Welcome New Additions

A reasonably good forecast for Thursday meant a trip to the pond followed by a visit to Bentley Wood, firstly in case the Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterflies were out, but also to check the progress on the ponds. But more of that later.

At the pond the promised sunny intervals were mostly absent; although our cloud appeared to be surrounded by blue sky. Isn’t that just the way sometimes?

No matter. Despite being too cool (and probably too early) for activity over the water (it was a cold night), we did manage to find a few Large Red, including one which chose the wooden bridge to emerge.

It wasn’t long before our passage through the gorse thicket disturbed a few (immature) Broad-bodied Chasers, the majority flying out of reach. Luckily I managed to stealthily pursue an immature male who was reluctant to travel too far.

Broad-bodied Chaser - Immature male
Broad-bodied Chaser – Immature male
Four-spotted Chaser - Immature female
Four-spotted Chaser – Immature female

That’ll do for me!

Next stop Bentley Wood…and that turned out to be a real disappointment. We failed to find any Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, and failed to find any other butterflies except a couple of passing Brimstones and a solitary Small White. The Eastern Clearing – and much of the wood – has suffered though with the recent downpours, and has reverted to a sticky quagmire with little appeal for butterflies. Birdsong was entertaining though!

The ponds were just as disappointing, with just a few inconspicuous Large Red and no sign of any exuvia.

Feeling that we may have peaked too soon, or simply chosen the right location on the wrong day, we reminded ourselves that we at least had something to go home with.

Except the day wasn’t over yet.

Curiosity convinced me to call in at a pond recommended by Paul Winters on the way home. This pond isn’t the type of pond I would normally consider, being (I’m presuming) man-made on the site of a (relatively new) business estate right next door to the M271.

But it was worth it for the addition of two new species for this season;-

Azure Damselfly – Immature male
Azure Damselfly – Immature male

There weren’t many. A quick foray produced around half-a-dozen Azures and a solitary Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Blue-tailed Damselfly - Immature female (rufenscens)
Blue-tailed Damselfly – Immature female (rufenscens)

It would’ve been nice to get a better shot, but there’s plenty of time for that! This short visit to an unfamiliar location more than made up for the three hours since I last had chance to use the camera.

Woodland Wonders

Scattered showers with occasional sunny spells should not prevent dragonfly enthusiasts from exploring sheltered roosting areas, provided you know where to look. After the delight of finding the Beautiful Demoiselles on Monday, we returned to the spot on Wednesday and, after tenacious searching, we managed to almost double the numbers.

Beautiful Demoiselle – Immature male
Beautiful Demoiselle – Immature male

The probability is there were figures well in excess of this, with the majority observed preferring to shelter high up in the trees. This isn’t the first time we’ve observed the Beautiful acting in this way – especially at this location – but we are more used to them perching at less than human head height. At the end of the day we’ve usually witnessed them burying themselves deep within the foliage; as close to ground level as possible.

Some of the larger species do the same. The Hairy and Brown Hawker for instance.

Besides offering a safe refuge for newly-emerged tenerals, the trees also provide the majority of insect prey, will offer better shelter from the rain and maximum exposure to sporadic sun. I’m also guessing the temperature is higher than the ground level of sheltered woodland with warm, moist air rising from the banks of the shaded stream below.

Beautiful Demoiselle – Immature male
Beautiful Demoiselle – Immature male

We are used to seeing Demoiselles frolicking in open areas on warmer days, and this is also the case here. When temperatures are too high in the canopy they descend to the few open sunny areas along the path to roost and feed. At these times the sight is a wonder to behold, as dozens cascade around you giving credence to the ‘fairies-at-the-bottom-of-the-garden’ myth.

This young section of river is one of the few places you can observe Beautiful Demoiselles outside of the New Forest, and it’s certainly one of the earliest – no doubt testament to temperatures being a few degrees higher inland from the coastal climate. The deep, sheltered valley also retains heat and humidity better than open heathland.

The wet meadow is popular all insects, including butterflies.

Green-veined White
Green-veined White

Although relatively small, this location provides the perfect mix of traditional wooded river valley, water meadow and farmland. A peaceful, compact area ideal for spending a couple of hours.