On Golden Pond

On Saturday I finally got the chance to introduce Doug to the delights and diversity of possibly the best pond in the New Forest. On a warm, sunny late morning we arrived to find activity already in full flow with Emperors, Black-tailed and Keeled Skimmers, Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chasers, Azure, Common Blue, Blue-tailed and Emerald Damsels all in flight over the pond.

These were joined by a lone Downy Emerald who even perched a couple of times in the gorse bush close to the bank, and a Beautiful Demoiselle far from it’s usual habitat.

Nearly all species were represented by both male & females with many in cop and females ovipositing.

Also present were a good population of Small Red Damsels, a delight to find as so far this year I’ve only found tenerals. Both male & female were present, most recently emerged and yet to get their full adult colouring.

Small Red Damselfly - Male
Small Red Damselfly – Male
Small Red Damselfly - Female
Small Red Damselfly – Female

I was anxious to get a photo of one of the many Emerald Damsels seen, and having missed most of the opportunities spotted Doug notified me of a pair along the edge of the island. So I took the plunge and headed over to the spot, venturing beyond wellie-length until I felt the cold, wet discomfort of saturation.

Emerald Damselfly - Female
Emerald Damselfly – Female
Emerald Damselfly - Male
Emerald Damselfly – Male

Still, you can only get so wet!

So far the weather had been better than promised with plenty of sun, but by late afternoon the cloud came in , subduing nearly all of the pond activity. Still it was a perfect time to grab a perched shot or two.

Male Emperors are usually more difficult to approach than their female counterparts but either through luck or better field-craft I’ve been able to get in close. Surprisingly this one allowed us both ample photograph opportunities and didn’t seem the least bothered.

Emperor Dragonfly - Male
Emperor Dragonfly – Male

So accommodating was this individual that I took a chance and gently placed my index finger close to his perch and hoped he’d climb aboard. A male Emperor? Surely this couldn’t be possible?

Emperor Dragonfly - Male
Emperor Dragonfly – Male

We couldn’t really top that, and as the cloud showed no sign of abating we packed away and left after a thoroughly enjoyable 5 hours with no less than 14 species seen:-

Emperor Dragonfly

Four-spotted Chaser

Broad-bodied Chaser

Keeled Skimmer

Black-tailed Skimmer

Downy Emerald

Common Darter

Black Darter

Azure Damselfly

Common Blue Damselfly

Blue-tailed Damselfly

Emerald Damselfly

Beautiful Demoiselle

Small Red Damselfly

On Sunday 3rd we joined Doug and Stewart for a tour of Linford Bottom. Soon after arrival we spotted our first Brown Hawkers and Golden-ringed among the ferns, but none were willing to pose for photographs.

Common Blue Damselfly
Common Blue Damselfly
Emperor Dragonfly - Male
Emperor Dragonfly – Male

The Emperors were more accommodating though

The stream itself was very anti-climatic with picnickers & dog walkers scaring away any hope of activity although we did spot another Golden-ringed and a Brown Hawker further upstream flying through and around the tourists

Further still on the northern bank was a large area of fern & heather where yet more hawkers were seen, obviously a prominent spot for hunting. The small pond at the furthest point proved anti-climatic with only a lone Broad-bodied Chaser patrolling, but beyond the 2nd bridge the stream revealed the most action of the day with Large & Small Red, and Emerald Damselflies and Beautiful Demoiselles.

Total species count for the day was 12.

On Monday morning I headed over to Ramsdown Forest in search of more Brown Hawkers. Unfortunately I didn’t see any, but within half-an-hour had spotted 5 Golden-ringed among the heather.

Over the pond were a few Four-spotted Chasers and a lone male Emperor while in the surrounding foliage were a few Black Darters.

Black Darter
Black Darter

Afterwards I checked out Stephen’s Castle, a small nature reserve in Verwood. After searching the surrounding heath and spotting the odd Common Darter and Golden-ringed, I located the ponds.

The first was in the rains of a quarry and contained a few Broad-bodied Chasers but on the whole appeared a little too sheltered for much else. Close by was more of a heath-land mire with a lot of activity for such a small area.

Two male and one female Emperors, several Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers, Azure, Emerald and Small Red Damselflies.

Due to unpromising weather conditions I concentrated on butterflies Tuesday and shortly after arrival at Alice Holt I had my first Purple Emperor, landed briefly and allowing a photo opportunity.

Purple Emperor Butterfly
Purple Emperor Butterfly
Purple Emperor Butterfly
Purple Emperor Butterfly

Besides the butterflies there were a few Golden-ringed, Black-tailed Skimmers, Broad-bodied Chasers, Azure and Common Blue Damselflies along the forest rides.

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

On this occasion I finally located the pond which shows on the OS map. Unfortunately nothing more than a reservoir surrounded by trees and with no real pond side access, but no doubt good for woodland species such as Downy Emeralds in season.

As I write this I’m suffering the effects of a summer cold (thanks Doug!) and any further activity this week is unlikely judging by the weather. Still, plenty of the season still to go so here’s to a glorious hawker season!