While out on Saturday at a favourite butterfly location, our car was broken into. A rock had been thrown through the back window spreading shards of glass throughout the interior. Luckily most things of value were ignored in preference for my beloved hat!
Unable to get a reasonably priced repair over the weekend we had to choose our location carefully for Sunday’s promised heatwave. Luckily we knew just the place – a hidden valley with secure private parking only a stone’s throw (sic) from the car.
The promised heatwave had delivered wonderfully and several dragons & damsels were on the wing, including a good number of Common Darters
There were also a few immature Ruddy doing the rounds, but I failed to get a decent photograph of these. Damsels included the usual Blue-tailed.
There were also several Large Reds and Azures – of which I believe this is a female.
Across the pond were a couple of patrolling male Emperors and tucked away in a sheltered area was a female ovipositing on the lilies.
Joining the Emperors on the pond were a couple of Four-spotted Chasers and about half-a-dozen Male Black-tailed Skimmers who occasionally came into land low down on the bank
We spent a good few minutes watching the aerial acrobatics of the Male Emperors and I took the opportunity of grabbing a shot as one exceptionally vibrant individual came in to perch
Shortly afterwards we heard the unmistakable sound of copulation as a male Black-tailed Skimmer found a willing female and proceeded to parade her around the pond. This is the first time I have witnessed this species in cop and I was determined to grab a photo despite the fact they were on the wing
We spent an enjoyable 3 hours at this peaceful location before moving on to Crockford Stream in the hope of finding a Golden-ringed. Despite the perfect conditions, activity was muted with only a few Southern Damselflies, the odd Beautiful Demoiselle and a few Keeled Skimmers along the stream.
On reaching the clearing we did find our intended quarry
Still June continues to be cool and unsettled with dragonflies thin on the ground. On Tuesday 21st Sue & I took a short afternoon trip to Bentley Wood where the ponds are looking frankly dismal. Only a few Large Red and Azure Damsels in the surrounds and nothing over the ponds at all.
Walking back through a ride we hadn’t taken before we were at least greeted with a couple of dragons taking flight at our disturbance – both turning out to be old & faded Broad-bodied Chasers
My next excursion was on Thursday where I was joined by Stewart Cadnam for a tour of Ober Water in less than ideal conditions. Still cool and breezy and possibly a little early at 10.00am, the first sightings were Azure, Large Red and Blue-tailed Damselflies followed by a teneral Common Darter further downstream. There were a few Southern Damselflies and Beautiful Demoiselles present, but on the whole the main stream was devoid of it’s usual activity.
At the main boggy area Keeled Skimmers – mature males and tenerals – were present in reasonably large numbers but it wasn’t until we reached Silver Stream that things improved a little with yet more Keeled, Southern Damsels and Beautiful Demoiselles.
There was one particular sheltered pocket of heather where most of the insect life had congregated, with several Silver-studded Blue butterflies on the wing.
Shortly afterwards we were heckled by a pair of Lapwings complaining we were too close to their nest, and more delightfully a pair of Curlews who were circling us providing a great chance to catch them in flight. The reason for their display being a nest close by which contained at least one chick.
On the way back downstream we had a chance to photograph a teneral Beautiful Demoiselle perched on a Common Spotted Orchid.
On our way back up Ober Water the clouds were looking decidedly threatening and we even had a burst of rain, which, along with the driving wind, had further added to a drop in temperature. By now the Blue-tailed Damsels were out, but frankly not much else
Our next port of call was Crockford Stream. The journey across the forest had produced yet more rain and by the time we reached the stream all hopes of sunshine had passed. The stream was very disappointing for this time of year with only a few Large Red and Southern Damsels and a few Beautiful Demoiselles
On Friday 24th I paid my first visit of the year to Badminston Common and Gravel Pits. The lead in path, usual awash with Common Blue Damsels at this time of year – only produced a few tenerals.
