The Month That Keeps On Giving

Sunday 27th May

We have a rule to ignore the New Forest on Bank Holiday weekends for obvious reasons, like traffic and tourists, Having been robbed of Saturday, which turned out great despite forecasts to the opposite, we decided to have a look at Latchmore.

Not in the best of shape after a party evening the night before, the going was tough in the heat and humidity., however I was glad we found a place to park despite inconsiderate parking from day trippers.

Amazed at how wet the ground was. Heavy rainfall the night before perhaps? After the sun we’ve had the flushes, which should have dried out by now, offered extra obstacles before the mire.

On the walk in we had Large Red, Azure, Beautiful Demoiselle and Broad-bodied Chaser, however as soon as we reached the mire we had our first Scarce Blue-tailed, a female and couple of males were holding territory in a flush.

Despite a good two hours scouring the scrub for feeders we only managed a few other damselflies other than Large Red, a teneral female Southern being the first.

Southern Damselfly (Coenagrion mercuriale) - teneral female
Southern Damselfly (Coenagrion mercuriale) – teneral female

The second highlight was a flighty teneral Small Red.

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) - teneral male
Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) – teneral male

We did disturb a resting male Golden-ringed who flew south at speed before moving on to Gypsy Hollies where we encountered our first Keeled Skimmer.

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) - teneral female
Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) – teneral female

The stream south had the best showing of Southern so far.

Southern Damselfly (Coenagrion mercuriale) - adult male
Southern Damselfly (Coenagrion mercuriale) – adult male

Enjoying a small pool were a couple more male Scarce Blue-tailed.

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura pumilio) - male
Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura pumilio) – male

A fruitful day then.

Monday 28th May

Another glorious day with ‘potential’ light rain showers. Yeah, right – very hot and very humid again at Town Common. I figured if Small Red and Black Darter are out then Common Emerald might well be too.

It wasn’t long before I found the first of four teneral Small Red.

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) teneral female
Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) teneral female

Shortly afterwards I found my first teneral Common Emerald.

Emerald Damselfy (Lestes sponsa) - immature male
Emerald Damselfy (Lestes sponsa) – immature male

Over the water a bevy of frenetic Four-spotted were wearing themselves out while a male Hairy patrolled the reeds. Meanwhile in the heather a few more fresh Common Emerald.

Emerald Damselfy (Lestes sponsa) - immature female
Emerald Damselfy (Lestes sponsa) – immature female

The humidity had soaked the pair of us through to the bone so we took a circuit where we encountered a swarm of Scarce Chaser.

Scarce Chaser ( Libellula fulva) - immature male
Scarce Chaser ( Libellula fulva) – immature male

Quite why they chose this particular pocket of heath I have no idea, but to see so many sharing the same space away from their natural breeding ground of the river was a delight.

After I final foray for the elusive Black Darter we decided to call it a day as we were both uncomfortable from the heat. Still, six species to add to the season’s list on a weekend we weren’t going to bother with?

Phenomenal frankly. Rule suitably broken.

Pit Stop

There’s no doubt May has been a marvelous month – certainly the most consistent sunshine we’ve had for a long while, which means there’s been little time to keep the blog updated as frequently.

Thursday 17th May

Troublefield had certainly woken up since my last visit with a bevvy of Demoiselles.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) - female
Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) – female

I was hoping for a Scarce Chaser or two but the presence of a female Broad-bodied added some variety along with Plenty of Azure and Large Red. Most of the Demoiselles were found in the middle meadow, which was mainly down to wind direction.

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) - female
Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) – female

The north-west corner proved to be the choice spot today with enough Demoiselle action to pick & choose.

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) - male
Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) – male

Once I’d had my fill I headed over to Ramsdown where I did see a Scarce and, more interestingly, my first Emperor of the season. Four-spotted were busy on the pond along with Large Red and Azure, frequently in tandem.

As I was in the area I thought I’d try my luck at Canford Magna. Alas no White-legged but a few Banded Demoiselles and the marvelous sight of dancing Mayfly.

Saturday 19th May

Although being one of my go-to sites, Bramshill still has the ability to frustrate. Saturday proved to be one of these days with little opportunity, albeit satisfying to observe.

Downy were present in good numbers during the walk. Along the main track a muddy puddle played host to a male Broad-bodied Chaser while the green pond had a patrolling Downy and male Hairy which I attempted to get busy with and a fresh Emperor rising to the trees.

