Wednesday 30 June 2021

Thirty Years Ago - June 1991

1st June:

Cuckmere Haven in West Sussex was the first stop of the day for Pete G and I and fortunately the male Red-throated Pipit was still feeding down in the floodplain alongside the river.  It was quite confiding and even sang from the ground a few times.  It was freezing and I remember no one had enough layers on.

Red-throated Pipit


Hundreds of Swifts were on the move and several Grey Herons stalked the river edge.  Unlike nowadays, there were no Little Egrets!

We moved onto Dungeness and the RSPB reserve held a single Med Gull, two Little Gulls and two red Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff and Wood Sandpiper.  From here we headed to the Patch and in 45 minutes we saw 16 Black Terns, several Sandwich and Arctics amongst the Commons and singles of both Roseate and Little. Two dark phase Arctic Skuas patrolled offshore and harassed the terns and Kittiwakes and a single Yellow-legged Gull was on the beach. 

Scoter were on the move with 800 counted Gannets, Fulmars and a Razorbill also noted.  There were even more Swifts around the Trapping Area and with a bit of effort we eventually got views of my first Kentish Golden Oriole, a male that flashed across the main path.  It was otherwise quiet although two Spotted Flycatchers were seen.

We ended the day at St Margarets where three or four male Marsh Warblers were seen briefly but heard well as they sang from the Rosebay Willowherb.  It was so clear that you could make out yellow fields of Oilseed and farm building across the Channel in France.

4th June:

There was no sign of yesterday’s Bridled Tern at West Thurrock power station outfall. If only I had known the evening before.  There were 40 Common Terns and my first two spring Black Terns for Essex while 45 Grey Herons were in the outfall creek. It would be 23 years until I eventually saw Bridled Tern in the UK.

5th June:

The Little Ringed Plovers and Redshanks were still at Dagenham Chase and a visit to Hainault Forest gave me and Paul H several Hawfinch sightings.

8th June:

James H rang to tell me that a 2nd year male Red-footed Falcon had been found at Rainham Marshes (not RSPB in front of it back then).  It was in almost the same spot as the female in 1990 and showed very well and had a good fly round too.  I seem to remember that we trespassed onto the landfill to get enough height to watch it out over the silt lagoon.

Red-footed Falcon


9th June:

A day in Norfolk saw Peter G and I at Cley Coastguards in the hope of seeing a Tawny Pipit.  It had been lost to view but was back in just a few minutes and was watched scurrying around the short grass by the car park.  Back then Tawny Pipit was still an almost expected year bird. 

Tawny Pipit

The reserve was quiet bar a single Little Gull and so we headed west to Wolferton and although we saw no Honey Buzzards we did hear a Nightjar, Tree pipits, Yellowhammers, Crossbills, Siskins and Firecrests.  Nearby Wooton only produced Marsh Harriers so it obviously was not a raptor day.

We ended up down at Fordham and sat on the bridge waiting for a Golden Oriole to cross over which a male eventually did. The highlight was undoubtedly the duo of preoccupied Weasels that noisily chased each other back and forth over the bridge and in and out of our feet for five minutes before realising that they had an audience and scampering off.

Golden Oriole


10th June:

As Paul H had not seen the Red-footed Falcon I took him down to Rainham for a look and we enjoyed good flight views as it hawked and hovered and interacted with the Kestrels. Other than that there were just lots of Gulls, Crows, rain, pollen and mossies.

15th-16th June:

Dad and I joined Roger Hawkins and bad of intrepid BTCV volunteers for two days helping out at Hickling Broad in Norfolk. The first day was spent clearing a foul smelling pond whilst being constantly drizzled on and consumed by mega mossiest and midges. Birdlife was fairly restricted with a pair of Marsh Tits the highlight.

A good meal was had in the dorm – I think it was a church hall but there was little chance of sleep what with Roger’s monumental snoring. He ended up being banished to the kitchen in the end if memory serves.  Day two saw us moving logs and removing encroaching Birch scrub. A pair of Marsh Harriers were seen and a Savi’s Warbler reeled while it was my much hoped for first Swallowtail butterflies that stole the show.



17th-18th June:

Peter G and I headed down to Kent and Sussex for the weekend. Our first stop was Copt Point in Folkestone where we saw a single Med Gull before having lunch at The Patch at Dungeness where a couple more Meds were logged.  The RSPB reserve was pretty good with a single Black Tern amongst the Commons and a pair of pink flushed Roseates were on one of the islands.  The looked so elegant in flight.

