On Monday 20th I chanced my arm at Badminston in the hope of seeing a few more Red-veined Darters, A lot cooler than the previous Sunday with a stiffer breeze meant sightings were few & far between. No tenerals were to be found over the small pool this time, but there were a couple which looked promising around the margins. Unfortunately I couldn’t get near enough to confirm they were RVD’s, but the colouring looked right.
I continued to the far corner of the eastern pool where the shore was alive with Ruddy Darters – the most I’ve seen in one place in the New Forest. Totally failed to get a shot though. A female Golden-ringed rose briefly with my passing, landing not too far away ina thicket of gorse.
Onwards to Crockford – a more correctly Beaulieu Heath – where I was anxious to explore the upper reaches around Two Bridges Bottom and Deep Moor. Crockford Stream is sourced from these two locations, although the main body of the stream flows from Deep Moor; an apt name should you venture too far.
Besides several Keeled Skimmers, a few Golden-ringed and Beautiful Demoiselles, there was a male Emperor patrolling the ford pond, ideal for practicing in-flights.
I spent about an hour with this individual who became increasingly brave and inquisitive, allowing for some wonderful opportunities.
Following downstream more Golden-ringed, Keeled Skimmers, Beautiful Demoiselles and Southern Damselflies, and at the main basin I’m pretty sure the male Golden-ringed was our resident from 2 weeks ago, looking a little worn.
Through the thicket more Keeled Skimmers, Common Darters, a Southern Hawker, a Migrant Hawker and a couple more Golden-ringed before I called it a day.
Wednesday promised bright sunshine, but delivered cloud and strong gusts, Continuing on my Crockford quest I investigated a small stream to the west, NE of Pilley. As soon as I got out the car there were two Golden-ringed battling at the ford, and another couple upstream with Keeled Skimmers, Beautiful Demoiselles, Southern Damselflies and Common Darters.
Continuing on I decided to visit Lower Crockford for the first time in two years, following the stream at Shipton Bottom up & downstream where it merges into Crockford Stream. This is a wonderfully quiet area with pretty much the same species as Upper Crockford, the feeder stream proving very productive. Where they meet is a beautiful open lawn area with yet more opportunities.
As I was here I couldn’t resist the main basin, and decided to attempt a Beautiful Demoiselle in flight.
Onwards to Badminston where I met Paul W and together we did a tour of the ditches & pools, finding 20+ Red-veined Darters and over 30 exuviae at the breeding pool.
Along the shore of the far pit were Emperors, Common and Ruddy Darters, Black-tailed Skimmers and in one sheltered bay a hive of Common Blue Damsel activity.
The Ruddy’s were proving difficult subjects but across the other side of the pits I managed a perched male.
I still needed a decent RVD female shot and was rewarded with a couple of opportunities to round off a fabulous afternoon.
Sunday morning I returned to Badminston, unsurprisingly bumping into Paul W again, and joined a little later by two other enthusiasts.
The change in wind direction had dispersed the majority of the tenerals into a small and reasonably sheltered sandy area with ample perches. This didn’t necessarily make them any easier to approach, but perseverance paid off.
While I was exploring this area a shout went up as a female Lesser Emperor was spotted over the far pit. I managed a couple of glimpses but she didn’t stay around for long. Time was also moving on and I had to meet Sue at Pennington, but not before I had a brief time with Paul Brock who I bumped into on my way out.
Unfortunately Pennington proved to be an anti-climax as the clouds drew in, the wind increased and even a brief shower put pay to any decent action. No worries though, as the morning had been worth it!
After what proved to be a cracking weekend in Wales, I took a break from dragonflies and concentrated on butterflies for a couple of days, returning to dragonflies on Friday.
I took a little trip to the pond, a journey which proved more troublesome due to the sheer weight of holiday traffic heading west. A head-full of traffic jams, noise and endless diversions vanished halfway down the hill as the pond came into view. There’s a little rise where the pond appears on the horizon and you get a glimpse of what is – or not – flying.
Unfortunately there wasn’t anything large patrolling this side, but in the action corner a male Emperor reigned supreme over Common Darters, Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chasers. The Damsels – Emerald, Common Blue, Blue-tailed and Azure, minded their own business below.
At the other end were more of the same plus a Keeled Skimmer, with the Blue-tailed seeming to prefer the muddy seepage leading down from the heath. Among the gorse & ferns were several more Common Darters, Broad-bodied Chasers and a male Migrant Hawker.
