A very busy month!

Written by Mike Waller

The last month has been very busy one for the Orchid Observers team. In between filming, field recording and running the now flourishing website, we’ve been showcasing the project to the public with our debut publicity events at Lyme Regis Fossil Festival followed by Big Nature Day at the Natural History Museum. Both were opportunities to engage members of the public with the project, its importance in the wider study of biological responses to climate change, and how their contributions will expand and enrich the project’s research.

lyme NHM stand

Over 30 museum staff and volunteers head to Lyme Regis every year for the Fossil Festival

To draw in the unsuspecting, we erected a 50 inch plasma-screen TV with a rolling slideshow of Fred, Chris and my finest and most colourful orchid images from across the country. We then lavishly adorned our tables with a selection of some of our oldest orchid specimens from deep within the Museum’s herbarium – some dating back to the 1850s! To aid with any queries, we also propped up a variety of UK orchid guides to show the breadth of orchid diversity on our shores. This, alongside our endless reservoir of passion and enthusiasm, resulted in some really enlightening and inspiring conversations.

Mike at LymeOur Orchid Observers display at the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival

Lyme Regis Fossil Festival ran over three days from May 1st -3rd giving us a good period of time to engage a wide range of people from all over the country. This was key as it broadened our ability to spread the message of the project to areas that are less frequently recorded by observers. In order to gain a clear understanding of the orchid response to climate change, we need to be getting data from all corners of the country and so this was a real boost.
We had countless inquires about where to find orchids both close to Lyme Regis and near to people’s homes – I was able to help with the latter with my reasonable knowledge of the key orchid sites in most counties. However, we were all amazed by the sheer quantity of people who were already well aware of their local orchid populations and even conduct their own flowering counts! It seems many have a particular affection for ‘their’ local Bee orchids.

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The beautiful sea of Green-winged orchids on Stonebarrow Hill

Thanks to Chris we also managed to squeeze in a spot of observing ourselves! During the afternoon on Friday, Kath, Chris and I drove out to look for Green-winged orchids 10 minutes from Lyme on the National Trust’s reserve of Stonebarrow Hill. What greeted us was a purple haze of Green-winged orchids in a huge variety of colour forms carpeting two ancient hay meadows. Kath was largely overcome by the experience as it has been a long-held ambition for her to see Green-winged orchids; the sight was indeed a true spectacle.

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A beautiful white variety of the Green-winged orchid

Just a few weeks after that, Big Nature Day took place on the 23rd of May here at the Museum with Fred and Mark also getting stuck in this time. Like Lyme, we were able to speak to plenty of keen members of the public with a good proportion of families showing interest. Our lovely colourful project cards seemed to be very popular with the children! Hopefully they’ll be inspired to go out and take some pictures.

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The Orchid Observers stand at Big Nature Day

In the coming months, we’re looking to expand our publicity efforts and attend more wildlife-orientated events elsewhere in the UK so look out for us!

BND orchid teamFrom left to right, Kath Castillo, Fred Rumsey, Mark Spencer and me (Mike Waller)

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