The Changing of the Seasons

Saturday 25th August

A planned visit by my brother over August Bank Holiday to experience and photograph dragonflies meant it was time for a return visit to Bramshill. Bank Holidays always draw the crowds to the New Forest, so heading in the other direction is the sensible option.

Bramshill is usually a great spectacle in late summer, however our Saturday visit didn’t bring forth the expected bounty. Lack of sunshine kept the temperature down and the dragonflies hidden.

It wasn’t until we were halfway down the main track that we encountered our first Odonata; the always present Common Blues and a single female Ruddy.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) - female
Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) – female

Long Lake provided a brief glimpse of a male Migrant Hawker around the rushes and only a few damsels braving the cooler conditions.

By the time we reached the Green Pond the sun finally decided to make an appearance, and the pond exploded into action under the welcome heat. Just enough time to witness another Migrant patrolling the far bank and a bevy of Common Emeralds along the margins.

Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) - male
Common Emerald (Lestes sponsa) – male

Over in the south-west corner Adie disturbed a male Southern who characteristically checked us both out at close quarters before disappearing off to roost somewhere.

The rise in temperature also brought out a few Ruddy, desperately grabbing the remaining warmth from ground level. I was amazed at the lack of Common Darter – not one had shown throughout our 4 hour stay.

Nevertheless it was a perfect insight into a typical dragonfly experience, albeit one of the slower days spent hunting rather than shooting, and Adie thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Thursday 30th August

I was determined to get another day in before the months close, and given a day of ‘sunny intervals’ returned to Ramsdown in the hope of finding a few hawkers.

The day started well with a female Southern offering herself as the catch of the day. Always a pleasure to find a female away from water and always a worry she may not stay around. Thankfully after rising a few times she settled long enough to engage with the macro.

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

Buoyed on by this good fortune I was ready to engage with the next subject and placed myself next to the pond and waited for the sun to appear. It was already warmer than Saturday and at least there were Common Darter here. Several tandem pairs and a few single males desperately trying to engage or battle with other suitors.

It was a while before a hawker made an appearance. A male Migrant kept at a distance across the sedge before the welcome visit of a male Southern, possibly the same individual as ten days previous; certainly the same behaviour.

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

After half an hour he disappeared followed shortly after by the sun. Still, a couple of keepers from the day meant I could go home satisfied.

Saturday 1st September

An afternoon trip to Crockford to see how things were. Very quiet except for Common Darters and one Golden-ringed, which was a pleasant surprise.

A walk around Norleywood produced a low-flying Southern Hawker who didn’t hang around and more Common Darters roosting in a sunny clearing.

Common Darter.(Sympetrum striolatum) - male
Common Darter.(Sympetrum striolatum) – male

A Summer Hangover

After a slow start I had expected a return to a normal August, but the weather hasn’t been kind. We did have was a return to default August weather, which, although good for replenishing the ponds, has meant I haven’t been out anywhere near as much as I’d like to.

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

On those days I have been out it’s been exceptionally quiet. During mid-August there are usually a bevy of Migrant, Brown, a few Southern and even Common Hawkers to observe feeding along the treeline, but the numbers are well down. Thankfully the sight of a Golden-ringed taking time out is always appreciated.

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

A fine summer of endless sun and plenty to get stuck in to has probably exaggerated matters. It feels more like September when you expect a dying down of activity. Perhaps the most surprising is the lack of Common Darters.

Common Darter.(Sympetrum striolatum) - male
Common Darter.(Sympetrum striolatum) – male

I guess we did have too much of a good thing and now it feels like the great hangover. The last time I had a chance to look at Ramsdown the water levels had increased a little, allowing some moments of joy after many moments of waiting.

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

A day of ‘sunny intervals’ means a few hours waiting for an celestial appearance, and does make you appreciate those moments when everything comes alive.

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

Bank Holiday predictably brought forth a proper deluge, and I’m looking forward to a return in some decent pond activity. Until then I’m grateful for those special moments.

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

Taking Flight

It’s been a very slow August so far; in part attributed to a major change in the weather and the effects of the long, hot dry spell we’ve enjoyed for the past few months.

Having encountered all non-migrant local species with the elusive Moorland Hawker now is the time to relax and choose a few special ponds for observation and indulgence. Except these ponds have disappeared completely or dried out to puddles barely enough to cover your feet.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - male
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) – male

Not a problem for the hardiest species such as Common Darter and Common Emerald, or indeed a solitary Emperor holding on in hope a female may visit.

