Ashley Hole

Ashley Hole contains a smattering of bomb craters left over by intensive target practice during the second world war. At first glance it resembles an ugly scar on the face of the New Forest, especially the huge circular dead scar on the plateau. Add to these the target crosses and the smashed and uneven ground you could be forgiven for thinking you had entered somewhere where you really shouldn’t be.

I hadn’t visited for three years, partly due to the long walk in, but mostly due to the resident dragonfly species being present elsewhere, somewhere more desirable and picturesque. Still, it needed a revisit, especially as these small, shallow ponds are ideal for the locally rare Common Hawker.

On my visit most of the (visited) craters are now dry, or merely puddles after the welcome heatwave we’ve been experiencing. A good many are seemingly ‘dead’ pools with no emergent vegetation, although the Keeled and Broad-bodied Chaser appeared to be well at home. Careful exploration can reveal some hidden gems, healthy with oxygenating growth upping the count to include Common Blue, Azure, Large and Small Red and Emerald Damselflies. Black Darters are also present here, although I didn’t see any today.

What I did find at one of these hidden gems was a female Common Hawker ovipositing into the emergent vegetation.

Common Hawker - female ovipositing
Common Hawker – female ovipositing

I should perhaps have called it a day then, or at least stayed out in case a male appeared, but my wanderlust had me seeking out a pond near Pitts Wood which I completely failed to find, losing myself in the wrong woods in the process.

When am I going to learn?

After escaping from my hot & humid hell, I returned to ‘the hole’ to seek out a few more craters, some quite busy with the occasional Emperor holding territory, before running out of vital liquid refreshment.

I should also mention that the (mostly dry) stream at Black Gutter Bottom had a fair few Keeled, Broad-bodied and Large Red making use of the remaining pools. Still, a fine result with the Common Hawker and good reason to revisit over the next couple of months.

After refreshing myself at the car I called in to the small pool at Turf Hill where there were several Common Blue damsels and male and female Emperors.

Emperor - female ovipositing
Emperor – female ovipositing

Taking A Back Seat

A lot of my enjoyment in the field is solitary, a pioneering foray through the foliage or a gentle stroll down a stream, occasionally staying put to watch the air show or play with a willing Emperor or Hawker. Sometimes it involves a tenacious search for a certain species.

When all familiar places have been explored and things are starting to look very similar on a day to day basis, my enjoyment comes from sharing an outing with a companion or two. Fresh eyes to point out the stuff you’ve missed, or perhaps were to complacent too notice, but more importantly the ability to share the high points with a fellow enthusiast.

Saturday was one of those days, and a very enjoyable and productive day.

Jerry and Mike from UK Dragonflies decided it was about time they came down for some Golden-ringed and other key New Forest species. The initial plan was Crockford, which was changed at the last minute by a start at Ober Water – evidentially based on my earlier report regarding the sheer numbers and activity along this glorious stretch of quiet New Forest stream.

Arriving just after 10.00am we made our way down to the dog-leg where Paul Winters was waiting, deeply searching for Scarce Blue-tailed. We didn’t see any today.

A little trepidation with a five degree drop in temperature, a scattering of white cloud and strong breezes to lower the temperature meant things were going to take a little longer to warm up, but warm up they did with excellent showings of most of the key species and the welcome addition of a Scarce Chaser – a species witnessed here two years ago but not last season.

The key stretch for the Southern Damselfly didn’t disappoint, but the darkening sky and cooler temperatures confined most of the damsels to the margins until the sun broke through again. Then all hell broke loose as the stream exploded with dragons and damsels all vying for space. This was what we were here to see.

Ironically, having only witnessed my first copped pair of White-legged earlier in the week, we saw three pairs today. Plenty of copped Keeled too, but on this occasion no copped Beautiful Demoiselles which I was aware of.

After a quickly passing three hours we decided to move on to Crockford. There were a few cars in the car park, but at the stream we didn’t find anyone until we crossed through the thicket into the prime area. Four gentlemen, of who only one offered conversation, but not a name. A young enthusiastic fellow, Gary, arrived later, and at least seemed interested to join in our delights and be polite.

It’s always nice for introductions in such a relatively niche area, so if you visit, have a conversation. We’re all nice guys! Although after spending a few hours in stinking bog we’re probably not your mother’s choice!

