What A Difference A Day Makes…

The fleeting glimpse of a teneral flying over Rushbush Pond yesterday fed my hunch. It was going to be another glorious day with warming sunshine and little cloud, just the occasional stiff and biting breeze blowing in from the north-west – and tomorrow’s even better! What better opportunity for the Large Reds to emerge.

The one place I didn’t visit yesterday was my favourite pond; partly because it’s usually a week behind Broomy, but more because it was getting late in the day. Today however it was the first stop – and it didn’t disappoint!

The ground is still pretty much saturated, but it is showing signs of drying out. The wind direction was a bonus – any tenerals were going to be blown towards the gorse thicket rather than towards the scrub leading up the hill.

No sooner than I arrived at just before 1.00pm I saw the first teneral fly out across the pond from under the bank towards the thicket, closely followed by two more.

After negotiating the muddy bridge, I searched the South shore and island for more signs and found this rather colourful individual clinging onto an emerging stem.

Large Red

A thorough search of the gorse thicket revealed a few more well-coloured individuals and several fresh tenerals. I should imagine the numbers will be a great deal higher tomorrow!

I took the short trip to Bentley Wood afterwards – mainly to look for butterflies, but to also check out the ponds. I’m pleased to say they’ve done a great deal of work over the winter, with several areas now cleared to provide more insect-friendly habitat.

The past two years have been disappointing at the ponds, excepting the emerging Southern Hawkers later in the season. The sheltered position should’ve shown signs of Large Reds, especially considering it is only 8.75 miles as the damsel flies. But it wasn’t to be.

Surprisingly the small pond with the bench seemed a little dry? There was a constant babbling indicating outflow. Maybe an accumulation of debris? Both ponds are certainly due for some attention, but having seen the promising work already during my stroll I’m cautiously confident they can attend to both ponds and bring them back to a better life.

Other (LR) sightings have been recorded in Kent, Berkshire, Devon and Dorset as I post…

The Waiting Game

The sighting of Large Reds at Studland on the 20th April almost seems like a lucky strike if it wasn’t for a few other scattered sighting around the Country. At least Hampshire has scored with a sighting at Fishlake Meadows. Where there is one there are usually others, although difficult to pin down if not in reasonable numbers.

One of the four I spotted on that day was a male with almost fully developed adult colours. The other three were reasonably fresh. How many more were there beyond reach?

Sad to say that a couple of trips the week following taking in a few potential locations in the New Forest came up blank. If they were around then they should’ve been seen.

Today (April 29th) I scouted a total of six locations in the New Forest for signs and did strike lucky with a single teneral Large Red at Rushbush Pond (Ipley Cross). However there still wasn’t any sign at Hatchet, Crockford, Pennington, Blashford or Broomy.

For those contemplating a trip to the New Forest, I wouldn’t come just yet. The ground is still far too saturated and vegetation is minimal.

On the subject of saturation, one of the locations we visited last week was Troublefield…a name which has been all too real the past two seasons. The flooding last summer basically killed the season, and conditions right now are still treacherous. There are still large areas of flooding and if I can’t make it through with my tenacity and appropriate footwear I doubt anyone else can.

Even the resident cows were conspicuous by their absence. Or they’d sank…

Hopefully the next post will contain some better news and photos, but for now we still wait…

Close Call at Higher Hyde Heath

Not primarily dragonfly related, but it does involve one of my recommended locations.

Last week I received an e-mail from one of my Flickr contacts informing me of a potential disaster with the neighbouring sites owners clearing a section of bank bordering the reserve.

A visit to Higher Hyde Heath is not complete without a foray ‘around the back’ on what I assume is still (unused) industrial land belonging to the Quarry owners. The detritus left behind by human workings have been taken over by nature as only nature will – by adapting to the environment.

At Higher Hyde Heath old tyres and roof tiles have provided home to the rare and protected Sand Lizard along with other native British reptiles. The concrete and tarmac is bordered by a fine selection of hedge fauna which provides food and shelter to many birds and invertebrates – dragonflies included!

Sue & I had a look last week, and found the subsidence caused by the Dorset Wildlife Trust’s removal of gorse more worrying!

The section of bank the contractors had dug was a basking spot for reptiles, and the result ‘may’ have affected more than just a basking spot. In my experience reptiles choose to bask close to their shelter, so there may have been more damage caused than meets the eye…

Back to the subsidence…there is a thin strip of land – the path through the reserve proper – with a large pond on one side and a landfall the other! This would cause me more concern. The section of path has been taped off, but regular visitors will (and do) ignore this…I don’t think the minimal people traffic is priority. My concern is the weight of the large body of water behind it!

What is significant is the Higher Hyde Reserve would probably not exist if the site owners – currently Hansons – had not come to some arrangement with the DWT, so in some ways we should be thankful it exists at all.

