PC Problems

Many of you might think I’m way too busy enjoying the sunshine to update the blog and you would’ve been right up until Wednesday. I’d be a fool not to take advantage of this superb weather and enjoy it while it lasts. After all, we don’t get glorious ‘1976’ summers any more.

Some of you still bang on about the glory of 1966 and hope for a revisit, but we realise that being British means accepting disappointment on a daily basis, whether it be the weather, sporting glories or sheer audacity of bottled water.

Anyway the delay in updates is due the my PC failing on Tuesday evening and the associated inconvenience. Thankfully I’m wise enough to back up all important stuff like photos, but not being able to view my images, let alone post then online, has been painful to endure.

My priority was backing up the memory card onto as many forms of media I could lay my hands on, especially after Tuesday, of which more later :-)

This task alone took time as the notebook I have doesn’t read cards (it should do) so I had to find the USB lead, find a method where I could at least view the images and, as they’re RAW format, try to find a program which could process them. Shouldn’t be too difficult right? It is on a 10 year old notebook with all the speed of a tortoise on tranquilisers.

Then of course I had to remember all the login details for various platforms and e-mail accounts. I’m sure some of you have been there, and I have been before when it was obvious my daily routine was simpler.

I was also sensible enough to create some daily draughts for blog updates while still fresh in the memory, and I’ll attempt to post these shortly when I have some images to include.

In the meantime please bear with me and enjoy yourselves chasing dragonflies while this welcome change in the weather lasts.

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Summer Solitude

Sunday 10th July

I was recently asked if I prefer to indulge in my passion solo or with others. Certainly experience has taught me I come home with more keepers if I’m allowed to focus uninterrupted and without distractions. I can concentrate on my subject and the thought that I might be missing something elsewhere doesn’t enter the equation.

However having a companion in the field opens up many more opportunities. An extra set of eyes is always useful when there is so much going on. This doesn’t have to be another photographer, just someone who shares the passion and, in my case, has much better eyesight.

When I can persuade Sue to get up at a reasonable hour on weekends we can choose a favourite spot away from the crowds where there’s usually plenty going on. While I delve deep into the undergrowth or stay transfixed on a pond, Sue can see the big picture, maybe spotting the route taken by a mating pair or finding something close to hand which is of interest.

Bentley Wood is one of our favourite spots where, providing the conditions are right, there’s always plenty going on. The walk in along the rides threw up several roosting immature Common Darters, the odd female Emperor disturbed at our passing and a selection of woodland butterflies to make the walk pass quickly.

At the pond today there was more than enough going on but this is a place where the best opportunities ‘happen’, so while Sue stayed at the pond I explored the meadows further, watching both male and female Emperor hawk above the grasses, taking smaller prey on the wing and dropping down with the larger butterflies.

The meadows, like the forest rides, were also full of Common Darters, mostly immature individuals feeding up to full strength before they braved the perils of the pond.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - immature male

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) – immature male

The meadows were also full of damsels boosting up from this healthy larder. I made a conscious effort to ignore the Emeralds as I’ve taken far to many this season. I’d usually ignore the Common Blues and Azures, unless of course they perched pleasingly.

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) - male

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) – male

The ‘happening’ moment arrived with a Downy Emerald disturbed by my passing. While I was busy concentrating on yet another Common Darter I could see him in my peripheral vision and promptly switched direction, finding him perched nearby on the bramble.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) - male

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) – male

It’s always a pleasure to still see Downy in July and this one was showing his age with the dull, copper tones of his once vibrant abdomen. This was the only one present today, which given the population of Emperor dominating the pond isn’t unexpected.

We did have one Brown Hawker come in for a brief look around but with the wind strength and frequent clouding over it wasn’t quite warm enough to bring the pond to its full potential. So, another Common Darter then.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - immature female

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) – immature female

The only Emperor opportunities I had today were distant flight shots or tangled angles deep in the grass, neither of which passed muster, so I finished the day with a Blue-tailed pairing which my other pair of eyes had noticed.

