Tuesday, 15 June 2021

There is only a RIVER WARBLER at Ham Wall

Unbelievable a singing River Warbler

River Warbler enjoying Somerset sun

River Warbler

Great White Egret
Bittern over head
 Twitchers line up
River Warbler video footage
I was on a video/ photo shoot on Friday afternoon when news broke of a River Warbler at RSPB Ham Wall. Four missed calls and multiple texts asking where I was, pick up, MEGA in Somerset. Oh well, reaching Somerset on a Friday evening would be impossible so I decided to wake up at 5am and check for early news. The tactic worked as news broke the rare Warbler, first in mainland for 10 years, had stuck and was singing again in same area. The car and flask were ready to go and I was off down the M5 to beat any holiday or Weston day trippers. The journey only took just over two hours and the car park still had plenty of spaces.

The walk to the bird was around ten minutes however you couldn't miss its loud reeling as soon as you crossed the bridge. This eastern / central Europe breeding warbler was showing unbelievably well just 50 metres off the main path. All that amazing habitat and it chose that space, it was a real treat for a large crowd that mostly hadn't seen the species before. You can never second guess with this hobby what species you are going to see next. This was my 7th lifer of the year, two more than the same stage last year.

Other sightings included 2 Bittern, 5/6 Great White Egret, Barn Owl, Hobby, Garden Warbler & Bearded Tit.  To read the finders report click here.


Swallowtails & Dragonflies



The Broads

Norfolk Hawker in flight

With no new birds emerging and the pits very quiet I had a morning at Strumpshaw Fen in Norfolk. I'd only seen Swallowtails once before so it was great to see them at close quarters. Despite it being warm the breeze had picked up so sightings were restricted to just three. 

After enjoying the butterflies (2 Painted Lady, Large White, Red Admiral) I did a long walk round the reserve where a couple of Marsh Harriers passed over. The reserve is well known for its amazing dragonflies so I'd made sure I got to see the rare Norfolk Hawkers who were active on the woodland walk but difficult to photograph. Other species I recorded was Four-spotted Chaser, Black-tailed Skimmer & Hairy Dragonfly.

On the way back I stopped at a couple of places and recorded Stone Curlew, Wood Lark and was very lucky to get a Honey Buzzard flyover.


Little Ringed Plover beats the odds again

Keeping your head down
Little Ringed Plover chick


Main pit

Peek a boo
Bee Orchid
Meadow Brown
Lapwings on islands
Mute Swan Cygnets
Brown Hare
Green Woody
Yellow Wagtail
Line up
Yellow Wagtail
Meadow Brown
Black-tailed Skimmer
Common Buzzard

The pits have remained pretty disappointing in recent weeks. It's always a tough time of year. Perhaps the first returning Green Sandpiper might kick off a few returning waders.

Counts were: 11 Little Grebe, 3 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Cormorant, 2 Grey Heron, 9 Mute Swan + broods of 7 and 5, 11 Greylag + 4 young, 40 Canada Geese (includes 10 juv), 8 Gadwall (includes pair with one well-grown juv), 177 Mallard (brood total now 14), 64 Tufted Duck, male Kestrel, 72 Coot, 6 Little Ringed Plover and 2 chicks, 19 Lapwing, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Black-headed Gull, 8 LBB Gull, 2 male Cuckoo, 2 Green Woodpecker, probably 3 pairs of Yellow Wagtail carrying food, 2 male Cetti's Warbler + a fledged brood, other usual spp. 

There are plenty of Bee Orchids in flower at main pit and lots of dragonflies especially Black-tailed Skimmers and early Common Darter. The first Meadow Brown emerged this week and we also recorded 1 Painted Lady, 6 Common Blue & 2 Meadow Brown on Sunday.

Northern Brown Argus completes british butterfly list - number 59

Northern Brown Argus

Northern Brown Argus- my favourite photo
The best I could manage side on
What a beauty

Reserve entrance

59 in the bag

 Head on photo

After a brilliant time on Irton Fell we then made the hour drive through the heart of the fells to Latterbarrow Nature Reserve (LA11 6RH) which is back towards the M6. The target was the stunning Northern Brown Argus which had been reported as just emerging.