Across the fence along the edge of the Gravel Pits activity was a little better with several more Common Blues present along with several teneral Common Darters
A walk across the common produced little, except a few Azure Damselflies in a clearing usually bursting with activity. Once again the sun refused to make an appearance and I called into Hawkhill Enclosure on the way back in the hope of finding a Golden-ringed or two, but the combination of cool conditions and the recent forest clearance put paid to that expectation.
Now as I write the forecast for this weekend is looking rosy, with high temperatures and long periods of sunshine promised for Sunday. Hopefully this will bring out the dragons to end June on a high note.
June is proving to be a real washout with no let up in the constant cloud, showers, torrential downpours and just the briefest of sunny spells.
Heavy skies and the promise of a sunny break forced me north to Bransbury Common, near Andover on Thursday 16th. This is an area I’ve long wanted to explore further, and perhaps wasn’t the best of days to revisit. It was 11.00am before the rain stopped, and I received a thorough soaking from the undergrowth as I made my way down the path to the River Dever.
To reach the common I had to negotiate a ford, the water level swollen from the heavy rains, and just made it without the waters flowing over the top of my wellies. All I saw dragonfly wise was a single Banded Demoiselle, but at least there were several Large Skippers and plentiful Orchids to keep me occupied.
On Friday afternoon Sue & I took a chance on the weather and visited Pennington where we managed to see a few Common & Blue-tailed Damsels before the heavens opened. At least I came home with a a cracking Grass Snake capture for my troubles.
On Saturday we revisited Pennington with Doug, fresh from his two week break. Flying over the pond were Four-spotted Chasers and a lone Emperor. The overgrown foliage were harbouring several damsels, including Common Blues, Azures, Large Reds and hundreds of Blue-tailed.
Our prize of the day came with a couple of female Golden-ringed who we disturbed in a sheltered hollow. Both had damaged wings, which was unfortunate, but nevertheless it is always a joy to see this magnificent beast.
Further around the pond there was a section of sheltered reeds bursting with Blue-tailed Damsels, all colour forms present with some in cop
The driving wind and threatening cloud once again cut short our visit, but we did take a walk through the forest rides at Holmsley to an area usually buzzing with activity. No such luck today though, the rain having caught us up. The most significant event was the falling of a tree in the stormy conditions, which we probably only heard because we were there…
The forecast for south Hampshire was once again unfavourable for Sunday, so Sue & I headed north again for a butterfly fix at Alice Holt followed by a visit to Thursley Common.
Small pockets of warm sunshine meant we had some fabulous butterfly activity, although not as much as usual. The highlight of the visit being a Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth nectaring on nettle blossom.
By the time we reached Thursley the cloud had thickened and we feared the worst. Nothing at all was flying on the pond, and nothing was disturbed except the odd damsel in the marshy area – mostly Common Blues and Blue-tailed.
Walking over the heath did at least disturb some dragons. An Emerald was seen flying fast away from us, but whether it was Downy or Brilliant we couldn’t confirm. Shortly afterwards among the heather I found a few White-legged Damsels
I also spotted a teneral Small Red, not the sharpest photo, but a record shot anyway
Reaching an area I knew was good for Black Darters and Emerald Damselflies, I walked through the heather and was rewarded with a single teneral specimen of each.
along with a single teneral Keeled Skimmer
Also taking refuge in the heather were several very brightly-coloured Four-spotted Chasers
We continued on and took a circular route along the boardwalk past the bog pools with no dragon or damsel to be seen, but at least there were several gravid female and the odd male Common Lizard basking on the warm wood
So not a bad week considering, but at this time of year it should be so much better. Unfortunately the weather forecast for the coming week is more of the same, but I shall be out regardless. Just have to look a lot harder….
This past week has been so miserable with dark clouds, heavy rain and still that constant & annoying wind! At least Saturday 11th promised a few sunny spells, so Sue & I paid an afternoon visit to Titchfield Haven to see what we could find.