Up until our arrival and for the first part I hadn’t used the camera much, and was satisfied enough to sit back and find subjects for our guests. My only reasonable catch of the day so far was a Keeled, while Jerry and Mike were filling up on Golden-ringed, Southern, Small Red and some remaining Silver-studded Blue butterflies which were looking decidedly worn after two weeks of prime sunshine.

Keeled Skimmer - immature female
Keeled Skimmer – immature female

And then I called for everyone to be still and silent as a pair of Golden-ringed spent a few moments in tandem flying around the gorse thicket looking for a safe place to complete the wheel. Luckily for us they landed low down at waist height enabling all of us to get our fill before rising up to the tree line to complete their union.

Golden-ringed Dragonflies - pair in cop
Golden-ringed Dragonflies – pair in cop

A real highlight of the day, but the day was not over yet!

Jerry had returned to the car to grab his macro lens to capture some damsels and while I was searching out a few Southern and Small Red I watched as a young male Emperor dropped within the heather, presumably in need of a rest after being taken out by one of our resident male Golden-ringed.

So they can bring out the aggression when needed, which makes it more surprising that they get so bothered by the bullying Keeled. Every attempt to perch was prevented by the bullying action of a dragonfly half its size.

Back across the water Mike had found a female Keeled feeding on an unfortunate Small Red. Now I know where all the Small Reds have gone.Luckily there were still enough around to provide some photo opportunities.

Small Red Damselflies - pair in cop
Small Red Damselflies – pair in cop
Small Red Damselfly - male
Small Red Damselfly – male

Mike spotted a Golden-ringed feeding on a Bee.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly - male eating Bee
Golden-ringed Dragonfly – male eating Bee

Back in the thicket my conversation was cut short by another tandem pairing, and this pair chose a much better perch.

Golden-ringed Dragonflies - pair in cop
Golden-ringed Dragonflies – pair in cop

By checking the camera info we estimated that the full union took 25 to 30 minutes. After a pointer from Jerry I decided to attempt some video with the D90, borrowing Sue’s cheap tripod to counteract my old-age built-in camera shake.

Here is some footage of the last minutes before they part, clearly showing the moment when the female detaches herself before the male shakes her off.

The Final Moments a video by Paul:Ritchie on Flickr.

This sealed the day for us. Not one, but two pairings witnessed and both allowing photographs and even a spot of video.

We really couldn’t top that and called it a day afterwards, although we had spent 4 splendid hours which passed all too quickly. We wrapped up at 5.00pm due to commitments and the days cast was still enjoying the sunshine, which by now had warmed up considerably.

Still plenty of action to be had, but for someone else to enjoy.

Piggy In The Middle

A day off last Thursday, probably fearing a disappointment after the previous day. Certainly a chance to catch up on the washing up! By Friday I was ready again.

I decided to scratch off a couple of long-forgotten areas of the forest with an energetic stroll around Shatterford, Bishops Dyke and Denny Wood. That wasn’t my plan, but the ponds I was looking for didn’t really exist any more, mostly dried out and restricted to a few boggy pools – which at least threw up a wealth of Keeled and a mature male Common Darter.

Having cleared myself of absolutely no guilt of not exercising I travelled on to Hatchet Pond. Why? To check out the lead in stream and flushes, and it proved to be a highlight of the day. I’ve only visited once before and found it hard going, but with a couple of years of practice I found the boggy areas and lead-in flushes surprisingly easy to navigate.

The further along the more it reminded me of Silver Stream, with pretty much the same cast except – oddly – Beautiful Demoiselles? Plenty of Golden-ringed, Southern Damselflies, inevitable Keeled, a few male Emperors and – surprisingly – a Black Darter.

On the way back down stream I paused a while to play with one of the male Emperors holding territory over a shallow open section.

Emperor Dragonfly - male
Emperor Dragonfly – male
Emperor Dragonfly - male
Emperor Dragonfly – male

While I was busy gaining his trust, a passing Dark Green Fritillary was promptly caught,dunked and death rolled below my feet.

Emperor Dragonfly - male bringing down a Dark Green Fritillary
Emperor Dragonfly – male bringing down a Dark Green Fritillary

Incredible to watch, and interesting to see the same tactic I’ve seen used on rival males.

I had a choice of Hawkhill or Crockford, and as I didn’t want to do too much walking – especially in forest rides – I chose to have a look at Crockford in preparation for a weekend visit from some friends.

