Friday, 13 July 2012

Chasing the Dragon (fly)

They (the weather forecasters) promised me that Thursday was going to be a nice day with some sunshine even. I'd not been out for a local outing for a couple of weeks due to the weather so was champing at the bit to go somewhere. Incidentally, they also promised a rain-free night on Wednesday but they lied about that. I put the moth trap on but had to get out of bed at 11:30 pm in response to the sound of heavy rain on the Velux window about me to move the trap into the shed with the door open. Needless to say the moth catch that night was poor though I did manage to catch one new species for the garden, a Buff Ermine.

Buff Ermine

Thursday did actually dawn looking reasonable so I decided to head off mid morning to Otmoor to look for dragons and damsels. I was just about to set off when I got a text from Peter Law saying that the Purple Emperors were flying at Bernwood Forest so I decided to pop in there first. These beauties can usually be seen quite close to the car park and within half an hour we were watching one at point-blank range on the ground as it fed on a choice dog turd. There was even a bonus Silver-washed Fritillary which came down to rest on the path in the same area.

Purple Emperor - you couldn't ask for better views!

Silver-washed Fritillary

Next it was back to Otmoor for some dragon and damsel hunting. I'm very new to these species and it took a while before I could get my eye in and start to identify them on the wing. There were loads of monster Brown Hawkers around and countless Common and Ruddy Darters and one or two Black-tailed Skimmers. Over near the New Hide I started to spot damselflies sunning themselves on the path. I was particularly keen to find Emerald and Red-eyed Damsels with which I am less familiar. I managed to find the former whilst looking at a Darter but couldn't find any Red-eyed. There was a Four-spotted Chaser buzzing around nearby but that was the only one of this species I saw. I wandered down to the First Screen looking out for damsels on the ground but mainly it was Darters again. On the bird front there was a Hobby or two, quite a few young Reed Warblers crashing about in the reeds and someone else reported a couple of Turtle Doves with a couple of juveniles in tow so they've obviously bred successfully which is great news. The adults were seen to be mating again so they're probably going for a second brood. After a while I had to admit defeat on the Red-eyed Damsel front and I headed back home, pleased with my sightings and to have been able to get out in the sun for a few hours - I'm starting to worry that I might be getting S.A.D. in the summer!

Blue-tailed Damselfly

Brown Hawker munching on something it had just caught

Common Blue Damselfly

Emerald Damselfly

Please correct me if I'm wrong but I think that these three are all Ruddy Darters -
 I'm still getting my head around the differences but Common Darter 
has yellow stripes on its legs and also contrasting yellow patches on the side of the thorax.

For those who want to know the exact location of the Purple Emperor sighting, park at the Bernwood Forest car park which is here. Take the main track from there past the first crossroads, then past the log stacks and the hot spot (and the turd of choice) is between the end of the stacks and the second crossroads. The total distance should be no more than 200 yards from the car park. They have also been seen in the trees just before the first log stack.


Camboy said...

Wonderful Purple Emperor photos - just loved em.

Badger said...

Can we have a grid reference for the turd please.