Thursday, 14 July 2011


Over the last two summers I've become more and more interested in dragonflies and damselflies, but I needed to broaden my horizons and see some different species to those which have been entertaining me locally. I'd heard a lot about Thursley Common and decided that a visit would almost certainly fit the bill. Luckily Marianne from The Wild Side blog was also keen on revisiting and she accompanied me on the trip. Marianne is a mine of information on all things wild and I made the most of this by bombarding her with questions all through the day. Thanks for your company and help Marianne.
The top picture is of a male Keeled Skimmer, a new species to me. They are plentiful at Thursley and this was one of the first dragons we saw as we reached the boardwalk that acts as a raised pathway through the boggy area, thus guaranteeing dry feet. On second thoughts though it wasn't the first dragonfly we saw, I think that dubious honour goes to the unidentified specimen which was plucked from the air over one of the ponds by a Hobby. We watched as it ate lunch in flight and through my binoculars I watched as a solitary dragonfly wing fluttered down below the Hobby like a discarded sweet wrapper. Fast food for a very fast falcon.

Another new species to me was the Black Darter and what little beauties they are. They like to perch in the vegetation alongside the dark acid pools as in the picture below. But frequently we saw them perched on the boardwalk, above, absorbing the heat from the sun warmed wood.

Also benefitting from the same warm surface were the dozens of Common Lizards like the one below. They were surprisingly tolerant of our presence and clearly preferred to stay put while we passed by rather than leave their sunbed. A surprising amount of very young specimens, just a couple of inches long were also noticed. I understood that their young were born in August, maybe this is in line with the early emergence of a lot of wildlife this year, or maybe i'm just plain wrong.

Some damselflies next, first an Emerald, one of several seen, but I really struggled to get my camera to focus properly on such a small slim target. A shame really because these really are stunners and maybe my favourite damsel and I would have liked to have done it justice in the picture, hey ho, better luck next time.

Next was another first for me in the shape of a Small Red damselfly and below that a Large Red.

In common with a lot of places at the moment the bird activity was pretty limited. A small flock of Linnets hidden in the tree tops had us puzzled and hopeful of something more exciting for a while and a couple of Stonechats and a Reed Bunting put in appearances along with a short visit from a Kestrel. But today was unquestionably about the dragons and damsels.

We were watching an Emperor dragonfly hunting and defending it's territory when my mobile rang. It was a friend of mine so I answered it and while I was talking to him the Emperor struck. A pair of Common Blues I think, in the round, became lunch and the Emperor perched to enjoy every succulent, juicy mouthful. I managed to point the camera with one hand while talking on the mobile and fire off a couple of shots, the best of which is below, left click to see a bit more gruesome detail.

There was a small twig sticking out of the water and it was the preferred lookout point for the Four Spotted Chaser below. Luckily it took off and returned a couple of times giving the opportunity to get a couple of different angles. One of my favourite dragons I think, but I do change my mind quite often.

As we returned back along the boardwalk the temptation to try yet again to get an in flight shot of an Emperor proved too strong. The picture above was the result, pity it was flying away but you can't have everything.

Emperors are pretty ovipositing friendly I think. Not for them the non stop, in flight, dip, dip, dip into the water making it difficult to capture the moment. They like to do it sort of standing up, they take their time about it, they give you a chance. That's why Emperors are one of my favourites, see what I mean about changing my mind?

Now for something completely different. The other target for the day was the Silver Studded Blue butterfly. Up until the last half hour, only one blue had been seen, a Holly Blue spotted by Marianne early on. But a search along a track bordered by low Heather finally produced a female and then a quick glimpse of a male Silver Studded, yet another first for me and a great way to end a great day. I should just mention though that these are the edited highlights, lots more species of dragons and damsels and butterflies and all manner of other species all contributed themselves to the day.


Mike Attwood said...

Hi Phil, (see The Wild Side for my comments).

Marianne said...

I'm so impressed you managed a steady shot of the damselfly-munching Emperor while you were on the phone! Thanks again for a great day :)

Frank said...

Hi Phil. A super selection from Thursley ... one of my favourite local haunts for dragons and damsels plus the bird life, of course.

Anonymous said...

A good selection there, Phil. Black Darter is one species i`d love to see.

Alan Pavey said...

Sounds like a fantastic day Phil, it's always great to get a new species of anything, to have so many in a day is awesome, I'm with Dean, Black Darter is definitely high on my list of 'would like to sees' Nice pics too

Bob Bushell said...

Brilliant series of photos, and I as well have a deep desire to see the Silver Studded Blue butterfly. Good spotting Phil.

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Glad Thursley was kind to you .
Great species list and photos .
Great place , and to think at one time White-faced Darter was there too .
Must get back for another visit .

Warren Baker said...

You got the best out of that day phil. I know how it feels when you cant fit everything into a single blog post, sometimes you could write a small book! :-)

Ken. said...

Hi Phil.
Well done on seeing so many new species for you, and your lists. Lovely photo's. Thats one place I have always wanted to visit, and see the wildlife there, but I will, one of these days.