Over in the sunny corner of Long Lake a teneral female Downy gave me my first real opportunity of the day.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) - teneral female
Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) – teneral female

Back at the muddy puddle the male Broad-bodied gave me my last.

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) - male
Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) – male

Monday 21st May

I returned for another go on Monday with varying success. A little more action on the water and my first Black-tailed Skimmer of the day disappearing out of reach.

A few more Emperor sightings with a fresh female disturbed at the green pond and a couple of males feeding along the tracks. Four-spotted were once again the dominant species.

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) - teneral male
Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) – teneral male

There were a few Downy patrolling out of reach at Long Lake while in the corner a mating pair of Red-eyed balanced on the bulrush.

Red-eyed Damselflies (Erythromma najas) - pair in-cop
Red-eyed Damselflies (Erythromma najas) – pair in-cop

Then the clouds appeared along with a slight shower and that was the end of the sun except for a hazy glimmer two hours later where I found a Downy patrolling in the gloom of an inlet.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) - male
Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) – male

Also sharing the same space briefly was a male Hairy which, although not perfect, provided the most memorable shot of the day.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) - male
Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) – male

Now the Emperor are out that may be my last chance to achieve better this season. That’ll do for now.

Sweet Shop

Tuesday 15th May

I make no apologies in the delay of updates; it’s been a fine May, and I’m going to make the most of it. After all, with our climate it’s a possibility that we might have had summer.

That’s humour by the way, not negativity. You could positively look upon a cold winter as a precursor to a fine summer!

I had a grand time at the Somerset Levels, and there’s more to come, however for a change of scenery I decided to revisit Lower Moor Farm in Aston Keynes after several years.

The Wiltshire CDR, Steve Covey, and a few other good friends from Flickr and Facebook steered my choice with their fabulous photos of Downy seemingly willing to perch long enough for a photo.

Weather was perfect, however navigation was not. I’ve been using Waze for a few years without error yet for some reason the postcode entered steered me directly to Melksham, which was a tad off the mark!

I should have known from memory, and despite a nagging feeling I carried on, seeing some marvelous aspects of the Cotswold countryside I’ve not seen before.

Every cloud…

I finally arrived an hour late and eager so I made my way around the reserve until I located the hot-spot – a path with a perfect row of trees face-on to the sun. I’d already encountered several Downy on the walk through so signs were good.

There were a few people already on site and one helpful individual with bins pointed out a fresh male with wings still closed high in a tree while within the confines of some lower branches was the perfect opportunity.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) Immature male
Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) Immature male

It wasn’t long before I was on my own so I took in the surroundings and waited for my own opportunities which on one occasion featured a photo-bombing Azure.

Immature male Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) sharing space wth an immature male Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) - male
Immature male Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) sharing space with an immature male Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) – male

Nice one that; let’s get in a tad closer if he’ll let me.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) Immature male
Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) Immature male

I explored the path to the south which also turned out to be a prime feeding spot with several circling the trees and usually landing high. So much to explore here, but I needed to focus and returned to the path and waited.

Besides the Downy their were also a few Hairy coming in to feed, flying low along the path, and a few Azure. However I was here for the Downy and remained focused.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) Immature female
Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) Immature female

The feeding activity became more sporadic during the heat of the afternoon and the next major feast would more than likely arrive early evening and having stood in more or less the same spot for hours I had one last look around before the long journey home.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) Immature female
Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) Immature female

So the hype is real then; a marvelous little reserve to spend a few hours – especially for Downy.

‘May’ The Good Times Roll

Thursday 10th May

A Flickr friend of mine posted possibly the best Hairy photograph I’ve yet seen the previous day, so I knew it was time. I’d already planned a visit for this week and, as long as the weather held out, I’m going.

If you’ve never been to the Somerset Levels, you’re missing out! My favourite days are days filled with too many dragonflies to cope with, and today – as most days at Shapwick – was one of those days.

Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) - female
Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) – female

Weather was better than expected. Sure, a stiff breeze keeping you on your toes, but the diversity. First in the gate were Variable, Blue-tailed, Large Red, Azure and my first Hairy; a female flushed from the grass to land on the bramble.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) - female
Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) – female

Another one shortly after, and enough opportunities in the river bank to keep you sane despite the grass strimmers ruining the natural soundtrack as the work party were shaving the margins, along with a few unfortunate victims.

