Making The Most of Dragonfly Week

Monday 17th July
I introduced Richard Peglar to the delights of Crockford Stream – and what a delight! The Keeled were the first to show just in from the road with a couple of males present, closely followed by Beautiful Demoiselles, Southern Damselflies and our first of several Golden-ringed.

Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male

Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) – male

Such was the amount of activity that it took a while for us to reach the key area where an Emperor was holding court over the pool – a different individual from two weeks prior as this one didn’t have a leg dangling down!

The Keeled, although plentiful, weren’t as dominating as a fortnight ago but they were still in good numbers; even a few tenerals still rising from the heather and the occasional female.

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) - female

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) – female

However it was the Golden-ringed who really impressed with about a dozen separate individuals present between the bridge and the mire.

Southern Damselflies were in good numbers and there were reasonable numbers of Small Red – quite a few paired up 50+ metres uphill from the stream canoodling in the heather.

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) - pair in cop

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) – pair in cop

Needless to say Richard was more than satisfied on the species on offer, and a quick look in at Ipley Cross provided some Black Darters for us both to add to our yearly – or indeed, life list.

Tuesday 18th July

Today it was a guided tour around Bramshill. I had received an email from Terry Walker who despite having spent several days at the site he’d barely encountered a thing and decided a few pointers were needed in field craft.

Barely down the track we encountered Beautiful Demoiselles in their usual sunny corner, along with the usual supporting cast of Common Blue and Blue-tailed.

The grassy track provided perfectly today with male and female Emperor and immature Southern and Migrant Hawkers feeding along the treeline; the latter two stopping to perch, and a pleasing bonus for yours truly as these were my first sightings this season.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - immature male

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – immature male

Of course the problem with gorse is it rarely provides a golden photo opportunity but I was happy enough to grab a couple of record shots until later when both will be more agreeable.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - immature male

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – immature male

Next a tour of the pond clearing, which is desperately overgrown and in need of a shave, or failing that some more foot traffic to keep the vague path clear. A couple of Brown Hawkers and Emperor were present along with Azure, Common Blue, Emerald and Blue-tailed and at the green pool they were joined by Black-tailed and Keeled Skimmers, Common and Ruddy Darters and a male Broad-bodied Chaser.

At Long Lake the Black-tailed Skimmers were way down on numbers but still enough to keep the interest up while more Common Darters and the odd Migrant Hawker paraded down hawker alley.

At the shore we made our way along to the rushes admiring the over-water activity where a couple of hardy Four-spotted Chasers were hanging on in there with a tired Emperor and equally subdued Brown Hawker.

Across the lake more Chaser, Skimmer and even Darter action sharing space with a male and Emperor and a female Brown Hawker ovipositing into the shady shallows. Besides the swarms of Common Blue and plentiful Emeralds were both large and Small Red-eyed damselflies, perfect for showing the difference.

Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma viridulum) - male

Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma viridulum) – male

Needless to say Terry got to appreciate the wonders of Bramshill by taking a little more time to explore and the Southern and Migrant were a nice bonus for yours truly. Now all we need is a little more sunshine so I can get out and indulge myself.

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Home Grown

A break without the modern convenience of email, phones and the web was actually precisely what a holiday should be. However it’s taking a while longer than I thought to get back into the swing of things.

Wednesday 5th July

I took a foray around Bramshill to clear the mind.  A little too early for the ponds but I gave it half-an-hour just in case anything interesting flew in before moving on to Long Lake.

The seasonal Black-tailed Skimmer swarms along the path had diminished, but plenty of them over water along with Emperor,  Brown Hawker, Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chasers, Keeled Skimmer and the usual damsels including Small Red-eyed.

I placed myself at a favourite spot. offering shade in case I needed it, and had the twin blessings of Emperor and Brown Hawker and all manner of cracking activity to enjoy. A truly marvelous spectacle just watching nature at it’s finest.

Afterwards I took a walk to the Brilliant Emerald pond and observed a male patrolling briefly along the far shore before carrying on a little to the spot I’d seen the female a couple of weeks back. A male Brown Hawker and Emperor were using this section to feed and I hung around for half an hour just in case.

I returned to Long Lake where the wonderful sight of a dozen or more Brown Hawkers feeding from head height to the treeline was magnificent. I did wonder where they were all perched before I disturbed one, causing a chain reaction I’ve noticed with this species before.

Once one is up, they all get up to confuse any prospective predator. A marvelous survival tactic utilised throughout the animal kingdom which really does mess with your focus. But oh so excellent to observe!

