Weekend Warriors

Saturday July 4th

Sue & I took an afternoon trip to my new favourite pond. This was Sue’s first visit, and despite there being a little less activity than my two previous visits, she definitely approved of the sheer diversity today. Not just the expected dragonflies, but a fine selection of woodland and meadow butterflies.

Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral, Ringlet, Speckled Wood, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Large, Small and Essex Skipper, Meadow Brown. Common Blue, Marbled White, Large White and Small White.

That’s fifteen species of butterfly alone!

The resident Emperors were certainly loving it; hawking over the field or catching Marbled White on the wing, especially if they were foolish enough to fly over the pond. No Downy today, but the sight of Common Emeralds among the resident Large Red, Blue-tailed, Common Blue and Azure made up for this.

Common Emerald damselfly - male
Common Emerald damselfly – male

The only other larger species present were Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers.

Four-spotted Chaser - male
Four-spotted Chaser – male

At least six male Emperor were present over the pond.

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

There were also at least four females, which made for some very interesting battles. Male-on-male, sometimes up to four at a time, and female on male. No successful pairings witnessed today!

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

Sunday 5th July

Doug had messaged the day before asking if I wanted to join him and his son, Charlie, at Crockford with someone who was eager to see a Golden-ringed, but a last minute bail-out by the interested party changed the venue to a ‘new’ pond near Ringwood.

Always happy to visit a new site, we met just after lunch and explored the heavily-reeded margins for perching damsels.

Blue-tailed damselflies - pair in cop
Blue-tailed damselflies – pair in cop

A cracking display of Blue-tailed; more than I’ve seen anywhere else this season. Plenty of Banded Demoiselles too. Not surprising considering the close proximity of the River Avon.

Banded Demoiselle - male
Banded Demoiselle – male

Over at the shore I had my first Brown Hawkers of the season. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t optimum for their wonderful flying displays; just a couple seen sporadically.

There was also a large population of Black-tailed Skimmers, a couple of Emperors and some Four-spotted Chasers. Certainly a place for further exploration on a better day.

We decided to have a look at Blashford Lakes, concentrating on the corner of Ellingham Pound, where once again the Emperor were in fine fettle, supported by a large cast of Common Blue damselflies and a few Red-eyed.

Doug thought he’d have a go at in-flight damsels, and as I’ve taken far too many Emperors this season, it seemed like a nice change.

Common Blue damselfly - male in-flight
Common Blue damselfly – male in-flight

Still couldn’t resist those Emperor though.

Emperor - female in-flight
Emperor – female in-flight

Ellingham Pound is a man-made, steep pebble-bordered lake in which odo activity is mainly centered around the vegetated corners, but a walk along the causeway path at this time of year is a wonder, with teneral Common Blue and Blue tailed-damsels and Black-tailed Skimmers rising in clouds; perhaps giving rise to the legend of fairies.

On the way out we noticed a female Emperor hawking over a stand of brambles. When she landed we stealthily headed over for a shot or two.

Emperor - female
Emperor – female

Charlie pointed out another which we had failed to see perched about a meter away in the same bush.

Emperor - immature female
Emperor – immature female

Keen, young and fresh eyes are obviously an advantage to seasoned old gits like us who tend to use tunnel vision to focus on one subject, but it just goes to show it’s worth widening your vision.