Sunday, 8 June 2014

Ardley Quarry nature reserve: into the dragon's tooth den

Ardley Cutting and Quarry SSSI, see here, is important for both geology and nature, and undoubtedly one of the most significant ecological sites in Banburyshire.  Technically, the SSSI is in "unfavourable recovering" condition, meaning it was in a poor condition in the past, is now improving but still has a way to go to be in top condition.  Active management is very much in evidence and good to see.

The nature reserve section, managed by BBOWT, comprises the former limestone quarry: now reverted to scrub, grasslands and small pools, and long established woodland including hazel coppice. There are also some fine pollard and coppice trees along the eastern boundary, including field maple.

It is a good place to look for butterflies and flowers.  On my visit, I first encountered an unusual yellow-flowered legume, dragon's tooth - an introduced species but now naturalised across the site.

dragon's tooth
Common spotted orchids and common twayblades (also an orchid) were much in evidence; a veritable forest of the latter in one location. 
common spotted orchid
common twayblade up close

forest of twayblades
 After yesterday's heavy downpour, dusky slugs were much in evidence in the earlier part of the morning.
I'd hoped to encounter grizzled and dingy skippers.  No luck with them, but I did see green hairstreak, small skipper, small heath, common blue, speckled wood and brimstone.

small heath
I searched quite hard for bee orchids, eventually found about half a dozen in bud, almost gave up, then found a group of three in flower.  Spent an enjoyable few minutes trying to photograph them.

bee orchid
The nature reserve benefits from a large meadow on the Ardley village side.  Slightly frustrating to see trees being planted on some good butterfly habitat adjacent to the SSSI though.

Checking the SSSI map, I realised the amazing Ardley Trackways SSSI is neaby too - site of the famous dinosaur footprints.  If you are not familiar with the story it is at least worth looking at photos of the footprints, easily viewed via Google.  Awesome.

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