Thursday, 30 July 2015

Atrorubens - "All over bah shouting"

Yesterday I checked out the pavements for even more Schmals and atroruben variations and was not disappointed, although its quickly becoming a realization that perhaps 80% of atrorubens have now gone over for yet another year.  The window is very short and you need to cram as much as you can into the limited daylight hours you have available for this study.  I am happy this year of what I have been able to record so far although disappointed that over 40% of all specimens have been predated by a mixture of predators which included the Roe Deer, Hares, Slugs, and this year for the first time Black Aphids.

The highlights for me so far have been the beautiful "Lemon Petalled and Light Buff coloured" varieties of which seem to have had plenty this year.  Also to find new Schmals has also been good. Its now a question of collating all these photos and information and trying to understand it all. But just before I do finish with the atrorubens here is a photo of one yesterday of the light phase:

Another very light specimen found yesterday on Hutton Roof. (Click over to enlarge)
Also whilst talking about the light phase, I would like to put two lovely photos on which I have been kindly sent by Richard Mielcarek which show good views of the "hyperchile" and mottled inner petals of Specimens No 50/51.

A photo of specimen 50 - Hutton Roof - July 2015 (photo: Richard Mielcarek)

 Specimen 50  on Hutton Roof  - July 2015 (Photo: Richard Mielcarek) 

Usually when the atrorubens finish I can go straight on to the Helliborines looking in particular for nice "Purpurea" variants.  But this year they are no where near ready yet, maybe a fortnight away.  I was finding scores yesterday in the canopy edges but they all still had drooping heads.  Also the plume content looks weak this year in most of our usual strong specimens, so I can't see it turning out to be the best year for Helliborines, but the coming weeks will tell.  Here is a current photo of the helliborines.

A pair of Broad Leaved Helliborine - Hutton Roof July 2015

And this is about the average "state of play" at the moment with the Helliborines, I would have thought perhaps another couple of weeks yet!  Just look at the heavy grooving within the leaf of these specimens.  This is typical of plants growing on the edge of canopy. Most of the specimens I am seeing this year are not showing much "build" in the buds, they seem weaker than normal years with little boldness within their plumes.  Sometimes when they are like this I have seen the buds dry up and wither away.  I do hope that's not the case here!

A few days ago whilst on one of the pavements on Hutton Roof, I stumbled upon a superb specimen of Atrorubens which stood out so special, and thankfully Alan Smith was there to photograph the specimen and has so kindly sent them through and here are the photos:

A beautiful Atrorubens - Hutton Roof July 2015 (Photo: Alan Smith)

Hutton Roof July 2015 (Photo: Alan Smith)
And to finish off todays blog I did manage to take a photo of the "White Self Heal" although it is starting to go over a bit.  I will have to try and catch it early next year.

A White Self Heal on Hutton Roof - July 2015

And here below are the Swift Observation Notes:

Swift Observations 30th July 2015 - Main Street, Burton In Kendal (Click over sketch to enlarge)

Thursday 31st July 2015 - Swift Observations down Main Street, Burton In Kendal 2000hrs to 2045hrs.

Right from the start very little was seen in the skies with just a pair flying above the Memorial Hall but as we checked out further sites the Swift numbers gradually built to a maximum of seven birds.

Tonight I was joined by David Craig, and we checked out most of the regular nest sites, but there did not seem to be any low down activity noticed, all the birds we saw where catching insects well up in the sky.

Just to save the day on our way back home, noticed a single bird leaving its nest on the Gable cottage on the Post Office row.  Ironically this site was also one of the last sites occupied last year as well.

There seemed a sort of "quiet" as though it was saying that most of the birds may have already departed back to Africa.  After all it usually is between now and anytime up to the 10th August that they will depart. Just checking our notes and the majority left last year on or about the same time the 30th and 31st July.

I think next week may well be our last "observation" night, we'll see what this week brings.

If you want to check out the Burton Swift Bird Study Group please click on this link to check out their dedicated Swift Blog.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Epipactis Atrorubens - Lemon Petalled and other Variants

After going to fair lengths talking about the Schmalhauseneii and also the fragile small green specimens over the past few days, maybe its time I spoke more about the variants, especially the "lemon petalled variants".

