Winding Down (A Time to Share)

The end of September has arrived with colder nights, foggy mornings and some welcome afternoon sunshine, even reaching a dragonfly-friendly 20 degrees.

Besides the usual suspects (Migrant and Southern Hawkers, Common and Black Darters) the hardier damsels like the Emerald and Common Blue have continued to show in reasonable numbers, and I even had a Small Red hanging on during one of the more prolific days.

Cadnam Common
Thursday 18th September

I didn’t expect to find anything but as it happens a few Southern Hawkers were holding territories at opposite ends of the pond, enough to keep me amused for a few hours.

As usual the corner around the solitary gorse bush was the chosen territory of two of my subjects; once again engaging in a time-share arrangement and rarely tussling for more than a few seconds.

Southern Hawker - male

Southern Hawker – male

Another of my subjects chose to remain along the northern edge, allowing some rather wonderful and challenging close encounters as he flew along the grassy bank.

Southern Hawker - male

Southern Hawker – male

Although not up to its usual standard, the opportunity to spend a few hours was a fine way to end the season at one of my favourite ponds. Let’s hope it’s recovered sufficiently over winter to provide it’s usual Spring bounty.

Southern Hawker - male

Southern Hawker – male

If you look again closely, you can tell the these three Southern Hawkers are all different individuals ‘time-sharing’ the same pond over the course of three hours.

Milkham Bottom
Monday 22nd September

A calm and pleasant afternoon was ideal for checking out the pond and boggy pool at Milkham Bottom. Even here the water levels had retreated, enough at least to allow me to paddle across to the island – a guilty pleasure I’ve always wanted to do.

This proved to be ideal for grabbing some Migrant in-flight action as a couple were choosing the small reeded area close the the island shore.

Migrant Hawker - male

Migrant Hawker – male

The ability to choose a low aspect to shoot from allowed a little variation in background, with the far shoreline offering some delightful neutrality.

Migrant Hawker - male

Migrant Hawker – male

Around the margins there was plenty of Common Darter activity but little else, so I chose to spend an hour at the boggy pool where there were more Common Darters, a few Black Darters – including tandem pairs, some Common Blue and Emerald Damselflies and the surprising appearance of a male Small Red.

Small Red Damselfly - male

Small Red Damselfly – male

During the hour a female Moorland Hawker flew in briefly to oviposit at one edge, but was spooked at my presence and disappeared never to be seen again. A female Migrant also paid a visit, and the appearance of a male Emperor brought the species total up to eight.

Not bad for this late in the season, and possibly the best I’ve experienced here.

Christchurch Common, Ramsdown and Milkham Bottom

Thursday 25th September

A circuit around the paths, ponds and old railway of Town Common threw up a few Common Darters, a fair quantity of Black Darters and Emerald Damselflies.

Over at Ramsdown there were more of the same among the heather and at the ponds.

Common Darter - male

Common Darter – male

After an hour of the same I was about to give up when a couple of male Southern Hawkers flew in, violently disputing territory with a couple of duckings before choosing a compromise at either end of the pond.

Southern Hawker - male

Southern Hawker – male

On the way home I called in at Milkham Bottom, but by now there was a ribbon of cloud following the south-westerly wind with only the one Migrant and a couple of hardy Common Darters braving the breeze.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

The Law of Diminishing Returns

In many ways I’m grateful for the seasons; knowing I’ll be hungry by the time April comes around rather than getting bored with the same old suspects. That said I still feel it’s a little too early to give up on dragonflies just yet.

September is my preferred time for spending a few hours at a pond, but the lack of rain has rendered most of my favourite watering holes barren. The criminally premature clearing of the meadows at Swanwick has robbed the hawkers of their chosen feeding grounds and they’ve all but disappeared; moved on to more fruitful sites.

Still a few possible locations to scout before hibernation kicks in, because, although I’m fanatical, I don’t see the point in searching relentlessly for the odd late straggler just to satisfy statistics. For me the enjoyment comes from the bounty of swarms on a warm and sunny day providing the option to indulge or sit back and enjoy.

