Brown Hawkers Shine At Warren Heath

After ten days of typical British summer weather I was anxious to get out again, and Thursday promised a fine day to venture further afield. Our initial choice was Thursley Common, but at the last minute we changed our destination to Warren Heath in the hope of connecting with the Brilliant Emerald again.

After negotiating the horrendous double-dip trench we were greeted by our first flyers with Keeled Skimmers, Common Darters, Southern and plenty of Brown Hawkers along the rides.

Keeled Skimmer - female
Keeled Skimmer – female

On reaching the ponds I couldn’t help noticing that activity was way down on my previous visit; perhaps due to our long, cool spell. The eastern pond hardly had any activity at all, with only a Common Darter patrolling the western bank.

Common Darter - Immature male
Common Darter – Immature male

At least the western pond provided a fine array of Brown Hawkers, with females outnumbering the males three to one. At one point two females were sharing the same piece of flotsam to oviposit in, and were happy to stay around for some photos provided you didn’t make any sudden movements. A lack of stealth or clumsy manoeuvres and they were up, either drifting across the water to choose a quieter spot or circling the culprit before tentatively returning to her task.

Brown Hawker - ovipositing female
Brown Hawker – ovipositing female

While Sue & I were enjoying this spectacle we were greeted by Stephen Darlington, here for his first visit and captivated by the amount of Golden-ringed populating the stream. There were to be no forays over uneven ground to check the stream or heath ponds today – far to hot & humid for that; besides I was single-minded in staking out the section hoping for a glimpse of the elusive Brilliant Emerald. The problem today were not just the Downys, still around and looking surprisingly healthy, but a male Southern Hawker who had chosen this section for his patrol.

The damsels were holding their own with Azure, Red-eyed, Large Red, Emerald and Blue-tailed sharing the shoreline.

Azure Damselflies - pair in cop
Azure Damselflies – pair in cop

On the first few occasions where the Brilliant would appear, he was frustratingly driven off again. We had to wait until our protagonist disappeared for a feeding session before we had any prolonged visits, although these were still sporadic and brief, and nowhere near as accommodating as two weeks ago. The best I could manage were a record shot which at least allowed a comparison with the closely-related Downy.

Downy Emerald - male
Downy Emerald – male
Brilliant Emerald - male
Brilliant Emerald – male

From these ‘jizz’ snaps you can at least get an idea of the subtle differences, with the Brilliant being noticeably more green rather than bronze – very noticeable when the sun catches – and the abdomen more uniform in shape and longer. Seasoned observer can also pick out the horizontal flight pattern rather than the upturned tail of the Downy.

All too soon it was time to leave, but by 3.30pm virtually all activity over the pond had seized in the oppressive heat. The sit and wait technique has never been my strong point and I made a mental note to consider bringing a portable perch for myself!

On the subject of perches, can I please ask those who throw branches in the water to remove them when you leave? Personally I can see no reason to litter the water with unwelcome litter when natural perches will do. Besides being unsightly these acts of ecological vandalism are no different than discarding empty bottles etc and can cause harm to other wildlife.

So please, leave only footprints and take only photographs. Unfortunately I managed more success with the former than the latter on this occasion.