of cuckoos and cuckoo flowers

We have just spent a  few days away walking (and sightseeing)  in Dorset and whilst it is the adjacent county , it is in many ways very different; different geology leading to different geography, different landscapes, different vernacular architecture. And it has the sea. Unlike landlocked Wiltshire. It has been a source of constant fascination to me how the geology of this tiny country is so varied, belonging to many different geological Eras,  has shaped an enormous variety of small landscapes, each with a character as distinctive as a fingerprint.

This is Portland Bill, the southernmost tip of the tied island of Portland, itself at the end of the 22 mile length of Chesil Beach. It is noted for its bird observatory and for good reason. Many migrating species regularly pass by here on their way north to breeding grounds in Northern Europe.

It was a cold day but optimistically, migrants were arriving-swallows in particular and also what we believe were two cuckoos. I have looked through the sightings log at Portland on the day and none are recorded, but when Rowteight gets the photos off his camera we will have another look. We certainly heard cuckoos during the week we stayed in the area.

At the cottage we stayed in, a converted mill, there were beautiful cuckoo flowers  (Cardamine pratense) growing in the back garden. A member of the brassica family, Cuckoo flower, more delightfully known as Lady’s smock,  was once used as a substitute for watercress. Orange tip butterflies (Anthocharis cardamines) rely on its edibility too-it is the one of the principal larval food plants, although butterflies will also lay their eggs on other wild  brassicas , such as hedge mustard, bittercress and charlock.

There were not many butterfly species on the wing-the wind was cold. But orange tips are a true indicator of spring, freshly hatched and not over wintered adults. Good references at

UK  butterflies

Orange tip male resting, exposing beautifully patterned underside
Orange tip male feeding on dandelion


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