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Wednesday 26 July 2023

New Forest, 2023:- Pt.1 - 7th-8th July

This year, we returned to The New Forest in Hampshire for a family vacation. Lindsay and I were joined by our daughter, Melanie, and granddaughter Georgie for the duration. We stayed at a place just outside Lyndhurst, where we have been fortunate enough to stay on three previous occasions.

A few days before our departure on 7th July,  the long-term weather forecast indicated that we were not in for a good weather week. This is how the stay unfolded - this first instalment is, I'm afraid, a rather long one!

Friday, 7th July          Ashby de la Zouch to Lyndhurst ; Cadnam Common ; Eyeworth Pond

Lindsay and I  left home at 09.50, with the satnav set to 'avoid motorways' to give us a more countrified and leisurely journey.  Our route was a familiar one to us and included a lunch stop at one of our favourite places to eat  - the White Hart in Ashton Keynes, which is near the source of the River Thames. We arrived at 13.45, and both of us had their excellent Ploughman's Lunch which consisted of two types of cheese, pork pie, a hard-boiled egg, ham, salad, coleslaw, two types of pickle, and three different warm crusty breads.

Afterwards, it is our norm to have a short walk beside the Thames, but Lindsay didn't fee up to it on this occasion, so I went alone. There are usually a few damselflies around but I  only had a fleeting glimpse of one unidentified blue damselfly.

You might be surprised at how small the Thames is at this point.
River Thames - Ashton Keynes
Our onward journey was equally slow and, due to the main road being closed because of an accident, involved a long diversion down a narrow country lane behind a vehicle with a trailer that had to stop every time we met something coming in the opposite direction.

We arrived at Japonica Cottage, our home for the next seven nights, at 17.30. Our daughter and granddaughter, who had travelled separately and taken a totally different route, arrived just five minutes after we did.

Once we were all settled in, because it was a beautiful sunny evening and possibly the last we'd get. I went out to try and find some dragonflies at Cadnam Common. Being a little unfamiliar with this place, which is quite complex in its layout, having parked my car, I decided to what3words its location so that I could find it again. If you are not familiar with what3words it's a app which can specify an exact location (to within a metre?) anywhere on the planet with a unique combination of three words, and provide directions to get to that point. You can probably imagine my amazement when the what3words for my car's position came up as 'dragonfly.confident.dwelled' !

On my way to the pond, I saw a couple of large hawker dragonflies interacting high up in a distant tree then lost them. At the pond I initially only saw a couple of Emperor dragonflies that were zooming around at high speed. I tried for about 15 minutes to get some flight shots as they were not settling, and failed. I gave up, and made a circuit of the pond, only finding a Broad-bodied Chaser.
Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) (male) - Cadnam Common
I then went back to keep an eye on the Emperors, and noted that one looked as if it wanted to settle. After half an hour, it did, but not in a very good position. 
Emperor (Anax imperator) (male) - Cadnam Common
The evening was still relatively young, and I  didn't want an evening meal, so I decided to head off to Eyeworth Pond to see what might be around. As I was walking back to my car at Cadnam Common, I noticed that the 'heather' flowers were attractive to bees.
Cross-leaved Heath (Erica tetralix) - Cadnam Common

Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) - Cadnam Common
Arriving at Eyeworth Pond, I found that, sadly, the bright low evening sun was in the totally wrong direction for the only accessible side of the pond. I did take a few photos, but nothing special was observed or photographed. 
By the dam end of the pond there were a couple of ponies grazing. Here is one of them.
New Forest Pony - Eyeworth Pond

On the opposite side of the track to the pond, there was a small water-filled gully, and a Blue-tailed Damselfly was ovipositing there. The sunlight was a bit strong and horizontal for a good shot.
Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (female, f. rufescens) Eyeworth Pond

I wandered back to the car as a family that had been having a picnic just a short way from the car park were packing their car ready to depart. One of them kindly informed me that he'd been surprised to find Sundew beside where they'd been sitting. I went to have a look but found nothing, but I did take some photos of a bright yellow flower which, I believe, is Bog Asphodel.

Bog Asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum) - by Eyeworth Pond

It was only when processing my photos, more than a week after this, that I found that I'd actually taken a shot that evening which, unbeknown to me at the time, included Sundew lurking in a corner !!! The most likely candidate (thanks to Conehead54) is Round-leaved Sundew.

Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia?)  - by Eyeworth Pond
It was then time to head back to base and have a relaxing rest of the evening with the girls.
As it was a fine evening, I spent a little time sitting in the garden with a glass of cider. This is the view of our cottage from my position.
Japonica Cottage - New Forest
We turned in rather late for Lindsay and I,  at about 23.00.

Saturday, 8th July          Keyhaven Marshes ; Crockford Stream

The day started dull, and it was soon raining. However, the forecast said that the rain would stop locally by mid morning. It also suggested that Keyhaven, on the south coast, would be relatively dry this day. Keyhaven is a place that I have visited twice before and can be an interesting place for finding birds. As the day looked as if it would be a dead loss for looking for dragonflies, this is where I  went.

I set off from base at about 10.20 after the rain had stopped, and arrived at my chosen parking place near Keyhaven at 10.50. From here I had a quite productive walk, and found myself photographing mainly birds and butterflies, with butterflies being the main subjects as I started out from the car park and headed for the sea wall.
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) (adults + young) - Keyhaven Marshes

Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) - Keyhaven Marshes

Peacock (Aglais io) - Keyhaven Marshes

On reaching the sea wall, I took the lower path that runs to the west, adjacent to the two lagoons. At Fishtail Lagoon I was, initially, confused by several ducks on the water. However, the penny dropped and I realised that, for the first time, I was seeing juvenile Shelduck, and in good numbers too.
Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) (juvenile) - Keyhaven Marshes

Black-tailed Godwit on the island of the lagoon were mainly asleep, but one that wasn't seemed to be trying to be inconspicuous.

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) - Keyhaven Marshes
I continued on the lower track, photographing a few other items as I went.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (female) - Keyhaven Marshes

Parsley Water-dropwort (Oenanthe lachenalii) - Keyhaven Marshes

Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) (female) - Keyhaven Marshes
Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) (male) - Keyhaven Marshes
On reaching Keyhaven Lagoon, I was pleased to find one of my two target species present - Avocet. It would seem that they've had some breeding success this year.

Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) - Keyhaven Marshes

Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) (immature) - Keyhaven Marshes

My other target species was Little Tern. However, I was informed by a local birdwatcher that these had transferred to Normandy Pool at the eastern end of the reserve.
Here are a couple of the supporting cast on Keyhaven Lagoon.

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Keyhaven Marshes

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - Keyhaven Marshes
I had about two hours here before heading back to my car. More butterflies were seen from the path to the car park although I failed, after fifteen minutes or so of attempts, to photograph a Marbled White. I saw many Gatekeepers and they were all male, with the dark 'sex brand' on the upper side of the forewing.
Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) (male) - Keyhaven Marshes

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) - Keyhaven Marshes

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) - Keyhaven Marshes

My plan was to have my picnic lunch at the Hatchet Moor car park and then possibly go and meet up with the girls as I'd promised them that I'd be back in time to take our granddaughter to the ice cream shop in Lyndhurst before 16.00. However, while eating my lunch there, I  got a message to say that they'd already been for an ice cream. This gave me a change of plan - I'd head a couple of km down the road and visit Crockford Stream, which is reckoned to be one of the best dragonfly spots in England.
There are five species of odonata that can almost be guaranteed here at this time of year, and are not likely to be found near my home, and these are Beautiful Demoiselle, Southern Damselfly, Small Red Damselfly, Golden-ringed Dragonfly, and Keeled Skimmer.

As I  parked my car, it started raining quite heavily. Fortunately the rain only lasted for about ten minutes, so I collected up my kit and set off for the stream. It was dull and breezy to start with, but things settled down a bit and it got sunnier and warmer. However, photography was not easy as things were blowing around in the breeze.

I had about three hours at Crockford stream and, with improving weather, it did not disappoint.

Beautiful Demoiselle is a gorgeous damselfly and, to my mind, although very different, both sexes are equally attractive. There were plenty of males around. Females, however are harder to find.

