Warren Heath has long been championed as one of north Hampshire’s prime dragonfly locations, but there is a surprising lack of information available through the usual channels. Either there wasn’t any first-hand accounts or those who knew its secrets wanted to keep it to themselves.
I decided to take a look for myself armed with a few grid
references for supposedly the key areas. This is centred around a valley
in the south of the reserve where a stream flows down from heathland boggy
pools to a couple of small reserviors.
stream itself is host to impressive numbers of Golden-ringed and Beautiful Demoiselles while the
heath ponds and
scrapes contain one of the highest populations of Keeled Skimmers I've seen
outside of the New Forest. Other prime wetland heath species include
Common Emerald and Small Red Damselflies.
reservior pools are home to Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers, Emperor, Southern, Hairy and Brown Hawker, Downy and Brilliant Emeralds with a host of supporting
damsels with Red-eyed in particular being plentiful
The forest rides also provide perfect roosting and feeding opportunities
with a wealth of invertebrate life including typical summer woodland butterflies
with countless Ringlets, Large and Small Skippers, Silver-washed Fritillary
and White Admiral.
On one visit we had 22 species of dragonfly in a few hours in mid
July. This is a very impressive count for any location and can therefore
be included as one of the top dragonfly sites in England.
The only gripes I have are the lack of footpaths and difficult access
to some of the prime areas. Seasoned dragonfly observers aware of the
dangers of uneven ground, forbidding undergrowth and sometimes
treacherous shoreline should still be vigilant, as a wrong footing or
trip can result in disaster.
Parking is also a problem and access limited along the eastern
fringes, but is possible for the observant. Research your maps well, and
take a printout and compass unless you navigate by memory and the sun’s
position. The upside of this is the lack of the general public.