Highland Fling – Part 2

Wednesday 28th June

Our second full day turned out to be rather glorious, with sunshine and suitable warmth handicapped by a strong, cold & biting breeze from the south. This was annoying, because the areas I intended to search for the Northern Emerald felt the full blast.

I looked around the burn and loch north of Slatterdale. Under these conditions I didn’t walk in as far as I could have done. We stopped at Victoria Falls to take in the view, our eyes always peeled. At the Bridge of Grudie there wasn’t an expected car parking area as such, unless you parked where the workmen were, or in the gap on the bridge as we did.

While Sue stayed in the car I looked in the clearing to the north and along the stream to the south, but the wind really was a problem. I found a good few pools which looked ideal, but you would need to camp out and hope, and in this wind there was no chance. Only Large Red were hardy enough to be present here today.

Close to a car park there is a spit of land which juts out from the road towards Loch Maree which contains a few boggy pools, except today they were devoid of shelter and flying creatures. We decided to have a cuppa and a Cornish Cream Tea at Kinlochewe services before we met up again with John and Carol at The Beinn Eighe visitor centre.

In my eagerness I took a quick scout into a clearing and wished I hadn’t. The ground was uneven with hidden depths which threatened to swallow me up at every step. Educated by this episode I returned to the car park for John & Carol’s arrival and we took a walk south, pausing at a pond to admire the few damsels under what now was the mountain’s own generated weather system.

Reaching the section of path we’d been advised was a haven for basking dragonflies we despaired as this angry black beast of a cloud hovering overhead was fringed by perfect sunshine. And that wind! Still, the views were nice, and we did encounter a Golden-ringed situated in a sheltered hollow.

Realising this cloud was here to stay we moved west and took a stroll along the official Woodland Track, passing another perfect dragonfly sanctuary had conditions been more favourable.

By now we were desperate as the day was waning. One more try at Slatterdale where at least we found the sunshine. Taking a walk up the path despondency was setting in, knowing this would likely be the last day we’d have to find our prize.

We found another Golden-ringed and willed it to turn blue before Sue called from back down the path. Well done hun, you’d found them!

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male
Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

Two male Azure Hawkers were basking on the logs and rose at our presence, giving us a wonderful show before one disappeared, leaving the other male to delight us as he circled us, eventually taking turns to land on each of us before returning to his chosen log or one of the few trees left standing.

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male
Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

To say we were overjoyed is well short of the mark. We were ecstatic! Considering how hard we had worked we did feel we deserved this encounter.

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male
Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

For forty-five joyous minutes we indulged, relishing our time with this fabulously gregarious individual.

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male
Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

Although we naturally felt honoured that he chose each of us as a perch the reality is he needed our warmth. When he returned to the log, and shortly after this capture, he bent his abdomen down to maximise the contact area.

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male
Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

Possibly the best capture was attained when he became a badge of honour for John.

Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) - male
Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) – male

After we fulfilled every opportunity we could we let him be and went our separate ways; John & Carol back to the campsite while Sue & I took a drive to Red Point to take in some glorious Scottish scenery, watching the sun throwing shadows over the Isle of Skye and the mountains of Applecross..

If you can believe it there was actually a Golden-ringed flying around the car park, totally where you wouldn’t expect him to be. A bonus, perhaps, to what turned out to be a fraught but eventually fulfilling day.

A Guide to Bramshill Plantation

One of the more popular sections of the website is the ‘Where To See’ section which hasn’t been added to for a while – until now! Although on some levels I’d rather keep it to myself after three years of exploring its nooks & crannies the time is right to be kind and share.

So without further procrastination here it is:-

Adobe Spark Page

A Latchmore Love Affair

There is obviously a bucket list for Odonata; usually the rarest, most local or migrant speciality like the Lesser or Vagrant Emperor, the Red-veined Darter, the various Emeralds etc. Yes, it’s a ‘tick’ to get these species, but in the case of migrants or rarities I find it far more enjoyable to encounter them by being at the right place at the right time.

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) - imm female aurantiaca phase
Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) – imm female aurantiaca phase

One of these rare species is the Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly, which is a native of our Isle. What makes them rare is their exacting habitat requirements, although with stories of colonising shallow tractor/bulldozer/motocross tracks they are opportunistic.

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

There is no doubt that the best environment to experience this jewel of the damselfly species is in their preferred natural habitat; usually boggy flushes with healthy water quality and vibrant emergent vegetation, especially Water St. John’s Wort.

