Trip reports

Aberlady volunteering

Aberlady volunteering
Jon Brown

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Volunteering at Aberlady Bay LNR

It was a hot and humid day when 11 members of the Local Group met with John Harrison the Ranger at Aberlady Bay LNR and his group of volunteers to count the number of pyramidal orchids on the site. Anacamptis pyramidalis, to give its Latin name, is very rare in Scotland, only being found in a few 1 km squares, but much more common in England.

There is a small part of the reserve which has been colonised by the orchid and the number of flower heads are counted every few years to monitor progress. We marked out a square and working in a straight line and only a couple of yards apart, moved slowly through the area. Normally at this time the flowers are in bloom, but due to the hot weather we were also looking for seed heads. We covered two small areas twice and it was interesting to note that on the first repeat we picked up a further 40 heads, but by the repeat of the second area our skills had improved and we only added a few more. Altogether we counted 299 stalks, the best count ever. We also spotted a few of the more common marsh orchid in the damper areas. As we found the stalks we placed tall canes with a red streamer beside each plant so that John could photograph the total distribution of the plants for his records.

During the day we saw a number of bird species, including mallard, coot, tufted duck and greylag geese on the Marl loch, swallows, house martins and a few swifts, linnet, meadow pipits, stonechat and reed buntings. There were many butterflies and moths, including six spot burnet, cinnabar moth, common blue, meadow brown and red admiral butterflies and a dark green fritillary.

The orchid count links in well with our more regular work, helping to cut back and control the buckthorn. Without such work being undertaken the reserve would gradually revert to scrubland and the grassy flower rich areas would be lost.

Margaret Harrison