I positioned myself back at the (action) corner and watched the show as a female Emperor flew in to lay her eggs. At one point she was briefly whisked away by the male in a failed coupling before returning to her business.
Now & again the resident male from the other end would overstep his territory and a dogfight would ensue, a clash of wings as they rose high and separated back to their own patch.
The water levels are looking healthy without being saturated, and the two smaller ponds – barely more than large puddles – have remained. The larger of these pools had almost as much action as the main pond, with a resident male Emperor, an ovipositing female, more Common Darters and Broad-bodied Chasers plus a lively population of damsels.
Satisfied I’d seen all I was going to see, I left a little too early, and having time to spare decided to look in on a small pond near Telegraph Hill. This pond appears be dependant on rainfall , being on the summit of the surrounding heath.
In the past this pond resembled nothing more than a large puddle lying next to a popular dog walk. Often used for a post-walkies bath or a venue for beer can boating in picnic season, I only ever visit on a weekday.
The water level was extremely high and appeared healthier with reeds and lillies providing a life force on what is a very odd shade of green- the type you normally find at disused quarries.
I at least hoped to find a Southern Hawker or two, as on previous occasions, but once again the ruling party was a male Emperor.
I watched as he appeared to enjoy the stiff breeze and, very much like a Kestrel, countering the wind perfectly while drifting sideways against the breeze, towards me, and then over the pond… returning in a pattern which was not entirely predictable.
On a few occasions he would rise overhead, allowing a glimpse of the underneath. Interesting to see his head turned towards me while the thorax & abdomen remain perpendicular.
On Sunday Doug & I were guides for the DWT photography group on their annual dragonfly day. As the meeting time was 10.00am, I took advantage of the weather and had an early start to sneak in a Red-veined Darter or two before the main event.
I hadn’t realised they’d rebuilt the footpath until later, and used the gate entrance, traipsing through shoulder-high weeds and becoming saturated by dew before reaching the pools.
A male Emperor was already holding court while teneral Darters were rising from the reeds.
The majority were carried by the breeze across the lunar landscape, but one male stayed put long enough to get some shots in.
Satisfied, I explored the gorse bordering hawker alley, watching as hoards of Common Darters battled for popularity with Common Blue Damsels. A brief glimpse of a male Southern Hawker, and several more male Emperors rose before me having been disturbed by my passing.
Onwards to Ramsdown, a journey which took an hour due to the intolerable selfishness of ignorant cyclists, a recent New Forest menace. There was apparently a race on, and this gave the cyclists the mistaken belief that they had right of way.
Riding tyre to tyre and up to four abreast, they left no room for other road users to overtake, causing long and unnecessary tailbacks. Should you find a spot to overtake, you were met with jeers and gestures.
They also had no respect for the animals, cursing if their progress was cut short by a wandering pony. It will take a fatal accident for the powers that be to realise the influx of ignorant city-dwelling cyclist on summer weekends is an unacceptable danger to the harmony of the New Forest.
Back at Ramsdown we waited for the dozen or so photographers to arrive and led them up the track to the first pond. By now activity was positively buzzing, with another Emperor, Black & Common Darters, Four-spotted Chaser, Azure, Common Blue, Emerald and Small Red Damselflies across the water.
On two occasions a Grass Snake took to the water and swam to the far bank.
Along the margins I spotted a male Broad-bodied Chaser and someone else photographed a female Black-tailed Skimmer, while the skies would occasional light up with a passing Brown Hawker. I usually take a back step on these outings, but couldn’t resist the chance of a Black Darter mating wheel.
After the party had filled their boots at the pond, we made our way up and around the small hill hoping to flush out a hawker or two, but the heather revealed nothing today, except a very welcome sighting of a Smooth Snake.
Down the steep hill to the other pond where Black Darters ruled the roost with no less than a dozen pairs in tandem, along with more Emeralds and a few Common Blue.
From the treeline came a Brown Hawker, circling the pond several times before once again disappearing from view. Shortly after a male Southern Hawker appeared for a quick survey, and then a Common Hawker flew in and circled the pond a few times before flying off into the distance.
I did manage one record shot before he disappeared
By now the heat had started to become a little uncomfortable and we all retreated to the car park for a lunch break before moving on to Troublefield. About half of the party remained and were rewarded with a couple of Golden-ringed, some Beautiful and Banded Demoiselles and a male and female Southern Hawker.
Our most surprising find was a male Emerald Damselfly, a first for this site. Obviously a refugee from Ramsdown. Let’s hope a female or two made the journey too!