Thursday 6th July

A nice, gentle day at Crockford seemed the ideal alternative to walking miles. There weren’t as many Keeled present as two weeks ago, but they still dominated the stream along with a few Broad-bodied Chasers and a smattering of Southern and Small Red Damselflies and Beautiful Demoiselles.

When I reached the ford I expected to find a Golden-ringed present but it was an Emperor which grabbed my focus, holding a small territory over the pool.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male

Emperor (Anax imperator) – male

I spent a good while with this fellow, allowing him to get used to my presence until he allowed some close and unusual opportunities.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male

Emperor (Anax imperator) – male

I was again alarmed by the lack of Golden-ringed present; only the one holding territory further upstream, so I decided to walk to my favourite spot where a few teneral Common Darters were present and a couple of Broad-bodied Chasers vied for territory with the Keeled.

Keeled Skimmer(Orthetrum coerulescens) - male

Keeled Skimmer(Orthetrum coerulescens) – male

There was one Golden-ringed present up here, choosing to lay low among the gorse stand, occasionally popping out to battle with the Keeled along his chosen stretch of the stream. All rather stilted though. Even the resident Beautiful chose to remain perched, only disturbing his rest when a female flew in briefly.

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) - male

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) – male

Both days rather short on opportunities. Hopefully things will pick up soon and I can get back to some home-grown indulgence.

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Highland Fling – Part 2

Wednesday 28th June

Our second full day turned out to be rather glorious, with sunshine and suitable warmth handicapped by a strong, cold & biting breeze from the south. This was annoying, because the areas I intended to search for the Northern Emerald felt the full blast.

I looked around the burn and loch north of Slatterdale. Under these conditions I didn’t walk in as far as I could have done. We stopped at Victoria Falls to take in the view, our eyes always peeled. At the Bridge of Grudie there wasn’t an expected car parking area as such, unless you parked where the workmen were, or in the gap on the bridge as we did.

While Sue stayed in the car I looked in the clearing to the north and along the stream to the south, but the wind really was a problem. I found a good few pools  which looked ideal but you would need to camp out and hope, and in this wind there was no chance. Only Large Red were hardy enough to be present here today.

Close to a car park there is a spit of land which juts out from the road towards Loch Maree which contains a few boggy pools, except today they were devoid of shelter and flying creatures. We decided to have a cuppa and a Cornish Cream Tea at Kinlochewe services before we met up again with John and Carol at The Beinn Eighe visitor centre.

In my eagerness I took a quick scout into a clearing and wished I hadn’t. The ground was uneven with hidden depths which threatened to swallow me up at every step. Educated by this episode I returned to the car park for John & Carol’s arrival and we took a walk south, pausing at a pond to admire the few damsels under what now was the mountain’s own generated weather system.

Reaching the section of path we’d been advised was a haven for basking dragonflies we despaired as this angry black beast of a cloud hovering overhead was fringed by perfect sunshine. And that wind! Still, the views were nice, and we did encounter a Golden-ringed situated in a sheltered hollow.

Realising this cloud was here to stay we moved west and took a stroll along the official Woodland Track, passing another perfect dragonfly sanctuary had conditions been more favourable.

By now we were desperate as the day was waning. One more try at Slatterdale where at least we found the sunshine. Taking a walk up the path despondency was setting in, knowing this would likely be the last day we’d have to find our prize.

We found another Golden-ringed and willed it to turn blue before Sue called from back down the path. Well done hun, you’d found them!

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

Two male Azure Hawkers were basking on the logs and rose at our presence, giving us a wonderful show before one disappeared, leaving the other male to delight us as he circled us, eventually taking turns to land on each of us before returning to his chosen log or one of the few trees left standing.

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

To say we were overjoyed is well short of the mark. We were ecstatic! Considering how hard we had worked we did feel we deserved this encounter.

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

For forty-five joyous minutes we indulged, relishing our time with this fabulously gregarious individual.

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

Although we naturally felt honoured that he chose each of us as a perch the reality is he needed our warmth. When he returned to the log, and shortly after this capture, he bent his abdomen down to maximise the contact area.

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

Possibly the best capture was attained when he became a badge of honour for John.

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

After we fulfilled every opportunity we could we let him be and went our separate ways; John & Carol back to the campsite while Sue & I took a drive to Red Point to take in some glorious Scottish scenery, watching the sun throwing shadows over the Isle of Skye and the mountains of Applecross..