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

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

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As Light as a Feather(leg)

Thursday 7th July

Three days in a row out in the field? Must be summer, right? The problem is we’re still yet to experience the true benefits of a ‘good’ summer; warm, sunny days and calm winds. Still, Thursday wasn’t too bad and at least allowed me the pleasure of a good walk along Ober Water and an insight into a yet unexplored area of the New Forest.

Dames Slough Enclosure follows an upper section of Blackwater above the A35 and has the potential to offer the same environment and species as Ober Water. The closure of car parks several years ago renders access a little more difficult than it was, but if you’re prepared for a little walk along an old forest track you will reach the Blackwater Bridge.

Once you crossed the stream it opens out into a boggy pasture where grasses and scrub provide suitable shelter for resting odonata. In fact the very first species I encountered was an immature female Keeled Skimmer, but by far the most prolific here were the White-legged – previously only considered to be along the Ober.

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) - male

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) – male

The ferns and grasses held more than enough to keep me amused.

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) - immature male

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) – immature male

A few more immature Keeled rose and repositioned while a small showing of Beautiful Demoiselles fluttered over the water, but I couldn’t resist those White-legged.

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) - female

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) – female

Once I had my fill I walked upstream as far as the terrain would allow, taking note of some boggy areas across the stream. I did spot a Golden-ringed heading into the gorse scrub but despite my best efforts I couldn’t locate it. This is certainly a site for further exploration.

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) - female

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) – female

Satisfied with my visit I drove the short distance to Ober Water, this time taking the path above the stream along the treeline. Several more White-legged present and a few Keeled Skimmer and Common Darter. Not the Southern Hawker I hoped for unfortunately, but there’s plenty of time for those.

The grassy areas bordering the stream played host to more White-legged while across the stream the Small Red were populating their favoured Bog Myrtle. The heather held a few Silver-studded Blue and the expected teneral Keeled Skimmers while along the stream itself a few Beautiful Demoiselles were dancing above the Southern and White-legged.

Southern Damselfly (Coenagrion mercuriale) - immature male

Southern Damselfly (Coenagrion mercuriale) – immature male

Despite the lack of sun a lone male Keeled Skimmer made an appearance.

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) - male

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) – male

So a new prospective playground and a very familiar stroll along my favourite New Forest stream. Ober Water has to be one of my favourite walks anywhere. The peace, tranquility and bountiful wildlife will keep drawing me back.

Fallow Deer relaxing in the meadow.

Fallow Deer relaxing in the meadow.

 

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A Tale of Two Streams

Wednesday 6th July

I finally struck up the courage to revisit Crockford Stream after witnessing the horrors early in the season. Despite my reservations and protests all I received from the BDS and Natural England was an assurance that all will recover for the better.

In early July you should expect to see a good showing of Golden-ringed, Keeled Skimmers, Beautiful Demoiselles, Southern and Small Red damselflies all vying for territories along the stream.

At the ford this time last season all were present in good numbers. In the channel protected by the small thicket of gorse and heather you should be able to witness Golden-ringed and Keeled Skimmers jostling for position among a few Southern while Beautiful Demoiselles dance around them.

Neither were present today.

The Small Red tend to congregate around one of the many Bog Myrtle bushes a few meters upstream. Not one was seen today. A few metres further is an overhang above a deeper channel where the Southern procreate. Not one was present today.

The heather, which thankfully is still present to the north of the stream played host to many feeding and resting individuals. I only managed to flush just one teneral Keeled Skimmer today.

Disappointed but not surprised I decided to head upstream to a favourite little section which so far remains untouched. It was here I finally saw my first Golden-ringed, rising at my passing to proclaim his territory back and forth along this narrow channel, battling briefly with a passing Emperor and disturbing a few Southern.

