Flanders Moss NNR
Last year our fragrant and lesser butterfly orchids seemed to had almost disappeared (see here). We knew that something wasn’t going well and some action was needed. The suspicion was that the grazing regime wasn’t right and the orchid flowers were getting nibbled off. These aren’t really rare species but both are declining because the sort of wildflower-rich grassland that is lightly grazed by farm stock is a rapidly declining habitat in the current biodiversity crisis.
So over the winter the team put a lot of hard work into repairing fences around the meadow (see here). In that way we could be sure that when we asked the grazier to remove his sheep and cattle for the flowering period they couldn’t break back in and eat the flowerheads.
As we approaching orchid flowering season we were hopeful that we would see an improved number of orchids.
This week we headed down on masse to sweep across the meadow and do a comprehensive count to see if the winter work helped.
And the results….?
Last year I could only find 4 lesser butterfly orchids and no fragrant ones.
This year 53 fragrant and 52 lesser butterfly orchids.
And the rest of the meadow was looking pretty fantastic with ringlet and small pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies, clouded buff moths, northern emerald dragonflies and a flower-rich carpet all to be enjoyed.
These totals are not as high as some of our past peak counts but they show a drastic improvement compared to recent years. For working on a nature reserve, seeing patches of orchids is the payback you get for the problem solving and hard physical work in variable weather earlier in the year. As ever this is a real team effort that also includes Douglas the grazier for his help in getting the right grazing animals in the meadow at the right time.