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) - imm female aurantiaca phase
Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) – imm female aurantiaca phase

In the New Forest we are fortunate to have a few perennial breeding populations. There is a small colony along the Ober Water where you may be lucky to spot up to half-a-dozen on a good day, but by far the best location is the boggy flushes straddling Latchmore Brook. A Scientific survey a few years ago counted thousands.

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

It took me a few years to pinpoint the key area ,despite several clues, and perhaps quite-rightly the exact grid reference was left vague. This is a good thing, because the last thing this species needs is a herd of bucket-listers congregating on-mass and destroying their habitat.

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) - freshly-emerged female
Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) – freshly-emerged female

Naturally I always look forward to my first Latchmore foray, full of hope and often disappointed, but the good times out-weigh the bad, with several successful excursions over the past few years.

It’s a tranquil place when the sun isn’t guaranteed; and although a sunny day can offer the best dragonfly action, the hoards of picnickers and dog walkers can distract on a hot day during the high season.

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) - imm female aurantiaca phase
Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) – imm female aurantiaca phase

Thankfully the tourists stay reasonably close to the car park. Sometimes too close. Never understood why someone should travel miles to picnic a few metres from their car? However this is to our advantage, and provided you are willing to walk that extra mile you can be in a natural paradise with plenty of birdsong guiding you to peace.

The ‘aurantiaca’ phase of the female Scarce Blue-tailed is quite-rightly considered a prize among dragonfly aficionados; the vibrant immature orange tones being entirely unlike any other damselfly colour form. A beautiful sight in stunning prom dress before maturity turns her into a quite drab matt green fully-formed adult.

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) - mature female
Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) – mature female

However it is important to appreciate this special little damselfly in all its stages. The mature males out-shine their mates in glorious technicolor yet themselves are a little drab to begin with.

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

Drab or not, encountering an immature male is a first for me, likewise the freshly-emerged female. During an enjoyable two days the only stage I didn’t encounter was the quite beautiful transitional phase from orange to green, but their season has only just begun.

The Generation Gap

Still a little too cool and early for even the Large Red, but it won’t be long now. My reason for posting is the recent BDS Recorders Meeting in Surrey on March 19th.

This was the first meeting I’ve personally attended and, as well as being able to put faces to names. it’s given me a lot of food for thought. Once everyone was seated it was obvious there was a bias towards the older generation. Although I’m getting a bit long in the tooth myself there does appear to be an ‘old school’ exclusivity prevalent.

Some might argue an interest in the natural world only develops when you’re mature enough not to have the time constraints of education, careers and procreation. Others, including the younger generation, may blame the lack of opportunities and resources to pursue their interests.

There is no doubt that formative education is geared more towards career development than vocational environmental concerns, although an increasing sympathy and understanding of our planet and the hazards we face has raised awareness more than ever before.

What better time to raise awareness of dragonflies and their importance in an eco-system? Why should butterflies take all the glory? No offence to the butterfly, magnificent creature that it is, but, as pointed out by one of the audience, if you’re looking for more sex and violence rather than costume dramas then the dragonfly fits the bill.

A post-meeting chat over a pint with a friend who also attended revealed a tightly-packed regime which gave little time for ‘networking’. From what I observed these brief moments of sociability allowed attendees to relax and breathe. Rather than filling the meeting with one talk straight after another a better option would be to allow more time to connect.

The main premise of the meeting was geared towards recording with an initial talk by David Hepper outlining recent improvements and methods which will simplify recording, and in turn incorporate local records into the global  database.

irecord app

By far the most user-friendly of these is the new irecord service which allows anyone to contribute records – even in the field – with the help of the useful mobile app. I urge everyone with a smartphone to download the app and start using it this season. A move away from the traditional notebooks and spreadsheets may help to allow a younger generation to get involved.

On the subject of recording David Murdock has approached me to help with Hazeley Heath east of Basingstoke. This is an under-recorded site within the same catchment as Warren Heath and Bramshill Common, and should share many of the same species. Ideally a transect during May, late June/early July and late August/early September should give a broad outline of species present.

If you are local to Hazeley Heath and can help please let me know.

Here’s to a splendid new season!

2015 Review – Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 4.

What should’ve been prime hawker season started very slowly. I only needed one or two willing subjects to keep me amused over-water, but the lack of hawkers decorating the foliage along proven paths was cause for concern. Paying my dues at the pond which started it all at least gave me a little sport with Emperor and Southern Hawker vying for territory.

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

Despite having their own preferred areas they would occasionally meet in a dog-fight display that appeared more playful than aggressive.