From here we drove to Rye Harbour and were greeted by yet another two Med Gulls. They were still a novelty back then.  The Lesser Crested tern from the previous evening had snuck out early in the fog but we were very happy with superb views of the Little Terns and a couple of encounters with Squeaker the Least Tern as he ‘peeped’ in and zoomed out.  The plan was to get back here and in position for crack of dawn the next day as there was a better chance of some more prolonged views.  The beach flora was magnificent and thousands of Swifts spiralled up and through the cloud to roost.  


Whale-sized fish n chips was consumed at The pilot before settling onto the Obs for the night.

I got no sleep due to Pete’s horrendous snoring (still not a par with Rog though!) and we were up at 3am and heading back to Rye swerving around the hoards of bunnies prancing foolishly in the road.

We met the Warden by 4.40am and by 5am Squeaker came in piping like a squeaky Oystercatcher and over the next hour superb views were obtained as he brought in fish offerings for his Little Tern mate and we were able to glean all the salient features.  It appears now that he may have already been visiting the site for seven or eight years.


Rather bizarrely the Warden who had been up all night helping the local Hedgehog population to desist in nest predation would turn out to be Dominic Funnell our first proper Warden at Rainham ten years later. Funny old world.

The Swifts descended from their nightly travels and a lone Barnacle Goose flew over. We got back to Dunge for 7am and had some breakfast. Pete dozed and I seawatched until 8.30am clocking up a similar spread of species to the previous day but with only 41 Scoter this time. The moth trap had been emptied and I remember seeing White Spot, Yellow Belle, Tawny Shears, Fox Moth, Pebbled Prominent and a Cream Spot Tiger.

19th June:

Out again early and this time up to Lackford when an Osprey greeted us upon arrival perched in the sun after a good breakfast feed.  She had a bulging crop. A Hobby swept through a flock of hirundines and Swifts but the Red Kite in the area was a no show. 



On to Santon Downham where the male Red-backed Shrike was back for his final season although he never attracted a mate.  He was singing mechanically from the top of a Hawthorn.  Our circular walk was actually very productive with two male Golden Orioles whislting from either side of the river – so one in each county, all three Woodpeckers, lots of Warblers and a singing Woodlark. Low flying Tornados ripped the air overhead and we could see Chub and Pike in the river and some Stone Loach too.

The Osprey showed well in flight later in the day back at Lackford and an immature male Red-footed Falcon was seen poorly after a chase around West Stow.

23rd June:

My notes talk about not going for all the east coast and Newcastle goodies on the 22nd but I have no idea what they were but anyhow, Pete and I ended up down on Thursley Common in the rain, drizzle and sandy mud. Consequently bird life was sparse with dozens of Tree Pipits (wow!), 25 Crossbill, Skylarks, Stonechats, Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers. Curlew and Snipe were out on the bog and several Redstarts were singing despite the weather.  The Sundews were enjoying the weather even if we were not!  After this we came home!



24th June:

Ken Barrett phoned the evening before to let me know about a Woodchat Shrike at Gunners Park and after some judicious planning I took Mum out for a spin in my car.  Fortunately the weather held and the bird was soon in view on its favourite Elder.  This female was busy catching bees and bashing their stings out.  This was my second Essex record following one that our YOC group found on the 12th May 1984 in Epping Forest somewhere near Waterworks Roundabout while on a long group walk.  I know we were only young kids at the time but I can still picture it sitting there on a little bush with us wondering what on earth it was and not finding it in our books.  Sometimes you can look back on early birding and ruefully unpick what you saw but this and one other memorable local find from later that same year still reside within my records and on my list...

The Gunners Woodchat chased a Swallow half heartedly and we left it to its hunting and headed for home with the storm clouds brewing.

Woodchat Shrike


Tuesday 29 June 2021

The South-West - 19th-26th June 2021

19th June:

The journey down typically included a few extra wiggles to avoid several traffic hotspots but it was actually a scenic cross country route that allowed several Kites and Buzzards to be seen and a live Mole in the middle of the road somehow avoided squishification from myself of the cars behind and even made it back to the verge.

The camping site at Cheddar Bridge was very pleasant being bordered by the shallow crystal clear Cheddar Yeo and liberally sprinkled with fearless Bunnies of various sizes.  Not that we had a tent – a wooden camping pod was a more comfortable option.

