Orchid Winter


I'm spending an unhealthy amount of time in the Box Hill - Mickleham area at the moment. It is a beautiful part of the world and it does have its fair share of natural history gems, so it is time well spent. This morning found me sliding down a steep slope on the south-eastern side of Mickleham Downs (to the east of White Hill). It was off the beaten track and away from any of the footpaths that I usually take. I was stopped in my slippery tracks by a number of Bird's-nest Orchids, or rather the dead husks, of last year's plants (above). They were scattered about beneath the beech trees, well hidden against the leaf layer. Looking around me I realised that they stretched way ahead of me - and either side of me - as far as my naked eye could see. Hundreds of them! As I carried on, so did the orchids. I had to reassess my count - there were low thousands of them. I've never seen so many. They carried on underneath a small conifer plantation and out the other side back into the beech woodland. I pay my respects each year to the few discrete colonies that I know of close-by, and come late May I will do so again, with the addition of visiting this enormous population.



It was a beautiful morning, with a low sun, little wind and a light of pure clarity. I quite happily wandered about, taking photographs of trees, frosty fields, distant hill tops...and Hawfinches. Oh yes, you didn't think that I had forgotten about them had you? A revisit to Bramblehall Wood revealed a minimum of 17 birds (most probably more). I spent a good couple of hours scanning the south-eastern slope of White Hill (part of Mickleham Downs). You can get good views of it from the footpath that runs parallel with Headley Lane and also from a little way up the Juniper Top slope. For the first hour there was scarcely a moment when I did not have a Hawfinch in view, either perched on tree tops or in flight. Small flocks of three-to-eight birds were commonplace, with one of 20 being the largest. My estimate of 40 is on the low side - there are most probably plenty more. They were seen from Juniper Hall all the way along to Cockshot Cottage. It's a large expanse of Beech, Oak, Yew and Box to hide in. Want to see some poor images? Thought so.


I'm really going to miss them when they've gone...

Comments

BirderBaxter said…
Thanks for these inspiring descriptions and clear directions to the lovely Hawfinches of Bramblehall Wood. Magical moment today when I found 12-14 of them feeding on the high treetops on the west-facing side of the wood at about noon. Just like you said! Brilliant birds. Maybe they will stay for the summer? Graham
Will the hawfinch and orchids be there next year?
Steve Gale said…
I'm really pleased for you Graham. Magnificent birds, aren't they? Did we meet today? I was talking to a lady with a dog at the time if we did.
Steve Gale said…
Hawfinch probably not. Orchids without a doubt.
Arjun Dutta said…
Steve I'll try and get to Box Hill next week. Thanks for the directions.
Steve Gale said…
You should also get your Marsh Tit Arjun. Please let me know when you hope to be going.
BirderBaxter said…
Yes that was me Steve. And I met your “flora” friend just as I first spotted the flock. A very memorable day - thanks again.
Arjun Dutta said…
Hopefully. On a role at the moment:)
Billy Dykes said…
Nice orchid find. I wonder if you're the first to stumble across them? I think I'll go for a Hawfinch fix this weekend. That part of the Downs must be one of the best places in the country for them.
Steve Gale said…
Billy, I believe the orchid colony is known, but as to whether or not they've been counted, I'm not sure. I would urge you to spend a bit of time scanning the Mickleham slope (underneath White Hill). Good luck!

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