Crockford, Pennington and Whitten Pond
Tuesday 9th September

A brief call in to Crockford on the way to Pennington just in case there were any hawker opportunities. Certainly nothing along the stream except for a late and lonely male Beautiful Demoiselle, still hanging on to his patch in hope. Still, a pleasure to see – and not the last I’d encounter this month.

On the way out I had a female Southern Hawker circle me at calf height, but she wasn’t prepared to settle.

At Pennington the cast was dominated by Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers, but at least there was a male Southern patrolling a small bay.

Southern Hawker - male

Southern Hawker – male

As I was approaching the exit I attempted to photograph a male Migrant perched in the bramble, but he rose and landed a short distance away to offer a far more pleasing opportunity.

Migrant Hawkers - male

Migrant Hawkers – male

I don’t know why I chose Whitten Pond as my next port of call. Maybe it was of my first ever Moorland Hawker sighting five years ago along the tree-line, or failing that a good chance to perhaps find a Southern or two perched in one of the many gorse bushes on the path.

Southern Hawker - male

Southern Hawker – male

The last time I visited this water body (some years’ back) there were a couple of Brown Hawkers in attendance along the feeder stream, and I was more than a little surprised to find a male here today. I was even more surprised to see him land in the bramble bush opposite.

Brown Hawker - male

Brown Hawker – male

Also patrolling the stream were a male Southern and male Migrant.

Migrant Hawker - male

Migrant Hawker – male

A pleasing end to the day.

Ramsdown and Troublefield

Wednesday 10th September

Wednesday was another day which started slow with Ramsdown only showing a few Common and Black Darters and a few tired Emerald Damselflies brightening up an otherwise empty pond. Even the clearing was quiet with no hawkers feeding and only the one perched in the gorse.

As I was about to check out the smaller ponds I received a call from Doug who asked if I fancied meeting up in his lunch hour. Sounded like a plan, so neglecting the ponds I took the short drive to meet Doug at Troublefield.

Unsurprisingly there were no perched hawkers along the fence, so we made our way to the far corner where there should at least be a few Southern to choose from. There were; four in total. Two choosing to patrol the gloomy channel and one providing some wonderful perched opportunities.

Southern Hawker - male

Southern Hawker – male


Cadnam Common, Milkham Bottom, Blashford and Ramsdown

Tuesday 16th September

I had called into Cadnam Common a week earlier to notice the water levels had increased sufficiently to allow at least some activity, but it wasn’t to be. Neither was it today. Not even a Common Darter to be seen.

Maybe I was a little too early, but surely by 11.30am there should have been sonething? No matter, maybe Milkham Bottom would produce some entertainment? It did initially by allowing me the chance to paddle across to the island for a foray.

Around the margins of the main pool were plenty of Common Darters, most in tandem. These were punctuated by the odd tired-looking Emerald Damselfly and a few Common Blues, but nothing larger.

At the boggy pool there were more of the same plus a few Black Darters and, pleasingly, a male Emperor.

Emperor - male

Emperor – male

I stayed here longer than I normally would, hoping for something more, but after the Emperor disappeared under the haze it was only those Common Darters in attendance.

Common Darter - male

Common Darter – male

I did a quick circuit around Blashford Lakes. Nothing flying at Ellingham Pound and only Common Darters and Common Blue damselflies decorating the paths, so I proceeded to Ramsdown where the pond finally produced a Southern Hawker for me to get my teeth into.

Southern Hawker - male

Southern Hawker – male

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Common Interests

Priddy Mineries
Sunday 7th September

After our excellent experience at Priddy last month, Doug, Sue and I vowed to return in September for more delightful encounters with the Moorland Hawker. Arriving at noon we were immediately rewarded with both Moorland and Migrant patrolling the margins and reed beds.

Shortly after this encounter Jerry and Mike arrived along with Steve Balcombe and Max Thompson, proving today was going to be a social occasion as well as a photography one. After initial greetings we separated into small groups to cover several prime spots.