Despite the wind there were a few damsels lining the paths – mostly Azures and Blue-tailed. Titchfield has always been a hot spot for Blue-tailed and the abundant foliage provides endless opportunities for photographers. However the main area around the dragonfly pond was nowhere near as good as last year.
Worse still was the state of the pond. Usually a prime spot for Emperors, Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers patrolling the open water along with several Hairy’s weaving in & out of the reeds at the edge. Now the pond has been neglected to the extent that there is now no open water – just a mass of overgrown reeds.
Needless to say there were no patrolling chasers of any description, just a lone Hairy preferring to patrol the surrounding foliage at low level. There was a lone Four-spotted Chaser perched on one of the many reeds
A small pond close to the bird hide did have another two Four-spotted patrolling a small open area, with more among the surrounding foliage and a lone Emperor appearing from time to time to do battle with the Hairy, who at least took refuge for a photo opportunity
The only other real opportunity that afternoon was a beautifully perched and very vibrant male Banded Demoiselle
Titchfield is primarily a bird reserve but they are missing a golden opportunity to retain it’s appeal as a prime dragonfly spot with much the same habitat as the Somerset Levels. All it needs is better management by cutting back those reeds and tidying up the surrounding scrub.
On the afternoon of Monday 13th Sue & I headed over to Ober Water and were greeted with the aftermath of Sunday’s heavy downpours. The main flow had been split into several parallel channels with large areas flooded making the going tough. The usual crossing points were now a hazard even for wellies, but at least there were a few more pools for damsels, mainly Azure, Large Red, Blue-tails and the odd Scarce Blue-tailed.
Further upstream there were a few White-legged including some in tandem, a few Beautiful Demoiselles and several Large Reds
Surprisingly there were no dragons to be seen, not even a Keeled Skimmer, and the damsels were few and far between. Afterwards we checked on our favourite pond and are pleased to report that the heavy rain has replenished the water levels.
Despite the late hour there were a few Four-spotted rising from the island with an Emperor and a Downy Emerald doing a circuit.
Tuesday 14th looked more promising weather-wise, so I took a trip to Keyhaven and was greeted by my first Common Darter of the year
Patrolling the pond were several Damsels – mostly Blue-tailed and Large Reds with the occasional Red-eyed and a few Black-tailed Skimmers, Four-spotted Chasers and Emperors. A rather ragged male at least gave a perched opportunity
I popped in to Crockford Stream on my way back and was greeted with an ovipositing female Golden-ringed.
A short transect produced little else except a few Southern Damsels and the odd Beautiful Demoiselle. Some good weather should hopefully wake this place up soon.
That’s all I have to report except for a brief visit to Bransbury Common near Andover yesterday morning. After an hour of showers, the sun briefly came out to reveal hundreds of Large Skippers and a lone Banded Demoiselle.
Well the weather couldn’t last and this past week has been a bit of a wash out to say the least. Now I don’t mind the rain – and we definitely need it with so many water bodies in the New Forest looking dry in much the same as last year.
The problem is all we have been getting are showers. Not enough to replenish our water supplies, and coupled with strong winds and dull skies, not good enough for dragonfly activity.
Such was the circumstances that I didn’t venture out again until Tuesday 7th. I went to Bentley Wood where I must admit my first priority was a hopeful spotting of the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly, but a good short and reasonably heavy shower put paid to that!
Nevertheless I continued on to the ponds knowing full well that I wouldn’t see anything, but was surprisingly rewarded with a freshly-emerged Southern Hawker.
Not quite believing my luck I stayed around long enough to watch him open his wings and crawl to the top of the yellow flag iris
Such were the dull conditions that a fill-in flash seemed the order of the day
Although there has been the odd sighting of Southern Hawkers around, I felt rightly privileged to witness this superb spectacle. Due recompense for getting a soaking earlier!