The Emperor has been around since May and most individuals encountered are tired and tatty.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male
Emperor (Anax imperator) – male

Time to move over and give up the territories to the late summer hawkers; a Southern has no problem with puddles, but would rather avoid unnecessary conflict.

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

The Moorland Hawker is another who doesn’t tolerate other hawkers (except it’s own in certain places with high populations) and will happily take on an aged Emperor.

The sight of a high-flying Moorland coming in to scan below is always a welcome sight in the New Forest. Even better when he decides to come down and patrol a while.

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

Most of the Migrant Hawkers are immature and shyly shoot off with minimal disturbance from their roost of gorse and trees surrounding favourite feeding grounds. They’ll settle down once they mature and provide the easiest in-flight opportunities of them all.

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

Despite a good look around Town Common mid-week I only found a few Black Darters, a few Small Red and even more Common Emerald. I probably would’ve seen a lot more if it hadn’t have been somewhat overcast

By the time I reached Ramsdown the sun put in a very brief appearance with the majority of activity centered around the hill pond, which is deep enough to have survived the drought.

The showers we had last weekend weren’t enough to effect the driest heath ponds, however now we’ve had some more rain I’m looking forward to seeing if the ponds have recovered enough to offer some late summer enjoyment.

Parched

Sunday 5th August

This European heatwave has been a blessing to dragonfly enthusiasts with perhaps the best activity we’ve seen for many years. We had a warning back in Spring with the late start and a bounty of early emergencies across the board.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male
Emperor (Anax imperator) – male

At first excited for the pleasing bounty I remember being a little concerned as if the odos knew far more about the coming season than we could possibly predict. They knew when the time was right; get out early and live their lives while they could.

Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) - over-mature female
Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) – over-mature female

Three months of exciting and exhausting action to sink our teeth into is showing signs of slowing down considerably, the reason being the lack of water. Most of the ponds are dry and even some streams have stopped flowing.

Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) - pair in tandem
Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) – pair in tandem

The surrounding heather hadn’t had the chance to fully bloom before before succumbing to the heat. Elsewhere lush meadows now a sea of hay which is at once beautiful and dangerous. Tinder dry with many fires breaking out.

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) - immature male
Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) – immature male

Mother Nature’s way of clearing out the cobwebs and starting afresh? Despite the worrying state of our meadows they do provide a pleasing backdrop for photography.

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) - immature male
Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) – immature male

Crockford has been simply fantastic this summer, but has now peaked. A visit during the week found very few Southern and Small Red damselflies, a sprinkling of tired-looking Keeled Skimmer and a few rather battered Golden-ringed.

The shallow ponds on the heaths of Town Common frequently dry out and recover but without frequent showers their surfaces are dry and crisp, the Black Darters having to seek out other options further afield.

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) - male
Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) – male

Hawker Season is already upon us with Migrant Hawkers gaining numbers and feeding up rapidly among the woodland rides. Southern and Moorland Hawker are starting to patrol the remaining puddles, and therein lies the problem.

A brief respite from the parched conditions with a good lashing of rain last weekend helped replenish a few pools just enough to kick-start some activity but after a week those few pools have returned to puddles.

So far this August pickings have been slim and I’m having to choose wisely, resisting the urge to travel too far in fear of wasted fuel and time, preferring to remain local where there should be enough to satisfy.

Seeking out places where a profusion of feeder insects bring in the feasting hawkers. Choosing those areas which retain some water; the larger, deeper lakes and ponds. The constant flow of fast-running streams which contain some pools where the hawkers can patrol.

Mostly though I’m hoping for a few more downpours to replenish those ponds which offer a chance to just sit & watch without walking too far in these hot, parched dog days of summer.

Where The River Flows

No-one would have believed we’d be blessed with the best summer for decades. No-one would’ve believed the sun would remain untarnished by solemn skies and rainfall. For a dragonfly enthusiast it’s been a summer to cherish.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male
Emperor (Anax imperator) – male

The instinct to soak it all up is irresistible, and slightly dangerous. Too much sunshine can wear out even the most active soul, and I’ve bitten off just a little bit more than I perhaps should have.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male on patrol
Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) – male on patrol

A foolish seven mile trek in search of rare delights; an even more foolish search for a pond which turned out to be almost dry.