Sue, Steve, Max and I concentrating on the boggy western section where there were enough Moorland, Black Darter and Emerald damselfly activity to amuse us, along with a lone Emperor choosing to keep some distance from shore.

Jerry and Mike chose the eastern section while Doug hung around at the bridge waiting for subjects to land along the tree line. It wasn’t long before a shout came from Jerry that a female Brown Hawker was perched in the ferns, which I attempted to get to but decided to hang around for a Moorland Hawker which Doug had witnessed perch.

Moorland (Common) Hawker - male

Moorland (Common) Hawker – male

A little later we were watching a female oviposit into the reeds when a male spotted her and attempted to latch on, taking her over to the grassy bank. What happened next was the female was knocked to the ground, to all appearances looking as if she had been knocked out.

It’s likely she just played dead, as I’ve seen a female do the same when being bothered by a Southern. While she was laid out, the male patrolled the grass looking for her. She ‘played dead’ for about a minute before rising where the male once again attempted to lock on.

This time the female knocked the male to the ground and while he was down she retreated out of sight. Half a minute later he rose and continued searching for her, flying low over the grass and hovering in the area she had been.

I’ve never seen anything quite like this before, and neither had Doug or Jerry. A really superb and educational behaviour moment, and an excellent opportunity for some close in-flights, which we naturally took advantage of.

Moorland (Common) Hawker - male

Moorland (Common) Hawker – male

Our next golden opportunity came when Jerry, Doug and I witnessed a pair of Moorland Hawkers rise and land in high up in a tree close by. Thwarted by their position, we took turns lowering the bough to give the other two a chance.

Despite our best efforts and stirling teamwork they still proved a real challenge due to the angle, shadows and having to steady oneself on a steep slope. This was the best I could manage, and will do until I get another opportunity

Moorland (Common) Hawkers - mating pair

Moorland (Common) Hawkers – mating pair


A combination of good company and what seemed like endless opportunities made the time fly by faster than our chosen subjects and we realised it had gone five, but this didn’t seem to bother the hawkers, with Migrant and Moorland still on the wing.

Moorland (Common) Hawker - male

Moorland (Common) Hawker – male

My goal today were perched male, female and paired Moorland Hawkers, and as the song says, two out of three ain’t bad. Besides, it leaves me hungry for next time!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Dunyeats Nature Reserve

Surprisingly I find myself in the (unusual for September) position of having to catch up. I’m certainly not complaining and it makes a change from what turned out to be a frustrating late August.

Dunyeats Nature Reserve
Friday 5th September

After the fine sporting Wednesday I had, I spent Friday in the company of Doug, briefly looking into Christchurch Common and Ramsdown before giving Dunyeats Nature Reserve a try. It’s a good two or three years since I last visited; pre-wellies if I remember, and the ability to wade into the pond a little certainly paid dividends.

Migrant Hawker - male

Migrant Hawker – male

We didn’t have the best weather; mostly overcast with the promise of sun, but obviously not warm enough to burn the fog away completely. No matter, once the temperature rose we were treated to a fine display of Migrant Hawkers around the patch of Bull Rushes.

Migrant Hawker - male

Migrant Hawker – male

The day was definitely Migrant heavy, but they certainly provided enough enjoyment.

Migrant Hawker - male

Migrant Hawker – male

Migrant Hawker - male

Migrant Hawker – male

We had a few mating pairs to choose from today, but the Migrants didn’t make it too easy, choosing the deepest parts of the pool.

Migrant Hawkers - mating pair

Migrant Hawkers – mating pair

We did have a male Southern visit us a couple of times, but he flew much too close for the lens I had on. No worries, as a female chose to oviposit on one of the many stray logs lying around.

Southern Hawker - female

Southern Hawker – female

We also have a pairing of Emperors at one stage, but they were far too nervous – rising at our every approach until finally bedding deep down in the treacherous gorse.

The best I managed was a record shot, sadly part obscured by a stray piece of grass.

Emperors - mating pair

Emperors – mating pair

All in all a very satisfying day despite the gloom.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

The Sporting Times

Apologies if my last post seemed a little less positive than usual. A combination of negative outside forces and disappointing days can frazzle the mind and kill the mojo temporarily.

