‘Twas A Season To Be Jolly (Part 2)

An early May sighting of the Golden-ringed promised a summer bounty of arguably our most stunning dragonfly but I didn’t encounter as many along Ober, Latchmore or Crockford this season.

Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male

Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) – male

My favourite day this season has to be my mid-Summer visit to Ashdown Forest for the magnificent Brilliant Emerald. Despite spending several hours glued to the same spot with little going on my patience was rewarded just as I was about to leave.

Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora metallica) - male

Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora metallica) – male

Such good fortune meant fate owed me a beating which killed my mojo for a short while, but thankfully a couple of trips to Kent kept the fires burning. The Kent Marshes gave us a good showing of the Scarce Emerald however the Southern Emerald failed to make an appearance this year.

Scarce Emerald Damselfly (Lestes dryas) - male

Scarce Emerald Damselfly (Lestes dryas) – male

Thankfully Marc Heath had found a thriving population of Willow Emerald on his doorstep which offered my best chance so far of witnessing this beautiful damsel in its element.

Willow Emerald (Chalcolestes viridis) - immature male

Willow Emerald (Chalcolestes viridis) – immature male

An added bonus to the day was my best chance of the season to capture the challenging Brown Hawker in-flight.

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) - male

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) – male

August means peak Hawker season with the Browns already in full swing, swiftly followed by the Moorland. A good year for the latter, especially locally where my first of the season was spotted at Ramsdown followed by several sightings at Cadnam Common.

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

These welcome appearances on the home patch didn’t prevent me from making my annual pilgrimage to The Mendips where they truly are a sight to behold.

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

We had to wait a little longer this season for the Southern Hawker to appear in abundance but when he did he certainly made an entrance and offered some excellent opportunities.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male

His delayed start meant he stayed around a little longer to keep those hardy Common Darters company with several sightings throughout October, the latter being seen as late as December, however I concentrated on his cousin, the vibrant and not so gregarious Ruddy.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) - pair in-cop

Where Hawkers are concerned the Migrant usually has a calmer demeanour in company than the Southern but this season they appeared far more aggressive than usual, with several occurrences of uncharacteristic bullying.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male in-flight

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – male in-flight

The profusion of Migrants is a bitter-sweet time of year, offering some peaceful and fulfilling moments before the close of season.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - pair in-cop

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – pair in-cop

Despite their supposed change of character this year they could still make you smile.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - pair in-cop

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – pair in-cop

There was a noticeable chill in the air towards season’s end and I chose to end mine traditionally with the Southern Hawker, always a pleasure to spend a moment with. (Click on image for animation)

southern-hawker-gif

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male in-flight

Seeking out the rare and wonderful species not encountered locally and concentrating on places with greater rewards and peaceful atmospheres has ensured a satisfying season. New areas to explore and revisiting local areas neglected this year will keep me busy in the season to come.

To round out the year here’s a short video from Aaron Cook of our encounter with an obliging Emperor back in July.

Here’s wishing you all a prolific 2017.

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‘Twas A Season To Be Jolly (Part 1)

For many 2016 took a while to get started with a downturn in temperatures affecting all insect life; the Spring Butterflies taking a rather severe beating. Dragonflies can at least wait until conditions are optimal before leaving the security of their aquatic depths and are usually less affected by temporary seasonal discrepancies

There have however been some notable concerns with Broad-bodied Chasers, Beautiful Demoiselles, Golden-ringed and Keeled Skimmers where counts were down this season.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) - male

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) – male

As if to buck the trend the Scarce Chaser appeared in higher numbers and at more locations, with Swanwick Heath and Troublefield having particularly successful emergences. A change in management practices in the latter by allowing the Spring meadow flora to flourish no doubt helped keep the populations local.

Scarce Chaser (Libelulla fulva) - immature female

Scarce Chaser (Libelulla fulva) – immature female

Patience has once again been a theme throughout the season, taking time to stop and smell the flowers, drink in the atmosphere and just watching rather than shooting everything in sight.

Common Blue ((Enallagma cyathigerum) - immature male

Common Blue (Enallagma cyathigerum) – immature male

The thrill of the chase still excites but the rewards are more fulfilling with a gentler progress. It’s hard to beat the hot, humid environs of a water meadow.