After five year observations and up until last year, I can't even remember recording a single variant on Hutton Roof complex that had "Lemon Coloured Petals" then last year I did manage to record four separate specimens over two separate pavements, these plants were so attractive to the eye and it was later decided we would call these the variant Lutescens and soon after we changed the name to "Palens".  Below is a example from last year of what met the criteria of the Palens variant with lemon coloured petals against a red sepal, also the stem could be green or purple but more on the side of greeny. The size of the plant would only be to a max of 10".  Also the boss and epichile would be creamy coloured.  Here below is a photo from last year showing a example of the Lutescens/Palans variant:
Epipactis atrorubens variant: Lutescens/Palans - Hutton Roof July 2014
From this photo above you can so easily establish the greenish stem, the lemony coloured petals and the creamy coloured bosses and epichile.

This year (2015) I am finding lots of variants which are part way.  Like I have already said last year I discovered only 4 small 10" max Lutescens/Palens (3 on one pavement and 1 on another pavement). But this year I have been so fortunate to be able to count no less than 15 specimens which all have the yellow petals and the majority of the specimens have been 18" and larger in size (compared to the smaller versions last year).  The ones this year have been far stronger plants and are so attractive with their yellow petals, although most of them (not all) fail to meet the creamy boss/epichile feature, although this is showing to a lesser degree.  A typical example of the ones I am finding now (2015) are like this one shown here in the photo below:

Lemon Petalled Variant - Possibly a large Palens?
So this sort of thing just had never been noticed previous until this year.  The plant in this photograph is about 18" and does have a green stem, although I have found many more of which some have a purple stem.  They are a stronger plant this year also.  Again they don't seem to be situated too far away from either a Schmalhauseneii or a Broad Leaved Helliborine. The 15 approx specimens which I have located this year are situated between two separate pavements which are about 1/2 mile in distance apart.

To see all the 15 approx "Lemon Petalled" variants showing slight differences in sepal redness/purplish colours makes them look so special, but even more special when you look at this one I found yesterday. The sepal colouring is much darker (probably darker simply because it is close to canopy in turn restricting the light and causing photosynthesis, making its sepals much darker)

Even more striking colouring into the mix when the plant is close to canopy like No.40 here.
So even in the two photos above you can see whereby the top photo shows a typical "green stem" plant, yet the one directly above here has the "purple coloured stem" which again could probably give some indication to a atrorubens or helliborine influence and obviously if that was to be proved the plants would lose their current status of "variants" and become some sort of distant "hybrid"

Going back to 2014 a different sort of "Palans" variant showed with a "viride" specimen showing almost green everywhere with the exception of the epichile and bosses which were creamy colour. But if you looked ever so close you could actually see a few "minute purple specks" on the bosses and epichile which took away the "pure viride" and brought everything back the atrorubens.  Just check the photo below:

Atrorubens Variant (varide) - Hutton Roof 2014 - Click over to enlarge

Sadly this particular plant has not developed this year, although growth did appear and we put a cage over it for its protection, only the basal leaves came through. No stem or flower. As far as I am aware this variant has never been recorded before.

Another variant which seems to be causing a lot of excitement this year is the "light buff coloured specimens" which are coming through.  I have had lots of light phase specimens throughout the pavements but these two seem to be a little more special than the rest. Below is a photo of Specimen No.50, it grows at about 10" in height:

A mega rare variety now and causing much interest is the  "Buff coloured Variant"
(Click over to enlarge)

So after all these variant examples above I would now like to finish of with a great Schmalhauseneii I found this morning and which is now referenced to Specimen 54 (Schmal):

Schmal Spec No.54 - Hutton Roof - July 2015

Sunday, 26 July 2015

More Atroruben specials today on Hutton Roof.

Specimen 46 is a new found (today) - Epipactis Schmalhauseneii
Just look at this beauty I found, just as I was about to call it a day. I love the boldness of it all, especially with the very large Basal and Secondary.  In fact there that big they more or less outdo the late Schmalhauseneii No.1. You can see so much Helliborine within this Atrorubens! A typical Schmalhauseneii and to be numbered Specimen 46 (confirmed Schmal).  Here below is another closer picture which highlights the size of the basal leaf and secondary leaf.

More closer to show the colossal size of the basal and secondary leaves

This specimen above No.46 shows lots of helliborine mix with the thick green stem and large overpowering leaf structure. Also note the deep grooved leaves which are far more prominent grooving than usual (resulting from being on the very edge of shadowing canopy plus more often than not there can be a deeper green colouring as well, I believe it has something to do with photosynthesis). After saying all that there is still lots of atroruben's if you look at the small "tucked" basal showing plenty of purple veined and edging, and even more with the bottom 4" of the stem being purple, and in the flower itself.  So I would reckon we have a near enough 50/50 one here. Big, Bold, Brash and Beautiful! = Schmal. This is from a area were we got some stunning "purpurea" helliborine variants from last year.

