Monday, 23 May 2022

A Mixed Bag

A short lunchtime walk today. Fairly local, but new, and orchid-focused. Striding across the first field I heard a deep, hooty kind of call. A bit distant, it repeated a few times and then stopped. Ridiculously, it made me think of Eagle Owl. Not that I have ever heard one in the flesh, just the odd recording. Nothing native came to mind, so perhaps it had been a faraway cow or something? Dismissing it, I pressed on.

I failed to find the target orchids, and the best I could come up with was this...

Orchid...with spotted leaves

I am so rubbish at plants. A couple of years back I photographed some orchids exactly like this one, at Powerstock Common. A reliable informant told me they were Heath Spotted Orchids, and explained why. I have since applied this knowledge to other spotted orchids which I thought were Heath Spotted, but was told that those ones were actually Common Spotted. So now I am a bit lost...

Funnily enough I was at Powerstock yesterday. And so were these...

So yes, many orchids with spotted leaves were seen, and enjoyed, but not really identified very much. However, I was very pleased with another orchid encounter. Entirely accidental, and while I was looking for butterflies and things...

As a plant novice, I mainly think of orchids as bright and obvious, but these were the exact opposite. There was something about their structure though. Something vaguely familiar. It was their leaves which clinched it. Two leaves, or 'tway blades'...

Common Twayblade

Mainly green, and very subtle

I have a distant memory of being shown this orchid once, years ago, but so hazy that yesterday's encounter felt like a massive discovery.

Other than a couple of Dingy Skippers and Green Tiger Beetles - none of which posed for a photo - there was little else to shout about. Except for the family of Marsh Tits; very nice to confirm breeding at Powerstock...

I know it is almost entirely hidden by foliage, but that's a juvenile Marsh Tit, complete with a just-about-visible yellow gape.

Yesterday evening I was at a different local spot, hoping for Hobby, or Red-rumped Swallow maybe, when a gang of egrets flew over. Beautifully lit by the evening sun, I could see seven yellow bills. Cattle Egrets! I saw just a single local Cattle Egret last year, at West Bex, so a flock of seven was a delightful turn-up. Of course, by the time I extracted the camera they were heading away and into the sun...

Seven Cattle Egrets

Briefly side on, but against the light.

It seems they had been at Abbotsbury Swannery earlier, but their eventual destination remains a mystery. All I can say is that they were heading west towards Bridport at 19:25.

So. Back to this afternoon. Returning from my orchid fail, the low, hooty call again. I decided to try and track it down. Much to my astonishment, this...

I have to say, there was something fundamentally sad about coming across a caged Eagle Owl in the middle of the West Dorset countryside. And having my ludicrous hunch proved correct was no consolation.


  1. Poor Owl. The best we can say is that the cats and dogs of West Dorset are safe, for now.

  2. Those eyes stare right through you, a magnificent beast. I envy your selection of orchids, they are very rare on my walks but, I have had a rook make repeated visits to a seed feeder. Of the corvids, I rate the rook well behind carion crows and ravens :o)

    1. It was huge, Dave. As you say, magnificent.

      There is some wonderful, plant-rich grassland locally, and I suspect that I've barely scratched the surface. If only I'd started looking at plants when I was young, when new knowledge actually stuck.

  3. They are used to attract raptors for capture or killing Gav. Check the circs and maybe report it to someone...

    1. Oh. Didn't know that, thanks Stew. Will do.