Grassy Days

It has  that high summer feel on the reserve now… we had our hottest day of the year on Wednesday,  28 degrees Celcius. Hot! The grass is pretty much at the peak of it’s growth and producing pollen like mad. It’s easy to not think about the grass for most of the year but if you suffer from hay fever, you’re well aware that right now is ‘grass time’, with waving fields of the exotically-named Yorkshire fog or cock’s-foot.

Sunset grass, mostly cock's-foot

Sunset grass, mostly cock’s-foot

Yorkshire fog

Yorkshire fog

It’s not just grasses you find in the old fields. They also have an abundance of wild flowers, including germanader speedwell, bird’s-foot treefoil, ox-eye daisies and field or wild pansies. These pretty little flowers are instantly recognisable as cousins of garden pansies.

Field or wild pansies

Field or wild pansies

This yellow shell moth was also liking the grassy, flower -rich fields.

Yellow shell moth

Yellow shell moth

As were the lapwings! The young have fledged now, and though they still look a bit gawky, can fly quite well.  They joined in with their parents, “peewit-ing” at me as I crossed the field.

One of the lapwing chick, almost all grown up.

One of the lapwing chick, almost all grown up.

Big enough to fly anyway!

“Right, kids, this is what you do. When someone gets too near, you fly round and round them, yelling your head off, okay?” This youngster has been well taught!

The “star” flower in the old fields has to be this northern marsh orchid, which only grows in one wet corner of the field. I’m awarding it star status as I’ve never sen them growing here before and it’s possibly a sign that the fields are reverting to a more natural grassland and becoming more diverse in plants and wildlife.

Northern marsh orchid

Northern marsh orchid

However, you don’t need to go wandering through the fields to spot plenty of nice wildflowers! Lots grow right alongside the path including the small yellow tormentil. This plant’s name derives from the fact it was used to treat “torments of the body” (probably rheumatism or arthritis) many years ago. It’s roots were also used in dying cloth. You can even find orchids, like this heath-spotted orchid, right on the edge of the tracks.

Heath spotted orchid

Heath spotted orchid

Tormentil

Tormentil

The plants on the track edges can also tell another story. Track edges near old lime kilns are the only place on the reserve you find plants like rock rose or wild thyme. These plants like alkaline or chalky soil but most of the soil on the reserve is acidic. However, near the old kilns, where lime would have been spilt from carts, there are still patches of more alkaline soil…and this is where you still find these plants.

Wild thyme

Wild thyme

Rock rose

Rock rose

Of course, all these flowering plants are great food sources for insects. The heather is starting to come out too and we saw these small pearl-bordered fritillaries feeding on this new nectar source.

Small pearl- bordered fritillary feeding on bell heather

Small pearl- bordered fritillary feeding on bell heather

 

And the underwing,

And the underwing, looking like a stained-glass window.

Still one adder, basking away. We were slightly surprised to see it, it was so hot I thought they might have been on the move.

Adder basking on a rock

Adder basking on a rock

However, the “must see” on the reserve right now is the display of water lilies on the lochs. It’s well worth getting here in the next fortnight or so, while they’re at their best. they really are stunning.

Water lilies

Water lilies

White water lily

White water lily

 

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