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) - teneral female

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) – teneral female

This year’s highlights included the regular Spring visit to the Somerset Levels where sheer numbers usually guarantee a fulfilling day.

Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) - immature female

Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) – immature female

It’s always a delight to encounter the Downy Emerald early season; a vibrant jewel decorating the margins of woodland ponds.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) - male in-flight

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) – male in-flight

Another Spring highlight was Whixall Moss for the White-faced Darter. Blessed with 30° temperatures and blazing sunshine guaranteed a perfect showing of this stunning little beast.

White-faced Darter (Leucorrhinia dubia) – male

White-faced Darter (Leucorrhinia dubia) – male

Mid-June saw another explosion of new life with the Small Red, White-legged and Southern Damselflies making an appearance along Ober Water.

Small Red Damsefly (Ceriagrion tenellum) - male

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) – male

The swarms of teneral Keeled Skimmers usually encountered here at this time  might’ve been bad timing, but future visits confirmed the Keeled had indeed taken a downturn this season. At least we timed it right to witness the various stages of the magnificent Scarce Blue-tailed with just enough aurantiaca to keep us satisfied.

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

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

Although again numbers being down on recent years we were blessed with the prize of freshly-emerged individuals and our first immature male, beautifully resplendent in his subdued hues.

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) - immature male

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) – immature male

Mid-June is also the optimum time to witness the emergence of the Common Emerald, a species encountered almost everywhere but for me lowland heath is where it shines.

Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) - male

Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) – male

The lowland heaths are also the natural home for another of our fabulous little darters.

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) - male,

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) – male

The long wait over Winter means chomping at the bit come April, but it is May when things really awaken, with another welcome boost throughout June to keep the momentum going. July will follow shortly 🙂

 

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And Now My Watch Has Ended

At least for this season. I always get the blues around now, knowing it will be at least 6 months until Spring returns. I do miss them; perhaps more this year than previously because I can’t help feeling we were robbed of a good month.

A lousy June impacted the rest of the season in a way that didn’t allow it to quite catch up. Not just dragonflies. Butterflies have really suffered this year. Even the common species are way down , which may be cyclical and to be expected, or may well be down to more sinister progressions.

I don’t like to delve too deeply into the politics of conservation; I prefer to leave that to the experts. I do however believe that we should take responsibility on a local level rather than blame a worldwide trend. In other words don’t start blaming forces out of your immediate control as the cause of species decline you sip your G & T’s on your concrete patio looking over your pristine lawn.

I did have a fabulous season this year. A chance to step back even further, slow down even more and appreciate the wonders at an intimate level. The chase became a prowl, patience replaced the rush, even the quietest moments were cherished.

It’s a pleasant feeling to be able to walk rather than run. Take it all in. Breathe the air, feel the wind. Relish the moment the clouds recede and the warmth explodes in a confusion of life. Better than any firework display I’ve ever seen, although wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a spectacular closing ceremony before winter sets in?

In Spring we have a dress rehearsal with Large Red, Azure, Blue-tailed and Red-eyed before the true opening ceremony around May and a festival of treats throughout summer. By the time we get to Autumn the last to leave the party are the stragglers.

There are still a few Migrant and Southern Hawkers around, a bevy of Common Darters and reports still coming in of Willow Emerald.

The latter are certainly one of the success stories this year, having colonised yet more places with Buckinghamshire having their first sightings this year. Hampshire next season? It’ll be nice to have them appear on my own patch, offering a reason to extend the season further. In the meantime let us celebrate their continued success.

We can also celebrate the influx of a few Vagrant Emperor too – from the Scilly Isles to Orkney! As with all migrants a sighting relies on more luck than planning, which is how I prefer it. The excitement of a rare is always enhanced when you’re not expecting it.

So here’s to next season. I have a gut feeling it will be a good one. In the meantime I’ll leave you with a short film from Aaron Cook who I was pleased to finally meet up with again in July.

In Search of the Brilliant Emerald Dragonfly with Paul Ritchie from Aaron Cook on Vimeo.

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Swan Song?

It’s been over two weeks since my last entry, for which I can only apologise. The reason being the noticeable feeling that the season was definitely on the wane.

