Dull Days & Damsels

Cooler conditions, cloud cover and even rain has curtailed most dragon activity in the past few days. The rain is desperately needed though, with many New Forest ponds already drying out. Just a few days ago we were watching several female Broad-bodied Chasers ovipositing in one spot which is now no more than mud.

Regardless of the weather I did a little scouting on Friday around Burley. Nothing at all to be seen, but worthwhile for finding a new pond to explore during sunny weather. The pond is surrounded by boggy marsh which is a challenge to navigate, but eventually I found a way through. Good emergent vegetation with nearby heather should produce some worthwhile results.

Afterwards I visited Troublefield to be greeted by a depressing sight. The resident cattle had been moved to the north meadow and had proceeded to devour and flatten the glorious vegetation. All that was left were a few pockets of cow parsley, nettles and a few isolated wild flowers.

Two days was all it took to devastate the strong population of butterflies, Beautiful Demoiselles and Scarce Chasers. There were a few Common Blue butterflies, a couple of Beautiful Demoiselles hiding very deep in what was left and frankly not much else!

At least the path between the fields still contained a few Azures

Azure Damselfly - Male
Azure Damselfly – Male

On Sunday 30th Doug and I were asked to lead a field trip for the photographic members of Dorset Wildlife Trust. Conditions were far from perfect but at least we did find four species of damsel at Delph Woods. First to be spotted were Common Blue’s among the heather, followed by Azure’s, Large Reds and Blue-tailed along the back path.

Luckily we had a back up site close by along the River Stour at Canford Magna, which offered a different environment and a chance to observe and photograph river species. Shelter from the wind and even the odd glimpse of sunshine provided excellent opportunities for Banded Demoiselles and White-legged Damsels.

White-legged Damselfly - Male
White-legged Damselfly – Male
White-legged Damselfly - Female
White-legged Damselfly – Female

A week on from my previous visit had meant that there were now both male & female White-legged with mature colouration.

White-legged Damselfly - Male
White-legged Damselfly – Male
White-legged Damselfly - Male
White-legged Damselfly – Male

The Banded were a little more shy, but at least when they did appear the cool conditions meant they for once stayed around for a photo opportunity.

Banded Demoiselle - Male
Banded Demoiselle – Male

Apart from those Doug did spot a female Scarce Chaser and we both spotted what possibly could have been a Downy Emerald along the banks, but given that it was only a glimpse we decided the official count for the day was 7 species. Not bad at all considering the conditions.

We decided to call it a day, but not before Doug & I decided to pop in to Troublefield on the way home to observe the damage and a few more Azure and an obliging teneral male Scarce Chaser.

Following the Scarce Chaser revealed some strange behaviour we hadn’t witnessed before. He was flying low, in & out of the vegetation very much like a wasp, carefully choosing a roosting spot. After pausing several times low down among the grassy tussocks, we coaxed him out onto some Cow Parsley to provide a better photo opportunity.

Scarce Chaser - Immature Male
Scarce Chaser – Immature Male

While he was perched, he ‘vibrated’ his wings several times, I’m presuming in an attempt to warm up for further flight, although I’d be grateful for any insights into this behaviour.

All in all and despite the weather a very enjoyable day spent in the company of genuine enthusiasts who were willing to learn the secrets of photographing dragonflies, and in turn taught usĀ  thing or two about photography.

Thanks to everyone who braved the weather and thanks especially to Stewart for organising the day and giving us the opportunity to give a little back.