A Varied Weekend Brings Some Welcome New Surprises

Titchfield Haven

In most people’s ideal world it would rain at night, leaving us free to enjoy our life-giving sun throughout our waking hours.

In this ideal world we could pick and choose which days to go out and which days to rest; instead of frantically trying to fit it all in in case this is our summer and we should make the most of it before we have to board the ark. For this I have once again been guilty, using each available hour to soak up the sunshine , atmosphere and bounty to the extent that I struggled to get out Friday because I had too much to do and catch up on.

No bother – I’ll just choose to go out later. It’s not like Titchfield is about to drift along the Solent. A nice couple of hours rooted to a small catchment area sounded ideal to my tired limbs and chaotic mind. There’ll be hundreds of Odo’s at my feet and I can spend most of my time sat on the bench just watching. Yeah…right!

The problem is I rarely sit still; only at Crockford or Ober Water when passing traffic negates a need to wander. As it was I had to play the happy wanderer just to find anything this afternoon. Sure, there were reasonable numbers of Large Red, Azure, and Blue-tailed – maybe even a Common Blue or two – but nowhere near expected.

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

Larger species were also mostly absent. I at least expected to see good numbers of Banded Demoiselle, but didn’t see one. I also expected to see reasonable numbers of Four-spotted Chaser, but the only ones here today were a male disturbed along the track and our companion at the pond.

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

At least there was some subdued action on the pond, with representatives of each flying in tandem or joined in the familiar wheel. Besides our resident Four-spotted was a Hairy or two weaving in and out of the reeds barely clearing the surface, hunting for a female. On one observed occasions he struck lucky and grabbed his female, locking her into the wheel and soared above the pond, circled looking for a place to park before frustratingly choosing the top of a nearby tree.

I was still fuming from an earlier pair who Sue found perched perfectly low down, only to rise just before I gained position and moved almost out of reach around the pond. Before I could follow they rose and once again perched perfectly on a reed across the path before changing their mind and choosing to rise above the trees and disappearing out of sight.

After another disappointing search I settled on the edge of the pond and watched as the Hairy came in and picked a fight with the Four-spotted, taking him down to the water’s surface in a tussle before realising he’d bitten off more than he could chew and disappearing in defeat. I’ve seen a Hairy take on an Emperor on many occasions and win, but the sheer bulk of the Four-spotted had a different outcome.

He came in for another go though, and this time was chased into the air before falling defeated to rest low down, catching his breath and giving me enough time grab second prize.

Hairy Dragonfly - male
Hairy Dragonfly – male

It isn’t all halcyon days filled with one opportunity after another, and despite stepping in something undesirable earlier in the day my luck remained in the tired and slightly irritable part of my brain. Or did it? I’m rather pleased with my Hairy opportunity and shouldn’t be bothered I missed those pairs, as I’ve had successful opportunities before.

There’ll always be another one.

Pennington, Crockford, Hatchet and Ober

I had a day of rest on Saturday and left it until Sunday to visit Pennington. Sue and I arrived just after lunch and I must say it was rather disappointing. There were a few small, sheltered pockets along the shore where Azure, Blue-tailed, Large Red and Red-eyed were busy over water, but the foliage revealed far less than our visit a fortnight ago. I had expected to at least see a Hairy, but the only sign of anything larger was the fleeting glimpse of a Scarce Chaser which I attempted to follow, but lost it as it disappeared around a thicket. A sighting at least, and another species added to this season’s count.

A call into Crockford revealed a few Beautiful Demoiselles, a fair number of Broad-bodied Chasers, a Four-spotted and some Large Red. No sign of any Southern Damselflies though. Hatchet small pond provided a patrolling male Downy over the water, some damsel mating action and a couple of sightings of teneral Keeled Skimmers – another new one for me this year. Both eluded me though.

In Hawkhill there was a Broad-bodied Chaser feeding around the scrub.

Broad-bodied Chaser - female
Broad-bodied Chaser – female

Finally onto Puttles Bridge, where Paul Winters had spotted a few Keeled Skimmers on Friday. I knew we should at least see greater numbers a couple of days on and we weren’t disappointed. There were hundreds – a fair number choosing the car park clearing – the same spot the Small Reds were using last season.

Keeled Skimmer - teneral male
Keeled Skimmer – teneral male

Across the Rhinefield Road there were even more, and naturally the heath around Silver Stream completed the spectacle on our short visit.

Keeled Skimmer - teneral female
Keeled Skimmer – teneral female

A very bitty but altogether successful outing.

Ramsdown and Troublefield

Monday began with the irritation of a traffic jam on the M27 as I headed west, and followed with the self-inflicted irritation of attempting to explore some new ground around Sopley Common. An unnecessary walk saw me arrive at my usual spot across the road at Ramsdown where I finally rousted a few Scarce Chaser, and proceeded to unsuccessfully grab a half-decent shot.

While I was carefully stalking an immature female, my attention was grabbed by something large – maybe an Emperor? No, better! Barely a few metres away was an immature female Golden-ringed hawking for bees, dropping down to consume her courses. After a few minutes she treated me as part of the scenery and carried on with her multi-course lunch, allowing me to get near enough for a photo.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly - immature female
Golden-ringed Dragonfly – immature female

I’d all but forgotten about the Scarce, and as I returned to looking I spotted another female Golden-ringed.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly - immature female
Golden-ringed Dragonfly – immature female

While I was searching the heather for more surprises I came across a Four-spotted Chaser, who offered me precisely the pose I wanted from a Scarce.

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

As the Scarce were proving elusive and difficult at Ramsdown I trudged back to the car and called in at Troublefield, making the most of that meadow before it disappears under the weight and into the gullet of free-roaming beef.

The small clearing on the way in had several Beautiful Demoiselles soaking up the sun on the Rhododendrons, and the path leading to the back meadow showed even more and a very fresh Scarce Chaser – proof that they do indeed breed on the Moors River.

Scarce Chaser - immature male
Scarce Chaser – immature male

In the meadow itself there were a couple more, difficult to follow, and yet another Golden-ringed who rose and disappeared upstream. The butterflies were way down in numbers today. but at least Demoiselles put on the usual fine display.

Beautiful Demoiselle - immature female
Beautiful Demoiselle – immature female

In the corner by the river bend I caught sight of…well, too small for an Emperor. Is that a…Hairy! Totally unexpected and, like the Golden-ringed, another of those moments which really make a day. He carried on hawking around me, not bothered by my presence, and proved to be probably the easiest Hairy I’ve yet had a chance to pin down. Also the first time I’ve seen them at this location.

Hairy Dragonfly - male
Hairy Dragonfly – male

I almost resisted the temptation to scour the other meadows…and should really have listened to my conscience. Another Scarce sighting, but nowhere near the diversity.No, that would do for the day. What more could you possibly want?

4 Replies to “A Varied Weekend Brings Some Welcome New Surprises”

  1. As usual, a blog rich in both description and in pictures. And your updates on the ‘UK Dragonflies & Damselflies’ facebook group page is very much appreciated.

  2. Yes – I try to take a few days off to refresh on tea etc. I have been known to often cover various NF sites in a day. Make hay while the sun shines!

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