Summer Solitude

Sunday 10th July

I was recently asked if I prefer to indulge in my passion solo or with others. Certainly experience has taught me I come home with more keepers if I’m allowed to focus uninterrupted and without distractions. I can concentrate on my subject and the thought that I might be missing something elsewhere doesn’t enter the equation.

However having a companion in the field opens up many more opportunities. An extra set of eyes is always useful when there is so much going on. This doesn’t have to be another photographer, just someone who shares the passion and, in my case, has much better eyesight.

When I can persuade Sue to get up at a reasonable hour on weekends we can choose a favourite spot away from the crowds where there’s usually plenty going on. While I delve deep into the undergrowth or stay transfixed on a pond, Sue can see the big picture, maybe spotting the route taken by a mating pair or finding something close to hand which is of interest.

Bentley Wood is one of our favourite spots where, providing the conditions are right, there’s always plenty going on. The walk in along the rides threw up several roosting immature Common Darters, the odd female Emperor disturbed at our passing and a selection of woodland butterflies to make the walk pass quickly.

At the pond today there was more than enough going on but this is a place where the best opportunities ‘happen’, so while Sue stayed at the pond I explored the meadows further, watching both male and female Emperor hawk above the grasses, taking smaller prey on the wing and dropping down with the larger butterflies.

The meadows, like the forest rides, were also full of Common Darters, mostly immature individuals feeding up to full strength before they braved the perils of the pond.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - immature male
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) – immature male

The meadows were also full of damsels boosting up from this healthy larder. I made a conscious effort to ignore the Emeralds as I’ve taken far to many this season. I’d usually ignore the Common Blues and Azures, unless of course they perched pleasingly.

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) - male
Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) – male

The ‘happening’ moment arrived with a Downy Emerald disturbed by my passing. While I was busy concentrating on yet another Common Darter I could see him in my peripheral vision and promptly switched direction, finding him perched nearby on the bramble.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) - male
Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) – male

It’s always a pleasure to still see Downy in July and this one was showing his age with the dull, copper tones of his once vibrant abdomen. This was the only one present today, which given the population of Emperor dominating the pond isn’t unexpected.

We did have one Brown Hawker come in for a brief look around but with the wind strength and frequent clouding over it wasn’t quite warm enough to bring the pond to its full potential. So, another Common Darter then.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - immature female
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) – immature female

The only Emperor opportunities I had today were distant flight shots or tangled angles deep in the grass, neither of which passed muster, so I finished the day with a Blue-tailed pairing which my other pair of eyes had noticed.

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