The Tortoise and The Hare

Monday 4th May
A Bank Holiday trip to Bentley Wood for the Pearl’s brought a welcome feeling of relief at the improved condition of the ponds! If I’m perfectly honest, I had no desire to take the walk; deeming it unnecessary and a probable disappointment after recent years.

Imagine my surprise to find the main pond has undergone a massive clean-up with the several trees – including the one on the island – and all the choking reeds removed. The surrounding area has been levelled to the extent you can actually see the pond from the path!

Although the only odo’s we found during our visit were Large Red, they were up considerably on previous seasons numbers. Give it a few weeks and this now very pleasant and picturesque pond should play host to a fabulous airshow of Chasers. Who knows, maybe even a Downy or two.

Our main reason for a visit were the Pearl-bordered Fritillary, for which they’ve done a fabulous job of creating suitable clearings, so well done to those responsible for woodland management at Bentley to include this long neglected pond in their improvement plan.

Pearl-bordered Fritallary
Pearl-bordered Fritallary

I very much look forward to including it once again in my seasonal rounds.

Thursday 7th
It’s been a few years since I’ve ventured to the Oxon/Berks border in search of the Club-tailed, but as there’s been a recent upsurge in interest I decided to do a scout; figuring if they’ve been seen as early as the 1st May on previous years, there may be a chance.

I arrived in Goring under heavy skies and a rather long shower; so long I decided to move on after waiting for it to clear. Thankfully as I approached Lower Basildon the rain stopped, so I decided to continue with a search along the south bank.

Those sunny spells were reluctant, but at least it was dry. Deciding to head upstream for a change, I checked every available patch of growth and all shoreline reeds I could get to, striking lucky at one particular small bay which had been used as a drinking spot by the present cattle.

The reeds had been half eaten, but on the remaining stems I discovered two spent (Common Club-tailed) exuvia. This filled me with renewed energy and faith and, after I removed one of the exuvia to take home, I retraced my steps and continued downstream to it’s furthest extent. I didn’t find any more exuvia, but I did at least encounter my first Banded Demoiselles of the season.

Bandede Demoiselle - immature male
Banded Demoiselle – immature male

Still driven on by faith, I returned to Goring and did a circuit, searching the bridge parapet and surrounding undergrowth to no avail, but at least there were a few more Banded.

Satisfied with my discovery I decided to call in at Bramshill Common on the way home in the hope of finding something else. It wasn’t long before I found my first Four-spotted Chaser rising from the reeds and giving me a welcome chase.

Four-spotted Chaser  - immature female
Four-spotted Chaser – immature female

A search of the clearing revealed a number of Large Red and a few Blue-tailed, as well as good numbers of Grizzled Skippers, ut by now the skies had darkened somewhat and it was noticeably cooler, so I didn’t expect much else.

Thankfully a favourite little hollow contained an array of sheltering damsels – more Large Red, a few more Blue-tailed and my first Azure and Red-eyed of the season.

I’m glad I called in!