Light green fragile specimen No. 37 - Click over to enlarge

I found this on Friday specimen No. 37 which is a very small slim fragile plant with lots of green especially in the stem and the ovary. Its height is 10" which is very typical of the majority of these fragile small light green specimens which are turning up.  It has been considered that these could even be "Schmals", but if that be the case which I would not argue against, but I have got to say that for me these types of plants which are springing up all over the place, wherever there are established "bold" Schmals closeby.  I would have to say that they could not be more leaning to the opposite side of the spectrum, like what may be said in the term "as different as chalk and cheese" in any familiar comparisons to the already well established bold specimens of what I consider to be the true schmalhauseneii.  I personally don't think at this stage these light green weaker/fragile specimens are just straight forward Schmals, thats if they could even be straight forward.  I need to keep a "open mind"on this at present.  They are definitely far different to any standard or regular atrorubens and in my eye are very weak, flimsy and sometimes from experiences last year showed that if you just touched them ever so slightly to try and measure them they just fell dead within hours of your visit and this is why I think it possible we may have a hybrid cross back situation (F1), going on.  Granted this year they do seem to be slightly stronger and accepting more handling or inspection.

I am still recording these as a "very special specimens" because they will turn out to be something really special once we get on to them, so for now making plenty of notes on them, but by the same token I am steering well away from the "hybrid or Schmals theory" as if the schmals are not complicated enough, these are even far more complex.

Some more interesting facts about these fragile light green specimens is that I only started to notice them coming through last year (2014), but this year they seem to becoming more prolific wherever you are in the vicinity of the strong established bold "Schmals" these fragile green specimens are making ground.  In fact I was finding that many this morning, I just did not have time to photograph and measure them all.  I will need to go back in the next day or two and try and get them recorded. I think last year on the same pavement I may have had two or three of these light green small specimens, whereby so far this year on this same single pavement I have probably had no less than 20 of these and still there is plenty of work to do, so there will be more.  Lets get them recorded and we will try and work it out later.

Now for some really bad news!  Just look at this photo:

This is whats left of Schmals 15 and 16 which were slow this year, but sadly to slow to bloom

We checked them out on Friday and they were in fine order and just days away from giving off their true bloom. It looks very much like Mr. Hare could have been around, Schmal No.16 has been snipped and eaten whilst Schmal No.15 has just be destructively snipped and left dangling.  At first I thought perhaps the deer but usually they snip straight across the stems, whereby with these the snips on both plants have been at a sharp angle - depressing because they to me were considered perhaps the best flowering specimens on Hutton Roof with no less than 56 flowers. Just look at the photo below to show just how they came through in 2014.

Schmals No.15 and 16 last year.

So here now are a few photos of the specimens found this morning:

This one is close to the Schmals No.15 and 16

Specimen 40 - Not considered Schmal at this stage

Another of Specimen 40 showing more the "boss and epichile" and such lovely contrasting colours

It is a beautiful plant but sadly suffering from Black Aphid predation like so many others this year.
Another of the light green specimens (No.36)

Also today besides all the epipactis I found these Harebells on the pavement.  Normally I would not think much about it, but on this occasion I had to look twice seeing as they were growing at 16" high with the ground being short cropped no large surrounding vegetation. Long Stalked Harebells!

16" tall Harebells

HAVE A NICE DAY.........

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Finding a straight forward Atrorubens these days!

How could they get much better than this? (Click over to enjoy even more)
Yes that was the position yesterday when friends from Bristol and Gloucester came up to check out the Epipactis.  We were quickly faced with the dilemma of what was supposed to be the "norm"! in other words, Is it becoming more and more difficult to find a straight atrorubens these days (only kidding)! but visitors are remarking on this all the time and can be forgiven for thinking that. Because at times you get overpowered (pleasantly) trying to identify is it a hybrid (schmalhauseneii) is it a pallans/lutescens variety or is it one of these "in betweens" a bit of this and bit of that.  The mind boggles at times with all the possible and probable in between equasions. In fact it is still on the back burner that there could even be a hybrid crossing back involved (F1), especially with all the light green small fragile specimens that have started to appear in the last two years.  Its a mystery what's going on!