With the incessant buzz still in my ears I attempted to seek a quieter environment. I’ve always been a fan of the ‘Sweet Track’; something very mindful about following in the footsteps of our ancestors, however managed it may be to recreate the experience.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) - male
Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) – male

It’s magical – as you walk through the west-country equivalent of rain forest you are among nature at it’s finest. A brook-lined path festooned with all manner of insects to a soundtrack of birds and buzzing.

Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) - male
Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) – male

Every sunny clearing, no matter how small, revealed a Hairy or five, a few nervous Four-spotted and enough damsels to grab you macro and indulge.

I wanted to walk around again, and did. I hadn’t grabbed a photo for what seemed like ages, but I didn’t really care; such was the peace and ‘nature’ of this place.

Back on the river bank I noticed a fresh Scare Chaser in the grasses.

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) - immature male
Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) – immature male

Three in total, although a few of those Four-spotted I spotted earlier at a distance might have been candidates.

Chuffed and hungry, I grabbed a snack and drink and had another go, but it was quieting down here so maybe have a look at Westhay?

Glad I went. Excellent Hairy activity with a good swarm of both sexes feeding along the treeline on damsels and any other unfortunate insect stupid enough to get in their path.

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) - female
Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) – female

The insect equivalent of a shark attack|? You have to wonder. I’ve witnessed the community behaviour of Brown Hawkers enough and believe there is some team activity present.

Think about it – in these moments with Hairy (and Migrant) have you seen aggression within species when feeding? I haven’t – only when procreating.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) - female
Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) – female

So a thoroughly enjoyable day, and one I look forward to every Spring.


A Moment To Cherish

Wednesday 9th May

There is no doubt it’s been a cracking month with barely a week offering up more variety than you can wish for. On Wednesday I had planned to go to Troublefield, but the weather looked better last minute at Bramshill.

Besides – I needed to photograph a Downy.

The new parking measures in place mean a longer walk in to my favourite spots, so it was time to find a few more. Heading east I searched out the direct path to the wooded pond – which has thankfully been cleared of scrub along the north bank.

It wasn’t long before I found my prize – three of them feeding within a small sunny clearing. One of them landed perfectly upon a low branch and I wasn’t ready. By the time I’d checked the settings he flew off.

No return or sign of the other two despite waiting 15 minutes so I carried on to the pond in search of more. Another two up & away before I decided to carry on to recce the other pond – one I’ve preciously failed to locate until last week.

Already up to my neck in gorse and mud I found another three along a wooded ride and another on my way back through. Waited again, and after a while decided if it was meant to happen it’ll happen when it needs to.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) - male
Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) – male

I took a stroll to the center ponds and grabbed a couple of Blue-tailed before carrying on down the narrow track seeing another half-dozen Downy, not one relaxing

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) - female (violacea)
Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) – female (violacea)

On to the usual spots and everything appeared as it should – Four-spotted more numerous than the weekend and a smattering of Common Blue, Large Red and Red-eyed, but still a little subdued.

At my favourite pond the sight of rising teneral Four-spotted and even one male patrolling the pond announced Summer and over in the far corner I spotted what I thought was another perched on the reeds, until I took a closer look.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) - teneral male
Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) – teneral male

Not one, but two Downy – one still emerging and way out of reach and one just released from the exuvia, crawling up the sedge, wings still folded and getting ready to enter our world.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) - teneral male
Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) – teneral male

I couldn’t have wished for a better encounter. I wanted a Downy and, although I had to wait, I was rewarded with a better than expected opportunity.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) - teneral male
Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) – teneral male

Only downer (sic) was the location; low down in the sedge in the shadows with sun-spots seeking through when the sun shined and the only possible composition meant kneeling in water, which sort-of negates the wellie protection!

Afterwards the cloud rolled in making it even more of a challenge, but this was my moment to cherish as I watched him open his wings, vibrate and warm up and finally take his maiden flight.

This is what it’s all about. Perfect!

I had a plan to walk back up to the wooded pond but frankly I had my moment, my opportunity, my prize.


Spring Takes Flight

Thursday 3rd May

A promising forecast and a week of waiting took me back to Bramshill to find less Large Red than last time but I did have a few larger species sightings; a Downy, a Hairy and at least three Four-spotted Chasers.

