The folks in the dragonfly community are generally a friendly bunch. One of my contacts on UK Dragonflies, Paul, lives in this area and, since we’d met on a Club-tailed Dragonfly hunt along the River Thames a couple of years ago, I had contacted him before we came down to see if a reunion/beer might be on the cards. Paul runs his own Hampshire Dragonflies website.
After almost a week of grey skies, low temperatures and rain, today was forecast to be sunny. Quite startling, really, considering that it’s a Bank Holiday weekend when British weather is traditionally at its worst. Sunny it may be but it was still only supposed to reach about 12°C/64°F. Paul was hopeful, though, and offered to show us one of his local patches, one where he’d recently notched up five species. Since home turf (when we left, anyway) had still not recorded anything but good ol’ Large Red Damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula), I was most definitely interested. We arranged to meet in Waitrose car park in Lymington. [A true mark of civilization.]
We managed to follow Paul’s car through the heavy Lymington market day traffic and arrived at his site. We’d only just clambered over the gate and we’d spotted three species: Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula), Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) and Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo). A little further on we added Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) to our list, along with a Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischura elegans).
Continuing round the pond and along beside the river, which also flows through the site, we just kept seeing more of the same species until I spotted a Hairy Hawker (Brachytron pratense) zoom past me and settle in the vegetation. I tried to get round for a photo but, as is their habit, it made off and soon disappeared across a sizeable field. Rats! Nonetheless, six species on only the 3rd May is bonkers, or it is where we live.
We weren’t finished yet, though. We arranged to meet another Odo enthusiast with his own website, New Forest Dragonflies, a chap called Doug Overton. We headed for Hatchet (Small) Pond, being a little south of the big touristy Hatchet Pond proper, to meet. Doug and Paul were after a particular prize here, a Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea). I’m lucky enough to live near a colony of these beauties at home but they’re always a thrill to see so I was quite happy tag along.
Here, we soon bumped into our 7th species of the day, Common Blue Damselflies (Enallagma cyathigerum). Then one of our party spotted the main quarry zoom across the track, only to disappear from view on the other side. Our pursuit did, though, scare up a couple of newly emerged Broad-bodied Chasers (Libellula depressa), the two making our 8th and 9th species of the day.
Towards the end of our circuit, another Downy Emerald was seen and cooperatively landed in the grass; cooperatively for Francine, that is – by the time I got there, it had flown. I was not disappointed, though, ‘cos one of us snagged it. [It’s a female, BTW.]
Nine species on May 3rd. Yikes! What a great day’s hunting.