For it all to makes sense, we need someone who is keen enough to want to do a phd on all this, or alternatively if we were fortunate to get someone who is interested enough and who may have access to the necessary facilities to test the chromosomes of some of these individual plants, and until we do get some help in this I dont think we are going to get much further on with the hybrid argument.  For now its more of a question of identifying to the best of my ability, noting any changes on a year by year basis.  I have already been doing this now for over three years and starting to just about get the hang of it all.  But like today we have found so many additional (possible Schmals), (possible variants eg Palens) and lots of other oddballs that its become slightly overpowering to even begin to try and take it all in within one day.  I will have to pay several more visits over the coming days to try and evaluate these specimens and to try and make some sense of it all. We are getting there but it will be a very very slow job!

For now though here are some of the photos of some of the "gems" from yesterdays outing.

Here is a new Schmal established today as No.27
This is Schmal No.23 a very light specimen (caged for its protection)
A pale variety of atrorubens
Schmal No.18 with a incredible 55 flowers
Another overladen atrorubens
Black Aphid attack 2015
Besides the devastation to this plant, I have also noticed that Schmal No. 8 which without doubt was a stunning plant last year fully developed this year to be overcome by Aphids which have made a right mess of the plant causing it to die off prematurely and showing complete infestation just like this plant.  Also noticed taking advantage of the aphids are large black ants, which are perhaps 3 times bigger than your common garden ant, yet slightly smaller than the brown wood ant.  I cannot find any description to these in my references. It was also mentioned by Alan (Gloucester) that this Black Aphid infestation has also happened for the first time in his part of the country.

Nice to finish off with this one . Another very light green possible

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Lots of "light phase" variants amongst the atrorubens

Without doubt! another variation (Click over to enlarge)
It was a dainty plant of some 10" high, very light in colouring with lots of burnt features which you do get with Palens and light varieties.  A close up is offered in the next photograph.

A fragile little plant with green stem.  
Certainly my favourite on the day. Though after saying that I had even more light pale variaties as you can see on the following photos.

Very pale looking flowers.
This is one taken from a trio of plants and almost all identical with that light phase epichile and bosses. Again I noticed these plants were within 5 yards of E. Helliborine

What a shame - this plant had potential and certainly recorded!
This one is a very light variant, although in the next photo you will see it closer up. And the photo below that is a plant growing within a metre of it.  How can there be so much variation in colour in such a short distance away from one another?
This is from that very pale plant shown above and yet right next to it is the one in the next photo

Such a contrast in colour, yet only one metre away.

Besides the above atroruben variants it was good for the butterflies, with Dark Green Frittilary, a well worn Small Pearl Bordered and Common Blues, Ringlets and Meadow Browns and a Grayling

Thursday 23rd July 2015 - Swift Observations off Main St, Burton In Kendal 200hrs to 2100hrs 

Swift sketch and Notes from yesterday evening (23rd July 2015) (Click over sketch to enlarge)

Saturday 25th July 2015 - Swift Observation - Main Street, Burton In Kendal. 1000hrs

A minimum of 20 Swifts in the sky from points West of Burton Memorial Hall.

Thursday 23rd July 2015 - Swift observations - Off Main Street, Burton In Kendal 2000hrs to 2100hrs.

It was clear and reasonably warm, the birds of which 8 was the maximum count and would be at a average altitude between 75 and 150ft. We just caught them twice doing the follow my leader screaming flight.  As usual we took it that the birds flew bias to their breeding areas and could be seen high in the sky.

Tonight there were two observers David Craig and Bryan Yorke.

We started at the Cottage near the Post Office and were lucky to actually see one fly into the nest, we did hang fire for a few minutes but never saw it leave.  Then on to Cocking Yard with no activity witnessed.  We moved further on to the Royal, observing all elevations.  But tonight the only activity here was on the Cottage front low elevation where we were fortunate to witness two birds coming back into their nest site.  One bird left again within minutes of landing.

We gave equal amounts of time to checking the large building behind the old bakery (from the back of the King's yard) and we then went on to observe the Coach House and the Manor House, with no further sightings of birds whilst observing.

Just to add I had a party of 8 birds on Monday last the 20th flying low in "follow my leader fashion" going at low levels in and out between the buildings at Clawthorpe Hall.

