The Vale of Avalon

Every year around this time Doug & I like to make the pilgrimage to the wonderful Vale of Avalon for the bounty of Spring species, especially the Hairy Dragonfly and Variable Damselflies, the latter of which is absent from South Hampshire. The Hairy is present, albeit very local and in small numbers. We were barely through the gate when we observed enough activity to keep us amused with both of the above, Azure, Large Red, Red-eyed and Blue-tailed along with Four-spotted and – most welcome – an emergence of fresh Scarce Chasers.

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) - immature female

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) – immature female

Among the many delights of the Somerset Levels is the chance to engage with the Red-eyed at close quarters, instead of their preferred perch out on inaccessible lily pads.

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) - immature male

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) – immature male

I wanted to engage more with the Variable this time, taking time to observe their behavior with the intention of picking them out among the Azure from a distance. Once you get your eye in the bulkier appearance and more determined flight are good indicators when you can’t get a close view of their subtle differences in markings. One of the great delights with unfamiliar species is coming across an immature colour form which is as beautiful as it is unexpected.

Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) - immature female

Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) – immature female

With the gentle rise in air temperature we had our first sightings of Hairy rising from their shelter in the bank to feed along the tree-line. An obliging female gave us our first opportunity.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) - female

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) – female

Down in the microclimate of the grassy banks it’s very much dog-eat-dog. The damselflies were right to be cautious, although the danger didn’t lie with us.

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) - female feeding on an unfortunate Azure

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) – female feeding on an unfortunate Azure

Watching the damsels was both entertaining and informative. The Red-eyed certainly appeared to be the bulldog of the bunch; stocky, fast and powerful. At the other end of the spectrum was the diminutive Blue-tailed appearing to casually drift with the breeze, although they too had a purpose. Another benefit of keeping your eye close allows you to come across delights you might’ve missed.

Hairy Dragonflies (Brachytron pratense) - pair in cop

Hairy Dragonflies (Brachytron pratense) – pair in cop

-We did have a smattering of Four-spotted and the odd Broad-bodied, but the day really belonged to the Scarce Chaser with numbers increasing during the afternoon.

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva)_- Immature male

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva)_- Immature male

A walk along the Sweet Track brings you to a permissive path crossing a glorious spring meadow where several female Hairy were resting down low in the grass while the reeded margins provided the perfect backdrop for incoming males.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) - male

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) – male

An enjoyable, educational and productive day can satisfy the cravings for a good few days and if the sun had made an appearance outside my window this week I probably ignored it. I need more days like these!

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One Week On

Trying to curb my natural desire to get out as quickly as possible I took a leisurely approach on Thursday, arriving at Bramshill at around 11.30am. Instead of heading to the ponds first I decided to check out ‘hawker alley’ in the hope of finding a Downy. On the way through I had a couple of Four-spotted Chasers cross over from the lake to the sanctity of the treeline; they’re always wary in their teneral state.

When I arrived at the main track I paused for a polite conversation with a dog walker and was immediately distracted as a Downy flew overhead. Thankfully once pleasantries were over I noticed another changing position low in the path-side vegetation.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) - immature female

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) – immature female

Not the best of positions, but better than nothing as her next choice was at least 100 metres away at height. I saw one more along the track before returning to Long Lake. This side of the shore was still waking up so I headed into the overgrown depths of the thicket. Once I’d navigated to the shore the air exploded with teneral Large Red, Common Blue and Red-eyed, the latter in far bigger numbers this week.

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) - immature female

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) – immature female

The small ponds didn’t produce anything of interest although Mike had spotted some Hairy during his Thursday visit. Feeling that the rides might be a better option, I decided to take a long walk in search of some other water bodies to the east.

The one I was looking for turned out to be a mostly shaded, but the exercise had produced a greater insight into Bramshill, with some access to the shore of another lake where another Downy was spotted, and some rather marvelous sheltered rides and clearings. In one of these clearings I came across my first Broad-bodied Chaser of the season.

