In Search of Spring

Tuesday 9th May

May is the month when there’s a bounty of new-birth, and new seasonal discoveries in the dragonfly world. Despite an early season diversity and numbers are still local, with the best showings at the places where nature still feels like it should be.

On Tuesday I called in at Troublefield. The Spring flowers have yet to compete with the nettles but once the sun came out a wealth of butterflies and hundreds of micro-moths provided some entertainment.

Dragonflies were still few & far between with a few Beautiful and my first Banded Demoiselle of the season. Fabulous to see with those ‘flashing’ wings.. Only the one, and in the meadow not usually my first choice this early in the season.

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

Shame about the leg, but as it was the only one present it would have to do. Sadly the remainder of the day fell short, with only a few stray Azures, Large Red and Four-spotted Chasers present at Town Common. Very disappointing. but these days are to be expected.

Wednesday 10th May

Making the most of the sunniest day of the year so far I drove to Shapwick Heath. As usual the first opportunities arrived just inside the gate with dozens of damsels among the brambles and nettles along the bank. Shortly afterwards I had my first Hairy opportunity.

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

Now I could relax. Next to make an appearance were my first Scarce Chasers of the season; always a pleasure to see.

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

I took a walk down the Sweet Track to the top meadow and spent a long while around the margins filling my boots with damsels. Azure, Variable, Common Blue, Blue-tailed and Red-eyed all present with Azure being the dominant.

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) immature male
Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) immature male

Being absent from S. Hampshire the Variable were what I was really after, especially after finding a rather stunning young female last year. The Levels are one of the best places in the UK to experience these relative rarities and familiarise yourself with the subtle differences.

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

I stood and watched for differences in flight and behaviour and after a while became reasonably confident to pick them out from the throng.

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

A mixture of mature and immature were occupying their time feeding up for the main event. A pair of Blue-tailed however were busy making hay while the sun shone.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) - pair in cop
Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) – pair in cop

Among the reeds I caught sight of a splendidly-fresh female Four-spotted Chaser; perfect against the green. They always look their best when fresh & new.

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

A fabulous afternoon which passed by all too quickly. Despite the four hour round trip it’s definitely worth the journey. One visit per season is never enough.