Southern Damselfly (Coenagrion mercuriale) - male

Southern Damselfly (Coenagrion mercuriale) – male

A few brief moments of sunshine had raised the temperature enough to hopefully awaken the basin back downstream, but despite a last desperate search I found nothing to engage me any further.

Instead I headed across to Latchmore to see if things were any better, but the heavy watershed recently has rendered the main channel devoid of any action. Reaching the flushes I was eager to see if they could provide a better spectacle but it just wasn’t warm enough to coax the Scarce Blue-tailed from their reverie.

As is usual in such conditions you’re likely to find more damsels hiding out among the heather and grass, and sure enough there was a good selection of male and female Small Red.

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) - teneral male

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) – teneral male

The lack of immature Scarce Blue-tailed indicated that the main emergence had passed, although I did find one aurantiaca phase female, a couple of mature green females and a few males hunkered down.

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura pumilio) - male

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura pumilio) – male

A disappointing day then, but not every day is rosy and full of opportunities. That said there should have been more than enough at Crockford to keep me entertained for a few hours, but it’s obvious that the work has effected the odonata populations for this season.

I will pay another visit towards the end of the month to see if there are any improvements. I sincerely hope there are. I need my mind putting to rest. Those of you who are familiar with the delights this stream can bring in July should pay a visit and see the difference for yourselves.

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Between The Showers

Saturday 2nd July

Sue & I took a trip to Bentley Wood with a few hopes & wishes. Maybe a Southern or Brown Hawker patrolling the rides and the possibility of some Ruddy Darter at the pond?

The Emperor were certainly in attendance, this female providing the first opportunity of the day feeding on an unfortunate Marbled White as we strolled through the meadow.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - female feeding on Marbled White

Emperor (Anax imperator) – female feeding on Marbled White

In the (very) brief moments the sun made an appearance we had a couple of male and a female Emperor over the pond, a lone Broad-bodies Chaser, a couple of tatty Four-spotted and a few Azure, but by far the most numerous species here today were the Common Emerald.

Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) - male

Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) – male

We did notice quite a few teneral Ruddy Darter disappearing out a reach, so there was one off the checklist, and a couple of fresh Common Darter, which was to be expected. We could have done without the couple of heavy showers though!

Despite non-optimum conditions and an over-abundance of Emeralds we did manage another from todays wish list. A female Brown Hawker was spotted by Sue hawking the meadow. As she dropped to feed Sue called me over and we carefully tried to locate her, but in true Brown Hawker fashion she spotted us first and was up and away towards the treeline.

Then quite unexpectedly she turned, circled several times and dropped again some metres away. Having been given another chance I pushed my stealth to the limits and found her obscured by the grasses.

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) - female

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) – female

With a profile shot (hopefully) in the bag I edged around searching for a gap in the grasses to get those beautifully-fresh amber wings in shot.

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) - female

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) – female

Shot of the day then, and after a few more attempts at the Emeralds we counted our blessings and called it a day.

…………………………………………………….

Tuesday 5th July

It’s been the best part of a month since I visited Bramshill so naturally I was hoping for more than a few surprises. Again far from optimal conditions with mostly light cloud forming a blanket with very brief sunny intervals.

A welcome sight of a Brown Hawker hawking along with an Emperor boded well, but we needed the sun. I deciding to embark on a quest to seek out a pond which has so far eluded me. Worth the effort? Only in the sense of achievement as it’s long been overgrown with reeds to render it almost useless.

A walk along the rides offered tantalising glimpses of Brown Hawker and Emperor but not the hoped-for Southern. At Long Pond it was great to see a tatty old Downy hanging on in there with the usual, but I had to wait until I returned to the ponds for my best opportunity of the day.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male

Emperor (Anax imperator) – male

Despite a five mile walk the lack of opportunities meant this was one of those rare occasions where Bramshill failed to deliver. Thankfully the Emperor saved the day.

 

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Among The Blooming Heather

There are several environments where I feel at home and lowland heath is one where I prefer to spend the height of summer. Long considered to be of poor agricultural use, this hasn’t stopped our lowland heaths from disappearing under the bulldozer to make way for housing.

Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) - immature male

Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) – immature male

The once-bountiful swards which straddled the Avon, Moors and Stour Valleys have mostly been consumed by the conglomerations of Poole and Bournemouth, with only the margins and a few lonely pockets remaining.

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) - immature male

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) – immature male

Thankfully the New Forest to the east and Studland to the west have escaped the onslaught and are for the most part protected, being a vital ecosystem for many of our heathland invertebrates, reptiles and birds.

Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) - male

Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) – male

Town Common near Christchurch is a prime example and has been a real favourite of mine over the past few years; the myriad of ponds making this a mecca for dragonflies. Ironically the majority of these ponds are man-made with the help of those usually-destructive bulldozers.

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) - immature male

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) – immature male

The management of Town Common and the adjacent Ramsdown Forest is undertaken by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC) for the benefit of our native reptile fauna, to which they provide a sterling service to our dragonfly fauna as odonata are a major menu item for the Sand and Common Lizard.

Azure (Coenagrion puella) - pair in cop

Azure (Coenagrion puella) – pair in cop

A perfect example of sympathetic conservation working to preserve a mutually beneficial environment. On a sunny day the ponds are alive with odonata, including our summer heathland triumvirate of Black Darter, Common Emerald and Small Red along with the more common Azure, Common Blue, Chasers, Darters, Skimmers and Emperors.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - immature male

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) – immature male

It is also one of the environments where you can find the locally-rare Moorland (Common) Hawker while the surrounding heath provide refuge for the Scarce Chaser, Golden-ringed and Brown Hawker which breed along the adjacent rivers.

Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) - immature female

Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) – immature female

It is truly one of my great favourites, not least for the relative isolation, associated quietness and the ability to get lost enjoying uninterrupted solitude indulging in the fauna.

Four-spotted Chaser  (Libellula quadrimaculata) - immature male (praenubila)

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) – immature male (praenubila)

So here’s to Town Common and Ramsdown for providing an optimum environment for our heathland dragonflies. Other conservation organisations can learn a lot from their sympathetic management.

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A Latchmore Love Affair

There is obviously a bucket list for Odonata; usually the rarest, most local or migrant speciality like the Lesser or Vagrant Emperor, the Red-veined Darter, the various Emeralds etc. Yes, it’s a ‘tick’ to get these species, but in the case of migrants or rarities I find it far more enjoyable to encounter them by being at the right place at the right time.

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

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

One of these rare species is the Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly, which is a native of our Isle. What makes them rare is their exacting habitat requirements, although with stories of colonising shallow tractor/bulldozer/motocross tracks they are opportunistic.

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) - male

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) – male

There is no doubt that the best environment to experience this jewel of the damselfly species is in their preferred natural habitat; usually boggy flushes with healthy water quality and vibrant emergent vegetation, especially Water St. John’s Wort.

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

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

In the New Forest we are fortunate to have a few perennial breeding populations. There is a small colony along the Ober Water where you may be lucky to spot up to half-a-dozen on a good day, but by far the best location is the boggy flushes straddling Latchmore Brook. A Scientific survey a few years ago counted thousands.

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) - male

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) – male

It took me a few years to pinpoint the key area ,despite several clues, and perhaps quite-rightly the exact grid reference was left vague. This is a good thing, because the last thing this species needs is a herd of bucket-listers congregating on-mass and destroying their habitat.

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) - freshly-emerged female

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) – freshly-emerged female

Naturally I always look forward to my first Latchmore foray, full of hope and often disappointed, but the good times out-weigh the bad, with several successful excursions over the past few years.

It’s a tranquil place when the sun isn’t guaranteed; and although a sunny day can offer the best dragonfly action, the hoards of picnickers and dog walkers can distract on a hot day during the high season.

