When Wednesday’s fair weather forecast from earlier in the week didn’t materialise I was actually quite relieved. Covering full butterfly and odonata seasons then presenting it all here can get to be quite intensive, especially when things are so sunshine dependent. In the event I abandoned plans to re-visit Blean Woods in Kent and decided to concentrate on county sites for the rest of the week instead.
One of these is Cothill Fen, the largest surviving expanse of alkaline fen habitat in central England. Within this area around the village of Dry Sandford, west of Oxford are three nature reserves: BBOWT’s Dry Sandford Pit and Parsonage Moor, and Cothill Fen NNR itself. There are three site specialities here that occur nowhere else in Oxfordshire: Southern Damselfy, Small Red Damselfly and Keeled Skimmer dragonfly.
I knew from Wayne’s blog that all of these were flying; it was just a matter of finding each of them since I also know exactly where to look. These sites would test my new resolution to go boldly (no split infinitives on this blog!) into odo habitat, since the observer is not likely to see much otherwise. In the event I located and photographed all three species.
While Variable Damselfly were causing a stir in the south of Oxfordshire last weekend, our correspondent in the north Gareth turned up another scarcity White-legged Damselfly on his Banbury patch. So this being one of three English damsels that I still needed for my life list, I went for a look myself today (19th). From the car park at Grimsbury Reservoir I followed paths beside the River Cherwell into ungrazed meadows between that river and the M40 motorway.
This area of the Cherwell valley is also dissected by the main Oxford to Birmingham railway line and the Oxford Canal, creating triangles of “wasteland” that are chock full of valuable wildlife habitat. During three hours around the location where Gareth had reported his sightings (SP465427) I found 7 – 8 female White-legged Damselfly (pictured below) on either side of the motorway.
It seemed strange not to see any males here, but while I was walking back toward the railway bridge over the Cherwell first one then a second male (pictured below) landed beside the path. This made things feel like a good result and suggests WLD must be present across this entire meadow area. From my field guide, most of the insects today looked immature with some variation between individuals. They may continue flying into August and I expect these damselflies will draw a few more visitors between now and then.