Thursley Common (including Thundry Meadows)

I paid a couple of visits to Thursley Common last month, almost a fortnight apart, the post lying on the back-burner in favour of the recent highlights.

Thursday 12th June

By the time I arrived the car park was already full with just the one space remaining. I immediately headed to the marshy area to observe the Four-spotted battling with themselves and a patrolling male Downy. Along the shore I counted another eleven Downy, and was briefly rewarded with a visit from a Brilliant Emerald, frustratingly chased away by one of the Downy.

Downy Emerald - male
Downy Emerald – male

The very same thing happened at Warren Heath last season. Whenever the Brilliant would appear, he was chased off by by a Downy! Hopefully a little later the Downy populations will reduce enough to give the Brilliant a chance to stick around. I certainly hope so!

Once I had my fill of The Moat I did a circuit of the board-walk, entertained by a reasonable showing of Four-spotted Chasers, but nowhere near the levels expected. My objective was the stream, usually a miserable place to wait around at and not the best path to negotiate, but a glimpse of green forced me to stay a while.

Downy Emerald - male
Downy Emerald – male

Only a Downy, but fabulously rising and scouring the surrounding heath before heading back towards the stream, slowly popping back and forth before disappearing over the heath.

On the walk back to The Moat I searched the heather looking for Emerald Damselflies or indeed Black Darter, but nothing showed. Plenty of Keeled Skimmer and a feeding Emperor along ‘hawker alley’ and among the scrub behind the pond. Back at the water the Downy numbers had reduced by half and several Small Red were decorating the marsh.

Small Red Damselfly - male
Small Red Damselfly – male

Wednesday 25th June

I returned to Thursley on a favourable day; plenty of sunny spells punctuated by light cloud.

I did two circuits of the moat, taking note of every Downy I encountered; even stopping to grab a record in-flighter of each just in case my eyes deceived me. Alas, all Downy, but beggars shouldn’t be choosers and some of those present offered more than enough entertainment and in-flight practice.

Downy Emerald - male
Downy Emerald – male

Some were taking a good chunk of bank-side territory, while others were choosing just enough to engage with. The individual above shared many characteristics with Emperors and Southern Hawkers, flying close in and circling, very inquisitive and almost prompting a switch to macro.

For a change I took the path south from the moat, reaching a clearing previously discovered by entering via the village. This route was much easier and a bonus circuit to include in the future.

Returning to the board-walk I stopped at the peaty pool to watch an Emperor take charge over the few Four-spotted Chasers; not quite as engaging as the Downy but close enough to capture.

Emperor Dragonfly - male
Emperor Dragonfly – male

I followed the board-walk around the large basins, which today were swarming with Four-spotted Chasers. A supporting cast of Keeled Skimmers and more Emperors added to the enjoyment.

I had to call in on the stream. Just in case. Nothing significant paid a visit in the half-hour I tolerated, so I busied myself amongst the heather on the path back.

Bingo! Consolation in the form of several teneral Black Darters, including a mature female.

Black Darter - female
Black Darter – female

I’ve since heard they’ve also been spotted in Dorset and the New Forest, but it was a pleasure to engage with these charming little darters again; wherever they are.

Thundry Meadows
The Moat had calmed down a great deal by the time I returned, so I drove the short distance to Thundry Meadows; a charming little reserve on the banks of the River Wey.A complete contrast to the dry, flat heath of Thursley Common; lush long grasses and the river bank festooned with glittering Banded Demoiselles.

I almost convinced myself I’d taken enough Banded photos this season, but several offered the perfect perch for seconds before disappearing deep within the grasses. Very lively, but I wouldn’t give up the chase for my first pair, albeit not quite in the wheel.

Banded Demoiselles - pair in tandem
Banded Demoiselles – pair in tandem

The only other species visible at this late hour were a few White-legged, the only damsel normally present at Thursley I hadn’t seen earlier.

Thursley has yet to produce a fulfilling day this season; I mean a strong diversity and population to really get stuck in to. I’ll give it another fortnight or so, when the allure of parading Brown Hawkers, possibly Common Hawkers and more chance of those elusive Brilliant Emeralds…