No Migrants today, though still a fine day and a satisfying outing with a full daily count of 14 species.
Sat at home waiting for that belt high pressure to arrive, I wondered how I was going to make the most of it.
There are still a couple of sites in the New Forest which need a seasonal visit, and when the sun did finally appear on Thursday I was spoilt for choice.
The decision was made when Stephen (red_fan) couldn’t make the planned Friday jaunt at Crockford, but could manage Thursday. As the next sunny spell was all about relaxing and enjoying a few hours at a pleasant location, a day at Crockford proved perfect.
I arrived quite early at 10.00am. Surprisingly still overcast with sea mist, which didn’t clear until around noon. Time for a wander, and potentially the first sighting was a male Golden-ringed on his first morning patrol of his patch.
In the clearing across the stream a few Common Darters awoke at my passing. Through the thicket with the two shallow ponds and up the skope brought my first Hawker – a Migrant unhappy at the disturbance, flying high and far in search of a lie in.
At the stream another two male Golden-ringed appeared and claimed their territories among the few Common Darters, Keeled Skimmers, Beautiful Demoiselles, Southern and Small Red Damselflies.
Walking back through the thicket I bumped into another enthusiast whom I’d met at Blashford last year, swapped notes and scanned my brain looking for his name.
Back across the stream to the small, wooded ponds where a male Southern Hawker was frantically flying back & forth, mostly high and occasionally low but showing no signs of rest.
Back at the stream I had a glimpse of something quite remarkable – a Hawker flying fast & low upstream along a narrow channel, appearing once more heading downstream before taking flight across the moor.
Brown striped abdomen was all I could distinguish, and it wasn’t a Brown Hawker…
The Southerns and Small Reds were still congregating around their chosen Bog Myrtle bushes, and for once this season the few Beautifuls were giving a good display.
Suddenly the relative quiet was disturbed by the unmistakable sound of a female Golden-ringed ovipositing in the shade of a Bog Myrtle bush, while further along the resident male held his territory.
A male Keeled Skimmer appeared within the small pool, disturbing the resident Golden-ringed, and a female Broad-bodied Chaser looked for somewhere safe to hide as I made my way back through the thicket.
Meeting Stephen, we followed another male for a while before returning through the trees to notice a female – possibly the same one – ovipositing in the narrow bank of the shade.
Back at the basin Stephen filled his boots with an obliging subject while I attempted to catch the fellow in-flight.
A most agreeable chap who, despite the odd territorial dispute, allowed us the chance to photograph him on several perches, although his favourite was a young Bog Myrtle.
For me though the golden moment came when he perched on the heather hanging over the stream.
We had some brief visitations from a couple of male Emperors and a male Southern to add variety, and a few more Common Darters before we headed towards Pennington.
Our main goal were Small Red-eyed Damselflies, and these proved plentiful along with their larger cousins, Blue-tailed and a scattering of Azure.
Over on the river were Banded Demoiselles and Common Darters. The latter were also parading around the main pool, along with a few male Emperors holding territory, and one female ovipositing at various points along the full length, occasionally disturbed by one of the males.
On Friday I returned to Crockford and did a quick scout of the area before the arrival of my guests. Golden-ringed were already in attendance, yesterday’s preferred model still holding court over his territory., and the resident Keeled Skimmer was perched in his bush.
Chris & Mike arrived around 11.30 and immediately got to work grabbing their shots. At one point our male tried desperately to get a grip in the leg of Chris’s tripod, and watching this Mike had the idea to present the leg clamp as a possible perch, and our quarry obliged.
Another very pleasant afternoon with a total of nine species, short a Broad-bodied Chaser from the previous day.
Thanks to Dave’s (NewEra51) recent post and photos, South Wales looked to be the ideal location for finding and photographing the Common Hawker; a quarry I’d longed for. My only previous encounter with this elusive beast was a few years ago at Whitten Pond.
A dragonfly trip had been originally planned for Sunday, but was rescheduled to Saturday due to the weather. In our eagerness we had already booked a room to give us a full day refreshed instead of stressed by a 200 mile journey.
Swansea is the last major conurbation for miles. Head west and you’ll be in Ireland before you encounter anywhere as big. Head north and Bangor is probably the closest culturally. East brings you further upstream, as it were, where everything has gone before.
Yet south is a small pocket of heaven, where roads wind narrowly down to the sea or lead you onto a rich Montaigne plateau with foreboding bogs and tranquil ponds. The big daddy of these ponds is Broad Pool, and geographically was our destination for this weekend in search of the elusive, In my and several others opinion, Common Hawker.