Returning to the promising pond found last year (and visited  last week) there were a few more damsels around the grassy margins, but the surprise came in the form of a beautifully new Four-spotted Chaser, rising from the shore and thankfully choosing a perch low enough to get to.

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) - immature male

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) – immature male

By now the sun was hiding behind some heavy cloud and I decided to call it a day.

On Friday I decided to head west to Troublefield to see if it had woken up. The meadow is still wet and still a little immature on the flower front, but I chose the right day to witness the awakening of the Beautiful Demoiselles.

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) - teneral female

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) – teneral female

At Ramsdown the wind was a problem. Just the one FSC spotted and a few Large Red, so cutting the visit short I decided to check out the large pond near Ringwood. The wind was also a problem here, but it did allow me to engage properly with some Blue-tailed.

Blue-tailed Damselflies (Ischnura elegans) - pair in cop

Blue-tailed Damselflies (Ischnura elegans) – pair in cop

One more week and we’ll be sorted!

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At Last! The Great Awakening!

All we needed was a succession of sunny days to allow a rise in temperatures to kick start the dragonfly season in style.  Gently at first with a smattering of Large Red followed by Common Blue, Red-eyed, Blue-tailed and even Four-spotted Chasers at Bramshill Common mid-week.

My first trip to Bramshill on Wednesday was more of a scout just to see what was about. Just a few large Red around the small ponds, and a fair smattering in the sheltered areas bordering the lakes. I was hoping for a Blue-tailed, Common Blue or even a Red-eyed, but it wasn’t going to happen for me today.

Large Red (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) - male

Large Red (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) – male

I bumped into Mike Barnett for a joint effort early on and later at the pond area where I found him stalking a Four-spotted Chaser which unfortunately  flew into the treeline before either of us could attempt a shot!

Next morning I received an e-mail from Mike asking for ID on some photos he’d managed while we were off on separate paths only to find the lucky sod had bagged a Red-eyed! That and the FSC more or less guaranteed a return visit Thursday.

Thursday turned out to be a far more enjoyable and productive day with my first Red-eyed of the season bagged.

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) - immature female

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) – immature female

Large Red were predictably in larger numbers and while we were staring across the reeds another Four-spotted Chaser flew across the reed tops on a mission known only to itself. No worries…at least I managed to increase my season count once more with a Common Blue.

Common Blue ((Enallagma cyathigerum) - immature male

Common Blue ((Enallagma cyathigerum) – immature male

The south-east shore of Long Lake was all but empty of life on Wednesday, but on Thursday there were a lot of tenerals rising to the trees. A search of the shoreline provided a fresh Blue-tailed. Three new species in one day? I call that a result!

On Saturday afternoon Sue & I took a trip to Swanwick where life had tentatively began with a few Large Red and Azure if you looked hard enough.

Azure (Coenagrion puella) - immature female

Azure (Coenagrion puella) – immature female

Hamble Valley was much better. No sooner had we reached the top of the bank that the sight of a fresh Beautiful Demoiselle rose into the treeline. They’re here then. Let’s delve a little deeper.

The wooded shore is steep, boggy and sometimes treacherous, but that didn’t stop me searching every nook & cranny for an individual which would stay still for long enough to focus on in this dappled light and shadow.

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) - immature female

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) – immature female

Another result and a cracking week where everything happened at once. That’s just how I like it. Reports from elsewhere reveal Broad-bodied Chasers, Hairy Dragonfly, Downy Emerald and even White-faced Darter, so the season is well under way.

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False Starts and Disappointing Revelations

I apologise in advance for the negative title and content. Just when I thought April couldn’t get any worse, it did. Despite the scattered sightings of Large Red, sprinklings of variety with Blue-tailed, Beautiful Demoiselle, Hairy Dragonfly and our Spring Chasers in various Counties, it’s all been a little quiet here in Hampshire.

This of course is down to the weather. No self-respecting dragonfly is going to emerge into cold & wet conditions, and those which did may have perished in some late frosts. I like to punctuate April with observing and photographing Spring Butterflies but they too have been delayed through unsuitable conditions.

