Early Purple Orchid - Veiges Plantation, Exmouth 31/3/21. This individual was flowering way in advance of all the others. Early Purple is a common and widely-distributed orchid but I'm only aware of one site for it in Exmouth, and that's Veiges Plantation. I didn't even know this relatively small strip of woodland existed until a chance conversation with a work colleague. Early Purples were also seen at Berry Head, Bickleigh and Homefield Wood in Buckinghamshire.
I feel that getting outside of Exmouth this year has done me some good. Whether it's the pandemic, losing Dad or simply too many years covering the same ground for birds, it has felt good to see some new places and have some new challenges. I made it a bit of a mission to see new orchids this summer and, with a little effort, managed to see 32 (16 in Devon) of the UK's 50 or so native species (I think it's 51 if you count Ghost Orchid). I'm hoping to see a few more next year, but I'll need to travel 'up north' and to Kent, so we'll see how that pans out. I must thank Kev, Bill , Chris Jones and Lesley for all their help and advice, and Kev in particular for accompanying me on some trips and finding a stack of stuff I'd have never spotted otherwise.
This post is a summary of the orchids I saw, in order of appearance...
I first noted Green-winged Orchids on April 5th this year. Amongst the numerous splashes of purple was this gorgeous white flower (var alba) , photographed on the 30/4. Of all the orchids Green-winged is one of the species I'm most familiar with (along with Heath Spotted) as they grow in abundance in three fields on my beloved Orcombe Point.
My first Heath Spotted Orchid was on East Budleigh Common on 9/5/21 - found whilst walking the dog with Lu. I'm lucky to have good numbers of Heath Spotteds practically on my doorstep, but that doesn't lessen the urge to photograph the smartest examples. I just love them.
This pretty perfect, almost pure white Heath Spotted Orchid was on Colaton Raleigh Common.
Monkey Orchid - Hartslock, Berkshire 29/5/21. This is one of the rarest species in the UK so it was really exciting to clap eyes on my first plants, on a hillside overlooking the river Thames. Kev and I enjoyed an orchid-packed day out in the Chilterns, seeing loads of other plant species, many of which were new for me. As well as the Monkeys, Hartslock is famous for its population of Monkey x Lady hybrids which all exhibit extraordinary hybrid vigor, resulting in massive, densely flowered spikes. I have to admit being a tiny bit disappointed not to see a pure Lady Orchid but I hope to catch up with that species next year, somewhere in deepest Kent!