The Empire Strikes Back

I can see why any reader of this blog gets the impression that everything is sunny skies and dragonflies, but as I’ve often pointed out I am certainly no stranger to miserable and unproductive days. We all get them, it’s just that I mostly choose not to write about them.

I had one of those days this week; at a location which should’ve kept me busy all day, but the thick blanket of cloud curtailed virtually all activity. To me a good day is a day when you come home with at least 50 photographs to go through; or some damn good opportunities.

I came home with eight, .and four of those were butterflies!

So I’ll gloss over that, except to say that should you experience a crap day at any of the locations mentioned here or on the main site, don’t blame the messenger! If the conditions are wrong, you will have a lousy day. If however they are totally favorable, then you only have yourself to blame.

Monday 8th June

On reflection this was a good day, despite wasting two hours searching for a new pond and finding it just as those clouds rolled in. Irritated by a navigational error and minimal sunshine stole my focus from what was a delightful find. What a pond! I spent the quieter moments getting a feel of my surroundings and what species were present.

Emperor - male in-flight
Emperor – male in-flight

No surprises, but when it did kick off there was a fantastic display Emperor, Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chaser, Downy, Large Red and Azure. At least half-a-dozen male and a couple of female Emperor vying for space; the females trying to offload their eggs under the presence of so many males was bound to cause some drama.

Emperor - female ovipositing
Emperor – female ovipositing

During my stay I witnessed three Emperor pairings, several dog-fights, some with three participants, and relative peace as each claimed their own corner.

I’ve heard it said by some that you will never get more than one male Emperor on a pond, which is of course ridiculous! Even a small pond can play host to many provided they each have a section of territory to protect out of each others view.

This behaviour is shared by many hawkers deemed intolerant of others. The more individuals, the smaller the territory until a saturation point has been reached.

Emperor - male in-flight
Emperor – male in-flight

A typical example of this can be found at Crockford, Ober and Latchmore with Golden-ringed. A single male will patrol a long length of stream; his territory diminishing with the arrival of more individuals. After the first disputes, each will choose their own section, any further conflicts happening upon trespass by those already present or new arrivals.

A bit like dragonfly photographers at Crockford!

Thursday June 11th

To begin with I thought I’d better call in at Cadnam Common as I’ve all but neglected it this season. I expected a fine display of Chasers, Emperors and Downy, but the drought suffered last season allowed the grass to take root, stifling the shallow corners of the pond.

What was once a wide, shallow area full of activity is now just a seepage, curtailing what activity there was to the deeper and less accessible section. I did however finally encounter a willing Downy.

Downy Emerald - male in-flight
Downy Emerald – male in-flight

Weighing up the odds I decided to move on to greener pastures; that new pond was calling. Of course I couldn’t just take the route I’d established on Tuesday. Oh no, this time I wanted to find an easier route in.

Naturally I ended up down deep and dark forest paths which wouldn’t be out of place in Grimm’s fairy tales, except the scariest thing for me was wasting valuable time! By a stroke of pure luck (maybe a little sense of direction) I eventually arrived via the gate!

The immense thrill of relief as I looked again in case I was hallucinating. Narnia indeed.

Emperor - male in-flight
Emperor – male in-flight

This was more like it. Once again a fine display from the Emperor, certainly the dominant species here. Besides revelling in the challenge of in-flighters, I witnessed three pairings. Each one of these I was lucky enough to follow. Not an easy task as Emperors seem most reluctant to be photographed in cop.

Every time I’ve witnessed them, they usually fly out of reach, and are quick to be off again if you get anywhere close to them. After several stealthy chases I was finally able to get a decent photo; one I’ve been hoping for for may years.

Emperors - Pair in cop
Emperors – Pair in cop

Now I could relax, and did precisely that; staying put at a chosen spot watching the fabulous display and grabbing a few opportunities.

Emperor - male in-flight
Emperor – male in-flight

I needed a day like this. A day spent in one location without too much tramping and a reward for the trouble. A perfect set up for the next few weeks when a gentle stroll along Ober Water is in order.

Weather permitting, of course!