Keeping Up Appearances

Wednesday 20th May

I decided to check out the ponds at Longham Lakes, but on arrival I had a good view of the horizon scattered with varying grey tones, with a few blue highlights. I didn’t find myself under many of the latter.

Unsurprisingly the ponds were devoid of life, excepting a few hardy damsels hanging on for dear life to the swaying reeds. That wind was a potential problem again, but in such conditions you seek out the shelter.

This proved to be in the corner of the plateau; the long grass offering safety and feeding opportunities for a reasonable array of Azure, Common Blue, Red-eyed, Large Red and plenty of Blue-tailed

Blue-tailed Damselfly - immature female (rufescens)
Blue-tailed Damselfly – immature female (rufescens)

Sunshine wasn’t necessarily a factor for making hay.

Blue-tailed Damselflies - mating pair
Blue-tailed Damselflies – mating pair

After some considerable time waiting for the sun to break through, I decided to seek a way through to the river, finding Banded Demoiselles decorating the overgrown nettles along the path.

Banded Demoiselle - male
Banded Demoiselle – male

After I’d had my fill I decided to move on to Troublefield. Best to take advantage now while the meadow remains untrampled and eaten.

Banded Demoiselle - female
Banded Demoiselle – female

It was a far cry from Somerset, but there was just enough to keep me occupied.

Large Red Damselfly - male
Large Red Damselfly – male

Thursday 22nd May
I had the option to travel east, north or west (south not really being an option from Southampton) and chose west for the Downy Emerald at Higher Hyde Heath.

As I arrived I bumped into Frank and Dennis from Flickr. This was their local patch and they showed me the disaster of the pond. A couple of years ago the bank had breached, threatening complete draining and the destruction of the footpath.

Since then the landowners have ‘repaired’ the bank with clay and gravel which proved to be a temporary remedy rather than a cure. The result is a constant draining of the pond, leaving vast sections barren.

This certainly explained the lack of dragonflies. Even the sanctuary of the back bank was empty, the Downy obviously forsaking this reserve. There was one hunting along the trees, and, after getting lost & trapped negotiating the ponds at the back of the heath, another hunting the main clearing, which I failed to pin down.

Having explored every possibility, I moved on to Kilwood Copse and found it too was lacking, except for a Broad-bodied and Scarce Chaser. Under these blazing skies I should’ve seen plenty.

As I was in the area, I decided to visit Studland Heath as a last resort. I could quite easily had returned to the car and given up on seeing the wreckage of the gorse clearance. Ruined. This once fine feeding ground was no more.

Heading back to the car I explored a couple of small sheltered clearing where at last I found my Downy.

Downy Emerald - male
Downy Emerald – male

Mission accomplished then, but damn hard work.

Also sharing the clearing was a female Four-spotted Chaser chowing down on a rather large grasshopper. This prevented her from travelling too far out of reach, but she wasn’t in the mood for sharing.

Four-spotted Chaser - female feeding
Four-spotted Chaser – female feeding

I called in to Troublefield for an hour on the way back and kept myself occupied with the Demoiselles, Butterflies, a Broad-bodied Chaser and , finishing with a Scarce Chaser on the way out.

Scarce Chaser - immature male
Scarce Chaser – immature male

Now the day had been worth it!