A day after my last trip to Bramshill Mike Barnet and I decided to pay a visit to Priddy. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side, and by the time the sun appeared it was just a little too late to raise the temperature enough.

There were a few Moorland Hawker around, but far too busy seeking females around the margins. Surprisingly the Emperor from my previous visit was still holding on; battle-scarred and submissive in any conflict today.

Across the other side I found two Southern; one giving my only worthwhile opportunity of the day.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male

My experience at Priddy put a damper on my enthusiasm so it was a fortnight before I ventured out again for a walk around Ramsdown and Town Common. A ‘walk’ being the aim of the day. Any Odos would be a bonus.

There were a few Black and Common Darters scattered among the heath and at Hawker Alley a couple of Migrant hawked the treeline while a few Common Darter made use of the puddles along the track.

The hidden pond produced a Southern which disappeared when a Bat flew in for a drink.

Noctule Bat (Nyctalus noctula)

Noctule Bat (Nyctalus noctula)

Approaching the hill pond I noticed a male Southern patrolling which would’ve kept me busy had it not been from a Moorland seeing him off before disappearing himself.

Despite a three mile walk around Town Common that rather magical moment with the Bat turned out to be the shot from the day.

These diminishing returns are usually the catalyst for calling time on the season except I couldn’t let it fizzle out without a final visit to Bramshill. With the ‘just a walk’ mentality in place Sue & I walked the increasingly saturated paths to the ponds.

The usual bobbing Common and Ruddy Darters and a female Southern disappearing out of view across the clearing looked promising at first but the three small ponds had only a couple of tandem Common Darter pairs across the water.

A break in the clouds provided a magical moment when the mossy pond filled with golden light, creating a hive of activity. Mainly Common Darters, but the amount was impressive for this late in the season.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - pair in-cop

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) – pair in-cop

Just the one Hawker, a Migrant patrolling the far shore, bullying any tandem pair which got in his way. A walk through the woods showed a few more Migrant, a male Southern and a few Common Darters while Long Lake belonged to the water fowl.

A final look in at the mossy pond finally produced an opportunity with a willing Southern.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male

Once again I waited all day to get a shot worthy of going home with and the moment shared with my quarry filled me with the joy I hadn’t experienced weeks.

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Southern Harmony

Sunday 11th September

It must be two months since we visited Bentley Wood; possibly a combination of being eaten alive by horseflies on our last visit or just being busy elsewhere, but our absence certainly made us appreciate it’s qualities.

We could have drawn a blank  but I’m pleased we had the late summer bonanza worthy of a truly excellent dragonfly day. I didn’t get the Southern pair I wished for, although we did see two pairings – both flying far and high into the trees, which makes me think my only previous opportunity seven years ago was pure luck.

We had enough Southern and Migrant action to keep me busy and more than content. The Southern weren’t the most aggressive; that prize went to the Migrant, who this season have continually been the bullies on the block. During one battle the Southern was grounded by the Migrant and the latter stayed around as if to say ‘stay down’.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male

It’s a behaviour I haven’t witnessed to such a degree before. Migrant usually back off and mind their own business, preferring not to start the fight. The inexperience of just-mature adult Southern adversaries might goad them on, but I’ve seen Migrant attack all comers this season.

On the way out I unintentionally disturbed a female Southern along the path. Thankfully she stayed low and local, perching up nearby where Sue saw her land. Such was her perfectly-camouflaged choice that I failed to see her for what seemed like ages.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - female

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – female

A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon considering it wasn’t planned.

Tuesday 13th September

I couldn’t risk another day hoping for results at Ramsdown so Bramshill it was. Knowing full well I might just be repeating myself there is always the chance of the unexpected. Reason enough for a journey which isn’t much further than East Dorset.

The ponds were quiet so I continued along the path to Long Lake where I set up camp watching the Migrant, Ruddy and Common Blue. The Migrant were perching frequently on the bulrush, offering the first opportunities of the day.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – male

I have a preference for profile shots, but won’t refuse the classic from the back if the setting allows.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – male

Just as I was about to move on a male Southern flew in and kept me amused by being totally unpredictable, so I watched and waited until he felt comfortable enough to oblige.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male

My final subject of the day was a male Southern patrolling the darkest corners of the mossy pond, but this wasn’t where I wanted him today. Once again I persevered and coaxed him out above the moss for the perfect finish.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male

If you click on the image you will see a gif compiled from three consecutive burst as he briefly hovered above the moss.