If you can believe it there was actually a Golden-ringed flying around the car park, totally where you wouldn’t expect him to be. A bonus, perhaps, to what turned out to be a fraught but eventually fulfilling day.

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Highland Fling – Part 1

At the end of last year Sue & I promised ourselves a trip to Scotland in search of the Northern Emerald and Azure Hawker. The Northern Damselfly could wait for another time. We gave ourselves three days in the hope that at least one of those days would bless us with sunshine. Friends of ours chose three weeks!

Our first two days of the holiday involved the long journey up; stopping over near Loch Lomond to take the scenic route to Gairloch the next day. Arriving late afternoon we took the short drive to Flanders Moss under dull & windy conditions.

The circular route along the boardwalk includes a couple of ponds and several shallow boggy pools which would be ideal, however nothing was flying under these conditions at this hour.

Monday 26th June

We saw our first Odonata during our drive at the top of Loch Lomond – just a Large Red perched above a small burn at the back of a car park. The drive up through Glencoe and Glen Shiel was exhilarating with fantastic mountain scenery throughout. A bonus was an Osprey chasing Oyster Catchers over the loch at Strath Carron.

Our wonderful day soon disappeared into farce when we found our chosen hotel  was less than perfect. Beautiful enough, but tired and jaded with possibly the worst Wi-fi reception and no phone signal!

Tuesday June 27th

Having no phone meant we couldn’t connect with John & Carol who were staying at a campsite in Poolewe, so we took a drive out in the morning to find them walking down the road to the local cafe! a perfect serendipitous moment.

After greeting over a cuppa we went back to their caravan for a spot of lunch and drove out to Laide Wood, a bonus location Sue & I had found about about via Gairloch Tourist Information.

The weather was far from perfect with a wicked wind, but the sun did appear briefly and we had a sighting of a Highland Common Darter female along the path.

Highland (Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum nigrescens) - immature female

Highland (Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum nigrescens) – immature female

Our walk brought us to a pond surrounded by conifers which produced a few damsels and carried on to a fabulous pond where we found another teneral female sheltering in the heather.

Highland (Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum nigrescens) - immature female

Highland (Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum nigrescens) – immature female

Such was the strength of the breeze passing through the trees that she was swaying uncomfortably, so I gently coaxed her onto my finger to find a more sheltered spot before leaving her be.

Highland (Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum nigrescens) - immature female

Highland (Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum nigrescens) – immature female

We had another Highland Darter before getting a glimpse of an Azure Hawker flying erratically around the margins feeding during a rare sunny spell, and waited impatiently for another glimpse. At least a sighting. Shortly afterwards  we encountered a pristine young Golden-ringed perched on the pine saplings.

Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - immature male

Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) – immature male

It’s a large dragonfly. It’s a Golden-ringed. It’s perched and we were short on opportunities!

Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - immature male

Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) – immature male

By now it was getting late and just as frustration set in we had our target fly in for a marvelous, fast and elusive display before he perched just long enough for Carol  to grab a shot. It was a moment to cherish and we just wish we’d had better conditions as this place is just perfect to spend a few hours.

Reluctantly calling it a day we retreated to Poolewe for a celebration pint and plan for Wednesday, because on Wednesday there would be more sunny spells 🙂

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Twitch

Wednesday 21st June

With the many reports of migrants entering the country over the last few weeks; Red-veined Darters and Lesser Emperors blown over from the continent with the current warm front, I would have been foolish to act on a report of both present at Longham Lakes on Tuesday.

I try to pay a visit every year or two if I have time and given good reason I headed out early to be greeted by a Red-veined Darter halfway around the lake. Skittish as usual I managed a record shot before carrying on to the group of eager twitchers who had also seen the report.

 Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) - male

Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) – male

After exchanging greetings and hearing reports that they think they’d had a sighting I carried on over the causeway intent on having a look at the small ponds where I know RVD have frequented regularly in hopes of getting a better opportunity, but it wasn’t to be. The most dominant species here and around the lakes were hundreds of Scarce Chasers.

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) - male

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) – male

Back at the throng there was still no news so I carried on a little further to where a (Blue) Emperor was patrolling, eager for a rest and a good drink in the increasing heat & humidity. Mid-swig I saw my quarry come in for a brief battle with the Emperor and return for more shortly afterwards. A couple of brief glimpses and I was surprisingly content.

Knowing I had a meeting after lunch I decided to take a slow walk back to the car when I bumped into Chris Dresh who was also here on the promise. I confirmed I had a couple of sightings and while he made his way to twitcher corner I continued my slow walk only to be halted immediately by the prize giving a good display over a small fishing stand.

