This weekend we had hoped to to our annual trip to the Somerset Levels, but the weather put pay to that. If we were going to get buffered around and possibly soaked, best to stay local until conditions improve. Instead Doug & I went in search of a little piece of the levels at Pennington; the situation of the pond in a hollow hopefully prevented the worst of the gusts.
We didn’t expect to see anything over water, and this proved the case except for a few hardy damsels braving the inlets and – surprisingly – a couple of Hairys. In fact the first sighting of a Hairy I had was a mating pair who I caught out of the corner of my eye just before they took off over the stream.
Besides being in a hollow, there are plenty of places providing some shelter, and the rich, lush vegetation which has appeared over the past few weeks was ideal for seeking out feeding and resting damsels. Plenty of Azures and Blue-tailed.
Joining them were a few Large Red, including a superb melanotum female
A most welcome sight were the brief glimpses of Red-eyed, for once away from the water, but still proving extremely difficult to pin down
One section of long grass just inside the reserve was home to the majority, and this was the first time in years we’ve been blessed with similar spectacles to Westhay Moor, glittering prizes rising up before you in luminous shades of red and blue.
This was more than enough to keep me occupied, and finding more terrestrial Red-eyed gave me a mission, if not fully realised.
After skirting the reserve a couple of times, we returned to the sheltered, lively spots and as I was seeking out more damsels, a male Hairy rose from just in front of me to land awkwardly in the bramble across the path. We attempted a shot, but his position was frankly awful, which I think he realised as he rose and returned to his previous bush.
Yes, a few annoying fronds and a busy background, but believe me to capture a perched Hairy in Hampshire is something of an achievement. Doug was especially pleased as this species is one of his needed video opportunities and thankfully our subject stayed around long enough to complete his mission.
We took a walk along the river to the rides, and were soon rewarded with a female Emperor patrolling and feeding on the few available butterflies. We stood still and watched as she circled us, frequently approaching within half a meter of our heads as she checked us over.
We waited patiently for her to perch, but when she did it was several metres away and out of sight, so as we drew near she was up and off again. This happened a couple of times before we lost her completely. A shame, but a real delight to just watch. In that little ride she appeared much larger than usual.
We caught sight of another male Hairy on the way back, but we didn’t encounter anything else large, and by now most of the damsels were hunkering down in anticipation of the grey cloud bearing down upon us. I made do with a male Beautiful Demoiselle to round the visit off.
Such was the turn in the weather I almost completely failed to call in at Crockford on the way back. I did park, and got out of the car before briskly crawling back in again. Crockford will still be there when the sun shines.
Still, a little bit of that Somerset feeling on a windy day here in Hampshire.