Suffice to say I’ve rallied forth refusing to let these irritants affect the last true fruits of the season. The dawning of September is considered to be the true start of Autumn and a time to reflect on the glorious summer, but I refuse to believe that summer is over just yet.

After all, September is prime hawker season.

Avon Valley
Tuesday 2nd September

For a change on Tuesday I decided to have another go at gaining access to a prime fishing area along the Avon. This involved obtaining a permit from a local angling outlet and registering my presence with the fisheries manager, a level of bureaucracy not normally encountered in the search for dragonflies.

Nevertheless I persevered and spent a few hours exploring a small part of the area looking for prime Odo spots. One spot in particular proved to be fruitions when the sun finally appeared, especially for Brown Hawkers.

I spent a good deal of time attempting to grab some in-flighters, which I totally failed at. I did however have three good sightings of the resident Kingfisher and a couple of Migrants to play with.

Migrant Hawker - male

Migrant Hawker – male

After getting frustrated with the lack of sun, I decided to head out and discovered that the Brown Hawkers were concentrated around a small, sheltered clearing metres away from where I’d spent the last four hours! My passing disturbed one resting Brown who rose and caused a chain reaction with at least a dozen circling in alarmed confusion.

I do wonder whether this is a survival technique to minimise the predation. From my point of view it certainly did the trick with me finding it almost impossible to concentrate on one individual. I persevered and attempted to grab some in-flights, but this again proved impossible against the backdrop of trees and bushes, especially as neither showed a flight pattern.

And then they all disappeared. They had to land somewhere, but wherever this was eluded me on this occasion, so I admitted defeat and vowed to return to this spot on a more favourable day.

Wednesday 3rd September

A much better day and instead of returning to the fisheries I decided to spend a day at Ramsdown, especially as a chance meeting with Doug pointed me to a Southern holding territory on a pond the afternoon before on the way back.

I checked the path at Christchurch Common first, hoping for a few roosters, but this favoured spot didn’t produce any this morning. Onwards then to the new favourite pond where I didn’t have to wait long for a Southern to show itself.

Southern Hawker - male

Southern Hawker – male

I spent a good three hours here enjoying every moment with the two resident Southern and grabbing some much-needed in-flight sport.

Southern Hawker - male

Southern Hawker – male

Their wasn’t a Moorland visit today, but these two certainly made up for it, grabbing my full attention despite a\ good presence of Common and Black Darters, Emerald and Common Blue damsels.

Southern Hawker - male

Southern Hawker – male

After I’d had my fill I checked the clearing for feeding hawkers, noticing mainly Migrant on the wing and reluctant to land anywhere near. Still, there was that other Southern to seek out.

On the way through I stopped at the small heath pond which had recently been replenished to find a resident Emperor. Excellent, as I’d been cheated of the chance for a close encounter at my usual spots this season.

Emperor Dragonfly - male

Emperor Dragonfly – male

I walked to the centre of the pond and allowed my quarry to get accustomed to my presence and it wasn’t long before he provided a fabulous display of his aerial abilities.

Emperor Dragonfly - male

Emperor Dragonfly – male

I spent a good hour with this delightfully agreeable subject and he allowed me some fabulous opportunities as he circled, retreated and flew in much like an aircraft coming into land before taxiing along before me.

Emperor Dragonfly - male

Emperor Dragonfly – male

Satisfied with my results and grateful for another good hour of sport I went in search of the other Southern which Doug had found, but this fellow wasn’t playing ball at all. I’ve rarely found one this unsociable, choosing the furthest reaches and not once coming to investigate.

No matter, I’d had a fantastic day participating in my favourite sport with three most agreeable subjects.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The Virtue of Patience

When I first got into dragonflies (and butterflies for that matter) I used to wizz around hunting them down, tiring myself out in the process and probably missing more in the process.

I used to get extremely bored staying put at a water body under gloomy skies when nothing was happening. As of this season I’ve learned to stay put in changeable conditions because when the sun does break through everything changes.