Not a lot happening downstream, but once through to the clearing the Beautiful Demoiselles were putting on a fine display with a couple of Golden-ringed.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly - male
Golden-ringed Dragonfly – male

Did I mention Keeled?

Keeled Skimmer - male
Keeled Skimmer – male

Southern Damselflies were also in good numbers, but surprisingly Small Reds were rather low in number around the basin. The pool had a male Emperor patrolling, which probably accounted for the lack of Golden-ringed in that section. A couple of Broad-bodied Chasers didn’t seem to mind his presence, or just couldn’t care less!

I took a walk upstream, just in case, and noticed a mature male Common Darter in one of the top pools, but couldn’t track him for a photo. At least the ford had an Emperor this time but, yet again, no Golden-ringed to be seen.

Back downstream I’d noticed that the all resident Golden-ringed had chosen to take time out in the shade, every one choosing to bypass their usual perch and seek the shadows. Maybe it really is too hot for our dragonflies? Except the Keeled of course, who, judging by their aggression, were probably raised in the fires of hell.

An interesting opportunity came with two pairs of Southern Damselflies sharing a small area of the stream to oviposit.

Southern Damselflies - tandem pairs ovipositing
Southern Damselflies – tandem pairs ovipositing

I finished off the day with a male Beautiful Demoiselle.

Beautiful Demoiselle - male
Beautiful Demoiselle – male

Warren Heath Fully Deserves Its Reputation

My reasons for waiting so long to visit one of north Hampshire’s prime dragonfly locations has been the lack of information available. Even a recent request through the forums failed to provide the information I required. Either there wasn’t any first-hand accounts or those who knew its secrets wanted to keep it to themselves.

On Wednesday Paul Winters and I bit the bullet and went to have a look for ourselves, armed with a few grid references for supposedly the key areas. We’d studied google earth hard in an attempt to form a picture in our minds of the area; knowing from first-hand experience the difficulties encountered with unfamiliar forests I didn’t want to waste precious hours getting lost!

Thankfully our intensive map-studying directed us to the key areas without a long walk in, parking perhaps being one of the main difficulties for visitors who aren’t in the know. Within a few minutes of leaving the car we had reached the stream and headed west to locate the two woodland ponds.

There was a faint trace of a path, long overgrown with 2 metre high ferns where a scythe would have been useful. Immediately we were impressed by the numbers of Golden-ringed and Beautiful Demoiselles cramped into this short stretch; surprised in the way that two veterans of the New Forest, long used to prolific sightings of both, can be. It was a good omen.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly - male
Golden-ringed Dragonfly – male

On reaching the eastern pond we didn’t have to wait long before we witnessed our first Brilliant Emeralds patrolling low down in the shade of the opposite bank. The species I had especially come to see. Attempting a photo at such distance and low light would’ve been difficult, so I decided to wait until we found a more agreeable standpoint.

The cast was completed by Four-spotted Chasers, Downy Emeralds and Brown Hawkers along with a fine array of damsels. The causeway at the western end provided the brightest viewpoint of this predominantly dark water body. Across the overgrown causeway was the western pond, alive with good populations of Red-eyed damselflies flitting between the floating leaves of emergent vegetation or scattered pieces of flotsam.

Red-eyed Damselfly - male
Red-eyed Damselfly – male

A repeat of the previous pond’s cast but in greater numbers, including some fine Brown Hawker displays.

Around lunchtime we took advantage of the growing cloud cover to seek out the far heathland ponds at the east of the golden triangle. The view from the stream causeway offered no easy path through the jumble of fern, grasses and discarded timber left presumably after clearing to provide a wealth of invertebrate habitats.

We found a path skirting the northern tree-line which allowed us to survey the heath from above through occasional breaks in the undergrowth. On our side of the valley were ‘scrapes’ created over disused gravel hard-standings to create ideal habitat for incredible numbers of Keeled Skimmers.

Keeled Skimmer - male
Keeled Skimmer – male

Finding a break to access the valley I precariously descended the valley and continued fighting my way through to those ponds, spotting our first Small Reds on the way. I gave up trying to go any further once I’d reached the shoreline of the eastern pond and returned to the upper path where a scattering of muddy puddles on the bend produced a fine array of activity with countless Keeled, Emerald and other damsels chose to feed on the profusion of flies.