With a River Warbler just 30 minutes away at RSPB Ham Wall it would have been rude not to scoot off there as soon as camp was set up.  It was still grey and breezy and it started to spit as I walked down and I was not overly surprised to discover that the Warbler had done an overnight bunk after several weeks on site.  I actually laughed when I was told as in my 7head I had already painted in this particular scenario.


Not to worry said the pragmatist Howard; there were still Great White Egrets and Marsh Harriers floating around and I heard a Bittern booming.  There were moulting flocks of Gadwall on the bigger pools and vocal Great Crested and Little Grebes along with a few of the expected Warblers in song including a babbling Garden and four Willows.  A Roe Deer walked alng the edge of distant field.


Great White Egret

Roe Deer a good mile away

It was too cold and damp for any insects so I did not stay long and plodded back to the car and spent the rest of the evening wrapped up sitting outside the pod reading my book and watching the Rabbits.


20th June:

It rained most of the night and was breezy with it by morning so we headed south down the exciting M5 to Trago Mills at Newton Abbott before working my way through to the River Dart where I have seen Dippers before but alas there were none but several Hornets were attending a sap run on an Oak tree. 

Hornet - Vespa carbo


There appeared to be some momentary brightness and even a little warmth so I retraced back up onto Dartmoor to have a look around Hay Tor where High Brown Fritillaries had been seen in recent days but by the time I got there the cloud base had dropped once again and rain was well and truly in the air. 

The views were superb though and provided me with some atmospheric shots.  Meadow Pipits and Stonechats were both feeding young but the only insects were a few Buff-tailed Bumblebees.


oooo.... Plagioclase Feldspar

Just down the road was Yarner Wood and a quick half hour was spent having a poke around.  It was so dark in there that it felt more like tropical jungle, albeit minus the heat, insects and torrential rain.   There was a very little song but I soon managed to pick up the hoped for Pied Flycatchers on call and had three pairs in attendance at nest boxes, one of which had already fledged at least one young who was being fed by both parents on the ground.

Pied Flycatchers


Spotted Flycatchers, Willow Warblers and Marsh Tits were also heard but apparently Wood warblers are completely absent this year and in fact my now be extinct as a breeder in Devon.  The decline throughout the southern counties has been accelerating in recent years.

A male Grey Wagtail was collecting food from the stream but there also seems to be a lack of water in the woods with the streams barely running and the pool near the car park and muddy splodge.

Grey Wagtail

A stately white Foxglove

With the weather deteriorating further we headed back to camp on a truly terrifying wet M5.  I had a walk in the early evening alongside Cheddar Yeo and found my own Grey Wagtails doing what they do best and was pleased to find what I believe is Ivy Broomrape all the way along the path verge.  

Grey Wagtail

Ivy Broomrape but actually wondering if I have more than one species

There was a Figwort and Hemlock Water-Dropwort in the margins and Spleenwort, Wall-Rue and Hart’s Tongue Ferns all growing in the old stone (railway?) bridge along with some pretty Ivy-leaved Toadflax.  



Maidenhair Spleenwort - Asplenium trichomanes

Maidenhair Spleenwort - Asplenium trichomanes and Ivy Leaved Toadflax

Hemlock Water-Dropwort

Hart's Tongue Fern


I returned for dinner and the evening entertainment ensued...

So, rewinding to the first damp evening; two old boys (and I do mean old) arrived in their little Agila and then spent so long ambling around talking to other people that by the time it came to set their tent up it was teeming with rain. They spent the night crammed into their car. I could not have been pleasant.

Before heading out the following day we watched them empty out their car and start putting up the tent.  It soon became very obvious that it was not going well but offers of help from various sources were kindly refused.  Clearly they had the metal poles of a frame tent and the fibre glass poles of a more modern tent. There were also at least two poles missing from the pole tent frame as the front was house shaped and the back triangular.  We left them pondering...

Seven hours later we returned and found the really old boy sitting on a bench next to the metal frame that was propped up on a fence.  I wandered over and asked if he was ok and whether he wanted a hot drink.  In his local, quarter speed accent he politely declined and said that his friend had had to go back to the pub to get his missing phone and would return shortly.  He appeared nearly two hours later and they set about the tent construction with renewed if somewhat tortoise-like vigour. 