A perfect example of this was last Thursday. It wasn’t the type of day I’d normally choose to travel for dragonflies, but as I had to drop Sue off at Gillingham in North Dorset, the extra 30 miles to Priddy Mineries seemed worthwhile.

I arrived at 9.00am under gloomy skies with a fair breeze, but it didn’t take long for the sun to briefly break through an activity to begin with a couple of Moorland and a few Migrant Hawkers.

Migrant Hawker - male

Migrant Hawker – male

During the cloudier moments I did a little reconnaissance while keeping an eye on the wide-open skies for the next belt of blue, but for the next hour or so it didn’t look too promising.

At around midday Mike and Jerry arrived and were convinced today was not going to be a Priddy day, and instead decided Westhay would be the better option.

We arrived in time for the first shower, and the wind was noticeably stronger. After sheltering the worst in the bird hide, we took a ramble up the path disturbing the odd Common and Ruddy Darter, but it was a while before we found the Migrant Hawkers, in good numbers along the back track.

Migrant Hawker - male

Migrant Hawker – male

A brief lunch stop at the North Hide before retracing our steps, detouring along the far track for another opportunity.

Migrant Hawker - male

Migrant Hawker – male

If I’m honest I was getting a tad bored with Migrants, as beautiful as they are, and was grateful for a change of species, and a Ruddy (found by Mike) provided a welcome opportunity.

Ruddy Darter - male

Ruddy Darter – male

We did have a male Southern Hawker on the way out who didn’t stay around to be photographed, and unsurprisingly more Migrants, and decided to wrap up at 3.30pm.

During our walk around the site I couldn’t help wondering what was happening at Priddy, especially as you could see the weather over the hills from our valley position. I decided to call in on my way home and sure enough, despite the cloud cover, there were several Moorland Hawkers patrolling the far bank.

Moorland (Common) Hawker - male

Moorland (Common) Hawker – male

There were also a couple of females choosing to oviposit deep in the reeds beyond their (and my) reach. I stayed until the last one left at around 5.00pm and vowed to stay put on my next visit.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Continued Adventures at Ramsdown

Friday 22nd August

The discovery of a heathland water body which hasn’t dried out is reason enough to spend a day or two at Ramsdown. Of course the prospect of more Moorland Hawker sightings isn’t to be sniffed at.

A solo visit on Friday with a reasonably early start. A little too early perhaps to rustle up any hawkers in the clearing, but an ideal opportunity to explore the larger pond under heavy skies.

Sure enough, there were plenty of Emerald and Small Red, complimented by reasonable numbers of Black and Common Darters sheltering in the reeds under a presently gloomy sky.

Emerald Damselfly - male

Emerald Damselfly – male

After doing a circuit I continued across the heath, finding the odd delight perched in the heather.

Emerald Damselfly - male

Emerald Damselfly – male

Nice to see some heather which was pink, the majority having been attacked by their host beetles which had reduced most to a bare brown skeleton.

At 11.30am I arrived at the lower pond just in time to find a female Moorland Hawker ovipositing, but she rose at my arrival and disappeared for the time being.

The broken cloud delayed the warming and it was another hour before things really began to kick off, with Black and Common Darters being the first on the scene.

Common Darter - male

Common Darter – male

Visits by the male Moorland were a little infrequent today, and when he did arrive he didn’t stay around long. Mind you, neither did the sun, which more than likely accounted for the subdued activity. At least a Black Darter kept me amused.

Black Darter - male

Black Darter – male

At 3.00pm a male Southern Hawker flew in and offered a couple of in-flight opportunities.

Southern Hawker - male

Southern Hawker – male

The sheltered aspect of this pond unfortunately means it is mostly in shadow by mid-afternoon, so I decided to have a look at the clearing on the way out, and was a little surprised and certainly delighted to encounter this male Golden-ringed.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly - male

Golden-ringed Dragonfly – male

Saturday 23rd August

While the swarming hordes were polluting the rest of the New Forest, Doug and I decided to spend the day at Ramsdown in the hope of some good hawker activity in what turned out to be much better conditions.

