Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Eyes Down

It's a few weeks since I last visited West Bexington, and the first thing that hit me this afternoon was how much everything has grown. Lush greenery everywhere, and stacks of flowers. Some of the meadows looked absolutely fantastic...

Looks amazing enough from head height, but...

...even better at ground level

Heaving with insects, including my first Meadow Browns and Large Skippers of the year, and a striking fly which my new 'Brock' field guide helped me to identify as Noon Fly...

Noon Fly (Mesembrina meridiana)

Large Skipper

By the time I reached this meadow I had already enjoyed a nice surprise. Scanning from a gateway in the vain hope of a bird or two, I was distracted by a distant but familar flower spike, a Bee Orchid. Looking around I spied a few more. Nice. I don't recall seeing Bee Orchids at West Bex before, but then I've never looked. So that's what I ended up doing this afternoon. Looking for orchids. And flipping heck! They're everywhere!

One of several Bee Orchids I discovered in the meadow pictured in the first two photos.

This Pyramidal Orchid was in the same meadow.

Heading over into East Bexington territory is like entering a different world. Acres and acres of intensively farmed arable. Walking down to the sea, the contrast is striking. Very, very few insects, and basically nothing at all in the crops...

East Bexington farmland

There are maize fields too, similarly lifeless. In the months to come, these fields will hopefully prove attractive to various birds, but for the moment they feel pretty dead. However, there is a bit more to East Bexington than this. Between the beach and the crops lies a broad uncultivated strip of land maybe 30-odd metres across. Apart from an occasional autumn stomp about to see if I can kick up any interesting birds, I've never paid it much attention. So imagine my surprise when I spotted this from the roadside...

Oof! Look at that Bee Orchid. Literally knee high!

Suddenly I was paying attention. The more I looked, the more I saw. In one spot I counted almost 80 Bee Orchid spikes, then a few more here, a few more there...

I got quite good at spotting them. At least 9 Bee Orchid spikes in this photo

Although I didn't count them all, for certain I saw more than a hundred Bee Orchids at East Bex, plus 5 Pyramidal Orchids. I wonder what else is lurking there, invisible to a botanical dunce like me.

Not all the local orchids need searching for. At West Bex there's a patch of Pyramidals that almost takes your eye out. Right next to a path, they are impossible to miss...

A lovely, pale pink Pyramidal Orchid...

...and a couple of regular-coloured whoppers.

I was simply amazed how many orchids I spotted today, in loads of places I'd never noticed them before. I can see the attraction of botanising, and for once regretted my ignorance. In fact I am almost tempted to do something about it. Trouble is, I know it won't be long before birds are all-consuming again, and whatever I might have learned, plant-wise, will soon slip from my memory. Mind you, I could start with something modest, like umbellifers perhaps? I found myself looking at all the white-flowered things that were presumably Wild Carrot or Cow Parsley or Giant Hogweed or whatever, and noticing different leaf shapes and so forth. And that some were really diminutive, and quite obviously not the same as those ones over there...

How hard can it be?

Umbellifers. My summer challenge?

Obviously I didn't see any birds. Too busy looking down.

Okay. One bird.


  1. Fantastic Bee Orchids, that tall one looks like an entire hive!!!! I set off to look for orchids today too, different types though - no Bee or Pyramidal this far north. Failed miserably, though a self-found singing Common Rosefinch was 'rather nice' :) :) Lovely Noon Fly pic. I've seen Tachina grossa at PBO, so keep an eye open for that. It's a bit like a Noon Fly but more kinda golfball sized and with a yellow head. Smart!

    1. Rosefinch?! Strewth! Now that would be a nice surprise here! 😊

      Saw Tachina grossa at Powerstock Common last summer. What a beast! Mind you, does have a cartoonish look to it. Probably didn't like being laughed at! 😄

  2. I hope you don't find giant hogweed as it spreads like wildfire, and the sap, when on the skin and expose to sunlight, creates massive blisters. The local landlord did some strimming on the banks (before he gave the work over to me), his arms chest and face looked like he'd been led in a fire - it was hilarious :o)

    1. Some umbellifers clearly not to be toyed with. I learned today that Hemlock Water-dropwort is the most poisonous plant in the UK. Apparently some lives in the lane where I took the photo above. Might even be in the photo...😬

    2. Hemlock Water Dropwort is one of three good reasons to wear a full-length face visor when strimming (the other two being small rodents and dog shite).

  3. Welcome, you have now entered the dark side... life will never be the same. It just snowballs from there... Giant Hogweed is a real Giant Gav with umbels like umberellas and stens as thing as your wrist. Up here we get them on the Tweed and they tower above head height, maybe 12 feet or more. Good luck, the more you try to identify the less you will actually be able to! :)

    1. I think my first encounter with Giant Hogweed was on a Genesis album when I was 15! I probably wasn't aware it was a real plant. Since then I've seen it in only one place that I know of. Next to the River Brent where it flows beside the east-bound A40 on the approach to the infamous Hanger Lane Gyratory. Sitting in almost stationary traffic I realised that monumental umbellifer could only be one thing. I can well believe 12 ft!

  4. stems as thick that should say

  5. Hi Gav - excited to see you including more flowers in your posts. They've brought me a lot of joy and provide lots of id challenges to get your teeth into. Awesome photos as always. Please let me know if you find a Frog Orchid. All the best. Matt

    1. Thanks Matt. 😊
      Yes, I've noticed how you've been lured by the dark side! 😄 I am mildly curious about plants but for me there is just too much to learn. I'm too lazy. And old. But if I stumble across any Frog Orchids you will definitely be hearing about it! Ta for the comment. 👍