There is of course a positive to take from this. Very soon everything will arrive at once; May being optimal for observing our Spring species, and I can’t wait! A long, satisfying day where time disappears rapidly through sheer diversity and enjoyment should help us forget the past month.

However it may be difficult to forget the sheer destruction carried out at Crockford Stream out of season. Those of you who are familiar with this cracking dragonfly paradise will stare in dismay at the unrecognisable view which greets them. The thicket which divides the key clearing from the road is no longer there. It has been razed to the ground. So too have the long stand of gorse leading up the valley lining the old marl pits.

All of those refuges of shelter have gone in an effort to open out the stream, supposedly to benefit the Southern Damselfly, but I really do think they’ve gone to far. Dragonflies need these trees and areas of scrub to feed and shelter. Their main food insects congregate around these sheltered micro-climates. They are as vital as the open areas used for procreation.

Taking the sledgehammer approach has opened up this once fine area to the elements and you (and the insects) will notice the slightest breeze. You only have to take a walk along Ober Water to realise all of the main activity over water is around the sheltered areas. Although after seeing what they’ve done to Crockford I’m apprehensive about my first Ober foray this season.

Had I not been subject to a darkening of the clouds (reflecting my mood) along with a hail shower I might’ve stayed around a little to document the full effect of this clearance. As it was all I managed was a snapshot with the phone of the section looking north from the stream crossing with what remains of the thicket in the foreground.



Now I’ve had assurances that ‘it will recover’ and ‘this will be beneficial in the long term’ and so may it be, but there’s no denying the experience previously had at Crockford will not be as enjoyable for the foreseeable future.

Now I have that off my chest I can look forward to the bounty our delayed Spring will provide. It can’t all be bad :-)

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A Day of Contrasts

There’s no denying it’s been a slow month; from the first garden pond emergence at the start of the month to sprinklings of Large Red around the middle when we experienced two or three days of relatively warm and calm conditions. Since then we’ve experienced a return to morning frosts, northerly winds and bone-chilling temperatures.

This is by no means unusual and if anything marks a change to normality. For the past few years we’ve experienced early springs leading us into a false sense of entitlement. A walk through your favourite reserves can give you a better feel for progress with spring vegetation barely taking hold.

During the week I returned to the site of my previous findings to be disappointed by the lack of progress with pickings still very meager. With the onset of more cold weather I took advantage of some sunny spells on Saturday to check out Bramshill Common.

I wish I’d brought a jacket! The appearance of a few dark clouds dropped the temperature significantly, and typically my first Large Red sighting coincided with this downturn, making it a challenge to grab a pleasing shot.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) - teneral male

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) – teneral male

I saw just one more teneral in this clearing before moving on to a few other likely spots, noting how sodden everywhere still was. The shorelines were breached with few areas, except the trees, to accommodate the recently-emerged.

I had hoped there might be some variation with perhaps a Blue-tailed or Red eyed making an appearance, but it was a good hour or more before I could even find any more Large Reds; suitably sequestered in a small, sheltered micro-climate and rising immediately at my passing to take refuge in the deepest stands of gorse as more clouds appeared.

After my tour was complete I stood and waited at the best spot, watching the display of a Heron and two Red Kites decorate the skies as I waited for the sun to appear once more. It did, all too briefly, but at least allowed just one more subject before I called it a day.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) - teneral female

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) – teneral female

The sun is shining through my window as I write and I’m trying hard to ignore it, knowing I’ll probably be disappointed if I venture out. Despite this afternoon’s surprise revelation that a Broad-bodied Chaser has been spotted (indeed photographed) I prefer to wait until the season begins in earnest.

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And Now My Watch Begins

Spring is such a wonderful time. The warming days, increased birdsong, new blooms. The anticipation can lead to false starts and impatience, and the subsequent years have taught me to be patient.

