No real change in the terrible weather locally, but at least I managed to spot a Large Red at Pennington for the first time this season during a (very) brief spell of calm on Thursday.
The Bank Holiday weekend looked typically dire down here, but we had made plans to visit the Somerset Levels over two days. Saturday was cool & dull but productive with 4 species added to my list this season.
Doug, Sue & I started at Shapwick Heath where we managed our first Variables, some Azure and a few Large Reds. The banks, usually so productive, were hampered by a cold wind blowing across the river.
However we did find a perched female Red-eyed Damselfly
On to Westhay to meet up with Jerry & Mike where things looked more promising, with good numbers of Variable, Azure and Large Red. While Doug was busy shooting video, the rest of us took a walk to the far gate in hope of seeing some more Red-eyed and maybe some Blue-tailed.
Shortly after this find came a call from Doug, who had found a female Hairy – right at the other end! Walking as fast as possible without running, I arrived to find she was still in place, reluctant to fly in these cool conditions.
We had our fill as Doug spotted another a few metres away – this one with her wings still closed.
After photographing here from every angle we marvelled as she snapped her wings open, warmed herself up and took her first tentative flight, hovering briefly before settling back down again in the grass. An absolute joy to behold and for me the highlight of the weekend.
A better of perch provided the best shot of the day
Sunday’s weather looked more promising, with blue skies and even sunshine brightening our spirits as we reached the A303. Everything south of this line was under cloud. We arrived at midday and were barely out of the car when we spotted two Hairys flying overhead.
Shortly after I spotted our first chance as I followed a female to her perch.
A male flew by and landed just a few metres away.
We took a walk to the small clearing near the bird hide, spotting one Hairy and encountering a female Red-eyed who seemed to delight in making things as difficult as possible for us.
Back at the river bank we scoured either side of the path, but found the most action just inside the gate around the brambles. Having missed two opportunites with lively female Blue-tailed, Doug decided to get some video of a female Large Red.
I don’t know why I decided to delve further into the brambles, but I was glad I did so – as perched there on a leaf was our second male Hairy of the weekend.
Being possibly his only chance to get some Hairy footage this season, Doug was delighted. Anything else would be a bonus. We made our way to Westhay and busied ourselves with damsels either side of the path and around the bird hide.
I trundled off in search of Jerry & Mike and just as I caught sight of them a text came in saying they’d spotted a Four-spotted Chaser, but it had flew off before we reached them. While pausing to see where Doug was, a male Hairy landed right in front of me. Just enough time to grab a couple of shots before he flew off as I was phoning Doug.
Catching up with the boys we barely had time to greet each other before Jerry spotted yet another fresh female still with wings closed. Anxious and spurred on by the FSC sighting, I wandered off down the path in search of more, but decided to return to find she’d snapped her wings open and was warming up.
For the second time this weekend Jerry & I witnessed another virgin flight. Could it get any better? The answer came as we reached the far gate. Down in the grass was a nice,fresh Four-spotted Chaser.
We called Doug & Mike who sprinted down as fast as they could to get their fill. Species number 5 this weekend, and our 7th overall this season.
After pottering around among the grass near the gate, we returned to the halfway point to find Doug some more male Hairys. This time it was his turn to find the prize, and such was the perch that in order to get a decent angle for a shot without scaring him off we both resulted to crawling.
Last spot of the day was Jerry’s (he was on a roll), who saw a female land low down in what can only be described as difficult. She was also extremely well camouflaged and every time we took our eyes off, we had to search again even though she hadn’t moved!
Realising the time, the Bristol boys called it a day while us Southerners had one last go around. But by now the sun was hidden and the temperature had dropped so we counted our many blessings and we too reluctantly left this fabulous place.
There is no better place for sheer numbers IMO. Nowhere in the New Forest do we encounter such a fine display of damsels, where on a good day a walk past a hedge or through the grass can fill the sky with blue.
There is no better place that we know of where you can choose your subject based on composition. The abundance of reeds, sedges and grasses offer endless clutter-free perches with good isolation.
And for the magnificent Hairy Dragonfly, nowhere down here provides such numbers and therefore good chances for finding a perched individual without having to walk far or circle a body of water.
A fantastic weekend providing our two best dragonfly days so far this season.