Exhausted by tramping through uneven ground and becoming increasingly dehydrated in the sticky heat, we returned to the woodland ponds where we set up camp for the rest of the afternoon. After our jaunt upstream we had accumulated a count of 22 species! Incredible!

While Paul W skirted the area hoping to increase the count, I busied myself attempting to grab an in-flight photo of those Brilliant Emeralds, which were showing more frequently than earlier but still provided a real challenge.

While I was engrossed in my pursuit I had a close visit from my old friend the Southern Hawker, who in typical fashion flew right in to give me the face-to-face and get in on the scene. Sorry mate – I didn’t come prepared for you – and wasn’t about to switch lenses or settings when the Brilliant was still around.

Ideally, when attempting in-flighters, I like to track an incoming subject over several metres of open water so I have time to focus. I didn’t have this luxury with today’s subject. All I had was a couple of metres of canvas to play with, and had to be quick off the mark as a male would appear from out of the over-hanging branches or shadows to offer me a brief glimpse before disappearing off around the corner, or shot into the trees pursued by cranky Downys.

Brilliant Emerald - male
Brilliant Emerald – male

I didn’t take many photos today. I took loads, and had my highest delete rate for a long while hoping to find a jewel among the out-of-focus, noisy or just plain empty shots of the water’s surface. When faced with an unfamiliar species, getting to know the behaviour and attempting to predict the flight path is all good practice. I’ll be better prepared next time!

I’ll end this entry by applauding the delights of Warren Heath. 22 species in a few hours on one day in such a small area is deserved of such a good reputation, despite the lack of available information (or closely-guarded secrets).

The only gripes I have are the lack of footpaths and difficult access to some of the prime areas. Seasoned dragonfly observers aware of the dangers of uneven ground, forbidding undergrowth and sometimes treacherous shoreline should still be vigilant, as a wrong footing or trip can result in disaster.

Parking is also a problem and access limited along the eastern fringes, but is possible for the observant. Research your maps well, and take a printout and compass unless you navigate by memory and the sun’s position.

The upside of this is the lack of the general public, so often a problem with the Brilliant Emeralds preference for highly-populated country parks and waterways in their southern populations.

Our first visit will live long in our memories, the sheer diversity and numbers puts it right at the top as one of the best dragonfly sites in Hampshire, if not the country.

The secret’s out!

(Site information with grid references added to location pages)

Swarming Delights at Ober Water

There is nothing more spectacular than witnessing swarms of dragonflies at play on a sunny day, and it was such a display that first endeared me to my passion. On Monday I was out early, arriving at Markway Bridge at around 9.00am.

Crossing the stream at an earlier point than usual to make the most of the sun’s position, the Beautifuls and Keeled were already at full swing upstream and would prove to be the dominant species of the day. Enhanced by plenty of Southern, a few Blue-tails and a few more Large Red, a little further downstream I caught a sight of one of only two Scarce Blue-tailed that day, a female along the main stream itself.

The White-legged took a while to awake, with only a few spotted on my first walk downstream. I was in no hurry and was content to watch the truly stunning displays at every open section of the stream. Every point between Markway and the footbridge at the foot of Clumber Inclosure was alive with more action than the observer could comfortably cope with, and I’m pretty sure things would’ve been the same had I gone further, but the fifth Golden-ringed I’d seen kept me amused for a while.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly - male
Golden-ringed Dragonfly – male

There were countless pairings on offer as opportunities, but there was to be no chasing around today. Far to hot for that – better just to wait until they landed close by.

Beautiful Demoiselles - pair in cop
Beautiful Demoiselles – pair in cop

If I had one mission for the day – besides just enjoying the show – it was to find a pair of White-legged in cop; something I’ve failed to witness, let alone photograph, during previous visits when the closest I got were pairs in tandem along the shore. My reasoning was they chose to mate away from water somewhere in the lush water meadows, still alive with countless buttercups.

White-legged Damselflies - pair in cop
White-legged Damselflies – pair in cop

Just about the only ones not making hay in the sunshine today were humans from the forestry commission. Thankfully, unlike many locations, the meadows are left alone to thrive instead of being cut to feed the winter cattle.

Unfortunately this is where all our marvellous summer meadows go, along with the insects who thrive on them. And we despair at our loss of summer meadows!

But enough of politics and back to this glorious meadow.

