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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2015 Review – Reasons To Be Cheerful; Part 1.

I thought I’d do a review of the season this year; if only as an exercise in meditation. There’s something very therapeutic about writing a blog, having made a conscious decision to cut down the forums as I found the task of reviewing photos and keeping the blog up to date more than enough time to spend glued to a screen.

We had a good Spring which took a while to get going, but nevertheless always enjoyable and productive. As usual, the first out of the bag was a Large Red found emerging at our local nature reserve on April 10th.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) – teneral male

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) – teneral male

Eleven days later some welcome variety arrived some Blue-tailed and a couple of Hairy at Titchfield. My first Broad-bodied sightings were at Cadnam Common on the 27th April – too flighty for any record shots, and in early May I found a couple of spent Club-tail exuvia and my first Banded Demoiselles of the season along the Thames path. A few miles south at Bramshill I bagged my first Four-spotted Chaser, Azure and Red-eyed.

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) - immature female

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) – immature female

Just a few miles from home is a beautiful secluded valley bordered on one side by a steep wooded hillside with a prime water meadow on the other. I usually bag my first Beautiful Demoiselles here and on May 7th it didn’t disappoint.

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) – Immature male

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) – Immature male

My first Downy was also found locally, a female high in the trees at the often-surprising Swanwick Lakes, and the first unforgettable day of the year was had at the always marvelous Somerset Levels, providing the locally-absent Variable and the first Scarce Chaser of the season.

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) – immature male

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) – immature male

The Levels are still the best place to connect with magnificent Hairy hawker. There were plenty of opportunities this day.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) - female

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) – female

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) - male

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) – male

I had to wait until the 22nd May before I managed a shot of a Downy. No easy task, as Higher Hyde Heath didn’t produce the goods like last year. At least Studland could be relied upon.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) - male

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) – male

I must give mention to Troublefield, always a delight in Spring before the cattle are introduced. I can – and often do – spend hours in less than an acre filling my boots (sometimes literally!)

My second best day of the year came with a visit to the Thames with Marc Heath and Adrian Dowling. Anxious to bag their first ever Club-tail, we searched the bank where I previously found the exuvia. Despite a little trepidation any initial worry was soon overcome with our first emergent high in a tree, but much better was to come.

Common Club-tail (Gomphus vulgatissimus) - teneral female

Common Club-tail (Gomphus vulgatissimus) – teneral female

A pleasing end to May. June will follow shortly…

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Swan Song

Wednesday 30th September

It didn’t take long to understand why I chose the closing of September as my cut-off point, regardless of the excellent weather we’ve (finally) experienced. A natural high, if you will. It would certainly be sinful to deny the sunshine, so as a traditional farewell I said goodbye to the season with a visit to the pond at Cadnam Common – the pond that started it all.

There were no long periods of annoying cloud, only a prolonged belt of sunshine disturbed by a brisk easterly breeze. Conditions similar to Priddy on Monday, and perfect, you would think?

There were (few) Common Darters, either bachelor or in tandem, a few tattered Common Emerald, a Common Blue and two male Southern Hawkers. No Migrant, but this isn’t realty the pond for them. Sure, we’ve had passers-by, but I hoped for A.juncea ;-).

The presence of one, let alone two, male Southern holding territory and occasionally fighting is as much as you could wish for on the last day of the ninth month.

The first was Bob – a fellow I met a few weeks ago. That incredibly erratic individual who didn’t know a course if he saw one…totally at odds with the usual holders of this territory.

Southern Hawker - male in-flight

Southern Hawker – male in-flight

He was a rare challenge though.

Southern Hawker - male in-flight

Southern Hawker – male in-flight

His mate/adversary, who I will call Derek just to annoy those who hate anthropomorphism, was holding territory along the eastern bank – always a problem as it faces the sun.

This year there’s been an upsurge in in-flight dragonfly photography with some stunning examples out there, which pleases me, and everyone has their own techniques. I took my first in-flighter 7 years ago, and at the time I thought it was the bees knees. Looking back on it now it’s terrible, so I’ve continued to practice every chance I get.

Back then I wanted a photo, and if he wasn’t going to perch then there was only one option. Little did I know that it would lead to my favourite use of time.

Yet to me it’s not a waste of time. It’s the sheer enjoyment of how I spend that time. All the while I’m panning I’m seeing the behaviour patterns, the course, however erratic, the soaring off into territory disputes, the battles, the scars. It’s how I enjoy observing them, and each new experience remains in my memory.

