I have always found Brilliant Emerald to be one of the most difficult dragonflies to observe. Why so? Because they fly fast and low around pond edges, seldom settle and keep beneath overhanging vegetation as much as possible. In 2013 at Esher Common, Surrey I watched one doing just that over and over again, always approaching from away to my left and vanishing to the right. I also saw them at Thursley Common’s Moat Pond that year but not since until now.
This national rarity is locally common within a limited area of south-eastern England, south of the Thames and London where it favours acidic soils and coniferous woods. This week I read up on a well-known site at Warren Heath (SU774596), just inside north Hampshire and visited first on 22nd to get to know the species better. The exact spot wasn’t easy to locate but a call to Jason Coppock (aka Badger) who had been here before put me straight. From just opposite the Eversley Materials Recycling Facility at SU784586 a track leads down through Forestry Commission woodland to two large ponds in a valley bottom. And that is where the metallica, as BE is known from its Latin name live.
It was possible to walk all around the edges of the larger pond, and despite only intermittent bursts of sunlight two Brilliant Emerald were active at the eastern end. Cue a text to Badger thanking him for his excellent directions. I then retraced my steps along the pond’s northern edge finding two more BE, one of which was patrolling up and down close to the western bank and moving relatively slowly in the low light conditions. So I decided to retrieve my chair and lunch and stake out that spot with the camera all afternoon if necessary or until it rained. After too many chalk hillsides of late and suffering more than a bit with asthma this week I fancied a restful sit down.
Irritatingly it was the second (rainy) possibility that prevailed. Fairly soon after I returned dark shower cloud moved in from the west, ending dragon flying for the day. I encountered about five metallica in all here at this first attempt but realised that getting a suitable photograph to post on this blog could be a challenge. In the meantime I out-sourced the picture below.
I re-visited this afternoon (25th) with Ewan who had not seen Brilliant Emerald before. We spent a couple of hours watching them in the same spots as on Wednesday doing the same as the Esher Common one had done two years ago, which of course is just what metallica do. According to Brooks and Lewington, males rarely and females never take prey at water, feeding and mating both taking place in the surrounding tree cover. I did manage another blurry flight shot today (below) and having got to know this superb site could gladly spend more time here in quest of the precious perched photo.