been discovered in Sussex in 2001, although it may have previously occurred in Herefordshire and has also been recorded at a site in Leicestershire. The atrofuscus plant at Radipole Lake is the first record for Dorset and it is Dorset’s only known site.Bee Orchid: Typical Form

    The ‘Brown Bee’ has flowered again this year with three plants being found in the same location. One plant in particular was spectacular with eight flowers. The ‘Brown Bee’ has flowered now three years in succession and we very much hope to see the plants bloom again in 2011.  

    The 'Brown Bee' has flowered on Radipole every year since 2008 and has since been found at different locations on the reserve. Mid June is normally the best time see these orchids. If you see any on the Radipole (or discover any on Lodmoor) or would like to know where they are on the reserve, visit the Radipole Lake Discovery Centre or contact on 01305 778313.

    Other orchids to look for on the reserve in June are the Southern Marsh Orchids, Common Spotted Orchids and in July, Pyramidal Orchids. Contact or visit the Discovery Centre for the locations.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    As the markings on this Bee Orchid were so unusual I undertook some research and established that it was a variety called Ophrys apifera var atrofuscus. This variety had first been discovered in Sussex in 2001, although it may have previously occurred in Herefordshire and has also been recorded at a site in Leicestershire. The atrofuscus plant at Radipole Lake is the first record for Dorset and it is Dorset’s only known site.

     The ‘Brown Bee’ has flowered again this year with three plants being found in the same location. One plant in particular was spectacular with eight flowers. The ‘Brown Bee’ has flowered now three years in succession and we very much hope to see the plants bloom again in 2011.  

     

     

  • Radipole's Exotic Species: The Hyposinga heri Spider, last seen in the UK in 1912

    Radipole volunteer, Allan Neilson, discovered this spider, Hyposinga heri on one of his surveys at Radipole. Though this species doesn't have a common name, the female spider in Allan's photos has become known as "Harriet". Below is Allan's account of his discovery:

    Hyposinga heriOn 28-May-2014 Sara Cookson, Allan Neilson and Jacquie Rayner were nearing the end of a butterfly survey when they saw a very small brightly-coloured spider on Hemp Agrimony near the seat by the path to North Hide. Allan took some photographs, checked his Collins Field Guide and posted them to the Spider Recording Society’s web-forum asking for confirmation of the ID. Experts visited Radipole in in July 2014 and confirmed it was Hyposinga heri; a much more exciting result than he expected.

    Despite repeated surveys there, the two previous accepted UK records of H. heri were in 1898 and 1912 at Wicken Fen near Ely, Cambs, and it was on the point of being removed from the British list. It is thought a general drying-out of the Fen led to its extinction there as the species is widespread in damp habitats in Europe.

    On 7-May-2015 Sara and Allan found H. heri on Hemlock Water Dropwort by the section of path leading to the gated-bridge: again it was a 3.5-4.5mm long female (photo above). Somehow she had survived the area being repeatedly flooded and the path’s verges run over by tracked-machinery during autumn and winter and then clear-strimmed at the start of spring. 

    During the Wetland Bird Survey on 17-May-2015 Allan found another female on the track between North and South Reed: this time on Common Comfrey iHyposinga herin a lush growth of nettles and about as far from the river as is possible on the reserve.

    So 3 sightings of this tiny spider in moderately tall herbs near reeds and water. Where else might it be found on the reserve?  And where are the even smaller (2-2.5mm) males?

    If you can answer Allan's questions, please do let the Radipole Lake Discovery Centre know, 01305 778313.

    Photo Credits and Text: Allan Neilson

    Stop Press: Allan has now found H. heri on Lodmoor. In all 18 spiders were counted last Sunday. The males are still elusive...

  • Radipole's Exotic Species: Bee Eater and Purple Heron

    Bee EaterBee eaters were heard at Radipole last Sunday, 24th May. It was heard again over on Lodmoor on Tuesday 26th May. Last year they bred successfully on the Isle Wight. In 2002 they bred for the first time in the UK since 1955 in the Durham village of Bishop Middleham, near Sedgefield.Purple Heron

    Over on Lodmoor a first summer purple heron was seen on Thursday 7th May. Since 12th May the heron has been consistently seen on most days. Our Purple Heron spends the day in the pools at the Overcombe end of Lodmoor. Late at night it flies to the north of the reserve. The best place to see the heron is in Southdown Avenue. 

    The Purple Heron bred at RSPB Dungeness in 2010 for the first time: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-10868424 

     

    Other bird updates: The Common Terns are back over on Lodmoor. There are currently an estimated 60 pairs. The Marsh Harriers have also been seen hunting on both reserves which is a good sign. Cuckoo and Garganey have both been seen on Lodmoor.

    If you see or hear any of our exotic birds, do let us know.  The Radipole Lake Discovery Centre can be contacted on 01305 778313 or pop in and see us. You can be sure of a warm welcome.