However these are lessons which stop us in our tracks to sit back and regroup. Take a little time out. Choose locations where you don’t have to expend unnecessary energy by staying glued to one spot.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male on Bog Myrtle
Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) – male on Bog Myrtle

With the unsheltered shallow ponds of the heath drying out it makes sense to choose running water. A short section of a New Forest stream is ideal to just sit back and take it all in.

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) - pair in-cop
Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) – pair in-cop

Endless hours in the company of some of the New Forest favourites. Those boisterous Keeled Skimmers who like nothing more than a scuffle with opponents twice their size. With the Golden-ringed they can get away with it. Try it with an Emperor and they’ll end up as lunch.

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) - pair in-cop
Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) – pair in-cop

Beautiful Demoiselles cascading above while Southern Damselflies go about their business below. Finding mates, copulating and ovipositing seemingly ignoring the fracas.

Southern Damselfly (Coenagrion mercuriale) - pair in-cop
Southern Damselfly (Coenagrion mercuriale) – pair in-cop

Look closely and you will see they have their own battles to fight. Likewise the Small Red decorating the Bog Myrtle – worryingly drying out beyond the immediate shoreline.

Small Red Damselflies (Ceriagrion tenellum) - pair in-cop
Small Red Damselflies (Ceriagrion tenellum) – pair in-cop

The introduction of a female Golden-ringed flying in to find a safe place to oviposit is a sight to behold. She has an instinct to find the best place to lay her eggs regardless of the dangers she would usually avoid.

Usually preferring the dark & shady hollows beneath the over-hanging Bog-myrtle or Bramble to avoid predation and the attention of patrolling males who occasionally get lucky.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) pair in-cop
Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) pair in-cop

Forget the camera – just watch for a while. Fifteen minutes of your time can witness so much more if you attempt to understand their timescale. Lives lived much faster than ours, and over in an instant comparatively.

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

If you feel your life is moving too fast spend a few hours at a stream and relax. Suddenly your hectic life has just slowed down and been put into perspective. Life’s much faster around here.

Blue-eyed Beauties

Friday 13th July

I had some unfinished business with those Blue-eyed Hawkers which have taken up residence in Essex. A couple of weeks back we jumped the gun but were rewarded with fresh emergers.

Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) – teneral female

Totally unexpected and a bonus despite only encountering a couple of distant adult males. I needed to have another shot or two at the adults so Sue and I arranged a revisit a couple of weeks later.

Thankfully we were rewarded with more than we wished for and very little traffic delays considering it was a Friday. A cracking day with over fifty males seen, five pairings and two tandem pairs ovipositing.

Barely through the gate we were rewarded with our first adult male patrolling a short dry section of the ditch. There were a few wet sections, but these weren’t half as much fun. I was in the sweet shop, in my element, having a damn good time trying to capture these beauties at close quarters in-flight.

Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male on patrol
Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) – male on patrol

Of course there were also Scarce Emerald and Ruddy Darter – the latter population somewhat diminished since last time; and there’s a good reason for that.

Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male
Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) – male

I didn’t concern myself initially about getting one perched. I found it difficult to drag myself away from watching their antics through the viewfinder.

Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male on patrol
Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) – male on patrol

Where to look next? A female navigating her way through the close growth of a bank-side bush, seemingly to avoid male attention or a pairing or a tandem pair ovipositing into the deep, dark recesses of cattle depressions? How about a mating pair?

Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - pair in-cop
Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) – pair in-cop

Once I had made the most of the willing subjects available we walked on, taking each step slowly. We had a half-hearted attempt to look for the Southern Emerald population, but this was not the day for picking out tiny dancers. We were only after the divas. Those magnificent blue eyes and a species I’ve rarely had the chance to enjoy had taken all my attention.

Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male on patrol
Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) – male on patrol

Back to the key spots, where we noticed in the heat of the day activity started to slow down with most perching low down in the grasses; some choosing to delve into the depths, creating an audible fracas which culminated in them rising with an unfortunate Ruddy Darter in their mandibles.

Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male
Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) – male

This could well be considered a welcome new resident species, and has been regarded so after successful breeding at their key sites. Sightings have been rife this year with new populations springing up in Hertfordshire and migrant influxes from Somerset to Hampshire.

For me the chance to spend a day in the company of such a magnificent Hawker resulted in one of my best days out this year.

Even Dragonflies Need Shade

Hot, humid, and the type of weather our European cousins to the south are used to, so why do we worry & panic? Maybe we’re a little too primitive. Haven’t adapted. Or maybe we’re so far advanced we expect it just so. There’s some old bugger who’ll complain. It’s the British way.

