Lowland Heath and Highland Adventures

Tuesday 22nd August

A day of pick ups with Aaron provided an excellent moment with a real favourite of mine; the Moorland Hawker. As if on cue my subject appeared from nowhere to do a few circuits of a small pond and as I waited for the right moment he found a female within the rush and, after a brief tussle, she flew off with him in pursuit.

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

Shortly afterwards he returned to inspect the other end of the pond, guided by scent to another female perfectly hidden underneath the bank, which he grabbed and dunked before successfully latching on and flying off to the trees in the mating wheel.

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male dunks female before copulation

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male dunks female before copulation

Saturday 26th August

Having fallen in love with the Highlands in June we decided to grab a few days over the Bank Holiday weekend. Although this wasn’t a dragonfly trip we couldn’t resist revisiting Laide Wood, and what a delight to experience this fabulous site without the driving wind encountered back in June.

The path down was peppered with Highland and Black Darters while near the burn I had my first Moorland Hawker – a female – rise from the heather to pursue a Mountain Ringlet. Shortly afterwards a male landed path side on the heather allowing my first opportunity.

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

The lochan on the edge of the woods with the hide needed a look, and both Darters were present around the shore, but we continued to Loch na Cathrach Duibhe where the open aspect and access is far superior. The sunny clearing was perfect for Moorland Hawkers coming in to feed either among the heather or around the trees.

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

The shores produced several more Darters but we kept our eyes on the clearing, because you never knew what might fly in next.

Golden-ringed (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male

Golden-ringed (Cordulegaster boltonii) – male

We took an alternative path back  to reach another sunny clearing where we watched at least a dozen Moorland Hawkers feeding along the treeline and coming in to perch.

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

On our last visit we only saw female Highland Darters so were pleased to encounter several males, including an immature male taking the warmth from a convenient log.

Highland (Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum_ - immature male

Highland (Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum_ – immature male

Up until now my go-to place for Moorlands had been Priddy Mineries in Somerset. After our visit today I feel I have a new favourite. Just a shame it’s more than a couple  of hours away!


Honourary Mention

Towards the tail end of our long drive to the Highlands I was determined to experience the famous Bealach na Bà pass on the Applecross peninsula. After scaring Sue to death (she suffers from vertigo) we stopped so she could recover while I took in the view. To ease the drive down I pulled in to a parking spot halfway down.

A short distance from the car park was a boggy pool. Flying low across the water was a large dragonfly which on closer inspection turned out to be an Emerald. Before I could grab the camera with the right lens attached he rose and flew across the mountain.

Now being skeptical and no photo to scrutinise I passed it off as just a welcome encounter while we continued our journey.

Two days later we took a walk up Flowerdale. On our way back down we had an Emerald flying along the trees feeding. Having done a little more research I can only assume these were indeed Northern Emerald (Somatochlora arctica) as it’s far too late for Downy and the Brilliant isn’t found this far north.

Not bad for a supposed non-dragonfly break!

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Wind and The Willows

Saturday 19th August

Once again a combination of unforeseen inconveniences and unsuitable weather has prevented me taking advantage of a few seasonal trips this year. I had planned sessions with the Common Club-tail, Green-eyed (Norfolk) Hawker, Brilliant Emerald at a favourite watering hole and maybe even a trip to Essex for the Southern Migrant.

With the last of our resident species now on the wing I was determined to connect with the Willow Emerald. They are spreading westward year on year, but as yet haven’t reached Hampshire. We therefore decided to pay a return visit to East Kent where friend and fellow dragonfly enthusiast Marc Heath is lucky enough to live close to a strong population of this stunning damselfly.

Willow Emerald (Lestes viridis) - male

Willow Emerald (Lestes viridis) – male

We had a three hour window of sunny intervals before the rain came, however the wind put pay to any over-water activity. Thankfully a few sunny, sheltered pockets at the edge of the woods offered just enough opportunities this visit.

Willow Emerald (Lestes viridis) - female

Willow Emerald (Lestes viridis) – female

As we walked back and forth along the path I wondered just how many there were basking out of sight in the canopy, as their default direction of flight from disturbance was upwards.