Monday, 20 July 2015

STRAIGHT forward Dark Red Helliborines (20/7/15)

I guess we could call it the "Crown of Thorns" - Its the Carline Thistle found throughout our pavements (Click over photo to enlarge)
Today I checked out one of the smaller pavements were I did have a hybrid about four years ago but it disappeared a couple of years ago.  And all we have today are straight forward Dark Red Helliborines (Epipactis atrorubens).  Some nice straight specimens.

The pavement is on Hutton Roof and here is a photo showing one small corner, which has always borne fruitful with the Helliborines.  I would not be surprised if we do see hybrids again at sometime in the future, because besides good numbers of Dark Reds there are also quite a few Broad Leaved Helliborines.

Here we have a small corner tucked away on the pavement I was working today, always gets good straight atroruben specimens here.  I have taken a couple of photos next of the beauties. (Click over photo to enlarge)

Here below we have a couple of specimens which I had this morning. No large numbers involved here, but you usually do get up to 30 atrorubens and a couple of helliborines on this small section of pavement.

A nice specimen of Atrorubens which I had this morning.
Four nice specimens tucked away - good straight stalks
"50 Shades of Green" the best spot on HR for Sanicle (well it was during June)
So it was a very pleasant morning checking out lots of orchids, and also noted down a couple of Common Rock Rose Sites. Also some Squinancywort on the way up.

Also this morning had a feast of butterflies which included: Dark Green Fritillary, Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary (worn), Large Skipper, Ringlets (scores), Meadow Browns (scores), Speckled Woods, Common Blues and Small Heaths.

A party of 8 Swifts screaming and chasing after one another above and in between the buildings at Clawthorpe Hall.  Also had a party of 13 on their way South whilst down at Heysham at early doors.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Montanums are OK, Schmalhauseneii No.1 bites the dust!

Schmal No. 1 in her prime about 3 years ago (click over photo to enlarge)

Schmal No.1 was a absolute beauty in her prime as you can see from this photo.  She would come up in a more or less similar pose each year and this was the very first Schmal I ever found on Hutton Roof.  But sadly this year she showed as a runt right from the start, and checking her out today there was nothing left other than a little of the stalk and the large basal leaf,  and the evidence of 5 years of old stems. So although I have only had her recorded over 4 years it must be at least 5 or more. See the next photo to see her position today. 
All thats left of Schmal No.1 today (19th July 2015) (Click over photo to enlarge)

Although I did check her out a couple of weeks ago, I was disappointed at the progress, she had at that point come through as a runt with much stunted growth, but looking now at the remnants of the stem and the basal leaf, the plant looks like it may have made some sort of recovery, yet later succumb to the "snip" only very recently looking at this photo and looking much evident to a "predator affair".  Obviously another one to be written off this year, but still worth keeping a eye on for next year.  Just look at the five old stalks which may be giving its age away, but there again, like most good ladies would she be showing you the true age?

I managed to check out a few pavements today with my main motive to see how a Atrorubens Pallens variant (No.3) was doing.  I had just not realized how fragile this specimen was, but safe enough tucked away down a gryke (see photo).  Although a poor photo you can see the yellowish starting to come through.  I dont think this will be ready for at least 5-7 days.

Epipactis atrorubens var: Pallens No.3

I spent most of the afternoon checking out lots of atrorubens which were probably somewhere near their best (in 70% of cases), but nothing caught my eye in regards to hybrids or variants.

A beautiful photo below, showing lots of Lady's Bedstraw and Wild Thyme growing on the anthill and Harts Tongue Fern stretching out from the limestone fractures.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I can chill out looking at photos like these.
Stunningly beautiful 

My last excursion today was to check out a pavement which holds the rare Hypericum Montanum (var: perforatum).  I am pleased to be able to report that I had ten flowerheads over two separate colonies. At least for now they have managed to escape the Roe Deer.  Here below is a photo of the main colony and these are the rarities with the "perforatum" leaves.

Hypericum Montanum var Perforatum (Pale St. Johns Wort with perforated leaves)
A rarity and doing well for another year.  Also checked out another couple of colonies which are closeby (within about 15ft) and they too are doing OK.

To finish off here is a photo of one of the pavements I was on today.  Its a superb pavement, and sadly the photo tends to flatten it and you don't get the depth.  But gives does give you a idea to what some of our local pavements look like!  I am on them on most days checking out the grykes, some of which are almost 15ft deep and seeing what sort of rare flora I can find in the shallow ones.  Without doubt they must be some of the best limestone pavements in the UK, and what a privilege to live within a short distance.