Wednesday 30 June 2021


Inspired by Matt Knott's recent blog post, I treated myself to an extended lunch break this afternoon and walked to Culverhole Point. Culverhole is accessed by walking east along the beach from the mouth of the River Axe. It takes about half an hour and is shingle all the way. However, now that I'm used to the West Bex and Cogden shingle, the Axmouth stuff is easy-peasy. Big pebbles, nicely compacted. Beginner's shingle! There is also a tiny bit of boulder hopping involved, which is why I know that the last time I was out there was 2012. That was the year I started wearing varifocal specs, and looking down at where I was putting my feet felt dead weird. I ended up taking the darned things off, fearing a mis-step and broken ankle if I didn't. Being a varifocal veteran now, no such issues today.

Anyway, although I've been out to Culverhole (and beyond) a few times in the past, it's mainly been speculative birdy efforts, not plants or bugs. So, how did it go? I'll answer that question with a heap of photos...

Two Common Sandpipers were on the Culvehole rocks.

I knew from Matt's blog that there was a new orchid here for me. Somewhere. Amazingly it was one of the first I saw...

Marsh Fragrant Orchid. And wow! Definitely a lovely fragrance.

This was the only one I saw, so I guess probably the same as Matt's

However, this was just the tip of the iceberg. The place is absolutely paved with orchids. Most numerous by far were Marsh Helleborines, hundreds of them, many still in bud. Then Marsh Orchids, some Common Spotted and a handful of Bee Orchids. Mind you, as a botanical ignoramus I probably missed loads of interesting stuff, but here are a few shots to illustrate the wealth on offer...

The white jobs in the foreground are all Marsh Helleborines, with mainly (all?) Marsh Orchids on the left

Marsh Helleborine flowers are just lovely

Another orchid-rich scenic shot

Marsh Helleborines

Er...and again

Not quite sure what this pale number is. Initially I thought Marsh Orchid, but look... had spotty/stripey leaves. Beyond my pay grade unfortunately.

A dark Marsh Orchid I assume.

Not an orchid, though I did actually know what it is: Common Centaury. Nice

Still Common Centaury

One of a small handful of Bee Orchids, all close together.

Marsh Helleborine City

Probably you're getting the impression that I was totally blown away by the flowery abundance. If so, bang on. But there were other attractions too. Multi-legged ones...

First up was a Clouded Yellow which I spotted by Axmouth Harbour. Unfortunately it was on the undercliff and didn't stop for photos. Out at Culverhole I saw my first Marbled White of the year, but that went straight past too. Better behaved was this...

I haven't seen a Wood White in ages, and spent quite a while with this one.

A female, it appeared to be laying eggs on spindly fronds of what I think was Bird's Foot Trefoil, though I failed to get any pics of that.

As I sat watching it, this beautiful, dainty little Wood White spent a few minutes fluttering just a foot or two from my knee, as if I wasn't there. The flight action of Wood White is the closest thing I've seen to those CGI butterflies you see in movies. But it genuinely does make those huge, exaggerated wingbeats while travelling absolutely nowhere at all. Wonderful things.

Other creepy-crawlies...

This creature perched on my grubby, knackered thumb, and begged to be posted on Twitter in one of those 'please tell me what this is' type tweets. Apparently it is a Snipe Fly, specifically Chrysopilus asiliformis. And going by the plump body, a female. Cool.

Chrysopilus asiliformis. I think the P900 does a pretty good job of macro stuff.

Probably the rarest thing I saw today was actually scuttling along the ground. I noticed what looked like a beetle dart beneath the cover of an overhanging leaf. As I leaned over to get a better look it hurried across an open patch and I could see it was a Tiger Beetle, but it looked a less vivid green than I've seen before. Aware of the possibility, I wondered if it might be the rare Cliff Tiger Beetle. Lo and behold, it was!

Cliff Tiger Beetle. A bit of a rarity. It was a right skulker, rushing from one bit of cover to the next, and this is the better of only two photos I managed.

I was fortunate to see a regular Green Tiger Beetle a bit later on, so here it is for comparison...

Green Tiger Beetle. I'd have been pleased enough just to see this species, so am well chuffed to have made it a two-tiger afternoon.

There were a few dragons and damsels too. A male Broad-bodied Chaser that avoided the camera, several Large Red Damselflies that I didn't bother with, and a few of these...

Keeled Skimmer. At least, I hope so.

Keeled Skimmer again.

My knowledge of Odonata is skimpy, to say the least, but has all been learned since I first moved to Seaton. Before that I knew nothing. Nothing. By the time I'm 125 years old I should be quite the expert.


Heron on the rocks

Grey Seal. Any seal is quite scarce along the coast here, but Grey is the most regular.

It was a hot, mainly sunny afternoon. The sort of weather that attracts folk to the beach in order to go brown and crispy. Just in case anyone is inspired by this post - or Matt's, or both - to take the shingly plunge and head out to Culverhole, I ought to mention that the beach is popular with naturists. An affable bunch though. Expect a cheery greeting and friendly wave...


  1. You Dorset types are pretty selfish, hogging so much diversity of flora and fauna, beaches, ice creams and nudists. Great pictures throughout and likewise on Matt Knott's blog.

    1. Thanks Dave. Yes, we are well blessed with good things, and a bit of sunshine sets it all off rather nicely.

  2. I think I may have to stop reading your blog, too much grippage by far! ;)

    1. Are you referring to the Cliff Tiger Beetle, Seth? Must admit I wasn't expecting it. I need to correct the Snipe Fly caption. It's been reidentified as C. asiliformis. Wish I'd started learning this stuff when I was about five.

  3. Hi Gav - great post as always and thank you for linking my blog. Really chuffed you made the trip and saw so many great things. Would love to see the Cliff Tiger beetle. I think Culverhole has an 'other-worldly' feel, perhaps enhanced by the fact it's quite isolated. It's certainly very special and I'm now keen to explore the undercliff further east. You get the feeling there are lots of discoveries to be made. Take care. Matt

    1. Thanks for the inspiration Matt! It was a real treat. I was only there about an hour or so, but it flew by. Yes, I love the way it's off the beaten track, with no real footpaths. A hidden gem. 😊 👍