Every know and again a Broad-bodied or Four-spotted Chaser would add to the diversity, but the Ober belonged to the main residents today, with little room for visitors. Not one Emperor was seen, which may have been an advantage to quell the mob tactics of those bullying Keeled against the pacifist nature of the Golden-ringed.

Hard to resist though.

Keeled Skimmer - male
Keeled Skimmer – male

Just about the only species I’d neglected to photograph was the Southern Damselfly, and a pairing wasn’t going to go amiss.

Southern Damselflies - pair in cop
Southern Damselflies – pair in cop

I took a break to replenish the drinks supply before doing another circuit, all the while amazed at simply how many dragonflies there were. Drink well and take your fill while the good weather lasts!

Greedy Emperors and Speedy Browns

Surely we can now accept that we are having a marvellous summer? The balance has been restored with nature catching up on our lousy spring and the dragonflies are in danger of burning themselves out.

Mindful of the queues clogging up the M27/A31, Sue & I skirted the delays by taking the old roads, meeting Doug at Linford at midday in the hope of pinning down those pesky Brown Hawkers.

A flush through the ferns failed to raise any, but we had a couple of brief visits at the pond. Keeled’s were yet again the dominant species, but the Emperors were catching up with at least 3 males and a couple of females spending time over the water.

Emperor Dragonfly - male in flight
Emperor Dragonfly – male in flight
Emperor Dragonfly - male in flight
Emperor Dragonfly – male in flight
Emperor Dragonfly - female ovipositing
Emperor Dragonfly – female ovipositing

We watched one female devour several Common Blue damsels as appetisers before choosing a main course of male Keeled, finishing every morsel except for the wings.

Emperor Dragonfly - female eating male Keeled Skimmer
Emperor Dragonfly – female eating male Keeled Skimmer

This is the first time I’ve seen a hawker take anything larger than a butterfly, although I knew they were capable. A little gruesome maybe, but a vital behaviour characteristic of nature and a highlight of our day.

A further flush through the ferns still failed to disturb any Brown Hawkers, but at least there was an obliging female Common Blue damselfly offering a final opportunity.

Common Blue Damselfly - female
Common Blue Damselfly – female

On Sunday Sue & I decided Thursley Common was on the cards and the Brown Hawkers didn’t disappoint, with a total of six males patrolling the moat pond along with a dozen Downy Emerald. No Brilliants today though, although we did have a report of one at the ‘stream’.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been to Thursley and completely missed the stream, but as I always say there is no substitute for local knowledge. We found the stream and walked as far as I could before finding a deep hole, but the only offering was a male Black Darter doing the continental obelisk pose in an effort to cool down in the heat.

Black Darter - male
Black Darter – male

The board walk had the usual Black-tailed Skimmers and a few Four-spotted Chasers, but even the lizards had chosen to hide themselves away in a shady spot. Loathe am I to complain about the weather, but even I longed for some shady hole to cool down in.

Back at the moat our resident Brown Hawker was still putting on a relentless display, almost welcoming our return and teasing us with fly-throughs and fly-bys, approaching alarmingly close on several occasions, but still not making it any easier to photograph.

Brown Hawker - male in flight
Brown Hawker – male in flight

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Brown Hawker for me far exceeds the flying prowess of the Emperor. The minimal wings beats followed by a series of graceful glides is sheer poetry and I could (and did) watch them for hours.

Karma Restored

Mindful not to venture too far after yesterday I decided a day at Crockford was on the cards to restore some peace to this still shattered mind. I stopped first at Ipley Cross where the heather was alive with thousands of Silver-studded Blue butterflies providing welcome entertainment while the could was still melting away.

It wasn’t long before I spotted my first Black Darters.

Black Darter - male
Black Darter – male

The heath also threw up a wealth of Keeled Skimmers, the odd Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chaser and good numbers of Emerald Damselflies.

Emerald Damselfly - male
Emerald Damselfly – male
Emerald Damselfly - female
Emerald Damselfly – female

Onwards to Crockford, or more correctly Beaulieu Heath where I walked in to Two Bridges Bottom. Alarmingly the upper reaches was lacking in the usual action with only a few Southern, Small Red, Beautiful and Keeled appearing in small numbers. The pond at the top did at least have a little more action with a host of damsels and an ovipositing female Emperor.

On my walk up and back I was mobbed by an overly-protective Curlew, which at least provided some fabulous views.


