The Arrival of Summer

And about time too. Finally our friend the Jet Stream has chosen a more favourable position giving us some much-welcomed heat, sunshine and calm winds. Perfect!

Which is why at this point I must apologise at the lack of a recent update. With weather like this and a chance to be out in the field rather than stuck at the computer, do you really blame me?

Eager to make the most of it, but conscious of not burning out too soon, I decided to celebrate the good weather with a return to Ober Water on Friday. Good to know the car park at Puttles Bridge can still provide three of the key New Forest species. Among the ferns were Small Red, Southern and Keeled Skimmers.

I’m sure if you stood on the footbridge and watched the stream for a while you’d see a passing Golden-ringed. Some picnic!

Taking the heath path opposite the car park towards Rhinefield Bridge I disturbed more or less the same, the Keeled in particular being represented by all ages and sexes in exceptional numbers.

Still early, I jumped off the path just before Rhinefield to explore the buttercup-strewn grassy water meadow on the east bank, finding several teneral male and female White-legged, along with yet more Small Red and the odd Southern.

White=legged Damselfly - Immature male
White=legged Damselfly – Immature male

Across the stream it was pretty much the same, with a lot more Keeled.

Keeled Skimmer - male
Keeled Skimmer – male

A mating pair of Silver-studded Blue butterflies offered an irresistible opportunity.

Silver-studded Blue - Mating Pair
Silver-studded Blue – Mating Pair

I saw my first Golden-ringed at around 10.00am, otherwise the activity over the water was restricted to Beautiful Demoiselles, Large Red and, yes, you’ve guessed it, more Keeled.

I headed west to my favourite part of the stream primarily in search of more White-legged, but just peacefully happy to be there. So peacefully happy I ditched the rucksack and just sat on the bank watching the activity for a while.

Several times.

Further upstream I saw my one and only Scarce Blue-tailed of the day, in a flush further downstream than their usual place. Their usual place didn’t produce any, but there were a few normal Blue-tailed joining the Southern and Azure.

On the way back downstream I spotted a pair of Beautiful Demoiselles in tandem and followed their hap-hazard flight as they drifted across the lawn, flush and stream several times before choosing a place to complete the wheel in the meadow.

Beautiful Demoiselles - mating pair.
Beautiful Demoiselles – mating pair.

Just after I had the same thing happen with a pair of Keeled.

Keeled Skimmers - mating pair
Keeled Skimmers – mating pair

I was anxious to get some more White-legged photos, hopefully a pair in cop, but the best I could manage was tandem.

White-legged Damselflies - tandem pair
White-legged Damselflies – tandem pair

That’s three pairs in a row. Maybe I should take up poker!

A little further back downstream a male offered a decent opportunity.

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

A little further I took another stop on the bank, watching passing Southern, Large Red, White-legged, Beautiful Demoiselles, Broad-bodied Chasers and battling Keeled. One decided his patch wasn’t going to be taken away from him and he proved cooperative enough to attempt an in-flighter.

Keeled Skimmer - male
Keeled Skimmer – male

A passing Southern perched agreeably.

Southern Damselfly - male
Southern Damselfly – male

I could’ve, and should’ve, stayed in this spot all day. As it was I continued downstream and bumped into Paul Winters just past Rhinefield Bridge, where we were lucky enough to witness the pairing of Golden-ringed who promptly lifted together before completing their union 5 metres up a tree. Paul found them with his bins, but my eyesight couldn’t pick them out even with his optics, so a photo was out of the question.

We reluctantly parted our ways, me more from thirst than any other reason, but things pretty much died after that, except for a superb encounter with a Golden-ringed at one of my favourite crossing points

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

After quenching my thirst on more supplies from the car, I did a circuit of Silver Stream before moving on to Mill Lawn, which proved a bit of an anti-climax. Very few Beautiful Demoiselles parading the main stream, and only Southern, Small Red and Keeled occupying the flushes.

I really must consider my options and stay put in the future, which is exactly what I did do at Latchmore a few days later, after a weekend pause at the pond and Pennington.

So keep watching and I’ll endeavour to catch up, but allow me the time to make the most of the summer we deserve.