Calling Chris over we watched and attempted some shots glorious in the long moment that was obviously just for us. After a marvelous display he disappeared out of site and we carried on walking in different directions until I looked back and noticed Chris and the group doing the dragonfly-dance.

About turn – I’d be foolish to leave now. Sure enough, when I rejoined the group there was the Lesser putting on an even better display than our earlier one. Magnificent, and unencumbered by the resident Emperor who had sodded off I presume for a siesta.

Eager shooting and this time I knew I had a shot in the bag.

Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope) - male in-flight

Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope) – male in-flight

Two, apparently.

Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope) - male in-flight

Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope) – male in-flight

As if this magnificent flying display wasn’t enough our merry migrant even perched among the reeds briefly.

Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope) - male in-flight

Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope) – male in-flight

Alas not close enough or long enough to get anything better, but I didn’t mind. For once a plan had born fruit, and when our prize left us I reluctantly called it a day. Duty called.

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Moments Of Brilliance

Monday 19th June

Being only able to get out at weekends is all very well, but I needed some solitude to ease back into it properly. A chance to go at my own pace and indulge when necessary, scramble through scrub, stand up to my knees in cool water and walk great distances if the need arises.

Relying on my sight alone might mean I miss some chances, but what I don’t know doesn’t bother me. A usual look first thing at the ponds provided a number of Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers, a couple of Emperor and the usual supporting cast of damsels.

Azure Damselflies (Coenagrion puella) - pair in-cop

Azure Damselflies (Coenagrion puella) – pair in-cop

Taking the short route through the hedge to Long Lake I saw my first Brown Hawker of the season flying tantalisingly over the reeds so I got to work, knowing full well that this would be a challenge.

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) - male in-flight

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) – male in-flight

I wasn’t convinced I had him in the bag, so finding another at the other end of the lake I decided to remain a while. Just me, a Brown Hawker and an Emperor filling the sky with their acrobatics and fisticuffs while Four-spotted Chasers and a large sprinkling of resident damselflies frolicked over the shallows. This is what it’s all about; just watching the show.

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) - male

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) – male

Once I’d had my moment of mindfulness I took a walk to scratch an itch; I wanted to find the pond where I’d been informed a population of Small Red were present. I’ve seen them at Warren Heath but not here, until today.

Small Red Damselflies (Ceriagrion tenellum) - pair in-cop

Small Red Damselflies (Ceriagrion tenellum) – pair in-cop

Shattered from the walk and the humid heat, I had a long walk back to the car and obviously missed a more direct route, finding myself along a path which looked familiar; I’d been here last year on one of my famous wanders.

Had I not taken a wrong turn I wouldn’t have experienced a magic moment. Hawking along the path ahead of me turned about and flew around me twice giving me a perfect view of a female Brilliant Emerald! Unmistakable with her long, protruding ovipositor.

What a result! A ‘lifer’ moment. It would’ve been nice to grab a photo naturally, but she didn’t stay around for one. Such a fleeting glimpse, but time stopped for that moment. I waited around just in case she might reappear, and reluctantly moved on, passing the pond which I had a hunch was the breeding pond for this species.

I made another navigational error on familiar paths, which somewhat fatefully provided me with two other sightings; both male and magnificent in their metallic beauty as they hawked along the rides close to the junction of Wellbeck Lane.

I was exhausted, but elated. Despite the lack of photos it had been a truly wondrous day, with two new species added to the yearly count and a lifer moment with what I’m beginning to think is my real favourite UK dragonfly.

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Sunday At The Pond

Sunday 18th June

After our tiring experience during Saturday’s heat at Latchmore we needed an afternoon without too much exhaustive foraging, and what better than choosing a single pond.

The usual tourist convoy was heading to the fleshpots of Bournemouth for over-priced ice cream and basking, pale & fat urbanites littering the beach. Thankfully we were able to peel off the M27 just before it ground to a halt and headed inland once more to Bentley Wood.

Once at the pond I did the usual scrub search and at the far end found my first Ruddy Darter of the season amusingly choosing to face me rather than pose sensibly for a shot.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) - male

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) – male

Some of the male Common Emeralds had started to attain the blue pruinescence of maturity and were more active around the margins, joining countless Azure but still not many Blue-tailed. Immature examples still outnumbered the mature.

