On Saturday I finally got the chance to introduce Doug to the delights and diversity of possibly the best pond in the New Forest. On a warm, sunny late morning we arrived to find activity already in full flow with Emperors, Black-tailed and Keeled Skimmers, Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chasers, Azure, Common Blue, Blue-tailed and Emerald Damsels all in flight over the pond.
These were joined by a lone Downy Emerald who even perched a couple of times in the gorse bush close to the bank, and a Beautiful Demoiselle far from it’s usual habitat.
Nearly all species were represented by both male & females with many in cop and females ovipositing.
Also present were a good population of Small Red Damsels, a delight to find as so far this year I’ve only found tenerals. Both male & female were present, most recently emerged and yet to get their full adult colouring.
I was anxious to get a photo of one of the many Emerald Damsels seen, and having missed most of the opportunities spotted Doug notified me of a pair along the edge of the island. So I took the plunge and headed over to the spot, venturing beyond wellie-length until I felt the cold, wet discomfort of saturation.
Still, you can only get so wet!
So far the weather had been better than promised with plenty of sun, but by late afternoon the cloud came in , subduing nearly all of the pond activity. Still it was a perfect time to grab a perched shot or two.
Male Emperors are usually more difficult to approach than their female counterparts but either through luck or better field-craft I’ve been able to get in close. Surprisingly this one allowed us both ample photograph opportunities and didn’t seem the least bothered.
So accommodating was this individual that I took a chance and gently placed my index finger close to his perch and hoped he’d climb aboard. A male Emperor? Surely this couldn’t be possible?
We couldn’t really top that, and as the cloud showed no sign of abating we packed away and left after a thoroughly enjoyable 5 hours with no less than 14 species seen:-
Common Blue Damselfly
Small Red Damselfly
On Sunday 3rd we joined Doug and Stewart for a tour of Linford Bottom. Soon after arrival we spotted our first Brown Hawkers and Golden-ringed among the ferns, but none were willing to pose for photographs.
The Emperors were more accommodating though
The stream itself was very anti-climatic with picnickers & dog walkers scaring away any hope of activity although we did spot another Golden-ringed and a Brown Hawker further upstream flying through and around the tourists
Further still on the northern bank was a large area of fern & heather where yet more hawkers were seen, obviously a prominent spot for hunting. The small pond at the furthest point proved anti-climatic with only a lone Broad-bodied Chaser patrolling, but beyond the 2nd bridge the stream revealed the most action of the day with Large & Small Red, and Emerald Damselflies and Beautiful Demoiselles.
Total species count for the day was 12.
On Monday morning I headed over to Ramsdown Forest in search of more Brown Hawkers. Unfortunately I didn’t see any, but within half-an-hour had spotted 5 Golden-ringed among the heather.
Over the pond were a few Four-spotted Chasers and a lone male Emperor while in the surrounding foliage were a few Black Darters.
Afterwards I checked out Stephen’s Castle, a small nature reserve in Verwood. After searching the surrounding heath and spotting the odd Common Darter and Golden-ringed, I located the ponds.
The first was in the rains of a quarry and contained a few Broad-bodied Chasers but on the whole appeared a little too sheltered for much else. Close by was more of a heath-land mire with a lot of activity for such a small area.
Two male and one female Emperors, several Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers, Azure, Emerald and Small Red Damselflies.
Due to unpromising weather conditions I concentrated on butterflies Tuesday and shortly after arrival at Alice Holt I had my first Purple Emperor, landed briefly and allowing a photo opportunity.
Besides the butterflies there were a few Golden-ringed, Black-tailed Skimmers, Broad-bodied Chasers, Azure and Common Blue Damselflies along the forest rides.
On this occasion I finally located the pond which shows on the OS map. Unfortunately nothing more than a reservoir surrounded by trees and with no real pond side access, but no doubt good for woodland species such as Downy Emeralds in season.
As I write this I’m suffering the effects of a summer cold (thanks Doug!) and any further activity this week is unlikely judging by the weather. Still, plenty of the season still to go so here’s to a glorious hawker season!