My good friend Marc kicked off the season with a garden pond emergence in Kent and the first wild sightings were some days later in Cornwall, which is totally unsurprising. A wave usually heads eastwards with Devon, Dorset and Hampshire following on.

Naturally I’ve been keeping an eye out for sightings and taking a few trepidacious walks to a couple of previously successful spots, but the deciding factor is an unbroken period of warmth and calm.

With the promise of a pleasant couple of days I took my first trip westward into the New Forest on Tuesday (10th). An average wind speed of 5mph meant a look in at Milkham Bottom might be worth it followed by a look in at Broomy Pond, usually the first New Forest pond to produce results. Despite a search of the banks and surrounding heath neither would claim the prize this year, so I continued on to Hurn.

Town Common bristled with reptile action and I encountered more Peacocks (the butterfly) than in previous days.

It was while I was watching one of the latter that I noticed the familiar and welcome sight of a teneral Large Red rise from the heather. That surreal feeling when time appears to stop as tunnel vision takes over is the type of memory that remains forever.

Then panic set in as I tried to remember my stealth skills, which, after a winter of sloth, are a tad rusty. I needed to get in position, but in came the Peacock again to disturb my quarry before a clumsy step by yours truly cast a shadow which sent my prize into the safety of the tree canopy.

I spent the next hour in hunt mode desperately searching for more until I admitted defeat, but the day wasn’t over yet. There was still Ramsdown. I remembered the top pond was usually reliable for early sightings and sure enough it wasn’t long before I found a teneral male in the reeds.

At least this one had the good grace to allow me some photos.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) - teneral

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) – teneral male

Satisfied with my find I took a short walk around the pond margins flushing three more before calling it a day.

Upper Pond at Ramsdown

Upper Pond at Ramsdown

At this point I must praise Chris Dresh and his team of volunteers for their sterling work opening up the ponds on Town Common and clearing the restrictive row of trees on the above pond at Ramsdown. The two Pines are all that remains over a barrier which prevented exploration along the north-east shore.

A few more weeks and we will begin to see some diversity, but for now let us celebrate the start of a new season!

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The Generation Gap

Still a little too cool and early for even the Large Red, but it won’t be long now. My reason for posting is the recent BDS Recorders Meeting in Surrey on March 19th.

This was the first meeting I’ve personally attended and, as well as being able to put faces to names. it’s given me a lot of food for thought. Once everyone was seated it was obvious there was a bias towards the older generation. Although I’m getting a bit long in the tooth myself there does appear to be an ‘old school’ exclusivity prevalent.

Some might argue an interest in the natural world only develops when you’re mature enough not to have the time constraints of education, careers and procreation. Others, including the younger generation, may blame the lack of opportunities and resources to pursue their interests.

There is no doubt that formative education is geared more towards career development than vocational environmental concerns, although an increasing sympathy and understanding of our planet and the hazards we face has raised awareness more than ever before.

What better time to raise awareness of dragonflies and their importance in an eco-system? Why should butterflies take all the glory? No offence to the butterfly, magnificent creature that it is, but, as pointed out by one of the audience, if you’re looking for more sex and violence rather than costume dramas then the dragonfly fits the bill.

A post-meeting chat over a pint with a friend who also attended revealed a tightly-packed regime which gave little time for ‘networking’. From what I observed these brief moments of sociability allowed attendees to relax and breathe. Rather than filling the meeting with one talk straight after another a better option would be to allow more time to connect.

The main premise of the meeting was geared towards recording with an initial talk by David Hepper outlining recent improvements and methods which will simplify recording, and in turn incorporate local records into the global  database.

irecord app

By far the most user-friendly of these is the new irecord service which allows anyone to contribute records – even in the field – with the help of the useful mobile app. I urge everyone with a smartphone to download the app and start using it this season. A move away from the traditional notebooks and spreadsheets may help to allow a younger generation to get involved.

On the subject of recording David Murdock has approached me to help with Hazeley Heath east of Basingstoke. This is an under-recorded site within the same catchment as Warren Heath and Bramshill Common, and should share many of the same species. Ideally a transect during May, late June/early July and late August/early September should give a broad outline of species present.