On Wednesday 8th I visited Blashley Lakes where I knew there would at least be some shelter from the rain which had been forecast. Not a dragon to be seen, but the foliage was full of Blue-tailed, Large Red and Common Blue Damselflies
On Friday 10th Sue & I had planned a day in Somerset to witness the Large Blue Butterflies at Collard Hill and a visit to Westhay Moor afterwards for dragonflies.
We were blessed with decent weather for the morning on the hill, but by lunchtime the clouds had rolled in with some threatening skies. Unfortunately this meant that Westhay was scarce on dragon activity although we did spot the odd Four-spotted Chaser and a few Black-tailed Skimmers
Despite the lack of dragons, damsels were in good numbers and nearing the pond we found a rather distressed Male Red-eyed trapped in a spiders web. Rescued with precision nails by my partner Sue, we hoped that at least he could enjoy a longer life
Towards the end of the track we encountered several Blue-tailed’s of various phases, including this rather beautiful rufescens with that wonderful blue tinge in the eyes
Continuing on towards the furthest hide alongside the fishing lake we had a chance to photograph a mating pair
By now the clouds were more than threatening and the temperature had dropped significantly. Reluctantly we decided to call it a day, but the day had been a major success despite the weather.
After those delightful days at Ober Water, I decided to scout the area around Burley Heath on Thursday 2nd June. I returned to the recently discovered boggy pond on the far side of the heath which this time showed the the expected inhabitants – Emperor, Four-spotted Chaser, Broad-bodied Chaser, Keeled Skimmer, Large Red and Common Blue Damselflies.
Unfortunately the pond is not very photographer friendly – being wide and unforgiving along the shore.
During the walk back I checked for signs of Small Red Damsels but none were to be found. Burbush pond at least provided some activity with yet more Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chasers and a patrolling Emperor
Long Pond was looking particularly sad with hardly any action. Not even a Red-eyed Damsel to be found on the minimal lily pads. In two years this pond has suffered much and is well beyond its former glory
On Friday 3rd I met Stephen from UK Dragonflies forum for a tour of Silver Stream and Ober Water. Silver Stream was buzzing with Southern and Large Red Damselflies, Beautiful Demoiselles, Keeled Skimmers, Broad-bodied Chasers and an Emperor
Our tour of Ober Water produced the widest variety of the day with a good 14 species spotted – including Black-tailed Skimmers and Scarce Chasers – two species not previously spotted at this location. However we were there for the White-legged and Scarce Blue-tailed Damselflies
On Saturday 4th Sue & I had arranged to give a tour of Ober Water to Jerry & Mike from UK Dragonflies forum. We were joined by Phil Lord, an expert with over 20 years experience observing the dragonflies of the New Forest.
Despite a threatening forecast, the promised rain stayed away and we were greeted with decent sunny spells and reasonable temperatures and were rewarded with our first Scarce Blue-tailed as soon as we arrived at the spot – including this fantastic female in transition form the immature to mature phase
Further along the stream we had our first sightings of White-legged Damselflies, including quite a few tenerals
and even a teneral Small Red
There were a few dragons flying along the stream, including Black-tailed Skimmers, Broad-Bodied Chasers, Scarce Chasers, a Downy Emerald, an Emperor and several Keeled Skimmers
Unfortunately the Golden-ringed didn’t show itself on this occasion, but a Banded Demoiselle was spotted among the numerous Beautiful – again an unusual sighting for this location
Large Red Damsels were plentiful
and a good population of Azures and Southern
Afterwards we paid a short visit to Crockford Stream, which quite frankly was a huge disappointment after Ober Water, but then I have said on several occasions that Ober Water beats Crockford Stream hands down!
So a fabulous day and our guests returned home with 4 new species ticks – not bad for their first visit to the New Forest!
Continuing on home turf I revisited one of my favourite spots in the New Forest on both Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. I still maintain that Ober Water will provide all species found at Crockford Stream, albeit over a larger area.
