Sunday 6 June 2010

A day at the Beech

With the dragonfly season now properly underway, a bit of "Buckinghamshire Atlas" quality time was well and truly overdue.

Saturday saw our lass and I trudging around Stony Stratford Nature Reserve and the River Great Ouse. As well as adding Hairy Dragonfly and White-legged Damselfly to the 10km square list, we also noted breeding behaviour for Four-spotted Chaser, Banded Demoiselle, plus Azure, Red-eyed and Blue-tailed Damselflies.

Female Hairy roosting in nettles by the river

After all that North Bucks excitement, Sunday brought a journey to the south of the county, as the Admiral ferried us to Burnham Beeches for more Atlas work.

The morning was dull and overcast and produced brief views of a Downy Emerald and a single Azure Damsel. Things were so bad that I started taking photos of the Mandarin Ducks...

Mr Mandarin
Mrs Mandariness

After lunch, we wandered off to look at some of the centuries-old pollarded Beeches for which the area is famed. Though to be fair, we were more fascinated by the Wood Ants. Having gone a little off piste to examine a rotting log that was being slowly consumed by the invertebrates of the forest, we noticed that a number of the ants were now very interested in us. Returning to the path in haste, we proceeded to mime the opening number of River Dance, as we attempted to rid our boots and trouser bottoms of formicating ants. (Sorry, it's a recurring joke that I'm physically incapable of ignoring).

All this jumping about seemed to have an effect on the weather, the clouds being shaken from their moorings and allowing sunshine to pour through. Returning to the ponds that were so bereft of Odonata in the morning, we were able to log more Downy Emeralds, plus Emperor and Hairy Dragonflies, Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers. All this action took place above a shimmering carpet of damselflies, intent on summer love and not being eaten by wildfowl. Sadly, the Downy Emeralds were not keen on having their photos taken and presumed to roost out of sight, up in the trees.

Honest... this is a Downy

After a pot of tea and cakes (oh, come on, this is hungry work, y'know), we ventured back to a wet flush that we hadn't inspected since the morning. Now the area was a veritable sun trap and as we scoured along it, the Admiral spotted some movement that turned out to be a recently-emerged Keeled Skimmer.

Teneral female Keeled Skimmer

Whilst I'd previously seen these small dragons in Dorset and the Lake District, I had not seen them in Buckinghamshire, as there are very few suitable habitats for Keeled in our neck of the woods. 

As a finale, a couple of Black-tailed Skimmers roosted along a boardwalk, soaking up the last of the day's heat, and taking our weekend tally to 14 species. Good times.

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