The dappled light of those sunny clearings and their tendency to perch just a tad too high made for some interesting opportunities and I found myself having to work a little harder than usual  to find the shot I wanted.

Willow Emerald (Lestes viridis) - female

Willow Emerald (Lestes viridis) – female

A few individuals were perching along the bank of the ditch, perhaps in anticipation of a prolonged sunny spell which didn’t materialise, and a glance north-east revealed a belt of gloom heading our way.

Willow Emerald (Lestes viridis) - female

Willow Emerald (Lestes viridis) – female

The only other notable residents here today were a male Southern, a couple of Brown and a fair showing of Migrant; the latter bouncing along the treeline feeding before resting up in anticipation of the impending rain shower.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - immature female

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – immature female

There is no better barometer than insect behaviour. Being warned of an incoming shower by their disappearance is certainly more reliable than the weather apps which seemed to be disagreeing with each other.

The rain shower and sudden drop in temperature meant we were probably done for today so we decided to visit a local hostelry for a drink and a chat before taking the long drive home.

Yes, a mating or tandem pair would have been nice but I’ve learned to become patient and have something to look forward to next time rather than having it all at once; a discipline which keeps the fire burning and desires keen.

Hopefully we can make a return journey before the main season winds down, although our early Spring risers and disappointingly wet Summer might mean we’re in for a treat come September.

Watch this space!

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A Different Perspective

Sunday 13th August

I had a couple over from Kent for a field trip in the New Forest who wished to see the Golden-ringed. When leading I usually take a back seat , going in for a shot once my charges have had their fill. An obliging male Golden-ringed allowed me to experiment with using a wide angle lens; something I’ve always wanted to try.

The only wide angle lens I have is the kit lens bundled with my D60 purchase back in 2008. I wanted to capture more of the surroundings, however it’s quite obvious I need to rethink my settings as I ended up with a more or less isolated shot.

Golden-ringed (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male

Golden-ringed (Cordulegaster boltonii) – male

Tuesday 15th August

Tuesday offered the right conditions for a session with filmmaker Aaron Cook, featuring the lowland heath at the western fringes of the New Forest. Deciding the open heath was the best place to start, Aaron was immediately impressed by the dynamic colours provided by the heather & ling surrounding shallow peaty ponds.

A willing male Black Darter was the ideal first subject to start with.

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) - male

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) – male

As usual the first day after a period of rain activity around the ponds is muted, and I can’t help worrying the inclement weather has played it’s part diminishing the populations. If they can’t eat, they can’t survive.

Those that do see it through spend the first sunny day wisely building up their energy reserves, and across the road in a sunny clearing the hawkers were having a feeding frenzy. A couple of Brown, a male Southern and countless Migrants were scouring the treeline or bouncing along the heather and gorse.

Most of the Migrant are immature males and females and are a little nervous to approach, however there are a few who appear to switch off, allowing a close approach with the macro.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - female

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – female

Wednesday 16th August

On my first free day for a long while I headed over to Bentley Wood and was immediately aware of the lack of damsels, just a lone Common Blue resting up on the bank. The Ruddy Darters however were in impressive numbers; possibly the best I’ve seen here, all playfully elusive or frustratingly choosing to perch against aesthetics.

Another fabulous sight were the 50+ Brimstone, both male and female, and a few Large White feeding on the Fleabane and Thistle.

Large White (Pieris brassicae)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)

Over water activity was very disappointing, with just a male Emperor patrolling the far shore. I must have waited two hours before I had a Southern Hawker pop in briefly for 30 seconds.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male

A male Southern being perfectly cryptic against the carpet of Water Lily makes for a challenging subject, and I was grateful for the opportunity, albeit very brief.

Not a lot else dragonfly-wise going on except for half-a-dozen Migrant feeding along the edge of the wood. A shot or two to come home with though.

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After The Deluge

Sunday 6th August

Damian Pinguay found a Southern Migrant Hawker female at one of his local reserves and we arranged to meet Steve Covey there in the hope of a sighting. Always a risky venture, but we fancied a drive and a day spent in unfamiliar surroundings with pleasant company was a welcome change.

We arrived before Steve and met another Steve (Birt) on site, a Flickr buddy and Facebook contact. Always a pleasure and the more eyes the better. After our introductions we proceeded to survey the site in the hope of striking lucky.

