As summer wanes and autumn thinks about waxing, since we were unable to return to our beloved France for September, we took ourselves down to renew our acquaintance with the New Forest. Billy was very excited to be trying something new; we had booked him in to the Forestry Commission’s campsite at Setthorns Inclosure.
The New Forest was declared after 1066 by William the Conqueror so it’s probably getting a little long in the tooth nearly 1000 years on. Still, New Forest it is and New Forest it shall remain. Much of it is more like heath land than what most of us think of as forest; there are no trees in some areas. The term “forest” actually referred to a hunting ground, though, originally. There are various smaller subdivisions of the forest, I suspect fenced off (though that’s a guess), all going by the name “inclosure”.
The New Forest is a well known stronghold of Odonata and, since the season is drawing to a close, I was keen to see what I could. Carol found a very helpful man, Doug Overton, who has a website called New Forest Dragonflies and who, when prompted, recommended a couple of locations for us to go hunting. What a nice man!
We were there for 10 days and, though the weather could have been kinder, our trip was what I would call v. successful. We saw three new (to us) species of Odonata, though one, the Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) did not cooperate with the camera and settle. A Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) was much more helpful as was a Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens). Actually, we’ve seen Beautiful Demoiselles in France but not in England before and they are a different subspecies.
Though not a new species to us, we did see something else new in the form of a female Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea). Our first view was of one female ovipositing in a small pond near some New Forest ponies we were watching. Naturally I had the wrong lens with me but managed to snag a couple of half-way decent shots, despite her being in a rather inaccessible location. A day or so later we saw another fly into some tall grass and come to rest, hanging motionless. That’s a very rare state for a hawker to be in. It took us a while to see her but eventually we did and …here she is.
Whilst hunting the Odonata, we also bagged a new butterfly in this terrible year for Lepidoptera. (Not only were there hardly any butterflies around this year but there were hardly any moths, either. Our open windows with lights on have attracted very little.) However, I saw a blue and snapped it. Though the picture isn’t very good, when I looked closer back at Billy, I knew I had never seen one before. It is a Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus).
The New Forest was delightful; we will have to return next season for some more wildlife excitement.