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

From the late start to not being able to keep up with (comparatively) early emergencies it’s been a fabulous year for dragonflies. A headlong rush to all get out and enjoy the sunshine while it’s here.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male
Emperor (Anax imperator) – male

I’m enjoying myself as much as I did when I started. I’m able to go out and indulge without the annoyances and distractions of recent years. Time to reacquaint myself with some local favourites without wasting time travelling.

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

Time best spent in one place; almost rooted to the spot, allowing the action to come to me instead of chasing after something which probably won’t arise, wearing myself out in the process.

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) - female
Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) – female

The irony is all the photos featured here were taken while chasing around like a fool instead of heading my own advice! However I needed those unnecessary and mostly fruitless days to reprogram and settle down a little.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - female
Emperor (Anax imperator) – female

These balmy days of summer are perfect for just sitting back and taking it all in, even choosing to stay home and grab some shade instead of burning out too soon.

Live fast die young appears to be normal as far as some insects are concerned; the Silver-studded Blues are showing signs of fatigue after a few weeks of wearing and tearing. So too are the Chasers and Skimmers. They might be able to live another day if they weren’t so damn hasty.

Except the Keeled of course. They’re doing just fine. Still emerging, still feisty. From delicate teneral demoiselles to the mighty Emperor, the sensible species take a little time out from the heat.

Even dragonflies need shade.

Local Delights

A covering of cloud seems the perfect time to take a rest and catch up on the past fortnight, beginning with two days at at Crockford Stream.

Thursday 21st June

The insistent breeze kept the temperature under what it should have been. No matter – this was only a first scout of one of the New Forest favourites.

No Golden-ringed patrolling along the full accessible length of the main stream, and only a few regulars. However I did disturb a young male Southern Hawker – my first this season who out flew of sight, but not out of mind.

Invigorated by this sighting I decided to explore the clearing to the south, heading into one of the marl pools which only provided a few threatening sinking moments; unexpected after the dry spell.

Back on terra firma I headed upstream, walking through sheltered gorse stands hoping for another hawker or two. Only Keeled and a good showing of Silver-spotted blues decorating the yet-to-bloom heather.

More Keeled Skimmers along the headwaters with several Southern Damselflies busy courting, pairing and ovipositing. Also seeking a place to deposit her eggs was a female Broad-bodied Chaser.

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

At the ford an Emperor offered me some indulgence, the strong breeze challenging my subject. After a short while he came closer.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male
Emperor (Anax imperator) – male

A couple of skirmishes with another of his kind, and suddenly a Golden-ringed. When I’ve finished with my new found buddy I had another subject in mind. I just had to find him. They usually don’t stray far; keeping within the boundaries of their chosen patrol.

And there he was; tantalisingly and tentatively patrolling his patch and having arguments with a couple of Keeled Skimmers.

He perched. Not ideally. Rose again and again; hard to pin down. Just as I was getting purchase another skirmish, only this time a female. Watch, follow and hope. Primal urges had put pay to my plan and I had to choose another.

Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - pair in-cop
Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) – pair in-cop

That’ll do. Day fulfilled. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Monday 25th June

Eager to capitalise on my good fortune I returned to Crockford on Monday for another session. More of everything this time around, with activity throughout the stream.

Even the Golden-ringed population had improved, with half-a-dozen between the road and the main basin.

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

I found a worthy subject further upstream; a delightfully social individual who turned out to be rather gregarious – ideal for attempting some in-flight shots, I thought optimistically.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male on patrol
Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) – male on patrol

He took to flying around me at too close a range for the long lens, so switching to macro I’d forgotten to change the speed, which was a shame as this could’ve turned out sharper.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male on patrol
Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) – male on patrol

Might as well have a go at a Demoiselle while I’m here.

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

And just for good measure, one of those pesky Keeled Skimmers.

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) - male on patrol
Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) – male on patrol

A thoroughly enjoyable couple of days in the New Forest, and there’s more to come.

From Headwaters to Heath

Wednesday 13th June

The time was right for another New Forest visit, this time connecting with our White-legged Damselfly populations along the Blackwater and Ober streams.

White-legged Damselflies (Platycnemis pennipes) - male
White-legged Damselflies (Platycnemis pennipes) – male

Starting at Dames Slough Inclosure it wasn’t long before I found my first White-legged holed up in the grasses to the south of the stream.

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) - female
White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) – female

Plenty of opportunities meant I could ditch the long lens and concentrate on using the macro for the first time in a while.