During a rare sunny moment we noticed a brown female ‘hawker’ prospectively searching for suitable ovipositing sites. Not A. mixta but what? Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to ID for sure as her visit was brief and elusive.

Steve Covey arrived shortly after and we all kept our eyes peeled until boredom set in and we chose to make the most of any sunny spell by attempting to find a willing subject. If our prize was here, she’ll show herself.

Ruddy Darters always frustrate and amuse me with their teasing chase. When you think you have the blighter pinned down he invariably twitches his head or abdomen just slightly off linear to keep you busy.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) - male

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) – male

There was a male Emperor present on both pools, visits by a female, a few Black-tailed Skimmers with frequent pairings and a late, but undamaged Four-spotted Chaser. It was the sighting of a Small Red-eyed which made the day for Steve C though; a first for this site.

My resident Emperor grabbed a passing Meadow Brown and settled perfectly on a bank-side sapling for my best opportunity of the day.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male feeding on Meadow Brown

Emperor (Anax imperator) – male feeding on Meadow Brown butterfly

Thursday 10th August

Always a gamble going out on the first sunny day after a period of inclement weather. Still they had to eat, right? So over to Hawker Alley at Ramsdown where  a male Southern, a couple of male Brown and countless immature Migrants of both sexes were having a feeding frenzy.

My next sighting was Doug Overton, the first time we’d seen each other since early season. We took a stroll around the ponds before returning and while Doug decided to go over to Blashford Lakes I persevered and attempted to refocus my rusty stealth.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - immature male

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – immature male

For the most part they preferred to perch within the shadows and shade of gorse ruining any chance of isolation and patience was the order of the day, waiting for them to perch more pleasingly and, most importantly, not immediately fly away.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - immature female

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – immature female

Not many Black but quite a few Common Darters, this immature female proving hard to resist.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - immature female

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) – immature female

Again not a lot to engage with, but it was a chance to get out, appreciate some sunshine and get back to basics. Summer’s not over yet 😉

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Server Down

I would like to express my apologies for the website being down since Sunday. Thankfully it now appears to be intermittently online but two days outage due to ‘a server problem’ by my hosting company is frankly unacceptable in this day and age.

Here’s their response:-

‘We are currently experiencing problems with UKC04 regarding all services. We have stopped all services and are currently running a full restore of this server to the original hardware. We will then upgrade the Hardware, Software (to Plesk Onyx) and Operating System to the very latest revision.

We are working with our upstream partners eUKHOST and can assure you that we have our best engineers dedicated to the task of returning full service as soon as possible.

In the meantime, please be patient while the restore process completes. We have a full and complete backup of all data which is verified to be intact from the evening of August 5th.

The hardware provision and setup can take up to 48 hours. However, if upon completion of the restore (24 hours) the server operates satisfactorily then we will re-schedule the hardware upgrade to take place weekend 13th August and bring the server back online.

We will update this page once the restore completes. Please do not trouble the help desk staff for updates, they can only direct you to this page. The server team will update this page directly at each point.’

That cop-out outlined in blue and this being the second occurrence is why I’m considering a change of host. If anyone can suggest a reliable, sensibly priced alternative – preferably by annual contract – I’d be most grateful if you can let me know via Twitter of Facebook message.

https://twitter.com/PRDragonflies

https://www.facebook.com/hampshiredragonflies

 

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From Heath to Glade

Monday 1st August

Now that most, if not all, set-backs are remedied I did hope to catch up with a few favourite places. Unfortunately, and perhaps not unexpectedly, the weather had other ideas! Two favourable days a couple of weeks ago and very little since.

At least the sun was shining on Monday, and I’m thinking windy or not those dragonflies would relish a day in the open. First call was Town Common to have my session with the Black Darters and hopefully some Small Red and Common Emerald, however the latter were not prepared to brave the breeze in significant numbers.

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) - female

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) – female

Black Darters are hardy and are the dragonfly equivalent of the tough northerner going out on a freezing mid-winter night in just a t-shirt and this southern breeze wasn’t keeping them from enjoying themselves.