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

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

Thankfully the tourists stay reasonably close to the car park. Sometimes too close. Never understood why someone should travel miles to picnic a few metres from their car? However this is to our advantage, and provided you are willing to walk that extra mile you can be in a natural paradise with plenty of birdsong guiding you to peace.

The ‘aurantiaca’ phase of the female Scarce Blue-tailed is quite-rightly considered a prize among dragonfly aficionados; the vibrant immature orange tones being entirely unlike any other damselfly colour form. A beautiful sight in stunning prom dress before maturity turns her into a quite drab matt green fully-formed adult.

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) - mature female

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) – mature female

However it is important to appreciate this special little damselfly in all its stages. The mature males out-shine their mates in glorious technicolour yet themselves are a little drab to begin with.

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) - immature male

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) – immature male

Drab or not, encountering an immature male is a first for me, likewise the freshly-emerged female. During an enjoyable two days the only stage I didn’t encounter was the quite beautiful transitional phase from orange to green, but their season has only just begun.

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From Heath to Meadow

After five days stuck under a period of low pressure I took a gamble on Wednesday, and was glad that I did so. Despite threatening cloud and strong gusts I had an agenda; to find me some Common Emerald and, if lucky, a Black Darter.

Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) - male

Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) – male

The Emeralds were easy to find; exactly where they should be, although staying low out of the breeze and not as many as I expected.

Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) - immature female

Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) – immature female

Even harder to pin down were the Small Red. Once they rose they disappeared, seemingly into another dimension. The welcome sight of a few Scarce Chasers kept me on my toes, and, despite their citrus appearance,  they were also hard to follow once they caught the breeze.

Small Red (Ceriagrion tenellum) - male

Small Red (Ceriagrion tenellum) – male

A false alarm as the unmistakeable shape of a Darter rose, the size alone determining it as a Common. Still, that’s four species in a short while under challenging conditions.

Naturally the ponds were devoid of any activity, so I took a stroll along the tracks hoping I might find a roosting Hawker, but not today. No worries, the discovery of yet another pond I’d somehow managed to miss before kept my spirits high.

A cracking little pond it is too, for it was here I finally caught up with the Black Darter.

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) - immature female

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) – immature female

I almost missed it. The unmistakeable shape of an abdomen made me look twice. So well was she hidden down low in the heather that It made me question how many more I’d missed.

This find had given me a little boost of energy so I carried on under some brief sunshine before heading over to Ramsdown. Nothing of note here so should I dare attempt Troublefield? After all it is mid-June and the cattle are bound to be present.

Present they were, but thankfully in the top meadow where they should be. The key meadow was devoid of bovine presence and the gate was still unlocked, although there were some flattened areas which looked distinctly mammalian.

On the whole though it was pristine, tall grasses and reeds, beautiful wild flowers and the skies were alive with insects in this little sheltered paradise. The winds couldn’t penetrate here, and those brief moments of sunshine kept the temperature warm & humid.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) - male

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) – male

Banded and Beautiful Demoiselles were present in large numbers but it was the Scarce Chasers which impressed. At least twenty-five individuals added welcome colour and contrast in this sea of green.

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) - immature female

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) – immature female

This is the most I’ve ever seen here, and is no doubt due to the meadow being allowed to develop. The sheer number of feeder insects and unrivalled shelter makes for a fabulous refuge, although I could do without the horseflies which certainly made a feast of me.

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) - immature female

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) – immature female

Horseflies aside, a very pleasant hour to round off the day nicely. In my opinion if you’re not prepared to experience the discomforts of nature you certainly don’t deserve the benefits.

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A Short Stroll along Ober Water

Continuing the need for solitude a visit to the New Forest was long overdue, so on Thursday I took a stroll along Ober Water to add a few species to the season’s count. I was hoping for Small Red, Southern and White-legged damselflies, some Keeled Skimmer and if lucky a Common Darter or two. At Puttles Bridge the first of these was in the bag with a good selection of Small Red among the Bog Myrtle.