This involved attaching the rear of the frame to the actual fence panel using a very bent potato masher.  The fabric appeared to be from the more modern tent but they slung it over the top and guyed it out but it could not have come down the back by the fence because of the way it was attached.  The inner tent was then placed on the floor like a groundsheet before they constructed their camp beds and air beds that they already said where split!

They seemed quite happy with their construction project and at least they had a cover over their heads for the next few nights although I suspect they were sharing it with some of the local wildlife.


The Bunnehs were equally bemused...

21st June:

I decided to head north a ways after breakfast and went up a deserted Cheddar Gorge.  I stopped for a couple of pics and nearly got blown away. From here I followed the Mendips before dropping back down to Chew Valley Lake for a look from Herriots Bridge where clouds of Swifts were zooming around in the grey.   

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge

Chew Valley Lake

Three local birders did little in the way of making me feel welcome and it has been a long time since I have encountered such brazen disdain as a 'Patch Interloper'.  A female Goldeneye with a brood of five was gruffly pointed out before backs were turned and further enquiry about whether this was a good record were ignored. I left them to talk about Sand Martins and headed for the coast and hoped that a Pacific Swift would fly behind them.

Goldeneye with duckling and a plop

My general grumpiness was brewing and on getting all the way to Sand Point to the north of Weston-Super Mare I found the little empty sandy car park was a £5 or bugger off NT spot so I did just that and ended up in the 50p an hour council one at the south end of Sand Bay.  I am not tight but a flat rate of £5 for a minute or all day is not on.

Lunch was taken in the car looking out across the muddy bay to Cardiff’s industry on the Welsh side of the Bristol Channel with Steep Holm and Flat Holm rising from the waters and the curious Birnbeck Pier to the south. 

Birnbeck Pier and Steep Holm

It was just starting to rain again and the wind was getting up but I still went for a walk along the beach to see if there were any interesting plants in the dunes. I found no Orchids but there were many plants with Sea in their names such as Bindweed, Spurge, Radish and Rocket.  There were also drifts of Restharrow and Spear-leaved Orache and clumps of Tree Mallow although nowhere near as vigorous as they plants at a less windswept Rainham!

Sea Radish

Sea Radish

Sea Rocket

Sea Spurge


Tree Mallow

Spear-leaved Orache - Atriplex prostrata

Common Restharrow

I was intrigued by the old pier and drove into the heart of Victorian WSM for a look.  Birnbeck Pier has obviously been derelict for many years and is quite rightly closed off to the public although it is very sad to see such grand piece of architecture decaying into the sea.

Birnbeck Pier


Dinner of sausages and mash back at the pod and then back to Ham Wall for an evening stroll.  I walked the other way into the Shapwick Heath section of the marshes, to the spot where the Hudsonian Godwit was in May 2015.   


Shapwick Heath

Just like then it started to rain but thankfully a new tower hide was open and empty and I sought shelter there.  It overlooked the godwit pool although it was now covered in Coots and Gadwall along with a brood of Mute Swans, two Little Egrets and several Great Whites.  The latter were coming and going from their nests and I could hear young begging loudly from several spots.  From what I can gather it is set to be a bumper year on the Avalon Marshes.

Great White on duty


One of the adults was very adept at plunge feeding. It would fly slowly low over the water and then throw itself head first in after a fish and seemed to be successful most of the time with this method.

Great White hunting on the wing

Beardies pinged and there were Reed and SedgeWarblers calling but it was fairly quiet.  The reed acreage here is vast and with all the pools, rills, marshy field and damp woods I can only imagine what might be breeding out there.

The Jackdaws were good entertainment back at Cheddar Bridge and swirled and ‘jacked’ noisily in the gusty wind before settling down for the night after which only the insistent duelling from two male Song Thrushes could be heard. 



22nd June:

It dawned better and brighter but was still very cool with a nippy breeze and the drive down into Cornwall was actually quite pleasant.  The Outlaws still have their van at Dinham near Wadebridge and after some garden centre action we got there before lunchtime. I did my usual and soon snuck off for a walk down the lane where I hoped the high hedges would give me some insecty sheltered spots in the sunshine.

