Sunday, 19 June 2011

Cattle protecting the land

The regular reader of this blog will be aware of the writer's yellow streak, especially towards things that might hurt him - he dabbles in botany, for Christsake.

The prospect of crossing a field with a bull in it, or (worse) protective cows with calves, is a daunting one. I know they are known to be docile, but you never know when one might go feral.

I overcame my fear (with assistance from one braver than I) and sure enough came to no harm.

I took up the subject of summer grazing with the helpful people at White Cliffs Countryside project, who told me of the success of the management strategy employed after recovering the site from arable: "The first late spider to reappear here was first found in 1999, since then they have gradually increased to the current total of around 90 plants. The Man Orchid has been around for about the same length of time there – for many years it was just one plant, but has now increased to 12 flowering spikes this year."

Even if certain spikes are eaten the plants will flower more strongly the next year. The biggest threat is tor-grass, and a rotation of early and late summer grazing keeps this down.

The first marbled white of the year was found on the downs on 7th June, and then there was a pause due to the weather; today, ten days later, I saw the first ones on Kingsdown beach, and these will hopefully be followed by a couple of hundred more.

A few posts ago I showed an unopened orchid spike which has now fully unfurled:
and sure enough it is a bee orchid, much later than late spiders this year. I've never found a bee orchid in the Kingsdown parish, but I'll keep looking.

Musk orchids [perhaps you mean musk thistle? Ed.] are frequent on the downs, and in the name of science the blooms were sniffed. Yes, very musky but a word of warning..... don't sniff if it's covered in bees.

Young blackcap, requesting food.


Greenie said...

Steve ,
Still trying to work out whether it was you or the cows that 'might go feral' .
Interesting Musk Orchid !!!

Kingsdowner said...

Sharp-eyed as ever, Fred!

I'll be looking for musk orchids this week (they are about three feet high, with large purple flowers I believe).

GrahamH said...

Hi Steve
I was pursued by some young bulls a few years ago, and it was rather scary, so am more wary now. Well done on the Bee orchid, still number 1 on my list for this year having never seen any, and with this week off maybe I'll have some luck. I love what WCCP do, but at what point will they stop the grazing so we can see all the more orchids there are from them being previously grazed!

Mel Lloyd said...

Hmmmm. Hurrrrum. I've been mulling this over and talked to a number of conservation managers about it. Still don't get logic of grazing during flowering. Counter-intuitive to me, even taking into account the Spider O's life cycle. M