Another sunny day and another short jaunt to Swanwick just to see what we can find. We chose to arrive a little earlier to make the most of the sun’s position; at around 3.00pm the accessible stretch of the Centre Lake is thrown into shadow by the surrounding trees.
A disappointing start, with only a few male Common Darters and a couple of Blue-tailed across the water, briefly joined by a male Migrant. The pontoon was even worse; no resident hawker here, and the CD’s were manically darting far from shore.
Returning to our initial position saw a male Migrant disturb a mating pair, who allowed a shot or two before rising up into the trees.
Now we’ve started. Another check on the pontoon revealed nothing new so we headed towards Tom’s Lake. I don’t know why chose to go around the other way, call it a hunch which paid off with the first ‘fishing peg’ hosting a male Southern. Grand job, or it would have been if it wasn’t facing into the sun! A combination of back light, tree shadow and the fact he wouldn’t face me prevented me from grabbing a shot this time.
Our circuit of the lake was rather uneventful with only the inevitable CD’s popping up here and there. Much better to grab a few of those in the meadow or along the path where they were feeding.
That Southern had me fired up, so we returned to the peg and I swapped lenses to the macro, as the only decent opportunities were when he was circling us – far too close and quick for the zoom. I tracked his chosen path and waited until the perfect opportunity arrived, but worried in case I couldn’t get him all in. He was that close!
After scouring the meadow for yet more CD’s we returned to the Centre Lake just in time to witness another Migrant pairing.
I finished the day off with a male Migrant perched on one of the reeds, one of three patrolling this corner of the Centre Lake.
On Thursday we returned to Swanwick to make use of the one sunny day left before the welcome rain set in. As soon as we arrived a pair of Migrants rose into the trees, but besides only a few Common Darters and Blue-tailed patrolling the Centre Lake.I settled for a perched male Migrant before moving on.
The grassy knoll was looking rather sad butterfly-wise compared to a week ago, with only one rather tatty Clouded Yellow joining a few Small White and even tattier Common Blue. The resident Southern Hawker wasn’t at his post on the fishing lake today, just a few Common Darters and Blue-tailed Damsels decorating the surface.
A walk along the back paths revealed the usual roosting and feeding Common Darters, which kept me busy for a while.
I stood and watched a male Southern hawking around a small clearing, relentlessly taking small insects on the wing and never tiring over a course of 20 minutes. Returning over the grassy knoll a female Common Darter posed perfectly, if not ideally on the focal plane.
Back at the Centre Lake we sat on the bench watching three or four Migrants hawking around the trees. Down on the shore line a male Southern flew in briefly to disturb the couple of resident Migrants and in the dipping pond my passing spooked a female Migrant while she was ovipositing. Luckily she chose to perch further up the reeds for my last opportunity of the day.
This season I’ve visited Swanwick more often than in previous years, writing it off as merely average with little diversity. I’ve changed my opinion after grabbing my first Downy earlier in the season, filling up on Blue-tailed a few weeks later and having a rather successful series of visits over the past two or three weeks.
It’s certainly not a case of shooting fish in a barrel, but a little patience and perseverance will reveal some quite wonderful moments. I’ve made a mental note to visit at least once a week during the season from now on.