River Camel at Nanstallion



There were a few Hovers with half a dozen species seen including my first Volucella zonaria of the year and a crisp Volucella pellucens on the Brambles.  There were many Bumbles with Tree, Early, Buff-tailed, Red-tailed and Common Carder along with Honey Bees and a single Osmia leaiana (I think).  Large Whites flounced around and were my first Butterflies in four days and Speckled Wood and Red Admiral were also seen along with several Figwort Mason-Wasps.

Eristalis pertinax

Volucella pellucens

Volucella zonaria

Tree Bumblebee - Bombus hypnorum

Tree Bumblebee - Bombus hypnorum

Tree Bumblebee - Bombus hypnorum

Early Bumblebee - Bombus pratorum

Buff-tailed Bumblebee - Bombus terrestris

Osmia leaiana seems to be the general concensus

Osmia leaiana

Figwort Mason-Wasp - Symmorphus gracilis

Figwort Mason-Wasp - Symmorphus gracilis

Large White

Red Admiral

Speckled Wood

Speckled Wood

The roadside stream was dry with just a small pool at the bottom but I was delighted to find about 30 Water Crickets skimming around on the crystal surface looking for prey although the floundering Cardinal Beetle was making them cautious.  It was just too far out for me to rescue.

Water Crickets

Pyrochroa serraticornis and predator in waiting

There were stands of Pennywort on the banks amongst lush Ferns and towering Foxgloves and the old farmyard at the top of the next rise was being reclaimed by non native Red Valerian, Opium Poppies and Mexican Fleabane

Opium Poppy

Mexican Fleabane

Red Valerian


Wall Pennywort

Red Campion


I attempted to get down to Daymer Bay for a bit of quality rock-pooling on the beach where Jinx used to play in the waves but despite the appearance that Cornwall was deserted I found everyone had crammed themselves into the car park that late afternoon and just along the coast on the escape route out, Polzeath looked like a August Bank Holiday but it was midweek and in term time so where all the families had come from I do not know? Perhaps every local family decided to hit the beach after school?  Oh well, never mind.

Jinx at Daymer - it will be nine years in December


Anower obwiging Wabbit

23rd June:

Having stayed the night at Dinham and after a very fine bacon bap at, I kid you not, Nice Baps layby cafe I decided on a northerly route back to Cheddar with some random stoppage along the way.

My first impromptu stop was at Bursdon Moor which the sign told me is one of the last remaining areas of Culm Grassland.  I double backed after driving through a fabulous peat bog area to the west of the A39 where I could see the Cotton Grass waving and ended up having a walk to the east along a forest ride that provided me with some sheltered Hogweed Time.  

Bursdon Moor


Hogweed Magic

There was some good Hoverfly action to be had including a sap hovering Xylota segnis on the Brambles and Cheiloisa illustrata the pick of the Hogweed lovers.  There were two species of Tenthredo Sawflies, Nettle Tap moths, several other fly species and three Long-horn Beetles including one new to me.

Cheiloisa illustrata

Chrysogaster solstitialis

Eristalis nemorum

Eristalis nemorum

Eristalis pertinax

Meliscaeva auricollis

Xylota segnis

Graphomya maculata

Yellow Dung Fly - Scathophagia stercoraria

Tenthredo mesomela

Tenthredo temula

Black and Yellow Longhorn - Rutpela maculata

Speckled Longhorn Beetle - Pachytodes cerambyciformis

Speckled Longhorn Beetle and Yellow Dung Fly

Wasp Longhorn Beetle - Clytus arietis

Misumena vatia

Nettle Tap

Common Green Grasshoppers became my first stridulators of the year and a lone Large Red Damselfly was the first Odonata of the trip. 

Common Green Grasshopper


Small Torts and Speckled Woods zipped around and Yellow Rattle was flowering in the verges.  There were some lovely Ferns on the floor of the plantation but I have not investigated what they are yet.

Small Tortoiseshell

Speckled Wood

Yellow Rattle

From here I drove to the coast to Hartland Quay and its hotel which I last visited with Middlesex Uni almost 30 years ago in October of 1992.  As I drove down the lane I remembered the Great Grey Shrike that I saw from the coach on the telegraph wires as we drove and the concertina cliffs were as stunning as I remember them all those years ago.


It was actually quite pleasant down there and there were Wheatears, Pied Wagtails and Rock Pipits foraging around the big old white hotel buildings.  Herring Gull families were wedged in rock crevices and there were some lovely cliff top flowers with Sheeps Bit Scabious, Kidney Vetch, Thrift, Wild Carrot, Yarrow, Thyme and Danish Scurvy-grass in flower.  Singles and Gannet and Fulmar were seen and a female Kestrel was up on the cliffs.

