Enchanter’s Nightshade

Now that it is damper and despite the earlier drought one tough plant is blooming now all along the wood edges. One of the most attractive plants of the forest its flowers stand around the stem like a wand of white stars. This is probably what has inspired its common name ‘Enchanter’s Nightshade’. Its Latin  designation Circaea lutetiana follows this theme from Circe, a witch of Greek mythology and Lutitia the Latin for Paris, sometimes known in the past as the Witch City.

In fact the plant is not poisonous being related to the Willowherbs and no connection to the Nightshades.

It needs no enchantment though to still view ospreys from Dodd. Unring continues to  guard his territory and visits his nest daily. At least 2 other ospreys are regularly seen at the South end of the lake – probably Longstreak the young unringed female and Blue 2H from the North end of the Lake. However, as mid August approaches it is getting time for the female birds to set off for Africa from all over the country so it is worth keeping a lookout on any piece of water for sightings of these birds migrating.

Enchanter’s Nightshade

Colours of a dry season


It is still very dry with the marsh and the fell sides turning an unaccustomed pale gold where the dry grasses are bleached to savannah shades. In places, patches of glowing orange are the dead leaves of desiccated bilberry plants, their fruits falling black and shrunken before they can be picked. The stringy stalks of Bell-heather are conserving the meagre water better and producing the first swath of purple flowers prior to the August burst of common ling. In the forest silver birch trees, quick to grow, with shallower roots have been turning prematurely autumnal from yellow to brown with the whisper of their falling leaves twisting in the hot winds. Even the conifers, with their drought resistant needles are shedding pale storms of pins and their lower branches are drooping to the ground, blocking the deer and badger runs. The trackway verges through the forest are powdered white where the infrequent forestry vehicles have been writing ‘Eat my dust’ – instead of the usual, ‘Mind my mud’.

However, all may change in the next week as the forecast tells of thunderstorms and rain to come, cooling the earth and washing the warmer waters out of the Lakes. If you want to go bathing in Bassenthwaite blue water without shivers this may be the last weekend to do it!

Lake Levels

Lake levels too are falling and we are starting to see large spits and shoals of gravel exposed. Bassenthwaite is shallow at normal times for much of its depth – so does the falling water make it easier for ospreys to fish as new places are opened up and fish are corralled into a smaller area? Certainly we are seeing fishing below the viewpoints every day and although the ‘Yshaped tree’, a little further into the marsh, is a favourite perch, Unring and Longstreak seem to enjoy lounging on the gravel beaches between hunting forays. Our second male 2H spends a lot of time dipping into all the bays in turn all around the lake – a joy to watch from higher up on Dodd and the surrounding fells.

Tea party

Hot weather continues and water is a major cause for thought on the Viewpoints. Staff and Volunteers need to keep hydrated and if we don’t want a mass migration of all the creatures in the wood down to the Lake shore then regular topping up of the water bowls is imperative. Some of our Volunteers get a bit carried away with the detail of providing a tea party for the birds, rabbits, squirrels and stoats  but it seems to be working and there are good sightings every day.

Every drop of water at the Viewpoints has to be carried up so visitors are advised to carry plenty on their visits. – especially if walking to the top!


Mystery Blue


As the summer has progressed we have been expecting to see other ospreys exploring the area. These will be birds like our No14 who are not yet mated and have not decided upon a nest site. As we know they can fly considerable distances just having a look around. Ospreys are incredibly nosey about other osprey nests – who knows but they could be abandoned, poorly defended or a potential home for the next year, so always worth checking out.

Unring must have been less vigilant than usual because we caught this bird sitting eating a very large fish on the branch beside the nest on Friday 22nd June.

It has a Blue ring on its Left leg so it is probably a Scottish Bird. However, here the trail goes cold. So far, we have not been able to trace the letter/number CA3. There appears to be no record on the internet lists so we are making enquiries through official channels. (It is not a local post code!)


Red and Gold




Cordulagaster Boltonii  – Golden Ringed dragon fly m (photo David Kitching)

If you miss the ‘Kersplosh!’ of the hunting osprey look a bit closer to hand to witness aeriel chases at least as exciting.