However arriving early on Saturday afternoon gave us a chance to scout the area prior to Sunday. Heading almost exactly west from Swansea the urban sprawl gave way to open moorland of Cefn Bryn, known as the backbone of the Gower. The summit provides a panoramic view belying it’s modest 600ft summit.
About a mile south-west of Cillibion in a small hollow lies Broad Pool – a reasonably large acidic pond surrounded by heath, bog and a scattering of smaller pools each offering a fine selection of dragonflies.
We parked roadside among the scattering of cars and immediately headed for the far bank of Broad Pool, stopping on the way to practice with a patrolling Emperor.
Damselflies were reasonably well presented with Common Blue, Blue-tailed, Emerald and even a Large Red or two. Among the grasses and heather were Black and Common Darters, and around by the trees we disturbed a couple of Common Hawkers who flew off at speed across the moor.
The old Brown Hawker trick!
Heading north into the dip we encountered the party and introduced ourselves, pick brains and swapped notes before heading back to Broad Pool and returning to the road along the other shore.
A few Black-tailed Skimmers and Four-spotted Chasers patrolled the margins along with more Emperors, but I was after larger prey.
A quick break at the cars before walking the short distance to the 5 small pools where Common Hawkers had been spotted earlier. These each contained more of the same species, and at the second largest pool we spotted our prize.
Time stood still as we frantically followed his flight path, reeling off shot after shot afraid of missing a golden opportunity. Now & again a male Emperor would fly in and cause trouble, appearing to chase off our prize, but it wasn’t long before he returned to his patch.
Now this encounter had thrown all my previous expectations into doubt. I expected to have to deal with a hawker with similar behaviour as the Brown – a fast flyer prone to disappearing into the distance an any moment.
This certainly wasn’t the case. Our subject was happy to stay around, flying a low and predictable pattern around the pond margins in much the same way as a Downy Emerald, and even more surprisingly being as inquisitive as his cousin, the Southern.
After another battle with the Emperor where the latter was coming off worse, our subject hopped the short distance to one of the smaller ponds – a perfectly round boggy hollow barely 10 feet in circumference with little distracting background and access from all points.
At first the small size gave the impression that there wouldn’t be much activity, especially for the larger species, but proved perfectly adequate to accommodate one.
This was the pond I’ve been looking for for years, and couldn’t get more perfect from a photographers point of view. Absolutely the best pond I’ve yet encountered for in-flight photography.
Once again we filled our boots, and when our subject flew off without returning, we went back to the cars to say our goodbyes until tomorrow. A cry from the ponds lead me back for a few more opportunities before wrapping up the day.
You couldn’t wish for a more agreeable subject, and I was elated to grab this chance on what was basically a late afternoon scout! Having bagged some more than acceptable shots, I could relax for the rest of the weekend.
The following day we met up with John and Tony just after 11.00am under cloudy skies and busied ourselves with searching the undergrowth along the treeline.
The previous day I’d commented that this treeline would be an ideal roosting spot for the Common Hawker, and sure enough in a small thicket of gorse further along I disturbed 3 males, all flying off over the trees.
We made our way around Broad Pool – with a quick detour to the ‘kidney pond’ and returned to the south bank just as the sun decided to break through. Five minutes of unbroken sunshine had the desired effect and out of nowhere 3 Emperors appeared, clashed almost immediately in a 3-way dogfight, then dispersed to their own territories.
Over on the small pools another Common Hawker was patrolling, and, in much the same as yesterday, would frequently battle with the Emperor, driving the latter back to the other end.
Once again when he flew to the small pool the best photo opportunities presented themselves, especially when he hovered so close it was difficult to get a lock on.
It did result in my favourite shot of the weekend though!
When he left I wandered over to the kidney pond and found an obliging Emperor
There were also a Four-spotted Chaser and Black-tailed Skimmer adding interest. Walking back around Broad Pool I disturbed a female Common Hawker who had perched low down in the grasses of the boggy area. Nice that it would’ve been to get a photo, the opportunity didn’t present itself. I didn’t mind though.
Besides finding my prize this weekend gave me that chance to spend a few hours practicing my in-flight shots, for me the most fun you can spend in the company of dragonflies.
Probably safe to assume most of us have had to suffer a repeat of unpredictable weather after such a glorious week . So unpredictable that I didn’t venture out again until Wednesday 1st August.
A ‘brief’ visit to Troublefield proved a waste of time. If the perches inside the gate didn’t hold anything, then you can almost guarantee the rest of the site is just as barren. A few Azures and Banded Demoiselles were all that showed themselves.
