So Long Summer

Tuesday 19th September

Remember that early Spring bounty when most species of dragonfly (and butterfly) emerged two to three weeks ahead of schedule? I remember cynically thinking at the time they’ve emerged early because they know it’s going to be a lousy summer. I wish I had been wrong.

The weather changed from glorious sunshine to unpredictable and mostly miserable conditions. When the sun did appear it didn’t stay around long enough to maintain a decent temperature to provide those fabulous displays over water.

I hadn’t been out on my own on my patch for a month partly due to a Scottish break and a bout of illness, but mostly because conditions weren’t favourable enough. I couldn’t just let the season fizzle out so decided to spend a few hours at Bramshill.

I didn’t expect much but in choosing Bramshill with its mix of habitats I did expect to at least have some willing subjects to engage with.

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

An initial scout around the ponds only produced a female Common Emerald and the odd Common or Ruddy Darter rising from the over-growth; conditions here have deteriorated enough to render the clearing almost impassable in dry conditions, let alone sodden.

Hawker Alley didn’t show any hawkers or darters, just an occasional Common Blue damselfly; those once bountiful little pockets reclaimed by scrub. At the shoreline a couple of Migrant Hawkers brightened the outlook and I spent a quarter of an hour attempting to pin down one of the males.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male
Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – male

Passable, but I needed better. Unfortunately everything fell silent as the last light of the sun became obscured by a belt of sombre cloud, stealing all of the warmth from the air.

For 90 minutes I patiently waited for it’s return, the boredom occasionally relieved by a couple of tired Brown Hawkers, an ovipositing pair of Common Darters, a Ruddy choosing yours truly as a perch.

One delightful moment when a Kingfisher came in, seemingly undisturbed by my presence as he grabbed something from the center of Long Lake before flitting back & forth along the far shore.

At 2.00pm I took a walk back to the ponds to be greeted by less than earlier, walked around to the far back of Long Lake and returned to my favoured spot to find a pair of Migrants perched.

Migrant Hawkers (Aeshna mixta) - pair in-cop
Migrant Hawkers (Aeshna mixta) – pair in-cop

Another hour of waiting ankle-deep for a subject to engage with before I’d had enough. I decided to call in at the ponds one last time, relieved to find a Southern Hawker holed up in a gorse bush.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male
Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) – male

The lack of any other Southern sightings, the paucity of Common Darters and other expected species felt like mid-October rather than mid-September. Everywhere was overgrown and wet from a summer of seemingly endless showers.

In answer to my cynical thoughts early season I optimistically hoped for a late heatwave and burst of delayed activity. I’m still waiting…