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

September arrived way too soon for my liking and I hungered for properly satisfying day, so the first good forecast prompted our first seasonal visit to Priddy in North Somerset. Steve Covey and Damien Pinguey were already on site when Sue and I arrived, and Jerry Hawker and Mike Dimery joined us shortly after for an socially-enjoyable romp through the saturated shores and thickets.

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

It was mid-September before I started seeing hawkers decorating the paths to a better standard, but the combination of bad weather and beetle-damaged heather meant the once-bountiful prey haven of Ramsdown was sorely lacking.

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

Even the ponds were quiet and I really had to test my patience waiting for some sport. In hindsight maybe I should’ve accepted that the dragonflies had moved elsewhere in search of better pasture. A great shame, but it will recover.

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

Thankfully Bramshill still had plenty to offer with an enjoyable day spent with Sue. There was one pond which I accidentally came across earlier which I needed to relocate, and thankfully did so with the benefit of finding an easier way in.

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

I did manage to fit in another visit to Priddy before the bell tolled, and it really proved to be hard work. Patience and tenacity paid off after several hours with a female Moorland Hawker perched for a change.

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

My season concluded at Cadnam Common, with the majestic Southern Hawker providing the swan song.

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

Looking back through the year has been insightful. Spring is a glorious time. Full of new life, anticipation and expectations. Summer is colourful and bountiful. Hawker season is both exhilarating and melancholic, knowing that September will pass in an instant.

This year has seen unprecedented late flights, even through to December, an indicator that our weather isn’t acting as it should. The change that occurred in mid-July had repercussions which were evident through the remaining season.

Let’s hope next season will bring nature back on track. Until then it only remains for me to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

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

2015 Review – Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3.

July began with  a delightfully-posed Blue-tailed at Pennington.

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

Calling into Crockford on the way back I bumped into Stephen Darlington. Always a pleasure to meet friends in the field. The Golden-ringed were showing well and even the Keeled Skimmer (even keeled?) provided a pleasant opportunity.

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

The next great day came at Bramshill where I was delighted to find a patrolling Brilliant Emerald holding territory over one of the small pools.

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

July’s weather proved to be a little miscreant, and very frustrating in what was prime summer season, so I had to content myself with a few local jaunts. At least I managed to connect with those Red-veined Darters again.

Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) - male
Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) – male

To round off the month I met Jerry (Hawker) for an amble along Ober where despite the lack of action there were still some delights to be had, while August began with a bang with a trip to Essex and a brand new species for me, the quite spectacular Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker.

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

The very next day Sue & I finally met up with Aaron Cook at Bramshill for a spot of filming on what turned out to be an ideal sunny day. Highlights included finding a colony of Small Red-eyed and some magnificent shows by the Emperor.

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

Even a Common Darter provided a pleasing opportunity.

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

A few days later I completed the Hampshire species list with a Moorland Hawker at Ramsdown, so provided the weather allowed I could indulge for the rest of the season. Prime hawker season is always a favourite time to spend hours at one site, and Town Common provided a fabulous Black Darter opportunity.

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae)  - pair in cop
Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) – pair in cop

One of my fondest memories from August was watching a female Moorland Hawker spend a long while flying high above a pond waiting for the coast to clear. Fully aware from previous encounters of how shy the female is, I remained still allowing her to accept my presence and provide a marvelous opportunity as she laid her burden in front of me.

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

A return visit to Bentley Wood provided some excellent damselfly opportunities, including the photogenic Common Emerald.

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

The day also provided plenty of time to reacquaint with the playful Southern Hawker.

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

A few days later I finally managed to catch up with the male Moorland Hawker at Ramsdown.

Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male in-flight
Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – male in-flight

At the start of the month I was asked which was my favourite dragonfly. At the time I chose the Southern Hawker because they have provided many hours of enjoyment, but I have to admit a great affection for the Moorland; probably because of the hours spent in pursuit over the years.

It just goes to show how difficult it is to choose favourites.


2015 Review – Reasons To Be Cheerful; Part 2.

In the first installment I mentioned Troublefield. When the Spring wild flowers are in bloom the water meadow shimmers with invertebrate delight. Both Banded and Beautiful Demoiselles decorate the foliage and Scarce Chasers explode with fresh citrus delight.

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

Bramshill Common has also become a real favourite of mine, and this season I spent as much time there as possible. Plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, and plenty of surprises to be had.