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)
Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)

So frustrating not to get a better shot, but a record I could guarantee despite being annoyingly elusive.

After that the sun went in and didn’t come out again, so I took a walk and scouted a few new locations to explore further in a month or so.

Saturday 5th May

Sue & I prefer to seek out the quieter places on Bank Holiday Weekends, away from the screaming hordes and traffic jams. We opted for Bentley Wood.

Plenty of Large Red and a teneral Downy rising from the margins to drift high into the treeline. Our favourite pond turned out to be very disappointing though.

We decided to have a bash at Durley Mill as Paul Winter had found some Beautiful Demoiselle elsewhere the day before, so fingers crossed.

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) - female
Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) – female

They’re here. Not many, just a half-dozen and another species to add to the count.

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) - female
Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) – female

Sunday 6th May

Bramshill proved much more productive with a fantastic eight species on the wing! A Downy on the way in followed by a male Broad-bodied Chaser, both too nervous to stick around. A Hairy Hawker shot across the path at speed and after the usual collection of Large Red we finally found a Common Blue.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) - immature male
Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) – immature male

At the pond a very fresh and delightfully-fragile Four-spotted Chaser rose from the reeds to land just above head height in the shadows.

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) - immature female
Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) – immature female

After the ponds Sue took some time out while I dug into the scrub and found an immature male Red-eyed damselfly. Perching low down involved some contortion as trailing gorse prevented me lying down. Worth it in the end though.

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) - immature male
Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) – immature male

We took a slow stroll back along hawker alley and explored the rough ground bordering the ‘face pond’ where we found another Common Blue and our last new species for the day, a Blue-tailed, which flew out of reach. No matter, there will be hundreds of them to enjoy soon.

A thoroughly enjoyable and productive outing renewed my faith and we returned home justifiably satisfied. It would be a hard act to follow.

Monday 7th May

We needed to recharge but found time for brief trip to Swanwick Lakes where we managed to reach double figures with an Azure. Unfortunately the only shot I managed didn’t come up to standard and we failed to find any more.

A walk to the dog pond provided one Broad-bodied Chaser and there was a Red-eyed on Tom’s Pond. Back at the centre pond I managed a shot of a Blue-tailed.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) - immature female (rufenscens)
Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) – immature female (rufenscens)

So a busy and fabulous weekend with some welcome diversity.
Now that’s more like it !

The Waiting

Our recent warm spell was a temporary glitch, as if nature needed to regain the balance after Spring snow. This past week brought us back down to earth with normal temperatures and lashings of April showers.

Large Red are pretty much where they are expected and the new brood of butterflies are awakening. After the first flutter last Wednesday I knew I’d be in for a wait, so didn’t rush it.

I took a (long) walk around Bentley Wood on Thursday 19th, eager to check on the favourites and new pond, which will need another year or two to come to fruition. No damsels, but a fair few over-wintering butterflies waking from their slumber.

On Saturday 21st Sue & I drove to Bramshill to check on some negative news regarding new parking restrictions. Suffice to say the main parking area along Wellhouse Lane has now been blocked by wooden stakes, with warnings along the adjoining passing places. I don’t know the reason, but have a couple of theories which are best kept quiet until I know more.

It’s not as bad as I expected, just inconvenient. It does mean the key areas now involve a walk in, which promotes exercise and a greater feeling of ‘it better be worth it!’ Was it worth it on Saturday? Yes! We had Large Red, and an altogether quieter experience.

Red Kites, plenty of other bird activity and more Common Lizards on the ground than I can remember. The resident male Swan seemed especially appreciative to see us!

On Sunday 22nd we took first look at Hamble Valley, a denizen of bountiful seasonal Bluebells, Wild Garlic and Spring Butterflies.

Green-veined White (Pieris napi)
Green-veined White (Pieris napi)

OK, we hoped for fresh Beautiful Demoiselle, but too soon really. Won’t be long though – the Speckled Wood, Green -veined White and Orange-tip are on the wing and offered some splendid opportunities to get the camera out of the bag.

Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardimines) - male on Cuckoo Flower
Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardimines) – male on Cuckoo Flower

Our darling weather kept me grounded until Thursday when I returned to Bramshill hoping for a little variety. Just Large Red, but in far greater numbers.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) - male
Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) – male

Especially nice to see the first Green Hairstreak of the season and a chance to explore the hidden depths, which proved a lot harder than expected.