Dragonflies are one of the most spectacular insects of the summer months, the rustle of their wings whilst they hawk for unwary insect prey amongst foliage is as typical as their strikingly colourful bodies. One like this was spotted sitting on a shale bank by a Volunteer, on their way to the Upper Viewpoint at Dodd.

Most Dragonflies spend a couple of years underwater but these Golden Ringed ones spend  5 years of their lives there as ferocious larva. Tadpoles and Toadpoles beware! They have a few weeks flying free in Oriental splendour before the cycle starts again. The biggest is the female Golden Ringed dragon fly, her length marked like a black  finger set with with a series of multiple wedding bands. After the nuptial flight she lays her eggs by hovering over shallow water and vertically stabbing her abdomen into the stream beds.The acid upper waters of Skill Beck or the margins of the marsh land lagoons would do equally for a nursery.

At Whinlatter, smaller but in greater profusion, Red Damselflies Pyrrhosoma nymphula are darting in linked heart-shaped pairs around the ponds. But if you look deep into the water you can sometimes spot the next year’s generation showing their true nature stalking the mud in search of dinner.





Reed all about no 14

Number 14

Here is a map of the past week, where 14 can be seen to have been zig-zagging about various parts of South Cumbria. He has been  at Esthwaite, and Roudsea nest sites, fishing in the estuaries and making an occasional visit to Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve.https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/leighton-moss/

As 14 flies over Leighton Moss with bird’s eye view, he will spot quartering marsh harriers, families of bearded tits, twirling their tails and moustaches around the stems of their watery forest, and possibly the booming bittern lurking in the largest reed bed in England. As we have only a little reed bed on Bass it cannot support all these specialist habitat birds. But, after last year’s surprise breeding, this year we are still having good sightings of a female marsh harrier interested in the site. With the increasing numbers nationally they may well use it another year.

Dodd and Douglas

Douglas fir awaiting transport

   Those of you visiting Dodd Wood will have seen the results of a winter of tree management. The Forestry Commission manages its woods for timber, people and wildlife. The trees are a crop, albeit one with an 60+ year growing cycle!
The pride of the timber stock are the Douglas fir trees, rising straight as paint brushes colouring the sky.
Their Native home is the Canadian West Coast, so they thrive on the similar amounts of rain the Lake District generally provides. Unusually, although a conifer, they are classed as a hard wood so, together with their size they are prized for special projects.
This year for logs such as these, some are going to the Baltic Ports to be used as part of a project to restore port infrastructure, beginning with the dock in Hamburg, Germany.
Others are being sent to Portsmouth and Plymouth to be used as masts for tall ships and a shipment is being sent to Boston Mass. to be used in building projects in America.
Time to start becoming an arm-chair tree traveller!

And then there were 4 and 6

At the beginning of the season there was one – Unring – sitting all alone, waiting for KL.

On May 6th there were two ,Unring and a young female with a long streak on the back of her head. ‘Longstreak’

A young male bird, probably Blue 2H, has been spotted on the Lake. As he starts visiting the Southern waters of Bassenthwaite,  there were three.

This week another female osprey has been seen also visiting, in his company – so now there are four.

When in the neutral territory, under the Lower Dodd Viewpoint, they seem to be getting on amicably, fishing and playing on the wind together. For long periods they have been seen sitting on the shingle shoals that have emerged as the Lake has receded. With the sunshine maybe it reminds them of balmy sandy spits of the West African estuaries.

However, Unring is still vigilant over his nest, defending it vigorously with talons outstretched against 2H and his new girlfriend if they fly in too close.  ‘Longstreak, however, is still inclined to sit back and watch the tournament rather than helping him.

And where does 6 come in?

Staff travelling around the Lake this week were excited to see no less than 6 red kites flying above. Until now we have only seen the odd one at long intervals. Their butterfly wing beats, colours buff, red and brown, glinting in the sun against a blue sky and the constant re-adjusting of their forked tails to wind and thermals make them one of the most beautiful raptors. Where have they come from? As we are mid-way between 3 re-introduction sites, Galloway, across the water, Gateshead, across the Pennines and Grizedale, our South Lakes sister forest, they could have come from any of these. Keep a look out for them and let us know if you can see any wing-tags.

Wood sorrel blooms on the forest floor