A walk downstream provided a Four-spotted Chaser and increasingly larger numbers of the usual cast awakening. About halfway down I had my first Golden-ringed sighting and at the crossing point I witnessed a pairing on the other bank. They glided back and forth along the gorse stand before choosing the complete their union low down on bog myrtle underneath the gorse.

I couldn’t believe my luck! Panic set in as I crossed the stream and approached , crawling on my belly afraid at scaring them off. Luckily they stayed put and I had chance to fiddle with various settings to make the most of the mostly shaded area they had chosen.

Golden-ringed Dragonflies - pair in cop
Golden-ringed Dragonflies – pair in cop

I must add when I rose I was covered in ants. I thought the tingling was excitement! After grabbing my fill and accepting I wasn’t going to get a better result, I headed down to the main area where I bumped into Brian Walker and showed him their location. No reason why I should keep them to myself after all.

I took my seat at my preferred bank and just watched the passing traffic. The Beautifuls, Keeled and a resident Golden-ringed were entertainment enough. While I was watching the bullying tactics of the male Keeled, constantly harassing and attacking the Golden-ringed, through the woods came Stephen Darlington who fancied a little GR action himself today.

Where else was there to go? In my opinion this was a perfect antidote to the speed and stresses of yesterday.

We even had a pair of Beautifuls join for just a few seconds in front of us.

Beautiful Demoiselles - pair in cop
Beautiful Demoiselles – pair in cop

I can stress that in my opinion if you cannot manage to photograph a Golden-ringed at Crockford on a fine, sunny day in July, then you’d best give up photographing dragonflies!

Golden-ringed Dragonfly - male
Golden-ringed Dragonfly – male

Many opportunities presented themselves, and I have to admit I shot a few, and when my attention wasn’t occupied by the two males battling, the odd coupling and those pesky Keeled, I caught sight of a rather fabulous female Southern Damselfly.

Southern Damselfly - female
Southern Damselfly – female

I decided to take the long, slow stroll back via Two Bridges Bottom just in case and reflected on what had been a fabulous, and peacefully relaxing, day.


Out Of My Comfort Zone

After a blissful day sailing around Poole Harbour on Tuesday I was raring to go again on Wednesday, but fate decided as I’d had such a fine day previously I needed a little stress to reset the balance.

The chance to venture further afield decided my options and I headed for Esher Common. The long, boring slog up the M3 at far too quick a pace after being used to 40 mph maximums down delightful country lanes rattled me somewhat, and the lack of action at Black Pond further blackened my mood.

Don’t get me wrong, there were several Four-spotted Chasers and Black-tailed Skimmers providing a show, and a couple of fly-bys from a Downy Emerald. An male Emperor circumnavigated the small island and a female flew in the oviposit. No Brilliants, but in all honesty the weather had taken a turn with increasing cloud cover and a relentless wind!

I couldn’t believe the sun had disappeared!

I decided to circumnavigate the pond and search the heaths, which did at least provide a pair of Black-tailed Skimmers in cop.

Black-tailed Skimmers - pair in cop
Black-tailed Skimmers – pair in cop

One more session at the corner before jacking it in and moving on to Thursley Common. At least I felt more comfortable there. Unfortunately the cloud persisted and the Moat Pond had only one Downy patrolling. Oh, and a Grass Snake swimming from one shore to another.

Of more interest was the boggy corner, where several damsels were holed up against the cooling breeze., including this immature male White-legged.

White-legged Damselfly - immature male
White-legged Damselfly – immature male

A walk around the heath threw up several Emerald Damselflies and my first Black Darters of the year.

Black Darter - teneral female
Black Darter – teneral female

Consolation at least for what turned out to be a disappointing day.

Latchmore Brook

Anther cracking day on Monday, and an ideal time to revisit Latchmore Brook My early arrival (9.30am) meant it might be a while before some action, but this worry was soon put to rest with the disturbance of 2 Brown Hawkers among the ferns leading down to Latchmore Shade.

It goes without saying they were up and away beyond the treeline…

Shortly afterwards I spotted my first male Scarce Blue-tailed at the first flush, but didn’t see any at the second. Across the water both flushes had several males and a few females and there were even a couple within the main stream.

On arrival at the upper flushes I caught sight of another early bird and was pleased to bump into Steve Cham, busy himself searching out SBT’s.