Eager to avoid the traffic I went out a little earlier than our agreed meeting time to take a quick stroll along the old railway track at Christchurch Common, but apart from a few Black Darters and Emerald Damsels, the only hawker spotted was a Brown Hawker. Naturally he spotted me first and disappeared over the tree line

At least a female Emerald offered an early opportunity.

(Common) Emerald Damselfly - female

(Common) Emerald Damselfly – female

And so onto Ramsdown, checking the clearing first before moving onto the sanctuary of the lower pond.where we found a male Moorland already patrolling.

Moorland (Common) Hawker - male

Moorland (Common) Hawker – male

During a lull in the sunlight, we crossed to the other pond to witness another Moorland, a male Emperor and the usual strong populations of Black and Common Darter, Emerald, Common Blue and Small Red damsels.

As it was lunchtime – a ritual seemingly shared by humans and dragonflies alike – we returned to the clearing to witness a fine display of hawking, with several Migrant, a brief showing of a Brown and at least one Moorland feasting along the tree line.

One of the male Migrant landed beautifully in a tree close to us, and remained there in a state of suspended animation for a good half-hour.

Migrant Hawker - male

Migrant Hawker – male

When lunchtime was over and all the hawkers had wandered elsewhere, we returned to the pond to find the male Moorland still in attendance.

Moorland (Common) Hawker - male

Moorland (Common) Hawker – male

The male Southern also made a visit, as did the female, and an Emperor flew through but didn’t stay around. Once again, by the time 3.00pm had arrived all activity seized with the shadowing of the pool, so we returned to the clearing to catch the hawkers feeding.

Interestingly the majority of the Migrant this time around appeared to be female, and there were plenty to keep us occupied. During the fine overhead display one-by-one they would drop down low into the heather or find a convenient low tree branch.

Migrant Hawker - female

Migrant Hawker – male

By 4.00pm even the clearing became quiet, so just enough time to grab a female Common Darter on the way out.

Common Darter - female

Common Darter – female

Two productive days, and a pleasure to once again spend some hours at an agreeable pond

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

A Different View


Christchurch Common/Ramsdown

Wednesday 20th

A thoroughly enjoyable day spent in the company of Chris Dresh, the Ranger for both Christchurch Common and Ramsdown, exploring and discussing the habitat and what improvements (if any) are necessary for species diversification with the emphasis on odonata.

Just prior to our meeting I called in at the clearing in Ramsdown to see if I could rustle up any early risers. A couple of Black Darters were present in the heather and sheltering in the gorse were a male Emperor – the first I’ve seen for a couple of weeks – and a male Migrant.

Migrant Hawker - male

Migrant Hawker – male

After meeting Chris we scoured the first path for signs of further roosters, but none were showing today. A full traverse of the reserve was carried out with several more Black Darters, some Common Darters and a few Emerald Damselflies present.

We didn’t really get our first glimpse of any hawkers until we walked the length of the old railway track, where we found a couple of Migrant, along with a male and a female Southern.

Next we called into Ramsdown where Chris pointed out a newly-dug pond on the heath which, as with all the other heathland ponds, was currently dry – but will show real promise next season.

Afterwards we spent a little time in the clearing watching a few hawkers feeding along the tree line, a male Migrant, a male Moorland and a Brown.

Moving uphill to the sunken pond which thankfully still contained a good amount of water with several Black and Common Darters, some Keeled Skimmers, and plenty of Emerald and Small Red damselflies. A real delight was the presence of a Kingfisher – the first of two sightings that afternoon.

Chris informed me that this pond was created some years back especially for dragonflies from an old brick quarry , and has certainly proved to be one of the best ponds in the area with both male and female Moorland Hawkers present last season.

A little work is needed to improve access from the encroaching Birch, but the sheltered position means this pond should continue to impress during the drier times.

Next he introduced me to another pond close by created from an old brick pit, one I had previously failed to notice before. Again, this pond benefited from a good sheltered position with plenty of emergent and marginal vegetation – ideal for the Moorland Hawker.

