When I came across images online recently of teneral Scarce Chaser, I just had to experience these vivid vermillion-coloured dragonflies for myself. So after seeing today’s Hudsonian Whimbrel I travelled another 63 miles to the site just outside of Bournemouth where the pictures had been taken.
The Dorset Wildlife Trust’s intriguingly named Troublefield Nature Reserve is not easy to find. Access is from Matchams Lane just north of the village of Hurn, left along a track with house number 124 at the top of it (SZ127924). At the end is a parking area and a path to the right of that house leads to the site entrance.
The information board (pictured above) says 32 of the 44 dragonfly and damselfly species found in Great Britain occur here. If that is so I suspect some of them are difficult to locate without a certain amount of habitat trampling. But this is by any stretch of the imagination a hidden gem of a wildlife site. To call it unspoilt is likewise an understatement though being adjacent to Bournemouth International Airport there is inevitably disturbance. This SSSI comprises 15 acres of rich riverine habitat in meadows on the floodplain of the Moors River, a tributary of the Stour. The sheer abundance of water loving wild plants here is a joy to behold.
Upon entering the reserve I at once began to see Banded Demoiselle that was by far the most numerous odo here. But there were also good numbers of Beautiful Demoiselle in various colour variations, Large Red Damselfly and Azure Damselfy, and a few Red-eyed Damselfly. The scarcer White-legged Damselfly is also said to occur here though that species continued to elude me.
To the right of the entrance a trodden way led off piste into fertile damp meadows that are grazed by cattle. Though usually reticent about venturing into such areas, I didn’t feel too uncomfortable here about keeping to areas already trampled by those animals. Here I put up a first teneral Scarce Chaser that mooched about a bit before flying to a safe distance.
To the left of the entrance lies a more open area of meadows with the river on one side and a small stream on the other. The late afternoon sun illuminated a bank of vegetation on the stream’s far side that was teeming with damselflies. And in there (below) was the site’s top prize: a perched vermillion Scarce Chaser, though unfortunately there are no prizes for the photo. On my gaining this record shot the insect moved into cover and though I walked up and down for some time afterwards I could neither relocate the subject or improve on the result.
It’s an in-between sort of time for insects at present, with June butterflies slow to emerge and not great numbers of dragonflies on the wing. Expert opinion seems to be that cold nights during May have set things back this year. But here’s a few season’s firsts that I have captured locally in the Bernwood Forest area of Oxon and Bucks in the last five days.