This year I’ve attempted  a new challenge; getting in-flighters against the sun, because, like the first time, there isn’t another option.

Derek was the perfect subject.

Southern Hawker - male in-flight

Southern Hawker – male in-flight

Not fully happy with it. Derek could have been sharper, but I like the sun-speckles over the water. A fitting end to a slightly disappointing season which I’ve made the best of, and all said and done, I’ve had a blast :-)

A great many thanks to those who read & follow, either here or on social media, and a great many thanks to old and new friends encountered this season.

I will continue to post with the odd update regarding website changes, of which there are many planned, and any further out-of-my-season jaunts.

I can’t believe it’s not summer….

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A Common Dilemma

Monday 28th September

We had a good day Sunday at Bentley Wood, so I needed a fix. A fix of the Moorland kind. Now the pond at Cadnam Common may have come up with the goods, as I’ve seen them there briefly recently, and of course Ramsdown. However both can be unpredictable and it’s often a gamble. I needed to hedge my bets.

Forecast good? Priddy it was then.

Imagine then my dismay as despite a glorious day and a little breeze, the main pool around the entrance only had one Southern, one Migrant and an occasional Moorland – and these didn’t stay around for long.

Over in the far corner there was a female Moorland ovipositing, a couple of Black Darters, some Common Emerald and a few Common Blue. Naturally it was the Common Darters who dominated proceedings, but even these were scattered and few. I didn’t receive any opportunities until after 3.00pm when my quarry flew back & forth against the sun.

Moorland (Common) Hawker - male in-flight

Moorland (Common) Hawker – male in-flight

Not the best I could do, and I thought that’s it; the only shot of the day! Thankfully my next encounter was to give me my best opportunity on this quiet day.

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - female

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – female

This is the first female of this species I’ve managed perched (so far) and therefore was a most welcome chance to get up close and witness one who wasn’t ovipositing or checking out a pond from 20 feet above.

Result then…and I was finally happy. On my way back through I checked the thicket for any perched hawkers. None to be found, but my next rush arrived with a male flying in, circling me for a while, hovering inches in front of my nether regions (!) before finally settling on my right thigh. Too damn close for a photo, but the experience was enough.

A perfect end to an otherwise frustrating day.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

PS:- There has been a recent gripe by a fellow on social media who takes offence to my referring to Aeshna juncea as the Moorland Hawker. ‘Not as it appears in his book’ was the general gist. Those who know me know I prefer to use the Dijkstra name as it’s more descriptive of the species, as is the other suggested ‘common’ name, Sedge Hawker.

There are several other people who share my view. Those who don’t usually ignore my quirks and move on. Unfortunately some use social media as a venting medium for their own inadequacies and are best ignored.

 

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Shades of Autumn

Sunday 27th September

I missed the chance to go anywhere Saturday through pure indulgence the night before; entirely self-inflicted. Not that I was too bothered as we have a good week ahead of us and I don’t want to over-indulge and get bored with the same old species.

Sunday then for a trip to Bentley Wood with Sue to get a feel for the place late season. The drive over was rather pleasant with the gently undulating hills of North-West Hampshire leading into the picture-postcard charm of South Wiltshire.

The changing colours and harvested fields brought home the realisation that these halcyon days are diminishing for another year with tall fronds of yellowing Fern lining the woodland rides. A few wary Common Darters rose with our passing, out-numbered by the fine population of Speckled Wood butterflies. How very apt a name?

When we finally reached the pond we had a male Brown Hawker patrolling intermittently. Always a challenge to get in flight, but I made an effort anyway.

Brown Hawker - male in-flight

Brown Hawker – male in-flight

When I first found this pond in Spring I knew this was a perfect place for Migrant Hawkers. The extensive stands of Bulrush and the presence of Ruddy Darter were a dead give-away. Both were present today, with Migrant winning the count.

Migrant Hawkers - pair in cop

Migrant Hawkers – pair in cop

The Ruddy however were scarcer this time around, and even the Common Darters weren’t present in large numbers. A few Common Emeralds were present but no sign of any other damsels.

It was to be a day for the female Southern; at least three present along with three noticeably different males – a good recipe for some pairings. Sure enough, the two pairings we witnessed rose high towards the trees and perched about 20 feet up!

