New Forest, May 2014


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We are fans of the New Forest in the south of England but, for one reason or another, we didn’t get to visit it in 2013. So, withdrawal symptoms were setting in. Hoping to get to France for June, we decided to head for the New Forest as our early spring destination. After all, the more southerly regions of the country get an earlier start to their Odonata season than other regions, so it might prove to be a good chance to see more early species than elsewhere. At least, that was my thinking. We went for two weeks and stayed at the Forestry Commission’s Setthorns campsite.

As I’m getting tired of saying when it comes to the UK, the weather was, frankly, pants, with a fair amount of wet and nearly always cool/cold. Quite unusually, though, the three days of our early May Bank Holiday weekend were the only real sunny days we had and the temperature staggered up to an almost acceptable 16°C/60°F. I arranged to meet a local fellow Odonata enthusiast, Paul Ritchie, who showed us a couple of spots that were new to us. His local knowledge proved extremely helpful and we racked up 10 species over the three day weekend. I’d consider that a very good haul for the first week of May in the UK. Here’s a bit more detail.

Pennington: 3 May 2014

J14_0599 Calopteryx virgo maleThis site is not general public access but Paul has permission to root around in it. A soon as we clambered over the gate we disturbed an Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) and a few Beautiful Demoiselles, sunning themselves on some sheltered bushes. We soon added a few more species to the list, including the season’s first Hairy Hawker (Brachytron pratense) which typically did not hang around for a photo call.

  • Calopteryx virgo (Beautiful Demoiselle)
  • Pyrrhossoma nymphula (Large Red Damselfly)
  • Coenagrion puella (Azure Damselfly)
  • Ischnura elegans (Blue-tailed Damselfly)
  • Erythromma najas (Red-eyed Damselfly)
  • Brachytron pratense (Hairy Hawker)

Hatchet Moor: 3 & 4 May, 2014

I had tried Hatchet Pond, a tourist magnet just outside Beaulieu, myself but to no avail. Hatchet Pond is quite large, only one end looking as though it is suitable Odonata habitat. However, Paul told me that there were a couple of smaller ponds just off the main pond’s southern tip and that I’d have better luck there. These smaller ponds are best accessed from the Hatchet Moor car park and are actually a site for Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea), which Paul was keen to try to find. So, after having our fill of Pennington, and of lunch, we headed to Hatchet Moor to hook up with yet another local enthusiast, Doug Overton.

_MG_3826Though I missed it whilst looking elsewhere, the gang did find a Downy Emerald. Fortunately, Carol saved our bacon and snagged a decent shot of it. 🙂 We got our first Broad-bodied Chasers (Libellula depressa) of the year, too.

  • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damselfly)
  • Ischnura elegans (Blue-tailed Damselfly)
  • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Blue Damselfly)
  • Erythromma najas (Red-eyed Damselfly)
  • Cordulia aenea (Downy Emerald)
  • Libellula depressa (Broad-bodied Chaser)

Burbush Pond: 4 May, 2014

J14_0626 Libellula quadrimaculataI think this is the official name of this pond, just south of Burley, though we have our own pet name for it – we call it Pony Poo Pond because someone, mentioning no names Carol, once threw a lump of Pony Poo into some reeds trying to dislodge a hidden female Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea). Here’s the three species we saw on this visit, the main one of interest being the Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata), our tenth species in the two days of sunshine.

  • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damselfly)
  • Libellula depressa (Broad-bodied Chaser)
  • Libellula quadrimaculata (Four-spotted Chaser)

Ramsdown Plantation: 5 May, 2014

This is a good site for Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) and is the site of my first ever encounter with this handsome little dragonfly, though not at this time of year, of course. Interested in extending my personal species list there, I was keen to return. I called Paul to see if he was interested but he was already out scrutinizing another location. He suggested it might be a little too windy on this day for Ramsdown Plantation and he was quite right. Access was was difficult, too, the pond being somewhat bigger after all the rain. Success was limited:

  • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damselfly)
  • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Blue Damselfly)
  • Libellula quadrimaculata (Four-spotted Chaser)

The single teneral Four-spotted Chaser managed to get itself tangled up in some twigs and I moved in to rescue it. It sat a while, then took to the wing, apparently none the worse for its ordeal – or my rescue. 🙂

Posted in 2014, Trip reports, UK

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