Iron Age Blues, Warham Camp

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Chalkhill blue on horseshoe vetch

 

 

2017, with all butterfly emergence across the Country about 2 weeks early due to the warm, dry spring, I was slightly concerned that the chalkhill blues at Warham Camp, near Wells-next-the-Sea, were not showing.  However on my latest visit on the 21st of July a few were on the wing.

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Beautiful male chalkhill blue

 

 

The day was mostly sunny and warm.  There was unfortunately a strongish south westerly wind.  With the Iron Age fort built on a prominent site over looking the Stiffkey valley it is not sheltered, even the slightest breeze sends the vegetation swaying.  Bad news for photographing small butterflies!  To make matters worse the big ring ditches act as wind tunnels and the wind direction can suddenly change within a few yards.

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Flower rich inner ring ditch, the favoured area for chalkhill blues

 

 

I saw the first chalkhill blue in the inner ring ditch.  When there was a lull in the wind about a dozen males could be seen in one area fluttering weakly along the banks.  These were very fresh and in beautiful condition, as soon as the breeze strengthened they would hunker down among the grasses.

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This female rejected a males courtship advances and took shelter on a thistle

 

 

I started off using my Tamron  70-300 as I don’t like to spook my subject, however due to the conditions decided to change to my Nikkor 18-140.  With a very careful approach I can get to within a foot. Getting this close eliminated those annoying grass stems blowing across the image.  I love this lens it’s very sharp, auto focus is quick and the detail superb.  It will never be as good as a macro lens but I can’t afford one of those just now.

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Keeping low

 

 

With the chalkhills keeping low you had to be carefull where you trod!  Not so with the painted lady nectaring on thistles. A very smart second generation butterfly.

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Second generation painted lady

 

Also from a second brood were the two wall browns in the lane leading to the camp, lovely butterflies, now quite scarce.  I still had my short lens on and was surprised I could get so close, they are usually very skittish.

 

 

The camp is good for many other species of butterflies.  Good numbers of common blue and brown argus can be found with the first emergence in June.  A second brood are around with the chalkhills in July/August.  There is also both small and Essex skippers and small coppers.

 

 

Built by the Iceni  over 2000 years ago Warham Camp has never been fully excavated and is the best preserved Iron Age site in Norfolk.  It can be tricky to find for the first time as it is not visable from the road so here are directions.

From Wells-next the-Sea take the Walsingham road south, after passing the recycling centre turn left to Warham.  Go through the village to the Horseshoes PH (good food & drink) at the crossroads turn right (south) on the single track unclassified road uphill, cross the river Stiffkey and on the next hill park on the left verge by the trees, continue on foot up the hill for approx 200yds to the double gates and take the left hand one (there is a sign on the gate).

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The beautifully patterned under wing of the wall brown, superb camouflage
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Watch where you tread!
chalkhill blue in 2016
Brown argus
Common blue

 

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