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) - female
White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) – female

Along with the WLD a good number of Beautiful Demoiselles were populating the stream while fresh Keeled Skimmers were rising from the shore.

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

Taking refuge in the scrub was a fresh Common Darter.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - immature female
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) – immature female

Crossing the stream to the north bank provided the best displays with Beautiful Demoiselle, Southern, White-legged, Large Red and Keeled Skimmers all enjoying the sunshine, some undoubtedly more than others.

White-legged Damselflies (Platycnemis pennipes) - pair in tandem
White-legged Damselflies (Platycnemis pennipes) – pair in tandem

I spent a good couple of hours here observing and enjoying the spectacle and in hindsight should probably have stayed put, but with Ober Water close by I couldn’t resist a stroll along one of my favourites.

Unfortunately the wind was more noticeable here and this subdued activity along the stream; even the hot-spots were lacking. Regardless I carried on a circular route, returning along the top paths where at least I found a couple of Golden-ringed feeding along the path, although unwilling to stay around for a shot.

Monday 18th June
Halfway through June already and a decidedly different climate than May curtailed any outings until Monday. Although the forecast wasn’t ideal I found myself enjoying bright, if breezy, sunshine at Town Common.

The first pond had enough Four-spotted Chasers and an Emperor patrolling among the damsels in a perfect summer spectacle. The Emperor even came in to perch long enough for me to switch lens and practice some stealth.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male
Emperor (Anax imperator) – male

The first Darter spotted was a young male Common, one of a number encountered today.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - immature male
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) – immature male

However it was the Black Darter I was hoping for, and I wasn’t disappointed. Several fresh individuals at this little pocket of heath to keep me busy, however I had to wait until later to get the shot I was after.

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) - immature male
Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) – immature male

Beautifully situated on fresh blooming heather. Doesn’t get much better than that, however in the interest of diversity best I include a female.

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) - immature female
Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) – immature female

From the young headwaters of the Lymington River to the lowland heath across the Avon, these past two outings within the New Forest catchment area have reinvigorated yours truly with renewed faith in staying local.

I’ve already planned the next sunny day. Now I just have to wait…

Hidden Depths

Saturday 9th June
At Bramshill the shore of Long Lake had enough going on for observation and I had a few half-hearted attempts at the Emperor patrolling, but he was too far out and unpredictable.

While Sue took a rest I explored my usual circuit without much joy and returned to the shore of Long Lake to see if anything had changed. It hadn’t, so we decided to take a walk. After all, way too early to call it a day.

We decided to walk to the north-east pond in the hope that we’d find a few feeders on the way. We did, mainly demoiselles and damselflies holed up in the gorse and grasses bordering the paths.

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

On arriving at the pond the usual sight of battling Chasers and Skimmer’s, an Emperor or two and a Downy brightened an afternoon which had become dull under cloud.

At the far end however, patrolling a small area of the murkiest section was a reward for the day – an early patrolling Brilliant Emerald.

Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora metallica) - male
Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora metallica) – male

In view of the light a record shot is all I managed, but it was the icing on the cake of a disappointing day.

Monday 4th June
I returned to Bramshill with a sense of hope and the added advantage that I could move and loiter at my own pace; taking in the north-east pond first and continuing along a new found path and a new diversion along a wonderful sunny ride with Meadow Brown and White Admiral joining the Demoiselles.

The type of sunny ride it would be wise to camp out at, as you never know what might turn up. Not today though, I wanted to cover as much ground as possible, calling in at the center ponds and following familiar paths hoping for a moment.

I had a long moment on the shore of Long Lake just watching the action, because sometimes you just need to take it all in. Pretty much the same as cast as Saturday only much more to enjoy.

Once I broke free of the reverie I continued along the path, festooned with Black-tailed Skimmers; always on the ground and supposedly out of reach.

Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) - male
Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) – male

At a little inlet I found a teneral Common Darter – my first this year.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - teneral male
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) – teneral male

A little further down the path a female Emperor rose at my presence, hesitated and perched again, allowing me a cautious go with the macro.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - female
Emperor (Anax imperator) – female

The hidden ponds were a little disappointing today so I continued to the far shore of Long Lake to catch a female Keeled Skimmer having a snack.

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

I returned to those paths I followed earlier, just in time to watch a male Hairy flying low down and back & forth before perching to eat his spoils. Who knows who else paid a visit while I was away.

Food for thought.