Iron Age Blues, Warham Camp

 

 

In Norfolk there is a sole colony of Chalkhill Blue butterflies (Polyommatus coridon).  These can be found at the Iron Age hill fort Warham Camp.  They were ‘introduced’ here some years ago much to the displeasure of the ‘authorities’.  However they are doing well and have had no adverse impact on other species.  Its 65 miles to their nearest kin at Devil’s Dyke near Newmarket.

 

 

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.

2022 One of countless hundreds
A little bit worn
DSC_0363a
Beautiful male Chalkhill Blue 2017
Female Chalkhill Blue 2022

 

 

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.

DSC_0383a
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.

DSC_0309a

 

 

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.

 

 

A visit in late July 2022 was exceptional.  There were literally hundreds of the silvery blue males making the ring ditches shimmer as they searched for newly emerging females.  Numbers were so high they were even seen in the field on the approach to the fort.  The only section they were not present was by the Stiffkey River.

DSC_0344b
Second generation Painted Lady
Lovely fresh male Chalkhill Blue 2022

 

 

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.  Wall Browns can be found here especially in the lane.  This butterfly’s numbers have slumped in recent years and are not a common sight.  My highest one day species count is 18.

 

 

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 right hand one (there is a sign on the gate).

DSC_0406b
Watch where you tread!
The beautiful underwing pattern of the Wall Brown offers superb camouflage
Chalkhill Blue on Horseshoe Vetch
Chalkhill Blue in 2016 a very worn specimen!
Brown Argus
Common Blue
2018 Male Brown Argus keeping watch from atop a stinging nettle while my knees suffered!
Common Blue under wing 2018
“What do you mean you don’t like me? What’s wrong with me?” A worn female rejects a very battered males advances.  2018
bch-dsc_0085w
2016 a male Chalkhill Blue aberration

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s