Last year I bought a recommended book ‘Dancing with Bees’ by Brigit Howard, though fascinated by the subject I didn’t get past the first few chapters. It remained on my bedside table along with other must read volumes. I’ve caught up on about a dozen books whilst laid low with a vicious Covid visitation. Brigit’s book is as much about reconnecting with nature as it is about bees and I have been stimulated to learn more. I took advantage of a hot sunny day and went outside to watch the bees visiting a particularly scented clump of purple Astrantia. It was overload with so many bees buzzing around, several species were noted but as for identifying them that was a different matter. Taking photos was as frustrating as with butterflies. This isn’t going to be easy. Defeated I await the arrival of a bee identification book before I try again.
Meanwhile, I am aware of Bee Orchids growing in our local limestone quarries. I have never seen one. A chance comment from Shazza (all things nature and Clitheroe) mentioned she had spotted Bee Orchids at Crosshill Quarry, that’s all I needed. A flower Bee should be easier to observe than a flying one.
It wasn’t that easy. I parked up in Pimlico on the edge of the industrial sites of Clitheroe and headed into Crosshill Quarry nature reserve. A meadow off to the right was all a meadow was supposed to be, abundant grasses and flowers. I felt like Sherlock Holmes combing through the foliage for evidence. Purple orchids, trefoil, vetch, etc but no Bee Orchids.
I continued on to the small Quarry within the site where Shazza had reported Bee Orchids. I searched diligently across the open quarry floor, ideal limestone habitat for a Bee Orchid, but to no avail, wishing I had asked her for a more precise location. There was a myriad of other species, marjoram, bedstraw, twayblade and other orchids.
The last time I was here on the Sculpture Trail I failed to spot the Footprints in the rock face by Tom Dagnall – I made sure I didn’t miss them today. They were so effective, how did he carve them into the limestone?
Round two. There is a geological trail nearby, Salthill Quarry, which I had never visited, All was unfriendly industrial units and articulated lorries. I eventually found somewhere safe to park the car and set off more in hope than expectation. The main purpose of the trail was to highlight the rock faces and bedding planes of an old limestone quarry. Crinoid fossils predominated. I was itching to climb the shorter walls but thought better of it. The path was too enclosed for Bee Orchid habitat, I needed open spaces. Following the trail round, it could do with better interpretation boards, I came into more open ground with Pendle Hill lording above us. A fossil bench has been constructed with images of ‘sea lilies’, animals on the sea bed, that became crinoid fossils all those years ago. Backwards and forwards I combed the hillside for the elusive bee. I was by now almost back to where I had started, and I took a diversion to look at an isolated rock face on the edge of the industrial complex. Some other purple orchids took my attention and there suddenly was a Bee Orchid. It couldn’t be mistaken and then there were a couple more. By now I was down on my knees trying to zoom in for the best shot. And to think I was only 40 metres from where my car was parked inside the quarry.
Ironically the bee mimicked by this orchid is not present in the UK, so the plant is self pollinating after all. Why is it here in the first place?