Juv Wheatear

Juv Wheatear

male Wheatear

Rock Pipit

Pied Wagtail


Herring Gulls


 Danish Scurvy-grass

Kidney Vetch

Rock Samphire

Sheeps Bit Scabious





I had one of the small rooms next to the top floor bay window

Back in 1992 I had an upstairs room to myself overlooking the sea and can still recall the wild final evening celebrating one of the lads 21st birthday and seem to recall locking myself in my room! It’s funny what you recall but it was also the place I started taking black coffee as the little milk cartons in my room were off!

Phill A - the morning after his birthday 1992

Phil and I posing for a girl - trying to recall which one. I did not notice that swimming pool last week!

Onwards and through Bideford and Barnstable and then across the rural part of Exmoor, through the rolling fields and pastures and woods before emerging near to Dunkery Beacon where I stopped for a walk in the wilder side of North Devon.  It was a bit breezy again and the clouds were coming back down but there were some fine views to be had.  I had no hope of finding Lesser Twayblade without pin point directions but I had a pleasant short amble and found lots of typically flighty Green Tiger Beetles and a Golden Ringed Dragonfly that zoomed off within a nano-second of my clocking it.   

Looking west from the south side of Dunkery Beacon

Green Tiger Beetles

Common Green Grasshoppers were calling amongst the Common Heather and a Cuckoo momentarily had me fooled as it flew low over the moor.

Common Green Grasshopper

Cotton Grass

Heather - Calluna vulgaris

Stonechats and Meadow Pipits were encountered and a Redstart flicked across the track.

Meadow Pipit

From here it was west towards Bridgewater where rush hour was in full swing so some wiggling to avoid getting to the M5 saw me heading east towards Greylake and then up to Shapwick where a single Cattle Egret was seen not far from the Avalon Visitors Centre.

Cattle Egret

 Chinese takeaway beckoned for dinner.

24th June:

On the road again south into Dorset ostensibly to meet up with Justin T for afternoon tea at Higher Eype.  After a stroll around Lyme Regis it was onto Charmouth Beach where the sun pretended to shine and once again the beach was full of out of season holidaying families.  My walk west along the beach was completely fossilless – not even a tiny ammonite so I headed back and walked the other way which was less populous and persevered with a recent bit of fallen mud stone which rewarded me with two Ammonite imprints.  



A family of Ravens were patrolling the cliffs with two chicks, each with an adult.  I had left my camera in the car and as such they gave the most wondrous views I have ever had of this species.

A lovely Cream Tea was taken with Justin at the very well hidden Down House Farm Cafe before a short circuit of the wooded hill behind giving great views back west to Golden Cap.


A circuit of Westhay Moor on the way home revealed more top draw Avalon habitat with large reedy pool dotted with Grebes, Swans and Herons before ‘ping’ seconds of last night’s rather fine Chinese for dinner back at the Pod where Serotine Bats were seen high above the trees and picked up on my Bat detector along with Common Pipistrelles and a Tawny Owl called in the distance.

Westhay Moor


25th June:

Last night I worked out that the nearest site for Large Blues in Somerset was not fifty miles away to the north but just nine miles to the south at Collard Hill where I saw my first and only ones back on 3rd July 1999 after dawn twitching the Gull-billed Tern at Cotswold Water Park.  In fact I had driven right past the spot on the way home yesterday.  I needed things to warm up a bit first so the first stop was actually the rather bizarre Wells Reclamation Centre.  It is not that we ever buy anything here but it really is a quite amazing place to wander round with outsized country garden art salvaged from defunct estates to a huge anti-aircraft gun, heaps of Victorian radiators, crates of tiles and bricks and brass fixtures and fittings, tables and dressers, metal flamingos and a vast collection of Indian Teak doorways that date back over 200 years.  Some of the artwork and carvings are amazing and I just hope that one day these durable works of art find a new life as a new doorway.  People obviously ask about their provenance and the signs informed me of their history.


And like most places I visit there was a wildlife moment when a male Lesser Emperor circled around in front of me flashing his gleaming blue saddle before darting up and away between a giant Art Deco lady with a lamp and a Rampant Lion.

