Weather-beaten at Thursley

Friday 15th August
Like many of the best sites, Thursley can be hit or miss, and on Friday it proved to be very disappointing indeed. To be fair the weather played a large part; none of the forecast sunny spells until one very brief, subdued moment just after lunchtime and finally a break in the clouds just as I was about to leave at 4.00pm.

I’d arrived just after 9.00am with a heavy blanket of cloud covering the horizon, temperatures decidedly cool with a fair sprinkling of dew still decorating the heath. Naturally the Moat wasn’t going to produce anything, and careful searching through the reeds and heather failed to produce even a damsel.

I decided to take a walk around around the furthest reaches until it warmed a little, discovering a rather promising path I’ve completely failed to notice despite five familiar years of visits. A delightfully sheltered path bordered by find stands of gorse with a small clearing bordered by trees. Ideal hawker territory.

One of these gorse stands produced my first find of the day – a dew-speckled male Southern Hawker.

Southern Hawker - male
Southern Hawker – male

Heartened by this early find I continued to search every gorse bush for further signs, but it was not to be. It was a good hour and a half until I reached the heather bordering one of the boggy pools, where at least the Emeralds were beginning to rise from their slumber.

(Common) Emerald Damselfly - female
(Common) Emerald Damselfly – female

Another previously bountiful patch provided my first Black Darters of the day.

Black Darter - male
Black Darter – male
Black Darter - female
Black Darter – female

Having already covered the board walks and familiar patches, I returned to the Moat to check the boggy area where my count increased dramatically just after noon, with a good selection of damsels including Common Blue, Blue-tailed, more Emeralds and a couple of Small Red.

Small Red Damselfly - male
Small Red Damselfly – male

Unsurprisingly nothing was flying over the Moat, and even the Lily Pads were barren except for a lone Raft Spider.

Raft Spider
Raft Spider

Shortly after that brief glimpse of sunshine the rains came, and I returned to the car to consider my options. I’ll give it another chance rather than give up on the day, so when the shower stopped I did another full circuit of the board walks, carefully avoiding the plentiful baby Common Lizards, Black Darters and Keeled Skimmers who were taking what heat they could from the wooden planks.

A few hardy Black and Common Darters, Common and Emerald Damselflies were braving the pools, some in tandem, but no sign of anything larger as the wide skies teased with distant blue skies.

With an hour left I decided to give that little clearing another shot, and was surprised to find a male Southern still holed up in that little hollow.

Southern Hawker - male
Southern Hawker – male

While standing back to grab an environmental shot I noticed he had a companion, perched inches away was a female.

Southern Hawker - female
Southern Hawker – female

The use of fill-flash had disturbed her and she rose to circle me. For the next half-hour she put on a very fine show, hawking the bushes and coming in close in a manner usually experienced by curious males. This was the first time I’d witnessed a female act this way and it was a real highlight to end an otherwise disappointing day.