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) - immature male

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) – immature male

At the opposite end I came across an immature Ruddy Darter, surprisingly satisfied to settle once he’d found a comfortable perch. Certainly the Ruddy here appear to be more accommodating and don’t disappear off at every footfall.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) - immature male

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) – immature male

Thankfully a Downy was still present over the pond and was holding his own and winning against the Four-spotted bully boys. Even the male Emperor retreated at  this pocket-rocket’s attitude.

Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) - male in-flight

Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) – male in-flight

I had another scour around the meadows before returning to my spot; a small bay with a limited viewpoint so I couldn’t see my potential subject coming in. It was also difficult to focus on one individual when shore activity caught my gaze. I couldn’t resist this Azure.

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) - male

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) – male

One way or another I was going to bag that Downy and  he finally settled down to run his own territory without shooting off for a scrap. Still a challenge to follow, I waited at my little bay until he appeared to the left, giving me just enough time to grab a shot.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) - male in-flight

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) – male in-flight

Satisfied at last I rose from my little gnome perch and decided to call it a day. The walk back to the car produced our first Marbled White butterfly of the season while the forest rides were alive with Ringlet, Meadow Brown and Silver-washed Fritillary. We even had a passing of a White Admiral but no Purple Emperor on this visit. Still, there’s always next time!

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In The Heat Of The Moment

Saturday 17th June

It’s been a bit of a fraught month for me with the lack  of transport, which is a tragedy as June should be the month of great bounty. However looking back on last season, excepting the trip to Whixhall, the beginning of June didn’t really inspire much either. Funny old month.

Anyway, at the risk of becoming one of those miserable, always negative dragonfly watchers (there are quite a few) we picked up our feet and made the most of a glorious Saturday by taking a step back; revisiting Latchmore Brook two weeks after the breakdown.

Curiously quieter than we expected. Not the usual hordes of weekend picnickers or dog walkers;  in fact it was a pleasure to meet someone with a camera who asked what we were there for, and showed great interest without knowing what species they were photographing. To them it was a dragonfly, but that’s the start of this passion.

The Keeled Skimmers were the dominant species today; pleasingly putting on a show as only Keeled can do.

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) - pre-mature male

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) – pre-mature male

I saw one male Scarce Blue-tailed on the way in but struggled to find many more today, and I did wonder if they had peaked. It has been an early season for all species which is splendid on the one hand, but you have to worry weather they’ll tire themselves out too soon.

It was a pleasure to see the first Silver-studded Blue butterflies of the season, fresh and scatty and only in small numbers, however for damsels it was Small Red who were dominating the heather.

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) - female

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) – female

We did find a couple of male Scarce Blue-tailed but they were on a mission and having followed them into the mire I found the deepest hole yet; my left leg disappearing to half way up my thigh!

Abandoning the chase immediately Sue called out she’d finally found an aurantiaca female while I struggled to pull myself free, causing my left knee to buckle. This had better be worth it!

 Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura pumilio) - immature female aurantiaca form

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura pumilio) – immature female aurantiaca form

After finding her best aspect I decided to ditch the scrub search and head up to Gypsy Hollies to see the Southern and followed a route echoing two weeks ago to the stream at the bottom of the hill.

By now we were both a tad weary from the heat & hunt and crossed the main flow early to sit & watch two female Emperors ovipositing along the stream, a patrolling male, and the first Golden-ringed we’d seen today; seemingly using most of the stream for his territory.  Over to the right a male Keeled had found his female and perched conveniently stream-side for the last opportunity of the day.

Keeled Skimmers (Orthetrum coerulescens) - pair in-cop

Keeled Skimmers (Orthetrum coerulescens) – pair in-cop

While I was photographing them I thought of how lucky they were to share a moment which is so much longer than the brief encounters experienced by the Chasers. Time well spent!

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Bramshill & Bentley Wood

Firstly apologies for the lack of updates recently. On June 1st on the way home from dropping Sue off at work our faithful old jalopy finally passed off its mortal coil.

This unfortunate episode occurred on the day I was meant to meet Steve Covey at Latchmore Brook, so you can imagine the effect this had on an even-tempered fellow like yours truly. Thankfully the heavens came to the rescue with a week of inclement dragonfly-unfriendly weather.

We are still without our own vehicle but Sue has a loan car for work which has enabled us to make a couple of weekend trips to ease the frustration.

Saturday June 3rd

Despite being the season of Springwatch I’ve always followed the meteorological system of naming seasons, and with Emperor and Black-tailed Skimmers dominating at Bramshill it certainly feels like Summer to me.

I’m a little disappointed to see the reduction in Spring populations of Hairy and Downy; both which are past their peak.