If you are local to Hazeley Heath and can help please let me know.

Here’s to a splendid new season!

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2015 Review – Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 4.

What should’ve been prime hawker season started very slowly. I only needed one or two willing subjects to keep me amused over-water, but the lack of hawkers decorating the foliage along proven paths was cause for concern. Paying my dues at the pond which started it all at least gave me a little sport with Emperor and Southern Hawker vying for territory.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male in-flight

Emperor (Anax imperator) – male in-flight

Despite having their own preferred areas they would occasionally meet in a dog-fight display that appeared more playful than aggressive.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male in-flight

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male in-flight

September arrived way too soon for my liking and I hungered for properly satisfying day, so the first good forecast prompted our first seasonal visit to Priddy in North Somerset. Steve Covey and Damien Pinguey were already on site when Sue and I arrived, and Jerry Hawker and Mike Dimery joined us shortly after for an socially-enjoyable romp through the saturated shores and thickets.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male in-flight

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – male in-flight

It was mid-September before I started seeing hawkers decorating the paths to a better standard, but the combination of bad weather and beetle-damaged heather meant the once-bountiful prey haven of Ramsdown was sorely lacking.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – male

Even the ponds were quiet and I really had to test my patience waiting for some sport. In hindsight maybe I should’ve accepted that the dragonflies had moved elsewhere in search of better pasture. A great shame, but it will recover.

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae)- male

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae)- male

Thankfully Bramshill still had plenty to offer with an enjoyable day spent with Sue. There was one pond which I accidentally came across earlier which I needed to relocate, and thankfully did so with the benefit of finding an easier way in.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male in flight

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male in flight

I did manage to fit in another visit to Priddy before the bell tolled, and it really proved to be hard work. Patience and tenacity paid off after several hours with a female Moorland Hawker perched for a change.

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - female

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – female

My season concluded at Cadnam Common, with the majestic Southern Hawker providing the swan song.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male in-flight

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male in-flight

Looking back through the year has been insightful. Spring is a glorious time. Full of new life, anticipation and expectations. Summer is colourful and bountiful. Hawker season is both exhilarating and melancholic, knowing that September will pass in an instant.

This year has seen unprecedented late flights, even through to December, an indicator that our weather isn’t acting as it should. The change that occurred in mid-July had repercussions which were evident through the remaining season.

Let’s hope next season will bring nature back on track. Until then it only remains for me to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) - teneral female

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) – teneral female

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2015 Review – Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3.

July began with  a delightfully-posed Blue-tailed at Pennington.

Blue-tailed damselfly (Ischnura elegans) – male

Blue-tailed damselfly (Ischnura elegans) – male

Calling into Crockford on the way back I bumped into Stephen Darlington. Always a pleasure to meet friends in the field. The Golden-ringed were showing well and even the Keeled Skimmer (even keeled?) provided a pleasant opportunity.

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) - male

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) – male

The next great day came at Bramshill where I was delighted to find a patrolling Brilliant Emerald holding territory over one of the small pools.

Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora metallica) - male in-flight

Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora metallica) – male in-flight

July’s weather proved to be a little miscreant, and very frustrating in what was prime summer season, so I had to content myself with a few local jaunts. At least I managed to connect with those Red-veined Darters again.

Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) - male

Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) – male

To round off the month I met Jerry (Hawker) for an amble along Ober where despite the lack of action there were still some delights to be had, while August began with a bang with a trip to Essex and a brand new species for me, the quite spectacular Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker.

Blue-eyed Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male

Blue-eyed Hawker (Aeshna affinis) – male

The very next day Sue & I finally met up with Aaron Cook at Bramshill for a spot of filming on what turned out to be an ideal sunny day. Highlights included finding a colony of Small Red-eyed and some magnificent shows by the Emperor.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male in-flight

Emperor (Anax imperator) – male in-flight

Even a Common Darter provided a pleasing opportunity.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - male

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) – male

A few days later I completed the Hampshire species list with a Moorland Hawker at Ramsdown, so provided the weather allowed I could indulge for the rest of the season. Prime hawker season is always a favourite time to spend hours at one site, and Town Common provided a fabulous Black Darter opportunity.