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) (female) - Crockford Stream

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) (male) - Crockford Stream
Both sexes have a habit of flicking open their wings occasionally, and I just managed to catch this with a male.
Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) (male) - Crockford Stream

I also managed some video of this behaviour.
The Southern Damselfly is very similar to other blue damselflies, but has distinguishing markings on the second segment of the abdomen. It is a rare and very localised species with two main strongholds - the New Forest and a location in Wales - and a few lesser colonies elsewhere. I only found males on this occasion.
Southern Damselfly (Coenagrion mercuriale) (male) - Crockford Stream

The Small Red Damselfly is also a little rare, and I felt lucky to find this species as it has a reputation of shunning breezy weather.
Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) (male+female in cop)- Crockford Stream

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) (male)- Crockford Stream

I did take a break at one point to have a chat with a group of four people which included Paul Ritchie. It was Paul who originally introduced me to Crockford Stream six years ago, when I hired his services as a dragonfly guide. I believe Paul still offers guided dragonfly visits in the New Forest, and I strongly recommend his services so, if you are heading that way, do take a look at
After our chat, I spent a short time away from the stream and went to seek out a butterfly target - Silver-studded Blue. This is a relatively rare butterfly in UK and has a strange relationship with ants, which is too complex to go into in this blog post. I found some, but they were mainly well worn, and difficult to photograph as they were in an open area where the breeze was quite strong.

Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus) (male) - near Crockford Stream

Back at the stream I was photographing Keeled Skimmer, which were around in good numbers. The female keeled skimmer is a beauty to behold, looking (from above) as if she is made of the purest gold. Sadly, the only female I found on this occasion was too busy with other matters to show anything but her underside!
Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) (male) - Crockford Stream

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) (male+female in cop) - Crockford Stream
The real icing on the cake was finding a Golden Ringed Dragonfly that was photographable. I'd seen one soon after I had arrived, but it flashed past and was lost. This one was perching. It did fly occasionally but came back to the same spot. I have found this species to be particularly confiding as far as close-up photography is concerned.
Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) (male) - Crockford Stream
All my target species had been seen, and it was time to head back to base. 

My timing was good as, soon after my return to base, it started to rain and continued to do so for most of the evening.
In spite of forecasts for poor weather, the week was getting off to a promising start.
Thank you for staying with it up to this point. Part 2 should be considerably shorter and will probably appear, as usual, in about week's time. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature - - - - Richard

Wednesday 19 July 2023

Anglian Adventures, Day 4 - 17th June, 2023

This blog post will cover the last day of my four-day adventure which was, primarily, to find and photograph dragonflies and other wildlife. If you missed my accounts of the previous three days you cand find them here;-      here;- and here:-

Yardley Chase, in Northamptonshire, is a fascinating place which I had the privilege of visiting way back in June, 2018. Yardley Chase covers nearly 900 acres (360 hectares) and is an SSSI. It has an interesting history, which largely centres around its use by the military who still own it today, resulting in much of it being left in pristine condition.

Originally it was mainly a Norman Hunting Chase with woodland and unimproved grassland, although much of the ancient woodland has been replanted or modified, creating a range of woodland types including plantations of oak, mixed broad-leaves such as ash, and conifers. 

Yardley Chase contains some large concrete huts on two sites. The huts are about 12 metres long, and about 6-8m wide, and were used during World War II to store bombs. They continued in use after the war as a bulk explosives depot, until the 1970s when the Ministry of Defence shut them down.

The eastern munitions site, is larger than its western neighbour, and the bomb storage buildings are mostly surrounded by water-filled moats. The storage buildings at the western site are surrounded by earth banks.  

The site is currently used as a cadet training ground for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Territorial Army, and is closed to the public. However, there are occasional group visits arranged, and my visit in 2018 was arranged by The British Dragonfly Society as the place is home to a good population of Downy Emerald dragonflies.

I had arranged my 2023 Norfolk break at the beginning  of the year, and intended to to spend the last morning locally in Norfolk before heading home in the early afternoon. Later in the year, I noticed that The British Dragonfly Society were offering a return visit to Yardley Chase on 17th June. My initial reaction was one of disappointment as I would be away in Norfolk at that time. It was a few weeks later that it dawned on me that coming home from Norfolk via Yardley Chase would not be a major diversion, only adding 35 miles (56 km) to my journey, so I applied for a place on the visit. I was disappointed to be informed that the visit was now full, but that I was in first position on the waiting list. 

The call came through just two days before my departure to Norfolk to say I'd now got a place.