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) - male

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) – male

After a quick look up the path for any roosting hawkers I returned to the ponds to grab (the few) opportunities present and decided to call in at Ramsdown for a gander. Sure enough I was barely through the gate before the hawkers showed themselves; a male Brown naturally showing umbrage at my passing and a female Migrant who couldn’t decide whether she wanted to land again.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - immature female

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – immature female

At the clearing I found a bevy of Migrant all vying for attention with a couple more Brown and a male Southern, although the latter wasn’t yet as accommodating enough to wait for a lens change.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male

The true hawkers were joined by a male and female Emperor and this rather splendid Golden-ringed.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male

Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) – male

This marvelous little micro climate suffered an infestation of Heather Beetle two years ago which killed off all the heather along with the populations of feeder insects. Thankfully after two years it’s now starting to recover and with plentiful food and shelter it’s a magnet for the hawkers.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - immature male

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – immature male

A pleasant day to indulge then, and worth staying out a little later.

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Priddy Quiet

Experience has taught me to forget those days which, although sunny, can be too cool or too windy to achieve satisfactory results. Tuesday was neither too cool or too windy but still disappointed. A lesson learned a few years back was to allow at least a day of sunshine before venturing out.

Of course cabin fever drives ambition and after several disappointing days of inclement weather the sun broke through, and I decided to take a trip to Priddy Mineries to connect with a favourite, the Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea to sticklers).

The journey, naturally delayed before I even left Southampton, was predictably slow due to the granny chariots choosing to leave at the same time as yours truly to do whatever they choose to do. Hold up traffic on the A36  perhaps?

Thankfully the journey is part of the experience, and the chance to drive through delightful countryside whilst stepping back in time to a slower pace of life should at least be rewarded with a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow?

Unfortunately not today. The weather was perfect; just the occasional light, white whispers of cloud adjusting the temperature comfortably and allowing the Emperors to cease their endless patrols and perch up for a short while.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male

Emperor (Anax imperator) – male

They certainly needed it! Every single male I saw were battle-scared and tired after a long session of territorial disputes with their own and others. Likewise the Chaser and Skimmers. Only the Darters looked pristine; Ruddy, Black and Common at the start of their dominance.

Talking of Skimmers I found a male Keeled at the boggy corner, the first time I have seen this species at this site and good news for Somerset  to potentially have a new colony.

I chose today because a few years back we had the most spectacular display of Moorland Hawkers around the boggy corner. As  it was there was only a brief showing of a male here, another at the entrance, a couple way too far over water for engagement and a female tentatively ovipositing around the margins.

I must have surrounded the pond half-a-dozen times looking for agreeable subjects and I even popped across the road into the woods in case they were hiding out. Two Migrant Hawkers were; a male and female hunting along the treeline, both immature and not ready for the pond just yet.

It was gone lunchtime before I found a Moorland I could engage with. His territory patrol consisted of flying out in a descending arc towards the center of the pond from the margins, rinse, repeat and occasionally come into shore to start his descent from the treeline.

Difficult to pick out against the foliage, the contrast played havoc with the light meter – remember you don’t have time to adjust when tracking – resulted in a rather pleasing image.

Moorland (Common( Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male

Moorland (Common( Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

It wasn’t long before he too flew out of reach and opportunity so I took another stroll around the pond, stopping a while to observe e female Brown Hawker ovipositing into the perfect log.

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) - female ovipositing

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) – female ovipositing

That’s a long trip for little reward, but I’ve had worse. I shall return!

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Making The Most of Dragonfly Week

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

Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male

Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) – male

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

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

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) - female

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) – female

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

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

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) - pair in cop

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) – pair in cop

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

Tuesday 18th July

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

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

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

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - immature male

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – immature male

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

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - immature male

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – immature male

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

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

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

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

Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma viridulum) - male

Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma viridulum) – male

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

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Home Grown

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

Wednesday 5th July

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 6th July

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

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

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male

Emperor (Anax imperator) – male

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

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male

Emperor (Anax imperator) – male

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

Keeled Skimmer(Orthetrum coerulescens) - male

Keeled Skimmer(Orthetrum coerulescens) – male

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

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) - male

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) – male

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

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Highland Fling – Part 2

Wednesday 28th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

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

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

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

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

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

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

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

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

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

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

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

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

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