While waiting for a decent opportunity over water I busied myself among the heather and fern where a pair of Small Red were in cop.

Small Red Damselflies - pair in cop
Small Red Damselflies – pair in cop

We scoured the flushes, looking in places I wouldn’t normally consider looking, finding a good population of males within the boggier, shallow areas.

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly - male
Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly – male

In another channel were more males and a few females, including one ovipositing.

While we were actively scouring the heather borders, two gentlemen arrived armed with printouts of some of my NF guides. I’d like to take this opportunity to say hello and hope you found Christchurch/Town Common and had a fruitful day dragon-flying.

It’s reassuring to know that my guides are proving useful by visitors unfamiliar with the area. In my opinion there is no substitute for local knowledge and I appreciate any chance of help I get when searching unfamiliar locations.

On the way back downstream I found a simply stunning teneral female in one of the stream-side flushes.

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly - teneral female
Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly – teneral female

Further along I took advantage of a captive Emperor to practice different focal lengths for in-flighters.

Emperor Dragonfly - male in-flight
Emperor Dragonfly – male in-flight

Not bad for 270mm

After a walk back to the car to replenish supplies, I decided to do another round in search of Golden-ringed, a species which I’d failed to see up until this point. I had my first sighting at the stream leading down from Gypsy Hollows. In the heat of the afternoon he appeared to seek out a shady resting spot, which didn’t make it easy for a photo.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly - male
Golden-ringed Dragonfly – male

Back downstream I noticed a few more passing, and further along an Emperor obligingly perched close by.

Emperor Dragonfly - male
Emperor Dragonfly – male

Quite simply another fabulous day at Latchmore.

Resting Places

I love a good half or full day following the course of a river or stream, especially if it offers a choice of habitats to explore and a rich level of diversity to satisfy my cravings. In my last post I mentioned I was wary about burning myself out too soon, so took a more relaxing approach last weekend.

On Saturday afternoon Sue & I headed over to ‘Golden Pond’ ( I love it how that name has stuck) fully aware of the cast we would encounter. A male Emperor immediately drew my attention, feeling it was an ideal opportunity to practice those in-flights.

Emperor - male in-flight
Emperor – male in-flight

This was taken at my favoured 195mm, but it was a good day to experiment with longer zoom. Can I grab one at 270mm? I could, but not sharp enough…yet.

We are ridiculously blessed with more Keeled’s than you can cope with, but that doesn’t mean you could try another.

Keeled Skimmer - male
Keeled Skimmer – male

I took a walk through the gorse thicket towards the bridge where I spotted my first Scarce Blue-tailed at this location on the advice of Paul Winters. This male was soon lost from sight and I crossed over the boggy area to attempt a glimpse from the other side, but to no avail.

It wasn’t the last I’d see today.

Back at the pond there were several pairings of Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers.

Broad-bodied Chasers - pair in cop
Broad-bodied Chasers – pair in cop

There were several male to male battles among the Emperors, but this encounter got me curious.

Emperors - males in battle/mistaken identity?
Emperors – males in battle/mistaken identity?

It’s also hard to resist our blessed Four-spotted Chasers when they offer a face-on encounter.

Four-spotted Chaser - male
Four-spotted Chaser – male

And those prolific Keeled again…

Keeled Skimmer - male
Keeled Skimmer – male
Paul W arrived at the pond and found the first Small Red-eyed Damselfly of the season…which I completely failed to get a shot of.

Another male Scarce Blue-tailed was found on the pond itself, moving purposely through the channel. Purposely tramping through the pond margin at a reasonably frantic pace, Sue spotted what she at first thought was a beetle byt turned out to be Darter nymph.

Darter Nymph
Darter Nymph

An excellent find at the end of our visit was this female Scarce Blue=tailed.

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly - female
Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly – female

On Sunday we headed over to Pennington where apart from a selection of damsels among the grass, was rather disappointing. A few more damsels chose the inlets for most of their subdued activity and the far end had a few Black-tailed Skimmers and this rather interesting looking Emperor.

Emperor - Anax Imperator?
Emperor – Anax Imperator?


Emperor - Anax Imperator?
Emperor – Anax Imperator?

One path of enquiry has tentatively identified it as an odd Anax imperator. Does anyone have an opinion? If so, I’d be very grateful to hear from you.

At least there was no mistaking this individual.

Emperor - male
Emperor – male