Caburn Bottom – in search of the Burnt Orchid

Last Friday Steve and I set out to find burnt orchids outside Lewes, in a quiet chalk valley.  Steve had seen them in this valley before, and had heard that it was a good year for them again.  Once we found the right part of the hillside and got our eyes in tune with the vegetation we began to see some – mainly just 4 or 5 inches high nestling amongst the grasses and other plants.  The more we looked the more we found – soon it was a case of stepping carefully to avoid trampling on them.

Many of the burnt orchids appear in small tight clusters.

Many of the burnt orchids appear in small tight clusters.

Lots of lovely plants – all small.

Both these germander speedwell flowers are on the same plant - just colour variation. Each flower is about 9mm across

Both these germander speedwell flowers are on the same plant – just colour variation. Each flower is about 9mm across

Much taller spike of the Chalk fragrant orchid, 6 or 7 inches tall.

Much taller spike of the Chalk fragrant orchid, 6 or 7 inches tall.

Common milkwort.

Common milkwort.

Field mouse-ear - the flowers are only around a centimetre across.  Five petals but each is deeply notched.

Field mouse-ear – the flowers are only around a centimetre across. Five petals but each is deeply notched.

I think this is horseshoe vetch - a small member of the pea family

I think this is horseshoe vetch – a small member of the pea family

Even grasses are pretty - enjoy this soon to open flowering spike of quaking grass

Even grasses are pretty – enjoy this soon to open flowering spike of quaking grass

A big bold plant this - Yellow Rattle is about 9 inches tall.  When the seed heads are ripe they rattle in the seed cases.  Its a partly parasitic plant, tapping into the roots of nearby grasses.

A big bold plant this – Yellow Rattle is about 9 inches tall. When the seed heads are ripe they rattle in the seed cases. Its a partly parasitic plant, tapping into the roots of nearby grasses.

And some animals, apart from crowds of noisy rooks almost drowning out the frequent, high flying sky larks.

Male Adonis Blue butterfly - nationally rare, but seen on Sussex Downland fairly often.

Male Adonis Blue butterfly – nationally rare, but seen on Sussex Downland fairly often.

Probably a pollen feeding beetle - we saw hundreds of them clambering over the sward.

Probably a pollen feeding beetle – we saw hundreds of them clambering over the sward.

I think this is a Common Blue butterfly.

I think this is a Common Blue butterfly.

Climbed to the top of the Iron Age fort that is Mount Caburn to look out over the Ouse valley.

Mount caburn in the foreground, the Glynde Reach flows in from the left to join the winding Ouse as it flow down to Newhaven.

Mount Caburn in the foreground, the Glynde Reach flows in from the left to join the winding Ouse as it flow down to Newhaven.

 

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