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Hobson’s Choice

Ramsdown & Troublefield Wednesday 7th September

Despite the conditions being more than suitable it was surprisingly quiet at Ramsdown. The hidden pond was the first to oblige with a resident Southern Hawker offering some sport.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male

At the hill pond Common Darters engaged in territorial disputes and ovipositing out on the water while Common Emerald and Black Darter decorated the fringes.

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) - male

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) – male

An old male Emperor hung on at the far corner, which was a nice surprise. Perhaps due to his aged condition he spent more time perched deep within the rushes rather than patrolling.

Back at Hawker Alley I had a Southern Hawker perch, albeit deep in the shade of the gorse.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male

After failing to find any agreeable action at the other ponds I tentatively made my way across to Troublefield where only a couple of Migrant and a selection of Common Darters punctuated an unnecessary stroll through foot-wrenching terrain.

It all seemed hard work for little reward, which shouldn’t be the case for either location as in previous years they’ve more than satisfied in early September.

Bramshill Thursday 8th September

Thursday’s visit to Bramshill was much better. Sue had the day off and we were barely out of the car when our first Southern Hawker was spotted patrolling low and feeding along the lane.

At the ponds we bumped into Mike (Barnett) and busied ourselves with the resident Migrants. Having missed one pairing at the first pond I arrived at just the right moment at the second as a pair alighted perfectly on a dead bulrush stem.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - pair in-cop

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – pair in-cop

Before Mike could grab a shot they lifted into the trees on the far side and allowed Mike a few shots before he attempted to reposition them, resulting in the perfect opportunity to offer a sense of scale.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - pair in-cop

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – pair in-cop

On the way to the mossy pond Sue had encountered a female Southern Hawker ovipositing into bramble. She rose at my approach and lifted into the trees where a little fill flash was needed to make the best of an opportunity.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - female

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – female

Also present at the pond were a couple of Migrant, being comically bullied by tenacious Common Emeralds rising from the rushes while the Ruddy retained their cool demeanor around the margins.

A young male Southern kept me busy in the shade, typically unpredictable in his youth and frequently too close to capture but tenacity and perseverance resulted in a frame-filling close encounter.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male

When the temperature started to fall activity slowed and Common Darters took position atop tall stems. It was time for us too to head home to roost until next time.

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The Changing of the Seasons

Monday 29th August

Bank Holiday weekends mean the New Forest and East Dorset honeypots are best avoided and we always try to travel in the opposite direction. Our needs were peace, tranquility and a good chance of enjoying some dragonfly photography, so once again Bramshill won the toss.

There was a definite chill in the air and some of the leaves were already turning to bronze as we walked to the ponds. The same Brown Hawker from last week was patrolling along with a couple of male Migrant and the usual cast of Common, Ruddy, Common Blue, Azure and Blue-tailed.

When a female Migrant appeared she was pursued by both patrolling males but she wasn’t interested in anything else but dropping her cargo of already-fertilised eggs. Then somewhat surprisingly she disappeared deep into the thicket. I watched as she circled the boughs within the shadows before perching out of sight and reach behind one of the trunks.

Sue alerted me to a mating pair of Ruddy Darters perched low along the mossy fringes; typically jumpy but thankfully settling just long enough to capture.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) - pair in-cop

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) – pair in-cop

Over in a shaded corner a Migrant gave me some excellent sport and alternative photography methods. I used to only concentrate on well-lit and open-flying in-flight subjects yet dark & shady aspects can present some interesting challenges and pleasing results.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male in-flight

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – male in-flight

While this chap stayed within the close confines of his shaded corner another male was patrolling a small area around and over a small patch of reeds and occasionally would fly out across the moss before returning. This was the aspect and background I hankered after so I waited patiently for the opportunity.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male in-flight

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – male in-flight

Along the edges of the moss a male Ruddy Darter perched low upon a grass stem against a colourful background of late summer wild flowers, frequently rising and repositioning while I searched for the most pleasing aspect.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) - male

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) – male

At Long Lake the frequent burst of late summer warmth brought out armies of damselflies skimming the surface with opportunistic fish attacking from underneath. A couple of Migrant and a tatty male Brown patrolled the bulrushes while a female released her burden in the depths of emerging plants.