I’m beginning to wonder whether that pair I chanced upon 5 years ago was sheer luck!

Shortly afterwards my attention was grabbed by another male Brown Hawker. After a brief battle between the males, one of them landed at my feet to carry on feeding on his prey of a Red-legged Shield Bug.

Brown Hawker - male feeding

Brown Hawker – male feeding

One of the male Southerns was sneaking in & out of the under-shore where the female had been, making for some tricky in-flighters. Occasionally he would rise to check me out.

Southern Hawker - male in-flight

Southern Hawker – male in-flight

A frantic rustling in the grass alerted me to a female Southern Hawker held fast by her wings in a cobweb. I gently removed her and placed her among the scrub to allow Sue to use her fingernails to clear the web away from her wings.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - female

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – female

Now there are a few out there who frown upon intervening in nature, but I consider myself part of nature and if I can help a dragonfly, I will. This female doesn’t have long to live and needs to produce a new generation before her time is up. Becoming lunch while she’s ovipositing is unfair and unnecessary in my opinion.

So a good day then. Six species and plenty to keep us occupied.

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The Usual Suspects

Wednesday 23rd September

Some of you may be aware a certain newspaper (sic) predicted an ‘Indian Summer’ starting this coming weekend. The met office and BBC weather reports appear to have caught up, reporting a swathe of high pressure promising plenty of sunshine with a get-out clause.

Temperatures aren’t going to miraculously rise into the mid-twenties. The best we could hope for is perhaps twenty as a maximum provided their is continuous sunshine. With high pressure come colder nights, which means it’ll take a good while for temperatures to rise sufficiently, and if there is a greater ratio of cloud to sun they’ll stall, or even drop.

What we shouldn’t expect is a new phase of dragonfly swarms; just the usual suspects encountered late in the season. The best we can hope for is an extension with days at the pond being more satisfying than of late. Just because the sun’s shining outside my window as I write doesn’t mean I’m going to sally forth with delayed enthusiasm.

Wednesday was an exception, with enough sunshine throughout the morning to raise the temperatures enough to bring the dragonflies out for a feed before the clouds rolled in. A two hour jaunt around Swanwick Nature reserve before lunch was just enough.

The dipping pond is too small for a long wait, but nevertheless provided a male Migrant to start the day. Raised from his rest, he took a few tentative flights around the pond and along the track before returning to perch and warm up.

Migrant Hawker - male

Migrant Hawker – male

The appearance of another took them off for a dispute far out of reach so I continued around the reserve on my usual route, albeit reversed to experience the fishing lakes later.

The cattle have now been introduced to the quadrant which means negotiating piles of waste underfoot. Mixed with saturated ground this isn’t a pleasurable experience, but I persevered to the dog pond at the far end of the reserve catching sight of the odd Common Darter.

Another spooked Migrant along the path on the way back to the fishing lake where a tussle was going on along the shore between a male Common Darter and a mating pair.Enough to keep me amused for a short while.

Common Darter - male

Common Darter – male

Back at the dipping pond there were a few more Common Darters than earlier and even the odd nervous Ruddy. Just as I was contemplating calling it a day a male Southern Hawker took up residence.

Southern Hawker  - male in-flight

Southern Hawker – male in-flight

I couldn’t possibly resist! After all this was the very same pond which began my love of in-flight photography six years ago, almost to the day. At the time it was the only option of getting a shot as he wouldn’t cease patrolling, and little did I know it would lead to my favourite waste of time.

Southern Hawker  - male in-flight

Southern Hawker – male in-flight

This brief encounter ended up giving me my best Southern Hawker shot of the season.

Southern Hawker  - male in-flight

Southern Hawker – male in-flight

Or should I say so far?

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Sunshine & Surprises

Saturday 19th September

On arrival at Bramshill we bumped into Mike; a chap I’ve met on a couple of occasions but not immediately recognised, for which I apologise – it’s hard to remember faces at the best of times, but from the seat of a car can be even more difficult! So hello to you sir!

Those responsible for the management of Bramshill Plantation have done a sterling job clearing out the saplings which were threatening to consume the clearing with the ponds. My only criticism is maybe you were a little vigilant removing the gorse stand between the two eastern pools. Still, a vast improvement and I’m sure come next Spring there will be enough new growth to offer refuge.

Perhaps because of the recent shearing the usually busy pools were missing their usual activity; just the one Common Darter and one male Migrant along with a scattering of Common Blue and Common Emerald.

