Given the appalling spring and early summer, this week’s rare spell of wall to wall sunshine couldn’t be wasted so I was anxious to go somewhere on a nature hunt. Cornmill Meadows near Waltham Abbey sprang to mind but, given the dire warnings of Olympic traffic on that side of the jaM25, I swiftly rejected it – I think there are boating events over that way so not a great idea.
Wicken Fen makes a pleasant outing so I checked the National Trust website for directions. Good job I did:
Tuesdays, 24 July – 28 August
Enjoy 30 minutes pond dipping with our experts on hand to help identify your catch – optional bug hunt too. Timed tickets from 10.30am – £1.75 per child plus 50p for bug hunt. Pre-booking recommended …
I’d visited Thursley Common only once before; that was last year and I was too early for anything but teneral Large Red Damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) so my Thursley species list was a little thin numbering just one. It would mean messing with a different section of the jaM25 but at least the Olympic cyclists wouldn’t be streaming up Box Hill yet. Decision made, we set off and made it past a couple of stretches of congestion but arrived with our sanity mostly intact. Just how do we manage to clog up what is now a four-lane motorway at 10:30 AM on a Friday, a day when most people with a job claim to be “working from home” in my out-dated experience. I can’t help but find sitting stationary beneath a variable speed limit gantry reading 40 mph vaguely amusing, though, as long as I don’t sit too long.
Upon arrival, my heart sank a little as I heard
- our Mazda MX5 ground on a ridiculously large sill on the entrance to the car park, and
- the sound of screaming rugrats paddling in the Moat Pond adjacent to the car park.
Mercifully, leaving Moat Pond behind in favour of the boardwalk across the common also left behind said screaming rugrats and found us in the company only of other dragonfly and bird enthusiasts. The boardwalk looked unpromisingly arid at first but we soon got to some water and began scaring up Black Darters (Sympetrum danae). This was an unexpected treat. I love Black Darters, they are so attractive and it’s only the second time I’ve seen them. A couple posed very cooperatively. Judging by appearances, I’d say a larage emergence was in progress ‘cos many with glistening wings flitted away into the heather.
Keeled Skimmers were also present in large numbers, though slightly less cooperative in their choice of perches, but a small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum), which I find notoriously difficult to photograph successfully, did pose to good effect.
In between snapping away, we shot the breeze with a few other like-minded folk on the boardwalk before hitting the return section of the circuit. Here we were blessed with another stunner as a male Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegasta boltonii) “hung up” on a low hanging twig over a small pond and completed a very successful day. These are one of my favourite creatures, too, along with the Black Darters. Must be something about Black is Beautiful, I guess.
Three hours went in the blink of an eye and my Thursley list had grown to 16, though one remains a bit of a mystery – an Emerald was tirelessly investigating the edges of Moat Pond but I wasn’t sure which Emerald (I believe there are both Downy and Brilliant present there). Great day!