One of the extraordinary behaviours of the Migrant is their unusual way of perching. Unlike most hawkers they don’t adhere to the hanging method; suspending themselves head up and tail down from a suitable perch. Quite often they will perch horizontally or even face down on the bent sections of bulrush.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – male

Along the mossy fringes a couple of male Ruddy offered contrasts to the Common Blue and Emerald taking refuge and the sight of a late and battle-scarred Four-spotted Chaser brought a smile to my face. Well done sir – what a trooper!

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) - male

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) – male

A Southern Hawker briefly appeared to hassle the Migrant before disappearing into the woods so I persevered with the latter, watching and waiting until he came close enough to warrant raising the camera.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male in-flight

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – male in-flight

Besides, and maybe due to,  the morning chills there a definite signs of the waning season, so when the sun shines enough to raise the temperature I’ll spend September at those places where the hawkers provide both the spectacle and the sport.

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In the Heat of the Moment

Tuesday 23rd August

Another two days of glorious sunshine which certainly produced the goods. With temperatures expecting to reach 30°C+ and reasonably light winds the conditions were perfect for some pond action; at least until mid-afternoon.

Wednesday I had a field trip scheduled so on Tuesday I selfishly indulged while scouting Bramshill for the best action and variety. Arriving shortly after 10.00am it was already sweltering which meant that all warm-ups were completed and the ponds were in full swing.

Each pond in the clearing has its own personality. The middle pond offered the best spectacle with plenty of Common Blue acroos the water and around the margins.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) - male

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) – male

Common Emerald some Azure and a few Blue-tailed shared the space along with several tandem pairs of Common Darter and a few Ruddy adding variety. However this is hawker season and I spent some time just watching the show.

Two or three Migrant Hawkers were weaving in and out the bulrushes, frequently flying through the shaded half which didn’t offer the best in-flight opportunities. A male Brown put on a spectacular show gliding along an almost predictable figure of eight path high above the surface, offering a great chance for some panning practice, but just a pleasure to watch.

Along the gorse hedge a male Southern wove back & forth above the scrub for a while before crossing the causeway to mirror his pattern, avoiding the water and circling yours truly.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male

Here was my subject. Brilliantly dapper in his youthful vibrancy contrasting nicely with the subdued tones of the dry scrub. What more could you possibly want? Well, an opportunity for a face-to-face shot will do nicely.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male

At the far pond another male Brown Hawker was holding court along with a Migrant among the procession of Common Darters and more Ruddy, however the Common Emerald was the dominant damsel here.

The rising heat didn’t warrant walking too far so a brief stroll along hawker alley returning along the shore of Long Lake offered some diversity with both Red-eyed species present but the stiff breeze and humid heat kept the hawker action down. However in the sheltered micro-climate of the bulrushes a male offered a pleasing opportunity.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – male

Returning to the ponds the earlier action over the open pools had all but seized so I decided to finish the day back with the Ruddy Darters at the pond offering some shade. The hottest part of the day resulting in the pleasing ‘obelisk’ position as he attempted to cool down.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) - male

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) – male

With most of the dragonflies having gone to cool down I too called it day. Cracking day though, showing Bramshill at it’s best 🙂

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Gone Fishing

Monday 15th August

There is no doubt in my mind that the Moorland (Common to you nationalists) Hawker is right at the top of my hawker list. Why? Well, here in Hampshire ,despite we are a tad blessed with the New Forest, it defies it’s British name.

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

Thankfully there are a few strongholds where it thrives. The hills of Wales and Scotland, the moors of North Lincolnshire and, my personal favourite due to being in reach, Priddy Mineries in Somerset.

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

Ironically I’d had my first sightings here in the New Forest with three males and two females over the course of two days which would no doubt satisfy most observers, but there was no way I would forego a trip to Priddy – especially with our second summer.

