Thursley Common

Any Bank Holiday Weekend for me means head anywhere but west and if possible avoid the New Forest, so in a peak of anticipation we headed to Thursley Common for the first time this season.

Arriving bang on midday Doug and I busied ourselves around the marshy section of the Moat pond where a few Four-spotted Chasers were patrolling along with a couple of Downy Emerald. We were facing the sun and so were our subjects, which meant rear end shot or nothing. I opted for nothing and searched the reeds for damsels and along the back track for any sheltering Odos.

I found a couple of fresh Keeled Skimmers and perched a Four-spotted Chaser to start the day.

Keeled Skimmer - immature male
Keeled Skimmer – immature male
Four-spotted Chaser - male
Four-spotted Chaser – male

We decided to do a circuit, heading first towards the stream and checking the heather on route. A few more Four-spots and Keeled hunkered down out of this incessant wind. The smaller pools were mostly devoid of any action, as was the stream, and the board walks were very disappointing.

At this time of year you should be tripping over FSC’s, watching anything up to a dozen Hobby take their fill while carefully trying to avoid the Common Lizards under your feet, but even these had chosen shelter.

Returning to the Moat Pond we decided to concentrate our attention on the less exposed side where there were a couple of sheltered hollows. Thankfully we had a Downy each to keep us occupied, allowing us to get some in-flight practice in.

Downy Emerald - male
Downy Emerald – male

Every now and again a Mallard with her brood would interfere, fat on handouts, a price you have to pay for a spot popular with picnickers and dog walkers. Earlier I spotted one of these ducklings picking tasty morsels from the base of some reeds, maybe some unfortunate emergents.

The boldest of these even had the cheek to wait with me for my quarry and even strike out as he briefly hovered.

Downy Emerald - male
Downy Emerald – male

If you sit and wait there’s no telling what might appear next.

Grass Snake
Grass Snake

So graceful in the water, the head popped up and shortly after I took this shot lunged upwards towards my returning Downy. I had certainly never seen a Grass Snake attempt to take a dragonfly out of the air before now, but I guess it’s feasible

Doug had to leave at 3.30pm so I busied myself in the reeds looking for damsels and found a couple of Small Red, my first of the season.

Small Red Damselfly - immature male
Small Red Damselfly – immature male

We took another (shorter) walk to check hawker alley and the pond with the pontoon, but at the risk of repeating myself we called it a day at 5.00pm satisfied we weren’t going home empty handed.

Thursley quite-rightly has a reputation of being a hot-spot for dragonflies with most of the New Forest species present and the hope of a Brilliant Emerald if you’re lucky, but maybe today was a little too early in the season.

Hopefully in a couple of weeks a return visit should see at least one patrolling the Moat. Just remember to choose a day with little or no wind!