The Emperor Returns

Sunday 21st May

The usual weekend site of preference in May is preferably somewhere peaceful to avoid the crowds, and with the sunniest aspect to the south-west Town Common looked the best choice. We’d arranged to meet Doug, eager to get out on his first excursion this season.

The excitement of finding a Downy patrolling the first pond was intoxicating and we¬† spent a short while hoping to practice some in-flights, however the Downy didn’t stay around for too long in the presence of the bullying youthful Four-spotted Chasers. The other nearby ponds offered nothing new over-water however the heath had some Scarce Chasers.

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

Shortly afterwards we had our first Emperor sightings this season; three in total, all feeding high along the treeline and occasionally perching in the heath, yet every attempt to locate them was thwarted by them having far better stealth than us.

At one point, having seen a female go down, I questioned my own observation until she rose right under my nose to provide a rather splendid display of her new-acquired aerobatics above our heads. Two more around the third ponds surroundings who again were adept at disappearing completely, so we walked a circuit to take in the furthest pond in the hope we’d see a Hairy.

We didn’t, so back to the first pond to sit down bank-side and attempt a few in-flighters to clear away the cobwebs. The Downy had returned and put in an appearance every so often before being driven off by the chasers.

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) - male
Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) – male

Having exhausted all options by 2.00pm we decided to move on to Troublefield. The meadows weren’t as busy as Thursday but still provided a wealth of Butterflies and Demoiselles who, after a day of sunshine, were mostly resting out of sight while those that remained gave good chase.

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

A couple of Scarce and a couple of Broad-bodied Chasers gave us more than enough exercise but I was determined to lock on to one of the latter, eventually having to approach from ground level and peer through a gap in the grass to grab this shot.

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)- immature male
Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)- immature male

We moved to the other meadows where Doug found his Hairy, a male patrolling the back treeline, happily resident in his food-providing chosen micro-climate until we arrived. Damsel activity was once again centered around the far end pools with a good showing of , Azure, Large Red and both Demoiselles.

Beautiful Demoiselle(Calopteryx virgo) - female
Beautiful Demoiselle(Calopteryx virgo) – female

No Emperor or Golden-ringed present here today, however it shouldn’t be long with most mid-summer species on the wing. We couldn’t relocate the Hairy either, so I finished the day with one of the rarer Large Red female variants, the melanotum form.

Large Red (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) - female melanotum form
Large Red (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) – female melanotum form