We did see one Hairy today, a female tentatively popping in to drop her eggs under the threatening flight of the Emperor; only to be driven off because, as far as the Emperor as concerned, her time was past.

There were also a couple of Downy present on Long Lake, neither willing to follow a predetermined path so I settled  for a pair of Blue-tailed in the scrub.

Blue-tailed Damselflies (Ischnura elegans) - pair in cop (fem. rufescens form)

Blue-tailed Damselflies (Ischnura elegans) – pair in cop (fem. rufescens form)

We bumped into Aaron and his dog Cody and took a little time out for a chat until we reached damsel corner; all now heading down to roost with the drop in temperature.

 Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) - teneral male

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) – teneral male

Sunday 11th June

It’s been far too long since my first and only visit to Bentley Wood this season so Sue & I headed over to meet Tony & Sue Walker who are local guardians to these woods. They introduced us to another pond which we’ve failed to find previously, nicely active with plenty of Azure, Large Red and Broad-bodied Chasers.

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) - male

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) – male

We carried on down to our pond of choice where we were pleased to find a couple of Downy still patrolling along with a few Emperor, Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers battling against the wind.

It wasn’t too long before we saw our first Common Emerald of the season. It took me a while to get my eye in; the tenerals proving difficult to pick out during the cloudier moments.

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) - immature male

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) – immature male

Having found a male I was eager to find a female, and did eventually spot one rising from the grasses to the bramble. Such was her position that the only shot available to me was against the sun.

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) - immature female

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) – immature female

Walking through the meadow I caught sight of a teneral dragonfly and further searching revealed a couple more Common Darters, another one off the list this season.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - immature male

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) – immature male

Two new species in a day is more than satisfying however we struck gold on the way out when we spotted a Golden-ringed hawking the ride on our walk back. A good day then, and most appreciated having been stuck indoors for a week.

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Stream, Mire and Heath

Wednesday 31st May

Every season I visit Latchmore Brook to connect with the Scarce Blue-tailed damselflies; usually in mid-June, however as all species except the Large Red have jumped the gun this year I managed to connect with my subject in late May.

A prospective foray last week produced just the one immature male a return visit was planned for this Wednesday. It wasn’t too long before I spotted my first pre-aurantiaca phase female close to the mire, the beautiful and delicate pink hues of the teneral stage just beginning to change to the vibrant orange.

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura pumilio) - female immature pre-aurantiaca form

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura pumilio) – female immature pre-aurantiaca form

Despite a fair amount of light cloud early on I was surprised by the lack of males; I didn’t see one until on my way out mid-afternoon. I did however connect with my first Small Red of the year, satisfyingly bringing my season species total to 20 before May had turned to June.

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) - female

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) – female

Another pre-aurantiaca caught my eye and offered a better opportunity when she landed low down on a stem. I ditched the monopod and lay on my belly to find the best angle, which happened to be from slightly underneath, perfectly isolated with a background of sky.

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura pumilio) - female immature pre-aurantiaca form

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura pumilio) – female immature pre-aurantiaca form

While searching for the more orange version I happened upon a male Small Red. One of the pitfalls of macro photography with such a small subject is the slightest breeze can cause immense frustration, with even the fastest shutter speed unable to cope with even a 7mph average.

I waited what seemed like an age for a break in the breeze but it wasn’t to be. In the end I had no other alternative than to spray & pray using manual focus. Auto-focus or indeed the use of a tripod wasn’t going to help here.

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) - male

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) – male

Still not as sharp as required, but it’ll do until more chances arrive later in the season. I had to wait until lunchtime until I finally managed to secure a true aurantiaca, the vibrant orange impossible to miss against the green of the grass.

Thankfully this one was happy to stay in her own chosen sheltered hollow, happily feeding. I was content enough just to watch as she rose from her grass stem to take another small fly out of the heather above.

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura pumilio) - female immature aurantiaca form

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura pumilio) – female immature aurantiaca form

After securing my prize I took a walk up to Gypsy Hollies and descended the stream, taking the opposite route to last week. Before the stream turned I noticed an almost fully mature green female busy ovipositing into the shallows.

Following the stream as it ran parallel to the main brook I came across quite a few Southern and another aurantiaca along the shoreline, quickly disappearing out of reach. No worries, I was happy just to wander along paths not previously trodden, frequently having to back-track to avoid the boggy areas.

I found two more aurantiaca before calling it a day and finally a male patrolling the first flush near the lawn. There’ll be better opportunities on another day.

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