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

Arriving just after 11.00am the hawkers were already patrolling the northern shore and I stopped a while to get some practice with a couple of Moorland and a Brown patrolling the north-eastern corner.

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) - male

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) – male

The pool at the entrance had just the one over the reeds some distance from shore; it’s a little later in the season when they’re brave enough to parade in front of picnickers and dog walkers.

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

A lone Emperor was patrolling half way along the causeway while a very mature Four-spotted Chaser occasionally lifted from his chosen perch. There were more Moorlands and even a Brown at the already occupied fishing stands however my favourite spot is the boggy north-western watershed.

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

Beyond the shore a Brown Hawker tussled for territory with an Emperor while a couple of Moorland explored the edges for secretive ovipositing females of which I noticed two during my stay. Occasionally a male would shoot out to pick a fight with the Emperor, seemingly just for the fun of it.

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

Unlike other hawkers the Moorland rarely maintains a constant patrol for long, frequently choosing to fly some distance uphill, a journey you can follow easily as he flies towards the sun.

When they do come in they more or less follow the same path low down and close to shore investigating every nook & cranny. These are the moments I wait for; predicting his path and waiting until he’s close enough to enable  maximum detail, although sometimes he can get a little too close.

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

A such a fine day there were more photographers present than I’ve seen before. Across the pond I could see the familiar blue-shirted figure of Mike Dimery mirroring my rooted stance and intense concentration at his favourite corner.

Mike joined me for a chat and Jerry popped in after a day at the levels with an Osprey, wishing he’d brought the ‘other’ lens.

I should also give a shout out to Nigel Kendall who I completely failed to recognise despite having shown him the Scarce Blue-tailed some years back. My apologies Nigel, your quiet demeanor and my selective memory for faces no doubt to blame.

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

So a fine day with fabulous weather and more than enough to keep me amused, and some friendly faces for a little sociability.

At least when I took my mind of those hawkers…..

 

 

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A Welcome Return

Friday 12th August

Friday was one of those days that took a long time to get going in more ways than one. An early commitment delayed my start by an hour, and the subsequent journey was hampered by holiday traffic, so it was 11.00am by the time I arrived at Town Common.

Too late for hawker alley on a day like this. They’d all be off feeding. Not one hawker the whole length of the old railway either; nor the returning back track. Where the hell were they all? Not over water as the only patrollers were an Emperor and a bevy of Black Darters, Common Darters, Common Emeralds and a few Azure.

After a check of the clearing, the hidden pond and Hill Pond at Ramsdown I was starting to feel a little disheartened. Only a Black Darter gave me something to engage with.

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) - male

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) – male

Back at the clearing there were a couple of Brown Hawkers feeding along the tree line and a Migrant holed up in the gorse.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - immature male

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – immature male

I headed towards the small heath pond and spotted a couple of male Moorland Hawkers hunting the area, occasionally coming to blows and, more importantly, checking out the pond from high.

Finally one came in and proceeded to put on a low-level show around this almost-dry waterhole. Just the ticket for this fellow, and just what I’d been waiting for all day.

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

That’ll do 🙂

Sunday 15th August

On Sunday Sue & I took a drive to Cadnam Common to see how things were going and at first glance the pond didn’t look too promising.

Water levels were down and  filthy, with a deep scum of what I can only describe as silage ruining the usually clear surface. Only a few Common Darters were present along with a few Common Emerald and Small Red. Just as I was about to turn heal in came a reason to stay.

Flying high above the pond and occasionally engaging with the resident Emperor was the unmistakeable sight of a Moorland.

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

This is usually a rare treat for this pond, and most unusual considering there wasn’t a Southern laying claim. I however did find an immature Southern and Migrant in the gorse during one of the frequent cloudier moments.

When the sun returned so did our Moorland, until he spotted a female we had completely failed to notice. His first two attempts failed but third time lucky and that was my subject gone for half-an-hour.

Thankfully he returned after his conquest and I did my best to grab a sharp shot against the cryptic background of the surface, but it did make for an interesting bokeh.

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

Despite not managing to get the shot I really wanted I was more than happy they were present here again this season. That’s three males and two females seen within as many days in the New Forest.

Now that’s something to celebrate!

 

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