Once again a Kingfisher was present – possibly the same individual from earlier.

Thankfully a short moment later the sun broke through and we noticed a hawker patrolling the far bank. We waited until he made his way across to our side where we could confirm it was indeed a male Moorland.

Moorland (Common) Hawker - male

Moorland (Common) Hawker – male

This was the moment we had been waiting for and our subject continued to patrol in and out of the reeds and provide excellent views and in-flight opportunities.

Moorland (Common) Hawker - male

Moorland (Common) Hawker – male

Not since Priddy have I had as much fun indulging in my favourite pastime, standing at the side of a pond enjoying the spectacle and photographing a willing subject.

Moorland (Common) Hawker - male

Moorland (Common) Hawker – male

Another highlight to an interesting and very informative day. Thank you to Chris for providing good company and the chance to gain new insights into one of my favourite sites.

Blashford Lakes
I could have stayed for a while longer, but had promised to meet up with Robin Proctor at Blashford if I had time. We only had a short time in the clearing, but did at least get a glimpse of a couple of hawkers, including a distant Brown.

No perchers though.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Weather-beaten at Thursley

Friday 15th August
Like many of the best sites, Thursley can be hit or miss, and on Friday it proved to be very disappointing indeed. To be fair the weather played a large part; none of the forecast sunny spells until one very brief, subdued moment just after lunchtime and finally a break in the clouds just as I was about to leave at 4.00pm.

I’d arrived just after 9.00am with a heavy blanket of cloud covering the horizon, temperatures decidedly cool with a fair sprinkling of dew still decorating the heath. Naturally the Moat wasn’t going to produce anything, and careful searching through the reeds and heather failed to produce even a damsel.

I decided to take a walk around around the furthest reaches until it warmed a little, discovering a rather promising path I’ve completely failed to notice despite five familiar years of visits. A delightfully sheltered path bordered by find stands of gorse with a small clearing bordered by trees. Ideal hawker territory.

One of these gorse stands produced my first find of the day – a dew-speckled male Southern Hawker.

Southern Hawker - male

Southern Hawker – male

Heartened by this early find I continued to search every gorse bush for further signs, but it was not to be. It was a good hour and a half until I reached the heather bordering one of the boggy pools, where at least the Emeralds were beginning to rise from their slumber.

(Common) Emerald Damselfly - female

(Common) Emerald Damselfly – female

Another previously bountiful patch provided my first Black Darters of the day.

Black Darter - male

Black Darter – male

Black Darter - female

Black Darter – female

Having already covered the board walks and familiar patches, I returned to the Moat to check the boggy area where my count increased dramatically just after noon, with a good selection of damsels including Common Blue, Blue-tailed, more Emeralds and a couple of Small Red.

Small Red Damselfly - male

Small Red Damselfly – male

Unsurprisingly nothing was flying over the Moat, and even the Lily Pads were barren except for a lone Raft Spider.

Raft Spider

Raft Spider

Shortly after that brief glimpse of sunshine the rains came, and I returned to the car to consider my options. I’ll give it another chance rather than give up on the day, so when the shower stopped I did another full circuit of the board walks, carefully avoiding the plentiful baby Common Lizards, Black Darters and Keeled Skimmers who were taking what heat they could from the wooden planks.

A few hardy Black and Common Darters, Common and Emerald Damselflies were braving the pools, some in tandem, but no sign of anything larger as the wide skies teased with distant blue skies.

With an hour left I decided to give that little clearing another shot, and was surprised to find a male Southern still holed up in that little hollow.

Southern Hawker - male

Southern Hawker – male

While standing back to grab an environmental shot I noticed he had a companion, perched inches away was a female.

Southern Hawker - female

Southern Hawker – female

The use of fill-flash had disturbed her and she rose to circle me. For the next half-hour she put on a very fine show, hawking the bushes and coming in close in a manner usually experienced by curious males. This was the first time I’d witnessed a female act this way and it was a real highlight to end an otherwise disappointing day.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Four Hawker Challenge

With the onset of more familiar weather, and what appears to be a lull in proceedings with many favourite ponds dry, I’m having to consider my options.

