More Dragons and Damsels at Bramshill Plantation, Hants – 8 & 10th June

A little to the north of Warren Heath, the subject of my last post, lies another location I wanted to check out for odonata Bramshill Plantation. This extensive forestry area is a SSSI that contains several large though not always very accessible ponds. With no particular insect agenda to pursue at present I have spent two warm afternoons there this week just to explore and enjoy myself with the camera.

At the north-west corner of the site a track leads south from Well House Lane (SU746632) then branches around both sides of what I believe is called the long pond. On arrival the first things I encountered upon peering over the water side vegetation were Downy Emerald, Hairy Hawker and Blue Emperor all going about their business. There are many dragonflies here, amongst which the most frequent is Four-spotted Chaser.

To me the last named is a dour bruiser of a dragonfly: aggressive, interfering and intent upon making life difficult for any more interesting species in the vicinity. Though OK to see when I first began taking an interest four seasons ago, now they just get in the way. They can be photogenic if the light catches them in a certain way against a subtle background, but today’s best subject (above left) just seemed to cry out for some work in the editing suite (right). Chernobyl variant? Well I have admitted what I’ve done.

On Wednesday damselflies provided some of the best images again, as they had at Warren Heath. There are vast numbers of them here and all intent upon propagating their kind. I was struck by the colour variations in the mating female Common Blue Damselfly (pictured below), and found the golden tones of the newly emerged females (top left) very attractive.

As I strolled around the pond’s southern side yellow dragonflies would arise from the long grass and fly up into nearby coniferous tree tops. These were teneral  Black-tailed Skimmer of which several mature males were also found basking on the stony track along the northern shore. On Friday it was noticeable how this species was competing for perching rights out on the water on that side, and being just as territorial as the four spots.

emperor.1601 bramshill common

Blue Emperor (male)

Everywhere else I looked the four-spotted bully boys were hustling, squabbling and generally dominating. On occasion patrolling male Blue Emperor (pictured above) would intervene like big bosses from upstairs intent upon restoring a little order. And at less frequent intervals iridescent Downy Emerald would glide through the proceedings, always on a zig-zag course and without stopping. No Hairy Hawker were seen on Friday.

Out on the surface vegetation Red-eyed Damselfly (pictured above) were striking up their own poses, to be disturbed from time to time by an egg laying female Emperor (below). I had brought my chair today and set it up at the best waterside locations to observe and enjoy all of this. Having the place largely to myself I mused this was perhaps the best Odonata location I have yet visited, relegating Thursley Common and Otmoor to the bottom of the pile because of the level of disturbance at those sites.

emperor.1602 fem bramshill common

Blue Emperor (female)

But by late afternoon the tranquillity here too was spoiled by a gathering of stick throwing dog walkers. Personally I find the whiff of wet dog to be especially unpleasant and always wonder what these people’s cars must smell like on their way home. But on my own sweeter scented drive back to Oxford I still felt uplifted by having spent some time in communion with the fascinating insects that damsel and dragonflies are.

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