With a possibility of rain I declined open areas and decided on a visit to Blashford Lakes in the hope that I might find a roosting Brown, Southern or Migrant Hawker.
I didn’t. Neither did I see any large species flying around the rides..
There were however a reasonable number of Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies, but to be honest rather lousy compared to previous years.. You can normally expect to find swarms of both.
The summer rains had fed the brambles to the extent that the usual hidy-holes are all impossible to access, so I did a circular walk finishing along the shores of Ellingham Pound, one of the only lakes where you can actually access the shoreline, albeit at your own peril on a sloping pebble base.
Familiar with the lake after several hours spent there last season on the trail of the Lesser Emperor, I knew the best places to look.
At the far corner there were no less than 3 female Emperors sharing a short section to oviposit. Provided you stayed reasonably still and non-threatening, they were reasonably accommodating.
Further around the shore were another pair of females and a patrolling male who attempted a (failed) coupling with one of the busy females.
Besides these welcome sightings on the water were a few Common Blues but not much else, except several teneral Blue-tails rising with every footfall along the path.
Alas that was it as shortly after the heavens opened and put an end to the day.
On Friday I took a scouting trip to Esher Common, long championed by Stephen, and after a recent correspondence with Mike Waite – due for a scout.
My initial impression was just another of those ‘urban’ nature pockets filled with dog-walkers I feel rather uncomfortable with. However, if it wasn’t for the help of one dog-walker I probably would’ve failed to find Middle Pond, the first one on my list.
I followed the bank as far as I could and didn’t see anything of note – too shaded and innaccesable for my liking, but probably ideal for a Brilliant?
I stopped and watched for 15 minutes and, seeing nothing, continued on across the A3 to find Black Pond. This was better – a large pond surrounded on 3 sides by a reeded border.
To the right of the main path I found access to the shoreline, which provided several Common Blue, Red-eyed and Azure Damselflies flying over the water, or flitting through the reeds.
I stayed for a while and witnessed one female Brown Hawker looking for a place to lay her eggs., a Black-tailed Skimmer holding territory over a small island and a very brief passing of an Emerald – but I’m almost sure it was a Downy.
I’ll return to this spot later.
I walked along the causeway and noticed on the left a superb boggy area with a few scattered ponds which deserved further exploration, but I was more intent on circling the main pond.
To the right of the main path was a beautiful heath area festooned with heather, with access to the reeds in a few spots if you were prepared to explore.
Only a few Black-tailed Skimmers showed themselves and I continued along the heathland paths, long bereft of people and dogs, until I found the meadow to the south which proved to be a dragonfly-watchers heaven.
I say watchers because every time I attempted to nail a photo my subject would rise and fly beyond my reach. Mostly Brown Hawkers.
The prize for me though was my first Ruddy Darter of the year.
To the south of the pond is an area of heath which serves as a feeding and roosting ground, and I had at least another half dozen Brown Hawkers rise from the foliage.
Walking back via Middle Pond, I did see one Brown Hawker along the furthest bank. Better though was a Southern Hawker patrolling the cul-de-sac near the car park, until he disappeared out of site in the trees.
I did call in briefly to Thursley on the way back, but it was getting rather late. A Downy over the pond, some Common Blue & Emerald Damselflies and aven fewer Black-tailed & Keeled Skimmers along the boardwalk.
I shouldn’t forget the half-a-dozen or so Brown Hawkers disturbed along Hawker Alley. To me it appears to be a bumper year for this species, but they still don’t get any easier to pin down!
Despite strong gusts of wind, Sunday was reasonably pleasant with some rather pleasant sunny spells. A chance then for a look at Pennington where we were guaranteed some peace from the tourists.
Over the pond, Red-eyed,Small Red-eyed, Blue-tailed and Azure Damselflies were present in reasonable numbers.
Three or four male Emperors were joined by a female at one point, and there were several ariel clashes – this male looking somewhat worse for wear.
The only other larger species were a few Common Darters.
Over on the river we had Banded & Beautiful Demoiselles and more Common Darters, but not much else.
Over to the 2 smaller ponds where we had better success. Black-tailed Skimmers joined the Emperors over the water, while in the reeds and meadow were several Common Darters.
Damsels were well represented by hundreds of Blue-tailed – always prolific at this site.
Besides disturbing a vixen with 3 cubs hiding out in the grass, my best find was an immature male Migrant Hawker – the first I have managed to photograph this year.