Migrant Hawker - male in-flight

Migrant Hawker – male in-flight

However that elusive hidden pond had plenty to keep us busy for an hour. Two male Migrant, two male and a female Southern, an  Emperor (!), several of the former damsels and a fair showing of Ruddy Darter. I spent a good while coaxing one of the Southerns towards the background of moss; against the sun, but worth it.

Southern Hawker - male in flight

Southern Hawker – male in flight

At one point a female Southern flew in and did a circuit before one of the males found her and they frustratingly rose over and above the treeline – something which was to be repeated a little later. The only large species I had left was a resting male Migrant.

Migrant Hawker - male

Migrant Hawker – male

The strange perching behaviour  of the Migrant. I’ve not see many other hawkers perch this way up except the odd Emperor…oh, and a rather surprised Brown Hawker I surprised last year. I wonder if it’s a size or weight thing? I’d certainly be interested to hear of any other hawker examples?

With most of my subjects gone we decided to take a walk along the shores of Long Pond. On the way through we disturbed a perched male Southern Hawker who rose and settled  close by.

Southern Hawker - male

Southern Hawker – male

As I was choosing a pleasing composition a small, ugly black cloud turned the ride to darkness; dropping the ambient temperature several degrees from which the rest of the afternoon never fully recovered.

The results were immediately apparent along the north shore of Long Pond, with only a couple of Migrant and a few Common Darters visible along the path. Unsurprisingly the water’s edge was devoid of any action except for a couple of Migrant intermittently sharing the western corner.

We decided to return to the ponds only to find they too had all but been deserted; just a female Southern scouring the edge before being whisked away by a male, again right over the treeline. Still a few Ruddy around though.

Ruddy Darter - male

Ruddy Darter – male

Except for another male Southern along the path, that was it for the day. A successful day though…at least for the first hour.

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Unfinished Business

Thursday 17th September

A whole week since I’ve been out; mostly to do with the inclement weather, but partly to do with not wanting to push it. Remember what I said about the first good day after rain? Always a gamble…but I had to get out.

Not a blinder by any means…sunny spells…but better than intervals. First call Town Common for a full traverse. I wanted to know if there were any of the boggy three still on the wing – the Black Darter, Common Emerald and Small Red.

Maybe slightly early? Too cool still? Certainly no hawkers to be seen, but surely the cool-tolerant triumvirate should be around in the grasses and heather? Afraid to say, despite my tenacity, I didn’t find one.

The rains had turned parts of the path into ephemeral pools, and a working party were busy clearing some sections. As I approached Chris Dresh (the Ranger) came to say hello and give an update on the continuing and prospective improvements to the site.

Not a little bothered by the lack of action, more by the encroaching gloom of a black cloud, I wound my way back to the car and hopped the short distance to Ramsdown. I would’ve crossed the A338, but the crossing is out of bounds during the roadworks until next Spring.

Nothing at the first pool…nothing in the clearing…at least the hidden pond had a Southern patrolling during the sunnier moments. One of those unpredictable males who wouldn’t offer an easy shot. Other than that, a couple of Common Emerald (finally!) and male Common Darters.

While the sun hid I climbed the hill to the sunken pond (must find a name…or give it one). The water levels had made it even more difficult to navigate, but at least there was more action. During one sunny spell I even had an old male Emperor hanging on in there – the first I’d seen since Priddy.

Also present were the inevitable Common Darters, Common Emeralds and a lone Small Red. Unfortunately not available for photos. Crossing the heath to the other side I had a Migrant Hawker buzz me for a short while, and down on the mossy bank I finally found a Black Darter.

Black Darter - male

Black Darter – male

The best shot of the day, and at least an opportunity. After searching through the mosses and reeds for some variety I decided to return to the hidden pool to try for that Southern, if he was still about. He was…and he was joined by an adversary. Really annoying when you’re attempting to grab a shot of one when another comes in for a fight.

Southern Hawkers - battling males

Southern Hawkers – battling males

A very small pool this…and very little room for more than one hawker, and after they’d had their little tussle they retreated to their own patrols – one choosing the reeds near the entrance and the other the reeds over to the east. Both too far for satisfaction.

Southern Hawker - male in flight

Southern Hawker – male in flight

And that was it. Disappointing for sure, but not unexpected. Glad to get out though!

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