It now felt like I might have a chance at the Large Blues and headed that way through Glastonbury and Street.  I was the only person there and soon found the slope that I remembered from that first visit.  Although the sun was getting through the cloud, it was still very windy and I rated my chances as slim.  I walked circuit up and down and along the slope and eventually saw one getting blown away from me but that was my lot.   

Collard Hill


There were a few Meadow Browns and Small Heaths amongst the grasses, Thyme, Rockroses, Yellowwort and Squinancy Wort but it was very frustrating so I headed back down to the car seeing two Emperor Dragonflies on the way.   

Two ladies on their way up told me of some Orchids on the otherside of the road so I crossed over for a look at this meadow.  A Brown Hawker hunted the tree line and the grass was dotted with the pale pink spires of Common Spotted and cerise triangles of  Pyramidal Orchid.  Some of the latter was truly huge!  I found four spikes of almost gone over Great Butterfly Orchid and likewise some Twayblade.

All above Common Spotted Orchids

Greater Butterfly Orchid

Pyramidal Orchid

Pyramidal Orchid



My best find though was a fly – I knew roughly what it was as soon as I saw it – a Villa – a relative of the Beeflies and later reading identified it as the very scarce and local Villa cingulata.  It would appear that it may even be a new site for this Downland specialist.

Villa cingulata

Down in the meadow I fooled myself into thinking that the wind had dropped and so gave the Hill another go.  It had warmed slightly but was still gusty but I persevered and saw three Large Blues including one that landed briefly with its wings out before allowing a close approach.  It was so windy that I had to risk holding the Clover it was sitting on but I got lucky and it was too chilled to go anywhere.

Large Blue


I almost had a spring in my step as I headed back down and even added my first Marbled White of the year and a fine immature male Scarce Chaser to the list although I am not sure what the latter was doing up there!

Painted Lady

Scarce Chaser

Glastonbury Tor from Collard Hill

After a Glastonbury pasty lunch from Burns The Bread in Somerton I went cross country toward Red Hill and the road bridge viewpoint that I have used previously to look across the Parrett Valley for Common Cranes.  The added height was worth it as despite the swathes of grassland as far as I could see I got lucky and what I think was a family party of three took off about a mile away and on landing out of site spooked two more who came in to move them along.  Three Cattle Egrets were seen moving ahead of a distant herd and a male Marsh Harrier quartered the fields.  Reed Buntings and Skylarks sang and it felt like there should have been Quail out there invisibly singing.

There be Cranes out there!


Banded Demoiselle

Burrow Mump

Burrow Mump

A wander around the Avolon Marshes Centre followed and I then escaped for a short circular walk at the west end of Shapwick Heath.  I was not out long as I was wearing my shorts and the Mosquitoes on the loop trail there were huge and voracious. Even then I still wanted to know what species they were as they were not the black and white stripy legged I get at home!

A patch of sunlit Brambles near the entrance appeared Mossie free and I spent some time there watching a couple of impressive Xylota sylvarum padulating leaves for sap and a collection of other nice Hovers before returning to base.   

Blue-tailed Damselfly

Helophlius pendulus

Parhelophlius sp

Volucella pellucens

Xylota sylvarum

Xylota sylvarum

An evening drive up Cheddar Gorge was again grey and windy before dinner at the Bath Arms in Cheddar.


I went out with the Bat detector at about 10pm. It was still not dark and I was picking up lots of sound from Cheddar Yeo.  I suspected Daubentons and recorded the detector while watching dozens of them zipping to and from the bridge in one of the most mesmerizing wildlife encounters I have ever had. 

 Volume up and look for the bats zooming around!

26th June:

Time to go home with a last minute Kingfisher on the river with the Grey Wagtails to send me off. 


The journey home was once again cross country before a lunchtime diversion onto Salisbury Plain for a drive around of the tracks and a scan of the horizons for Bustard shaped blobs.  No joy was had but the sky was clear and the views expansive and although chilly it was worth diverting for, with the sound of Skylarks and Corn Buntings all around and Yellow Wagtail, Reed Bunting, Linnets, Stonechats and Whinchats were all seen on the way through along with Red Kite and Buzzard.

The M3 was kind until the very top when it ground to a halt approaching the M25.  I foolishly headed into town on the M3 and then spent the next hour wiggling back to the M25 via the delights of Hampton Court, Esher and both Kempton park and Sandown Racecourses.

Oh well...