 Saturday, 17th June                    Yardley Chase

After a quick early breakfast, I left the Travelodge in Acle at 07.15 and, after an uneventful journey of 125 miles (201 km), arrived at Yardley Chase at 09.55 - five minutes early. Happily, our group leader, Mark Tyrrell (who is the County Dragonfly Recorder for Northamptonshire) was already on site, as was another participant.

As the last participant arrived (I think that there were ten of us), it started raining - not exactly the best weather for dragonfly hunting, but it was a light drizzle rather than heavy rain and we were only getting a little damp, rather than soaked!

Undaunted, we made our way to the first pond, taking a route that a casual visitor would never find. 

The first find was a Four-spotted Chaser which clearly showed a forewing that had not developed on its emergence. It did not, however, seem greatly incapacitated by this.

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) (male) - Yardley Chase
In spite of the weather, there were still butterflies around as well as day-flying moths. The Brown China-mark is a moth that always seems to land in the grass and hang onto a blade upside-down!

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) - Yardley Chase
Brown China-mark (Elophila nymphaeata) - Yardley Chase

Green Oak Tortrix (Tortrix viridana) - Yardley Chase

 To my mind, this Tachnid fly looks as if it's dressed for combat.

Tachnid fly (Tachina fera) - Yardley Chase
We were seeing the occasional damselfly, but no dragonflies.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (male) - Yardley Chase

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) (male) - Yardley Chase

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male) - Yardley Chase
One of our group spotted a dragonfly perched just above water level at the edge of the pond that we were investigating. Our leader went over and found that he was able to pick it up without it resisting - it was a female Emperor. It seemed somewhat moribund, although it did 'shiver' its wings from time to time, and was also able to cling to a branch when placed there. It was, however, subsequently found to have a large hole in the underside to its thorax.

Emperor (Anax imperator) (female) - Yardley Chase
There were lots of exuviae being found round the pond. I failed to make a note of the identity of this one and my exuvia ID skills are sadly lacking.

dragonfly exuvia - Yardley Chase
As we were about to leave this pond, one of the group spotted a fine-looking beetle.

Spotted Longhorn (Rutpela maculata) - Yardley Chase
We than moved on to another area and, as we did so, the weather changed for the better. En route to the second location, I was delighted to get some shots of Wood White butterfly. This small butterfly is considered to be a declining rarity in English woodlands.

Wood White (Leptidea sinapis) (male) - Yardley Chase
The County Recorder for butterflies was with us, and drew my attention to a Meadow Brown butterfly that had an aberration on the wings on its right hand side. I'd have taken it to have been scale loss!

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) (male) - Yardley Chase
The second location we visited was more visibly at one of the old bomb storage units. The building was virtually intact and surrounded by a high mound which, in turn was surrounded by water. With the sun now shining, this proved to be a good spot for dragonflies. 

I spent a while exploring the perimeter, and photographing a few items.

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (female) - Yardley Chase
The Four-spotted Chaser, below, seems to be enjoying a large meal!

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) (male) - Yardley Chase

Orchid sp. - Yardley Chase

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (male + female) - Yardley Chase

I then had two sessions, broken by a short break to eat my picnic lunch, at a point where a Downy Emerald dragonfly was habitually visiting. Unfortunately, this was also an area where two Four-spotted Chasers held territories, and every time the Downy Emerald arrived, it was seen off instantly by the Chasers. 

Here are the Chasers:-

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) (male) - Yardley Chase
Eventually, I just managed a couple of 'record' frames of a Downy Emerald in flight - I never saw one land!

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) (male) - Yardley Chase
By now, I was getting more than a little worn out after four rather busy days. I did a quick, but relaxed, mop-up of a few more items in the area. I think that the exuviae are problably that of Emperor, but I am uncertain enough that I will not label them as such.

dragonfly exuviae - Yardley Chase
Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) (male+female in cop) - Yardley Chase

Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus) (male) - Yardley Chase

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (immature male) - Yardley Chase
The event was scheduled to finish at 16.00 but, by 14.30, I was flagging and, having about 70 miles (110 km) cross-country to travel home, decided it was time to go. I said my goodbyes and thank yous and departed.

It had been a fascinating visit, and I hope to be able to visit again next year. My thanks, again, to Mark Tyrrell for arranging and leading this visit.


I have recently returned from a week's stay with family in the New Forest where I took nearly four thousand frames, so there's work to be done. I'll try and have a blog post prepared for about a weeks time, but no promises!

In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature.

Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard