Hunting the Fen Orchid. Kenfig, June 2018.

I have been based at Kenfig National Nature Reserve in Bridgend for several years.  It is 70 acre complex landscape of dunes and wetlands. It is famously home to rare and nationally threatened species including the Medicinal Leach, Petalwort, Great Crested Newt, Hairy Dragonfly, Great Bittern and Shrill Carder Bee.

It is probably most famous for its abundance of orchids, and its rarest species Liparis loeselii, or as it is more commonly known the Fen Orchid. The Fen Orchid has faced widespread decline through habitat loss and deterioration. It requires the unstable sand of dune slack habitat and also a high water table, two conditions that don’t often sit well together as the percolation qualities of sand tend to lower the water table and create dry habitat. 

Kenfig is sand overlaying clay so we have a high water table in the dunes slacks. In fact we are the predominant site for fen orchids in the UK.  90% of the UK fen orchids are in Kenfig. The only other UK site to have them is the fens of East Anglia.

That being said in my years on site I have famously never seen this tiny rare flower. So, seeing as it flowers in June I set out deep into the dunes to try and find it. June is about the first time you can do that and remain dry as much of the Reserve floods in winter and spring. The biggest problem is that the slacks are just covered in flowers.

I found plenty of other rare orchids on my search. Here is the early marsh orchid. You can follow my pictures like this on Instagram at @dimexcuses.

Here is the marsh helleborine orchid.  It isn’t in full flower at this time of year.

My plan was to walk the dune slacks looking for a yellow flower. Not the best idea as the dune slacks are a sea of colour and flowers at this time of year. But we are not short of orchid experts at Kenfig, so with the help of some trained eyes I was directed to a stand of this endangered species. So here it is in all its glory.

One of our volunteers Anthony added his finger for scale to show you how tiny this little rare flower is.

It even matched my watch.

Here is the relive video that shows the route I took on my hunt for the fen orchid. You can use it to see it yourself, but tread lightly, to make sure you don’t trample this small endangered flower.

It is probably best to tread carefully past the lake too, because the little toad tadpoles have now grown into tiny toadlets and are migrating in land. Can you spot the tiny toadlet in this picture?

With my hunt being a success and a host of photos taken, my environmentalist credentials are restored, I am no longer a stranger to the fen orchid, DimExcuses.

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