Swanwick and Ober Water Revisited

We decided to nip out for a late afternoon encounter with some damsels at Swanwick Nature Reserve on Sunday. My main priority, once again, were the Blue-tailed – any excuse to further nailing damsels with the Sigma 70-300mm as opposed to the 105mm macro.

Here are a selection from our short visit:-

Blue-tailed Damselfly - Female typica
Blue-tailed Damselfly – Female typica
Blue-tailed Damselfly - Female violacea
Blue-tailed Damselfly – Female violacea
Blue-tailed Damselfly - female rufescens
Blue-tailed Damselfly – female rufescens

There were also several Azure and Common Blue scattered throughout the reserve

Common Blue Damselfly - male
Common Blue Damselfly – male

The only larger prey we saw were Black-tailed Skimmers.

As the good weather continued into Monday, I decided to revisit Ober Water, starting at the Puttles Bridge car park where once again there were Plenty of Small Red and Keeled Skimmers in the ferns and bog myrtle.

Keeled Skimmer - Male
Keeled Skimmer – Male

Immediately across the road in amongst the bog myrtle and heather were several more and even a few Silver-studded Blue butterflies. I kept course through the bog avoiding any difficulty, and following the upper path to Rhinefield Bridge. Besides several more Keeled and a female Emperor, I had to wait until I reached the bridge before I saw any more action.

Doubling back across the stream to a favourite area where a few Southern, Large Red and Beautiful Demoiselles were starting to populate the stream. Shortly after, at about 10.15am, I saw my one and only Golden-ringed of the day.

Once again the promising weather turned with increasing cloud and an interruption in the warming sun. This curtailed most activity and it was another half-hour before I found any sign of White-legged – several tenerals rising from the stream.

At the dog-leg there were a few normal Blue-tailed but no sign of any Scarce Blue-tailed. By now activity had picked up again, but still subdued with Azure, Southern, Large Red and more teneral White-legged. A few teneral Small Red were also present around the margins and a quite stunning teneral Beautiful Demoiselle rose before me to glide across the heather.

Beautiful Demoiselle - teneral male
Beautiful Demoiselle – teneral male

Despite spending a good while at the White-legged hotspot, I had to wait until the return leg before I found any mature males.

White-legged Damselfly - Male
White-legged Damselfly – Male

Even more sightings back over Rhinefield Bridge before I had to return. At least the walk back to the car park provided my first Common Darter of the year.

Common Darter - Immature female
Common Darter – Immature female

Latchmore Brook Revisited

Saturday was by far the best day I’ve so far this season.

Sue & I arranged to meet Doug at Ogdens for a tour of Latchmore Brook, a fine dragonfly location where you expect to find Golden-ringed and Beautiful Demoiselles on the main stream supported by Large Red and Azure, and the boggy pools should provide Keeled Skimmer, Broad bodied and Four-spotted Chasers, Southern, Azure Large and Small Red and the sought-after Scarce Blue-tailed. On a hot, calm day all should be present, but I’ve been on many days when it’s hard work.

The only one missing from our visit was the Golden-ringed. We did have a patrolling Emperor at Latchmore Shade which made up for it though.

Emperor - Male in-flight
Emperor – Male in-flight
Emperor - Male in-flight
Emperor – Male in-flight

We didn’t have to walk to the usual spot for Scarce Blue-tailed either. Both male and female were present at the flush on the south bank of Latchmore Shade.

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly - Male
Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly – Male
Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly - Female
Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly – Female

Across the stream we found another flush with male, female and even breeding pairs.

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly - Mating Pair
Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly – Mating Pair

Further along where I’ve previously thought to be the main area we found several more males and a green female.

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly - Female
Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly – Female

My find of the day was thus breeding pair found in the heather on the way up to Gypsy Hollow.

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselflies - Mating Pair
Scarce Blue-tailed Damselflies – Mating Pair

I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve seen a more beautiful pair of damsels

We continued on to where the best concentrations of Southern and Small Red can be found, along with a supporting cast of Keeled Skimmers.

Keeled Skimmer - Male
Keeled Skimmer – Male
Southern Damselfly - Male
Southern Damselfly – Male

A very worthwhile afternoon indeed!