A walk from Puttles Bridge to Markway Bridge – or indeed vice-versa – will take you through a myriad of environments in relative peace away from the main tourists traps.
After parking up on Tuesday at Puttles Bridge, I crossed the bridge and headed across the road to follow Silver Stream. Nothing was flying here at this hour and the cool, windy conditions didn’t help.
I therefore decided to recross Ober Water and make my way across the heath until I reached the bridge below Rhinefield House. I searched the north bank downstream for a short distance in the hope of finding a few White-legged Damsels among the grassy area, but none were to be found. There were however some Beautiful Demoiselles waking up along the stream.
I continued upstream following the banks until I came across my first White-legged tenerals and Southern Damselflies among the Large Reds and Azures.
Continuing upstream until I reached the area where the Scarce Blue-tailed can be found, I crossed the stream and waited for the sun to appear. Patrolling the junction were a male Downy Emerald and a male and female Broad-bodied Chaser.
At just after 11.00am I spotted my first Scarce Blue-tailed among the few normal Blue-tails and Azures. All males, they were patrolling the banks of the main stream, stopping briefly to perch on the emerging vegetation.
I spent a couple of hours at this spot, following the SBT’s and waiting for some photo opportunities.
Also patrolling the banks of the main stream were a few ‘normal’ Blue-tailed
Returning downstream the banks had woken up considerably with Large Red, Azure and Southern Damsels – some in cop – among the increasing numbers of Beautiful Demoiselles.
Back at the bridge the wide pool had patrolling Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers and a single Golden-ringed. Further on still there were several teneral Keeled Skimmers and even a few mature males patrolling the boggy seepage’s.
On Wednesday morning I returned to Ober Water, but this time started at Markway Bridge. I walked downstream until I reached the area where I knew would provide some early activity. I was rewarded with my first photo opportunity – a recently-emerged Large Red still attached to the exuvia.
Unfortunately the exuvia had detached from the grass stem and the teneral was well coloured up before the wings had a chance to detach. However she was actively walking up & down the stem and even onto surrounding foliage. I did return to note any progress on my way back and found the discarded exuvia at the base of the stem with no sign of the teneral.
Further downstream I rescued an unfortunate teneral Keeled Skimmer from the stream. I placed him on some heather to dry out.
At the bridge pool once again there was a Golden-ringed holding territory with the Chasers. Returning back upstream I noticed that the Keeled I rescued earlier had moved on, and there were several more tenerals dispersing in the breeze.
Returning upstream revealed increasing activity along the banks with Large Red,Southern, White-legged and Azure Damselflies and Beautiful Demoiselles.
Returning to the junction the Scarce Blue-tailed were now on the wing and I grabbed a couple of opportunities
Catching my eye was what I’d assumed to be a Large Red teneral carried by the breeze. Further inspection revealed it to be a teneral Small Red.
The promise of reasonable weather meant a return in the afternoon with my partner Sue. As usual on arrival the sun had disappeared behind a blanket of cloud. Along the banks was a single female Red Deer, not normally found this far upstream.
Despite the cloud cover it was still warm enough for damsel activity and the first opportunity that presented itself with a Blue-tailed feeding
Shortly after we caught a glimpse of our first male Scarce
Careful inspection of the stream revealed what e thought were our first females, difficult to follow and almost impossible to see among some vegetation. However these turned out to be female Blue-tailed. Still I wasn’t prepared to leave until I had at least one photo in the bag
Returning to the car we spotted a large herd of Fallow Deer ahead of us and watched as a young bullock chased them off, bellowing in triumph.
Bold from his bullying success he attempted to do the same with the ponies, who ignored him totally, so he turned his attention towards us! Bellowing loudly and cantering at a good pace he came to an abrupt halt before sauntering off in a sulk, deflated after his earlier triumph.
Shortly afterwards a group of 4 colts came charging through at a gallop, circling the fillies and crossing the river at great speed in a display of testosterone. This truly is a magical place….