Like everyone else I try to avoid politics, but if you’re passionate about anything then at some point it will catch up with you – whether you like it or not!

A simple e-mail was sent to Hansons – the quarry site owners – with our concerns and we felt we did our bit. We didn’t expect an answer back, but we received one today:-

‘Thank you for your email regarding alleged disturbance of the sand lizards at Gallows Hill and thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

Fortunately your fears are unfounded. Once notified, we immediately instructed our demolition contractor to stop work and arranged for consultant herpetologist David Bird to visit the site. He confirmed that any disturbance has been minimal and no damage to the habitat or animals has occurred. He also advised that any plant, materials, old tyres etc located on the paved area can be removed without issue, but suggested the few tyres strewn on the bank at the edge of the site should be left as basking areas. We have re-iterated the sensitivity of this site to our contractors, instructed them to proceed with extreme caution and spoken to Andrew Nicholson at Natural England to explain the situation.

Thank you again for bringing this matter to our attention and rest assured that conservation management and creation and protection of habitats remains a key part of our sustainability strategy and a top priority within Hanson.

David Weeks

Communications manager’

Naturally there is compromise in these situations, and for my part I’m satisfied with the process and outcome from Hansons. It could’ve been more worrying had the site not hosted a protected species, which is a concern for us all.

Species only become protected when they’ve reached such a low population it prompts us into doing something about it. Maybe we should read the signs a little earlier and prevent losing any more of what we have left..

Up & Running

‘Limping’ would probably be a better description.

A good forecast meant Saturday had to be taken advantage of and as the National Trust had a ‘free-be’ day Sue & I decided to revisit Brownsea Island. Certainly an ideal chance to scout (no pun intended) the island as a dragonfly location and should it prove unworthy there was always Studland Heath.

A day of sunshine and mild wind strengthened my ‘hunch’, but it was confirmed when a plank of wood fell onto my foot, breaking the big toe (again!) This almost scuppered the day, but I persevered , wrapped the offending foot in a wellie and took it as an omen.

A long (and often painful) walk around the island took in the ‘nature reserve’ which offers the best habitat, but entering the reserve incurs an extra charge for non DWT members. That’s on top of the ferry charge and usual National Trust entrance fee! We didn’t see any odos, but did encounter 3 Red Squirrels which made the visit worthwhile.

Back across the water then to Studland Heath. We arrived at my favourite spot – a lucky find which produced my first Downy of the season 2 years ago and my first Hairy last season – and searched the sheltered grasses near the road. We disturbed a few Bee-flies and the odd Peacock butterfly but still no damsels.

A little further on is a small path leading down to the shore of Little Sea. The path is bordered on both sides by gorse and if you’re prepared to scramble through a few bushes you will find a small, sheltered area of grassy clumps within the gorse. Sure enough, at just after 4.30pm I caught my first glimpse of diaphanous wings disappearing over the gorse, followed by a couple more.

Then the panic set in. You know that panic when you’ve spotted your quarry but now have to pin it down for a photo op. Luckily there were two willing subjects, which was more than enough after six long months of torment.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula)

I bagged my shots and continued searching the rest of the area just in case something bigger appeared. It didn’t, but it didn’t matter. The Large Reds were enough.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula)

So now we can all get out and begin this season at long last!


Dragonflies bring me joy for up to 6 months of the year, although if I actually counted the days they’d add up to a lot less. By now we’re normally up and running, but this past winter is refusing to go quietly. After giving it a week I could hold on no longer and had to check, but everywhere still looks bleak, barren and lacking.

During the spring and summer I punctuate the quieter moments with Butterflies, of which there has been scattered sightings of our hibernating species, and by now I’m normally balancing the two.

Or am I?

Looking back on last season’s photos and blog entries I realise that the false spring brought a few welcome treasures during April before the deluge set in and put pay to further development until the first week in May. Maybe then I, and many other humans who are frustrated with what has been a long winter, just might be jumping the gun a little?

Nature knows when the time is right…which, after today, I’m beginning to understand it’s not just about heat and sunshine, but about food, shelter and the continuation of the species.

Us mere humans just need to be a little more patient….

A New Look

The recent work I’ve been doing adding photo galleries and location information to the website made me realise the whole site could do with a general facelift. It’s been a long and sometimes fraught task, but now it’s finally finished!


The pages all follow the same theme with grey backgrounds for text, photos and links.

The species pages now contain links to the photo gallery, suggested locations and a handy at-a-glance flight graph.

The locations pages now all open in the parent window with back and forward links at the base of the page. They also contain links to all the key species found and more importantly grid references and links to maps.

Navigation throughout the site is also much improved.

Now that’s done I can prepare for the new season, which is due to start as soon as the temperature rises!