Having parked up we entered the reserve which has the limestone grassland the species require and within thirty yards you are seeing butterflies in flight. It was now 22 degrees and most of the butterflies were bombing around and not stopping. A Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary teased me with a quick stop but never settled again during the hour we were there.

I picked up a couple of Northern Brown Argus in flight within five minutes but they were hard to follow with the silver wings in the wild flowers. I got close a few times to getting a photo but no......surely I wasn't going to be denied a photograph of my final British butterfly. In all seriousness this looked tricky. Then after a good number of circles of the area one settled enabling me to get the record shots I wanted. Then as is always the way, another two settled giving more opportunities. 

The white spots on the forewings are highly variable within the Cumbria and research indicated the butterflies at Latterbarrow have a white forewing spot (like the Scottish specimens and unlike the reported northern English specimens where the spot is absent). However the white spots were very faint if at all present. 

It was lovely to finish the final two butterflies with Mary Ann at two stunning locations. I'd urge anyone to take on the same project as you visit some amazing places you wouldn't usually visit, learn some much about new species and meet some lovely, helpful people.

Mountain Ringlet on Irton Fell - number 58

Mountain Ringlet posing with wings open

The time had come.......a few years ago I set myself a target to see 400 species of bird & photograph all 58 butterflies species of Great Britain. Having passed 400 birds over twelve months ago I had to write off the reported Red-necked Stint in north east and stick to the plan of seeing the final two butterflies. I've learned with butterflies, take your chances when you have them and (given very changeable weather in Lake District) Sunday was just an opportunity that had to be taken.

Mrs D joined me as we have some happy memories in the lakes, I'm not quite sure she knew it would require a full fours hours to get to Irton Fell (instructions below). It wasn't an easy journey either, diversions & restriction speed areas made it frustrating but on the plus side the weather in Cumbria was better than anywhere else in the country.

Safely parked in the old quarry car park we headed sharply uphill on to the fell. On entering the fell you have instant views of the amazing Wasdale valley. The lake view was voted by ITV viewers as the best in Britain. Wastwater Lake is Britains deepest lake at 258 metres deep and is over looked by Englands highest mountain Scarfell Pike, 3210 feet. 

Thankfully Irton Fell is a mere 751 feet and is well known as part of Wainwrights walks. The Mountain Ringlet is our only true mountain species and can only be found on mountains above 250 metres.  Colonies are almost exclusively found where the underlying geology is Borrowdale volcanic rock and in a relatively narrow band of latitude from Wasdale in the west to Mardale (Haweswater) in the east. The species are well known difficult to locate on the fells as need the right location and the weather must be both reasonably warm (15 degrees minimum) AND sunny for adults to fly. Whilst there was a bit of cloud, wind speed was light and it was 16 degress and getting warmer.

We were scanning hard for anything that was small chocolate brown coloured butterfly flying purposefully low above the vegetation. To start with we only saw Small Heath & plenty too and then the sun went in so I stepped in the tussocks and out popped our first Mountain Ringlet which flew a short distance before landing again. As the sun reappeared the Mountain Ringlets rose from the vegitation and we had them all around us, I didn't know which one to follow. Thankfully a few of them allowed some opportunity for photos. The sun light seemed to be a huge factor in when you could see them easily. The further we went up the fell more appeared. It was a genuine treat. We had timed our visit to perfection. Thanks to everyone who kindly offered directions & advice.

Directions to find Mountain Ringlet

To reach the Mountain Ringlet target the old quarry car park (Grid reference NY122013). The Bridge Inn at Santon Bridge is nearest land mark in google maps, then head towards Eskdale Green up a long winding hill the car park is on left.

Old Quarry Car Park

From car park head down hill and look for this gap on left hand side. Go through & advance up track.
Follow this small track through ferns for around 150 metres where it joins a wide track. The last step is steep so be careful.
The above photo shows where the paths meet. Turn right and progress up the steep wide path.

You will reach this fork after 800 metres, great views on right, its steep and you will be blowing! Take right fork and walk another 400 metres to the fell. 


Climb the stile and head straight on. After initially rising you will drop again and pass over a track running the opposite way, muddy & worn. The Mountain Ringlet are seen from this area going forward. If you keep with 50 metres of right hand fence you are in the prime areas. 

I was informed there is a second colony that emerge a week later, keep going up hill and take gate and stick to path to open grassed area. Good Luck.....