Orchids of Kenfig

Now that we are out of lockdown and are able to travel again, we’ve begun scouting some of our sites to see what has changed during this time. We were hopeful that the regular wildlife we see regularly on our walks with clients and on our tours would still be thriving – so we decided to visit Kenfig to have a look!

Kenfig is a truly beautiful location; it is full of character, despite the recent issues around ownership and management. It’s somewhere that we love visiting regularly as birders, but is so tranquil and accessible that it’s a perfect place for our day trips. On Thursday, we decided we would visit to see how the wildlife has coped during the lockdown period and see what is happening with the site in the hopes of running our orchid and butterflies of Kenfig tours in August. Despite the overcast weather, it was definitely the right choice to visit that day as the weather began to break right as we approached the orchids, which made for ideal photography conditions.

As we arrived at the site, we set our minds to first finding the Fen Orchids and checking that they were still in seed ahead of our August tours, so we could track their progress and have a higher chance of seeing them. The terrain of Kenfig is hugely variable, the majority of the area consists of a stable, sandy dune system, becoming slightly boggier around the orchids – they’re not called Marsh and Fen for nothing! As we began our walk down to the boggy areas nearer the dunes, we became immersed in the different types of wildlife found on the site. We stopped at the two pools to look for any Odonata species; luckily our little stop was a good choice for us as we watched two Common Darters ovipositing on the water, and a Southern Hawker cruising around the reed and sedge margins. After admiring the Vipers Bug-loss and Burnet Rose which surrounds the paths and walkways around the ponds, we continued our walk down to our favoured orchid spot.

Once we arrived at the vast open landscape that was before us we set about scouring through the wildflowers for our main target species. We had Fen Orchids on the mind and just had to find some! We split up and set about gently walking around the plants looking for the tiny plant which we knew would be in seed by now. Leaving us the difficult prospect of locating the leaves and stem, which would perhaps be a total of 7-10cm tall amongst the masses of Marsh Helleborines, Thyme, Mint, and other wildflowers. After almost giving up, Sam called me over where he had located two tiny plants perhaps 4cm tall and the leaves looked almost perfect – result! Eventually, we found a total of four plants in seed and just going over but that was it, all was well and we spent some time photographing the plants and recording our finds on our iNaturalist app and also sending the data of our find to the local plant recorder, as we do with all our tours.

We left our orchid haven and made our way back to the car, but not before recording and admiring all the butterflies to be seen on this fantastic reserve. The most common butterfly we’d seen during our short spell of a few hours at the site was the Gatekeeper – every cluster of flowers we had seen had Gatekeepers fluttering around – and there were also several Ringlets in the damper areas of the reserve. After walking through the marsh area onto the dunes, near to the Kidney Vetch flowers, we spotted another speciality of the area – the Small Blue butterfly. It’s a true delight to be able to bask in all the wildlife the site has to offer, from the buzzing of the dragonflies as they glide across the water, to the butterflies that grace the wildflowers of the reserve, to the plants that provide the masses of colour to the technicolour carpet.

Want to join us on an Orchid, Butterflies and Migrants of Kenfig tour and come and witness the fantastic wildlife that the site has to offer?

Guides for this tour