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae)  - pair in cop

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) – pair in cop

One of my fondest memories from August was watching a female Moorland Hawker spend a long while flying high above a pond waiting for the coast to clear. Fully aware from previous encounters of how shy the female is, I remained still allowing her to accept my presence and provide a marvelous opportunity as she laid her burden in front of me.

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea)  - female

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – female

A return visit to Bentley Wood provided some excellent damselfly opportunities, including the photogenic Common Emerald.

Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) - male

Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) – male

The day also provided plenty of time to reacquaint with the playful Southern Hawker.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male in-flight

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male in-flight

A few days later I finally managed to catch up with the male Moorland Hawker at Ramsdown.

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male in-flight

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male in-flight

At the start of the month I was asked which was my favourite dragonfly. At the time I chose the Southern Hawker because they have provided many hours of enjoyment, but I have to admit a great affection for the Moorland; probably because of the hours spent in pursuit over the years.

It just goes to show how difficult it is to choose favourites.


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2015 Review – Reasons To Be Cheerful; Part 2.

In the first installment I mentioned Troublefield. When the Spring wild flowers are in bloom the water meadow shimmers with invertebrate delight. Both Banded and Beautiful Demoiselles decorate the foliage and Scarce Chasers explode with fresh citrus delight.

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) - immature female

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) – immature female

Bramshill Common has also become a real favourite of mine, and this season I spent as much time there as possible. Plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, and plenty of surprises to be had.

Azure Damselflies (Coenagrion puella) - two males and a female

Azure Damselflies (Coenagrion puella) – two males and a female

Another delight this season was the discovery of a new pond at Bentley Wood, which took a little finding, but it was worth it. Emperor dominated supported by good populations of Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chaser, Downy Emerald and a selection of damsels.

With such a large population of Emperor this had to be the place to finally bag a shot of a mating pair, and on my second visit I had the choice of three.

Emperor (Anax imperator)  - Pair in cop

Emperor (Anax imperator) – Pair in cop

A private site in the New Forest was ripe for exploration, being the most likely place to find an influx of Red-veined Darter. Sure enough, on Saturday 13th June I had an all-too-fleeting glimpse of a male. Unable to relocate this prize, I continued my transect to be greeted with a small, but thriving, population of Scarce Blue-tailed.

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) - male

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) – male

Mid June is the ideal time for the heathland summer specialists, the Black Darter, Common Emerald and Small Red. Town Common near Christchurch, again a real favourite, is my go-to place for this trio of summer delights.

Small Red (Ceriagrion tenellum) - male

Small Red (Ceriagrion tenellum) – male

Buoyed on by adding these three to my season’s list, I thought I’d try to bag a few more along Ober Water, and I didn’t have to wait long for the first Southern Damselflies and White-legged, followed shortly after by the Keeled Skimmer. Now that’s a good day!

Having found Scarce Blue-tailed elsewhere I had to give Latchmore a look in. Disappointingly not the swarms I was expecting based on previous years, but some tenacious searching we came across a few males and a most welcome mating pair.

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) - pair in cop

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) – pair in cop

I returned the following week in search of the holy grail – the aurantiaca-phase female

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) - immature female aurantiaca phase

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

Late June is one of the best times to take a river stroll, and Ober Water always provides the peace and tranquility to indulge, and the Golden-ringed always gives good sport.

Golden-ringed (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male in-flight

Golden-ringed (Cordulegaster boltonii) – male in-flight

We rounded off a productive month with a return visit to Westbere Lakes in east Kent for a chance to re-engage with those magnificent Green-eyed Hawkers.

Green-eyed Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male

Green-eyed Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) – male

A perfect end to a fabulous month.


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