Small Red Damsefly (Ceriagrion tenellum) - male

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) – male

Shortly afterwards the first of the Keeled Skimmers made an appearance.

Keeled Skimmer  (Orthetrum coerulescens) - immature male

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) – immature male

Every season I forget where the first stream crossing is, so I spent a few unnecessary moments tangled deep in the undergrowth or navigating bog. I found it in the end though, and made a metal note to take the easier option next time.

Across the stream the open clearing had a Broad-bodied Chaser joining the Beautiful Demoiselles, but no sign of any patrolling Golden-ringed. Likewise at the next crossing, but at least the first White-legged and Southern damselflies made an appearance.

Southern Damselfly (Coenagrion mercuriale) - male

Southern Damselfly (Coenagrion mercuriale) – male

It is still a little too early for Ober Water to reveal its magical charms with activity over water very sparse and punctuated. The usual hot spots contained no more than a couple of each damsel species; mostly males determining territories.

Likewise the heath didn’t produce the spectacle of hundreds of teneral Keeled Skimmers and the grasses were host to only a few immature damsels, mostly females avoiding ttoo early attentions from the males.

As such photo opportunities were limited and I completely failed to get a worthwhile shot of any of the White-legged, but there’s plenty of time. Likewise the Common Darter, of which three teneral individuals were disturbed while walking he paths across the heath.

I was more than happy with adding five to the species count and a walk along my favourite New Forest stream. I do have a few commitments and requirements throughout the remainder of June given the next spell of good weather, but I’m looking forward to coming back to Ober in full bloom.

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Solitude

After the excitement and associated pressure of Whixall Moss I needed to reconnect with odonata without the distractions of being part of a group, no matter how enjoyable the company. Maybe it’s peer pressure or a higher threshold of satisfaction, but I didn’t feel I performed at my best and came home with a shot of the day.

Or maybe I’m being too self critical! No matter, there will always be another chance.

I took a couple of days rest to reflect and calm down before needing to get out on my own on Wednesday, and as I haven’t been for over a week I naturally chose Bramshill. I’m determined to visit at least once a week to get a feel for this magnificent site and compare it to last season, and so far it continues to impress.

I wasn’t blessed with the best conditions on arrival, and checking out the small ponds might have been a tad premature considering the lack of sun, although it was hot and humid. Nothing but a few damsels testing the waters, but I did find a roosting Emperor.

Emperor (Anax Imperator) - male

Emperor (Anax Imperator) – male

Not the most comfortable conditions to embark on a walk, but as over-water activity is minimal in such conditions it made sense to do a little foraging. Hawker Alley didn’t throw up the wished-for perched Downy and the main rides were mostly lacking.

Once I’d reached the other pond things improved with some Blue-tailed and Common Blue decorating the grass fringes, and it was here I encountered a beautifully-fresh and not long emerged male Emperor, resplendent in his immature colours.

Emperor  (Anax imperator) - immature male

Emperor (Anax imperator) – immature male

A little further on is a triangular clearing with a small stream running through, a couple of displaying  male Banded Demoiselles flew above while down in the scrub were a selection of damsels and another Emperor. I find the surrounding grasses are usually better for photo opportunities.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) - male

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) – male

The walk back to Long Pond was mostly uneventful and the sun was trying to break through The waterside had come alive with Four-spotted Chasers, a few Downy and a couple of Emperor joining the hundreds of Common Blue, Red-eyed, Large Red and Azure. The tenerals were still rising with most following the updraft into the canopy, but occasionally one would take the nearest option.

Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) - teneral male

Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) – teneral male

There were a few more Emperors patrolling with the arrival of a sunny spell, and naturally I had to engage a little.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male

Emperor (Anax imperator) – male

A final check of the small ponds produced mainly Four-spotted Chasers and a selection of damselflies. No Hairy today, which means that they’ve passed their peak but no doubt there will still be a few stragglers around until the end of the month when the Emperor reins supreme and the Brown Hawker will provide more than a welcome challenge.

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