The ‘overgrowth’ has blocked all remnants of the paths through the clearing (sic) to the north of Long Pond, however I’m sure they’ll get around to it as they’ve cleared all the gorse stands from the crossroads.

Two showers on my visit forced me to stow away the camera until needed, and the air was heavy with precipitation; not the forecast expected. Three hours was enough this time.

I’ll give it another week, which, looking at the weather forecast might well be the only option.


Wednesday 18th April

Our delightful climate has delayed this year’s season,; a couple of pond emergence’s and the first wild sightings (as usual) down in Cornwall. I had to wait until my third foray before I struck lucky at Town Common today, with a mass emergence of at least fifty to keep me busy.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) - female
Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) – female

My previous two outings have concentrated on Town Common and Broomy Pond – usually good contenders and the first to yield results. Surprisingly the pond which usually shows first at Town Common took a back seat this time in favour of a more sheltered pond.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) - male
Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) – male

It’s always a pleasure to witness these first flutters, and the chance to reacquaint myself with the camera and my (lack of) stealth, clumsy to the point of embarrassment first thing in the season. Thankfully it didn’t take too long to readjust and I spent a good couple of hours within this small glade enjoying the (long overdue) sunshine.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) - male
Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) – male

With a good spell of prolonged warmth and calmer winds I should imagine we’ll see a few other species join them before the month is out.

Here’s to the new season!


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…

Lowland Heath and Highland Adventures

Tuesday 22nd August

A day of pick ups with Aaron provided an excellent moment with a real favourite of mine; the Moorland Hawker. As if on cue my subject appeared from nowhere to do a few circuits of a small pond and as I waited for the right moment he found a female within the rush and, after a brief tussle, she flew off with him in pursuit.

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male
Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

Shortly afterwards he returned to inspect the other end of the pond, guided by scent to another female perfectly hidden underneath the bank, which he grabbed and dunked before successfully latching on and flying off to the trees in the mating wheel.

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male dunks female before copulation
Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male dunks female before copulation

Saturday 26th August

Having fallen in love with the Highlands in June we decided to grab a few days over the Bank Holiday weekend. Although this wasn’t a dragonfly trip we couldn’t resist revisiting Laide Wood, and what a delight to experience this fabulous site without the driving wind encountered back in June.

The path down was peppered with Highland and Black Darters while near the burn I had my first Moorland Hawker – a female – rise from the heather to pursue a Mountain Ringlet. Shortly afterwards a male landed path side on the heather allowing my first opportunity.

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male
Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

The lochan on the edge of the woods with the hide needed a look, and both Darters were present around the shore, but we continued to Loch na Cathrach Duibhe where the open aspect and access is far superior. The sunny clearing was perfect for Moorland Hawkers coming in to feed either among the heather or around the trees.

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male
Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

The shores produced several more Darters but we kept our eyes on the clearing, because you never knew what might fly in next.

Golden-ringed (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male
Golden-ringed (Cordulegaster boltonii) – male

We took an alternative path back to reach another sunny clearing where we watched at least a dozen Moorland Hawkers feeding along the treeline and coming in to perch.

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male
Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male

On our last visit we only saw female Highland Darters so were pleased to encounter several males, including an immature male taking the warmth from a convenient log.

Highland (Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum_ - immature male
Highland (Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum_ – immature male

Up until now my go-to place for Moorlands had been Priddy Mineries in Somerset. After our visit today I feel I have a new favourite. Just a shame it’s more than a couple of hours away!

Honourary Mention

Towards the tail end of our long drive to the Highlands I was determined to experience the famous Bealach na ba pass on the Applecross peninsula. After scaring Sue to death (she suffers from vertigo) we stopped so she could recover while I took in the view. To ease the drive down I pulled in to a parking spot halfway down.

A short distance from the car park was a boggy pool. Flying low across the water was a large dragonfly which on closer inspection turned out to be an Emerald. Before I could grab the camera with the right lens attached he rose and flew across the mountain.

Now being skeptical and no photo to scrutinise I passed it off as just a welcome encounter while we continued our journey.

Two days later we took a walk up Flowerdale. On our way back down we had an Emerald flying along the trees feeding. Having done a little more research I can only assume these were indeed Northern Emerald (Somatochlora arctica) as it’s far too late for Downy and the Brilliant isn’t found this far north.

Not bad for a supposed non-dragonfly break!