Every Man Should Have A Hobby

The week started slowly with a morning visit to Bentley Wood where the only things of any significance happening on the ponds are the empty exuvia of Southern Hawkers and a few patrolling Azures & Large Reds.

Wednesday was much better. An early morning excursion to Dibden Bottom produced several fresh Emerald Damselflies and the odd teneral Black Darter.

Emerald Damselfly - Teneral Female
Emerald Damselfly – Teneral Female
Black Darter - Teneral
Black Darter – Teneral

The main pond is looking much healthier than I’ve seen before and there was even a patrolling Emperor.

Across the road Furzey Pond proved it’s usual disappointment and Rushbush Pond only had a couple of Four-spotted Chasers doing the rounds. The heath itself didn’t throw up anything – except the surprise of a lone Golden-ringed in a gorse thicket.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly
Golden-ringed Dragonfly

I visited Crockford Stream afterwards and besides the odd Keeled Skimmer and teneral Common Darters the only real action was provided by Southern Damselflies. For once I decided to follow the stream upstream onto the heath and noticed far more activity with plenty of Southern Damsels, Beautiful Demoiselles and a lot more Keeled Skimmers.

After picking up Sue I decided to return to Dibden Bottom for more photo opportunities, but the weather was proving very annoying with a persistent 15 mph wind bringing in a funnel of predominantly dark cloud while the margins were showing blue skies. Having filled my boots we drove to Cadnam Common where things were much brighter with a good deal of late afternoon activity.

Battling for territory were Black-tailed and Keeled Skimmers, Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers – including an ovipositing female – and a couple of Emperors.

Emperor Dragonfly - Male
Emperor Dragonfly – Male

On the Damsel front were Azure, Blue-tailed and the odd Emerald.

The forecast for Thursday morning was good, so I couldn’t pass up the chance and spent a glorious three hours at Pennington. Arriving at 9.30am meant I had to wait a little while before things kicked off, but there were the inevitable Blue-tailed on the wing, followed by Azures and Large Reds.

First to grace the pond were the Black-tailed Skimmers

Black-tailed Skimmer - Male
Black-tailed Skimmer – Male

followed shortly afterwards by the Emperors – one holding territory over the south end, one over the north and one along the back channel.

Emperor Dragonfly - Male
Emperor Dragonfly – Male

Joining my chosen subject over the south end was a lone female Emperor ovipositing which was approached by the male a few times and irritated by a couple of Black-tailed.

Emperor Dragonfly - Ovipositing Female
Emperor Dragonfly – Ovipositing Female

While I was attempting some in-flight shots of the male Emperor I heard a whoosh and saw a blur through the viewfinder as a Hobby appeared from nowhere at great speed and attempted to whisk away my quarry.

Luckily my quarry had outmaneuvered the interloper and I had a brief chance to snap a record shot as it flew off over the trees never to be seen again. This is the first time I’ve seen a Hobby at close quarters – about 10 feet away from me when it struck.


It was one of those moments which take your breath away and I took about a quarter of an hour to recover and take in what I had witnessed. One of those life moments, for sure.

At around 11.00am a couple of Golden-ringed appeared along the stream, closely pursued by the territorial Emperor. I only saw the one teneral Common Darter this morning.

Back to my quarry and after watching him parade around his territory he landed close by in the reeds and allowed me to get in close – definitely the closest I have ever managed to get to a perched Emperor.

Emperor Dragonfly - Male
Emperor Dragonfly – Male

By 11.30am the cloud had thickened and the pond went quiet, so I packed up and moved on after a quite superb and eventful morning. Hopefully this has taught me to stay put and resist the temptation to move on too quickly.