Azure Damselflies (Coenagrion puella) - two males and a female
Azure Damselflies (Coenagrion puella) – two males and a female

Another delight this season was the discovery of a new pond at Bentley Wood, which took a little finding, but it was worth it. Emperor dominated supported by good populations of Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chaser, Downy Emerald and a selection of damsels.

With such a large population of Emperor this had to be the place to finally bag a shot of a mating pair, and on my second visit I had the choice of three.

Emperor (Anax imperator)  - Pair in cop
Emperor (Anax imperator) – Pair in cop

A private site in the New Forest was ripe for exploration, being the most likely place to find an influx of Red-veined Darter. Sure enough, on Saturday 13th June I had an all-too-fleeting glimpse of a male. Unable to relocate this prize, I continued my transect to be greeted with a small, but thriving, population of Scarce Blue-tailed.

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

Mid June is the ideal time for the heathland summer specialists, the Black Darter, Common Emerald and Small Red. Town Common near Christchurch, again a real favourite, is my go-to place for this trio of summer delights.

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

Buoyed on by adding these three to my season’s list, I thought I’d try to bag a few more along Ober Water, and I didn’t have to wait long for the first Southern Damselflies and White-legged, followed shortly after by the Keeled Skimmer. Now that’s a good day!

Having found Scarce Blue-tailed elsewhere I had to give Latchmore a look in. Disappointingly not the swarms I was expecting based on previous years, but some tenacious searching we came across a few males and a most welcome mating pair.

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) - pair in cop
Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) – pair in cop

I returned the following week in search of the holy grail – the aurantiaca-phase female

Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) - immature female aurantiaca phase
Scarce Blue-tailed (Ischnura pumilio) – immature female aurantiaca phase

Late June is one of the best times to take a river stroll, and Ober Water always provides the peace and tranquility to indulge, and the Golden-ringed always gives good sport.

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

We rounded off a productive month with a return visit to Westbere Lakes in east Kent for a chance to re-engage with those magnificent Green-eyed Hawkers.

Green-eyed Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male
Green-eyed Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) – male

A perfect end to a fabulous month.


2015 Review – Reasons To Be Cheerful; Part 1.

I thought I’d do a review of the season this year; if only as an exercise in meditation. There’s something very therapeutic about writing a blog, having made a conscious decision to cut down the forums as I found the task of reviewing photos and keeping the blog up to date more than enough time to spend glued to a screen.

We had a good Spring which took a while to get going, but nevertheless always enjoyable and productive. As usual, the first out of the bag was a Large Red found emerging at our local nature reserve on April 10th.

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

Eleven days later some welcome variety arrived some Blue-tailed and a couple of Hairy at Titchfield. My first Broad-bodied sightings were at Cadnam Common on the 27th April – too flighty for any record shots, and in early May I found a couple of spent Club-tail exuvia and my first Banded Demoiselles of the season along the Thames path. A few miles south at Bramshill I bagged my first Four-spotted Chaser, Azure and Red-eyed.

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

Just a few miles from home is a beautiful secluded valley bordered on one side by a steep wooded hillside with a prime water meadow on the other. I usually bag my first Beautiful Demoiselles here and on May 7th it didn’t disappoint.

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

My first Downy was also found locally, a female high in the trees at the often-surprising Swanwick Lakes, and the first unforgettable day of the year was had at the always marvelous Somerset Levels, providing the locally-absent Variable and the first Scarce Chaser of the season.

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

The Levels are still the best place to connect with magnificent Hairy hawker. There were plenty of opportunities this day.

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

I had to wait until the 22nd May before I managed a shot of a Downy. No easy task, as Higher Hyde Heath didn’t produce the goods like last year. At least Studland could be relied upon.

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

I must give mention to Troublefield, always a delight in Spring before the cattle are introduced. I can – and often do – spend hours in less than an acre filling my boots (sometimes literally!)

My second best day of the year came with a visit to the Thames with Marc Heath and Adrian Dowling. Anxious to bag their first ever Club-tail, we searched the bank where I previously found the exuvia. Despite a little trepidation any initial worry was soon overcome with our first emergent high in a tree, but much better was to come.

Common Club-tail (Gomphus vulgatissimus) - teneral female
Common Club-tail (Gomphus vulgatissimus) – teneral female

A pleasing end to May. June will follow shortly…

Swan Song

Wednesday 30th September

It didn’t take long to understand why I chose the closing of September as my cut-off point, regardless of the excellent weather we’ve (finally) experienced. A natural high, if you will. It would certainly be sinful to deny the sunshine, so as a traditional farewell I said goodbye to the season with a visit to the pond at Cadnam Common – the pond that started it all.