As August is prime hawker time I decided to set myself a little challenge on Tuesday – to attempt to get photographs of all four late summer hawkers on my own patch in one day. This was a big ask, but achievable – even if it meant some were in-flighters.

In the case of the Brown and Moorland, this may have been my only option – provided of course I could find them all in one day. The Migrant and Southern should’ve been the easier of the four, although the latter proved surprisingly hard to pin down.

I started at Christchurch Common, a favourite location of mine where potentially I could bag all four species. It didn’t take me long to find the Migrant, as I had two warming up on the gorse along one of the tracks.

Migrant Hawker - male

Migrant Hawker – male

And then, totally unexpected, what I at first thought was another Migrant turned out to be a most welcome sight indeed.

Moorland (Common) Hawker - male

Moorland (Common) Hawker – male

What an unbelievable start! Here, teasing me while warming up his wings for a first flight, was the Moorland Hawker. Perched! The challenge was on.

This stroke of good fortune spurred me on, along the full length of the old railway track where I hoped I’d at least find a Southern, but it wasn’t to be. Neither did I see any more Migrants, but I did spot a Brown disappearing at my approach.

As per usual this was going to be the real bugbear I would face, having spent the past few weeks unsuccessfully trying to pin one down at Blashford, where at least there are good numbers.

However for the time being I continued my walk around Christchurch Common, filling time with a few Black Darters and Emerald Damselflies, in lower numbers than recently, but this could’ve been down to the unfavourable conditions. A stiff breeze and the odd shower curtailing most activity on the water.

Of some interest was the constant hovering of a police helicopter overhead. Having seen the main Bournemouth road come to a standstill, I presumed there was a major accident, but an unexpected meeting with an out of place bobby across the road at Ramsdown confirmed the reason was a ‘psychotic cow’ on the carriageway!

Still, an interesting interlude brought to a conclusion after three hours with the offending animal caught and returned to pasture. It certainly brightened up an unsuccessful foray around Ramsdown.

Next stop Troublefield, where surely I’d find the Southern? Nope. Not even one patrolling the ditch at the far end. Only a lone Migrant hawking the meadow, and no sign of the expected swarms I’ve happily seen in previous years.

On then to Blashford, beginning at the back track behind Ivy Lake where I’ve recently found a few Brown hawking. Just the one, and he didn’t stay around.

By the time I reached the hut clearing it was 3.00pm, and I was fast running out of time. My energy levels were surprisingly still high, despite nearly five unproductive hours. Still hungry, I tiptoed along the bramble looking for a tell-tale spot of blue, and there in front of me, bold as brass, was my target.

Brown Hawker - male

Brown Hawker – male

I couldn’t believe my luck! He hadn’t seen me! Had I found the first blind male Brown Hawker? Seems he was apparently day-dreaming, or whatever the insect equivalent is, as he continued to stay put long enough to rattle off a couple of shots and only noticed me when I attempted to change position.

Instead of immediately flying off into the heavens, he ‘flipped over’ and landed behind a lower leaf staring straight at me, obviously surprised (and maybe a little embarrassed) he hadn’t spotted me earlier.

Brown Hawker - male

Brown Hawker – male

Once he caught his breath and composed himself as best he could in this position, he freed himself and disappeared well out of sight as per normal.

Three down and one to go, and with an extra spring in my step I continued on, doing the full circuit in search of the surprisingly elusive Southern. After circling Ellingham Pound and returning up the middle track, I almost admitted defeat.

Almost…

I still had enough time to try across the road, searching in vain along the track towards the first hide before back-tracking and doing the full circuit around the furthest reaches.

As I headed back to the car, defeated but still elated at getting three out of four, I caught sight of a hawker a few metres before the gate.

Southern Hawker - male

Southern Hawker – male

I knew the Southern wouldn’t let me down. I think I actually punched the air and screamed ‘yes’ at achieving what I set out to do, however challenging and potentially fraught with failure.

The glorious twelfth indeed!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments