Lesser-butterfly Orchids, Swifts and Ospreys

This week we were out on Carsehall Bog completing our annual Lesser-butterfly Orchid (Platanthera bifolia) counts. Lesser-butterfly orchids are fantastic little plants, although not so little as they can grow to 30cm! Lesser-butterfly orchids are white/yellow in colour and are quite distinctive. They have these beautiful flowers that grow from a single spike. Interestingly enough, they are known to emit a sweet smell at dusk which attracts moths and other night-flying pollinators to pollinate them!

Lesser-butterfly Orchid

Lesser-butterfly Orchids are an indicator of healthy grass/heathlands. We have been monitoring them at Loch Leven since 2006 and they have been steadily increasing. We started in 2006 with 57 flowering spikes and last year was our record year with 681 flowering spikes – this year we had a bit less with 358 flowering spikes. We do manage the bog for these fantastic orchids, we have a grazier who sticks his cattle on the bog and this gets the grass sward down and limits competition from grasses/sedges and allows other species of flowers to grow. We manage the amount of cattle to ensure the grazing regime is optimal – I think we will stick some more cows on as it was looking slightly under grazed and this was backed up by our fall in numbers this year.

Cows doing their job – we need a few more!

The survey is completed by walking the bog back and forward with a group of volunteers. Much like the duck nest surveys see here; https://lochlevennnr.wordpress.com/2021/05/21/duck-nest-surveys/. This year we were treated to a massive number of Swifts flying over our head. It was a very blustery day, so I think the swifts were appreciating us walking through the bogs and disturbing the flies. I had 450 swifts in the area at one point!

Volunteers enjoy the swifts
The Swifts in action!

Whilst completing the survey, we also came across other wildlife gems including….

A Snipe nest with 4 eggs, isnt that lovely!
Emperor Moth Caterpillar

Lesser-butterfly orchids are a near-threatened species in the UK. So it is very important that we keep monitoring and managing for these orchids. This will help to ensure that they will be safe-guarded for the future and we can continue to enjoy and watch this colony grow at Loch Leven NNR.

In other wildlife news and something to leave you with; check out this view that Ian and the insect volunteers were treated to on Friday last week at Burleigh!

Osprey with a sizeable Pike in its talons, heading to a nest…

Isn’t that special! A big fish will be needed to feed some rather large Osprey chicks. We will soon be seeing this years fledged birds fishing on the loch at the end of the month! Make sure to keep your eyes peeled when visiting the loch…..

About SimonR

I am a keen naturalist/wildlife conservationist from North-East Scotland. I work at Loch Leven National Nature Reserve as a Reserve Officer and have a deep interest in conservation and wildlife management in Scotland. Keen Birder, naturalist and practical habitat management enthusiast.
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1 Response to Lesser-butterfly Orchids, Swifts and Ospreys

  1. Pingback: A year in the (plant) life | Loch Leven National Nature Reserve

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