There were no long periods of annoying cloud, only a prolonged belt of sunshine disturbed by a brisk easterly breeze. Conditions similar to Priddy on Monday, and perfect, you would think?

There were (few) Common Darters, either bachelor or in tandem, a few tattered Common Emerald, a Common Blue and two male Southern Hawkers. No Migrant, but this isn’t realty the pond for them. Sure, we’ve had passers-by, but I hoped for A.juncea ;-).

The presence of one, let alone two, male Southern holding territory and occasionally fighting is as much as you could wish for on the last day of the ninth month.

The first was Bob – a fellow I met a few weeks ago. That incredibly erratic individual who didn’t know a course if he saw one…totally at odds with the usual holders of this territory.

Southern Hawker - male in-flight
Southern Hawker – male in-flight

He was a rare challenge though.

Southern Hawker - male in-flight
Southern Hawker – male in-flight

His mate/adversary, who I will call Derek just to annoy those who hate anthropomorphism, was holding territory along the eastern bank – always a problem as it faces the sun.

This year there’s been an upsurge in in-flight dragonfly photography with some stunning examples out there, which pleases me, and everyone has their own techniques. I took my first in-flighter 7 years ago, and at the time I thought it was the bees knees. Looking back on it now it’s terrible, so I’ve continued to practice every chance I get.

Back then I wanted a photo, and if he wasn’t going to perch then there was only one option. Little did I know that it would lead to my favourite use of time.

Yet to me it’s not a waste of time. It’s the sheer enjoyment of how I spend that time. All the while I’m panning I’m seeing the behaviour patterns, the course, however erratic, the soaring off into territory disputes, the battles, the scars. It’s how I enjoy observing them, and each new experience remains in my memory.

This year I’ve attempted  a new challenge; getting in-flighters against the sun, because, like the first time, there isn’t another option.

Derek was the perfect subject.

Southern Hawker - male in-flight
Southern Hawker – male in-flight

Not fully happy with it. Derek could have been sharper, but I like the sun-speckles over the water. A fitting end to a slightly disappointing season which I’ve made the best of, and all said and done, I’ve had a blast 🙂

A great many thanks to those who read & follow, either here or on social media, and a great many thanks to old and new friends encountered this season.

I will continue to post with the odd update regarding website changes, of which there are many planned, and any further out-of-my-season jaunts.

I can’t believe it’s not summer….

A Common Dilemma

Monday 28th September

We had a good day Sunday at Bentley Wood, so I needed a fix. A fix of the Moorland kind. Now the pond at Cadnam Common may have come up with the goods, as I’ve seen them there briefly recently, and of course Ramsdown. However both can be unpredictable and it’s often a gamble. I needed to hedge my bets.

Forecast good? Priddy it was then.

Imagine then my dismay as despite a glorious day and a little breeze, the main pool around the entrance only had one Southern, one Migrant and an occasional Moorland – and these didn’t stay around for long.

Over in the far corner there was a female Moorland ovipositing, a couple of Black Darters, some Common Emerald and a few Common Blue. Naturally it was the Common Darters who dominated proceedings, but even these were scattered and few. I didn’t receive any opportunities until after 3.00pm when my quarry flew back & forth against the sun.

Moorland (Common) Hawker - male in-flight
Moorland (Common) Hawker – male in-flight

Not the best I could do, and I thought that’s it; the only shot of the day! Thankfully my next encounter was to give me my best opportunity on this quiet day.

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

This is the first female of this species I’ve managed perched (so far) and therefore was a most welcome chance to get up close and witness one who wasn’t ovipositing or checking out a pond from 20 feet above.

Result then…and I was finally happy. On my way back through I checked the thicket for any perched hawkers. None to be found, but my next rush arrived with a male flying in, circling me for a while, hovering inches in front of my nether regions (!) before finally settling on my right thigh. Too damn close for a photo, but the experience was enough.

A perfect end to an otherwise frustrating day.


PS:- There has been a recent gripe by a fellow on social media who takes offence to my referring to Aeshna juncea as the Moorland Hawker. ‘Not as it appears in his book’ was the general gist. Those who know me know I prefer to use the Dijkstra name as it’s more descriptive of the species, as is the other suggested ‘common’ name, Sedge Hawker.

There are several other people who share my view. Those who don’t usually ignore my quirks and move on. Unfortunately some use social media as a venting medium for their own inadequacies and are best ignored.