Thursday 6 July 2017

Orchids and other wild flowers at Filey

Common blue and burnet moth up on Filey Brig
We wondered what Peter and Julie would like to do when they joined us for the day at our holiday bungalow at Hunmanby Gap. The day decided itself!

Peter Williams taking his pictures
....and there are just a few of my own
I  mentioned to Peter that I had spotted three rather bedraggled dactylorhiza orchids on the coarse weedy bank that went down to the sea. I am preparing a post about dactylorhiza and he offered to photograph them for me. When we moved to the other side of the path to take a placement shot we found on a grassy slope a haven of wild flowers including a dozen particularly gorgeous near red dactylorhiza. Just yards from our residence Brenda and Julie could see that it would best to go for a long walk on the beach.

Dactylorhiza in clover
That morning we had a delightful time taking pictures. Passers by were amused to see two septuagenarians at play. (Sorry Peter I have taken poetic licence and added our ages together and divided them to enable you to qualify). Jovial holiday makers made cheerful comments. A farmer’s wife on vacation commented that sprays are not what they used to be - what on earth did she mean?

I was thrilled to find a glaucous blue fescue growing amongst the normal green one.
I wonder why?
After lunch it got even better. We drove up to Filey Brig to walk the top of the cliffs towards Scarborough. Brenda and I had walked the brig two days earlier and I had already taken pictures for a coming post on fescue grass.

Peter claims to hate these kinds of coastal walks where the paths are stocked with agricultural weeds. Not here, the vegetation is unspoiled and is composed of lovely wild flowering grasses with uncommon wild flowers dotted around and blue butterflies and red burnet moth abounding. 

 I caught Peter swotting a fly
It's a long way down
You can look over the edge and in steep crumbling clay soil there are carpets of wildflowers and thousands of dactyorhiza! It would be extremely dangerous and folly to go over.
We did not get very far. Perhaps half a mile. Fortunately the girls were tired from their morning walk and were happy to stroll in the sunshine

There were a few nesting seabirds. Up the coast from Bempton bird sanctuary they might have escaped from gawping humans. Away from the smell - of the birds I mean!

Grasses in flower can be very beautiful

On arrival for our previous stay at Hunmanby Gap we could not see Filey Brig for the sea mist
You don't want to see grey patches of Yorkshire Fog in your lawn
wild grass
Woundwort nestles in wild grasses
Woundwort, Stachys sylvatica infiltrates the flowering grasses. Gerard, of herbal fame, was greatly impressed by its healing properties.

Can you spot the dactylorhiza in the clover?

We think this is bugle
You might like this in your lawn - but not me
We only found one bee orchid
They don't last very long after they self pollinate - its the wrong species of bee in the UK for cross pollination

Yellow bedstraw
Brenda commented on bedstraw's sweet pleasant spell and Peter explained that is why it was used to be used to stuff mattresses and deter insects. It was once used to as a dye and in making double gloucester cheese

The burnet moth was everywhere 
The burnet moth is not only colourful, it is active in daylight. Very sleepy it ignores the camera. It is one of those lepidopterans whose warning colours advertise their toxicity to potential predators. Unlike such as the monarch butterfly which depends on its food plant for its toxic content the burnet can also synthesise its own - cyanide. The equally toxic caterpillars feed on Birds foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus and related species.
The moths sip nectar from a wide range of flowers.
Cyanide gas together with pheromones are used to attract mates. 

Food for the caterpillars

The common blue on clover
The burnet loved the thistles

What is the burnet doing on a grass?
Apparently they overwinter on grasses.

The orchids were sometimes well hidden

I have written about wild flowers before Jervaulx Abbey Tignes in the french alps the edge of the farm field

and a very early post on corn marigolds


  1. When I was a child we had holidays at Hunmanby Gap and once rented what is still referred to as the smelly cottage. The last time we visited Flamborough Head we saw lots of orchids. Martyn watched protectively if I was too near the cliff edge and so I never managed to look over. Am I thick as I don't get the spray comment. By the way are the birds still at Bempton? I thought by now the young would have fledged.

    1. No we did not understand the spray comment either, Sue.
      There are thousands upon thousands of birds and it is awash with visitors. Some of the birds are building nests - as none birders we guessed to withstand the winter?

    2. I meant Bempton was awash...
      We walked to nearby Reighton Gap. We got the impression it must have been thriving fifty years ago. Perhaps you know er I mean might have been told.


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