Monday, 8 July 2013

Dorset Holiday-Day 2: Hartland Stud, Stoborough Heath

So Day 2 Started, though it was actually our first full day in Dorset. My family headed off to Lulworth cove, but I got a lift with them as far as Wareham, from where I was able to catch a bus down to Stoborough Heath. This was one of the sites I had drawn up on my list, and since the weather was so hot I decided that I may as well get to all these sites before the weather changed.
  I am not really familiar with heathland, but understood it to be similar to our moors, only drier. This was essentially the case, though there were still ample bogs to look at. As soon as I got off the bus I headed down to old tramway onto a section of the heath known as Hartland Stud. From my OS map I could see a number of ponds on this heath, along the tramline, but it went through woodland initially, so I decided to take a side route which led directly onto the heath.
  It was wildlife void for the first 2 minuets before I started to see things. The first thing I saw was a female Keeled Skimmer which I am familiar with from the Isle of Wight holiday. It perched on the gorse for a few photos, but they did not really add to the photos I had taken on the isle of wight, except that this dragonfly was in the sun.

-Female Keeled Skimmer
On one side of the path was gorse where the dragonfly was, on the other was open grassland. Here many butterflies had appeared so I went to have a look. There were some pale sandy coloured butterflies that looked a little large for small heaths, so I assumed they were large heaths. Not so as I later found out, as large heaths don't live this far south. Photo analysis shows that they were large Small Heaths and in some cases Gatekeepers.
  But butterfly blunders were to be ample today. Next Amid the sea of Common and Silver Studded Blue butterflies were some very small individuals, which I naturally took to be little blues. Not so, as little blues are not actually blue, nor are they very spotty on their underside. Thus, 2 what I thought were new species were shot down on the first day.
  But as before mentioned, there were ample silver studded blues, a species I have only ever seen once before, so I was able to enjoy watching them once more, as they are a very vivid blue.

-Silver Studded Blue
A little further down the track I found what appeared to be an excess of tyre tracks, but they were flooded in. Around them were around 20 male keeled skimmers holding down territories, as well as a handful of females. I found one pair in tandem, which is the first time I have seen this species if tandem.

-Keeled Skimmers in tandem 
Among the vivid blue of the thin keeled skimmers I spotted a fat vivid blue male Broad Bodied Chaser. This is not a species I am overly familiar with because I was so limited to photos the only time I have seen them while knowing what they are. Therefore, after chasing this individual around for about 10 mins I was able to greatly add to my photo library of this species.

-Male Broad Bodied Chaser 
While I was following the Broad bodied chaser I stumbled upon countless more silver studded blues, including a pair copulating, which I took photos of to show the contrast in colour between male and female

-Silver Studded Blues
Once I had passed the tyre tracks I could see no sign of any immediate pools ahead, though I did find a very old Common Darter in a dried up ditch, therefore I decided to cut across the moor diagonally back to the tramline. It proved more successful than future cross country tracks would be, probably because the moor was so dry. The crossing of the moor was slightly pointless, as I did not really see anything. I did however, see my only bird in the this part of the moor as a Carrion Crow flew over me. Near the end of the crossing I encountered more things, as I found some more Essex Skippers, similar to the Isle of Wight and also encountered my favorite beetle: the Green Tiger Beetle. Having said that, the latter did not want to stick around for a photo and was very flighty, literally.

-Essex Skipper

-Green Tiger Beetle 
At the end of my crossing I discovered that I would have to backtrack because there was a large pool between me and the tramway that was not shown on my map. It was my first experience of a proper heathland pool, and I was impressed. There were plenty of keeled skimmers hunting this one, but these were more inclined to land, so I was able to get some more photos of the keeled skimmers I saw.

-Male Keeled Skimmer
At the waters edge I had my eyes open for damselflies, since once more I was in an area where southern, small red and scarce blue tail were supposed to be found, for the third year in a row, maybe it would be third time lucky!
  It was. Of the species listed above, small red is the only species I had seen before, which I managed to mess up by trying to free the vegetation around it before I had appreciated it. Therefore, once I had really started looking, I was well pleased to find I was surrounded by Small Red Damselflies. It was about time that I settled that score. There were plenty around and they were very photogenic, so I was able to add to my virtually none existent library of this species.

-Small Red Damselfly
I was very excited by finding small reds, but beside them, there were Azure and Common Blue Damselflies as well as Large Red and Common Emerald, It was a bumper crop of damselflies to say the least, just as it was a bumper crop of dragonflies. But how about both at the same time? On a branch in front of me I saw a male keeled skimmer resting on a pair of copulating large red damselflies.It showed not intention of eating them, it seemed content to use them as a perch, which was one of the most bizzare things I saw all day

-Keeled Skimmer resting on Large Red Damselflies
I made on attempt to get round the pool, but had to back track some of the way before I was able to get across. Then I found that I would have to crash through plenty of gorse before I would be able to access the tramline path. Before that I had a look at this side of the pool to see what was about. I found a pair of mating small red damselflies in the sedge, so I knelt down to take some record shots which show the contrast between male and female.

-Small Red Damselflies mating
I should also mention that there were a few Blue Tailed Damselflies around, and as usual I found myself checking their last segments to see if there were any scarce blue tails around. There was one among them that struck me as a possibility, but at the time I was overwhelmed surrounded by so many zygoptra so I can be excused for overlooking this one which actually was a Scarce Blue Tailed Damselfly, but I had taken a few photos so I could check when I got home, where I saw that I had been right. Its a great new species, if not sadly overlooked.

-Scarce Blue Tailed Damselfly 
I then left the pool, having found a path through the gorse. On the way up I found another Essex Skipper, which I bent down to take a photo of.

-Essex Skipper
I wandered down the tramline, the heath I had looked at on my right, an unlooked at field on my left, but this was fenced of by barbed wire, except at one point where there was a large gateway with no gate. I wandered through and explored this area, but there was not much, only a few grasshoppers and crickets. As such I headed back to the tramline.
  After about a ten minuet walk I spotted a large pool on the far side of the barbed wire fence, but access to it would require going back and coming back down. I decided this was too much work and so climbed through the fence. I was lucky, as the only injury I got was a hole in my shorts. It turned out to be well worth it, as this new pool was much deeper than the previous pool and had more aquatic vegetation.
  Here I found a few more common emerald damselflies of both sexes, so I knelt down and took some record shots for the holiday

-Common Emerald Damselfly 
There were also ample Round Leaved Sundews around, the pond, as there had been across the whole heath, but I had not taken any photos of them. Carnivorous plants have a certainly appeal, especially when they are rare, or specialised as in this case. This is only the second time I have ever seen this species of plant, so I was quite please at finding some.

-Round Leaved Sundews
This pond had a lower concentration of dragonflies than the previous site, but there were more species. The continued to be majority keeled skimmer but there were also quite a few Four Spot Chasers on this pond

-Keeled Skimmer

-Four Spot Chaser
I walked around the pond and continued to find many emerald damselflies, which shone in the sun

-Common Emerald Damselfly
Having said that, the dominant on this pond was certainly the 2 Emperor Dragonflies that were hunting it. They were big brutes, one male and one female. The female regularly came down in front of me and started ovipositing. I was able to get some more emperor photos to Add to my emperor library. However, the behavior I was able to witness while it was ovipositing was the most incredible thing I saw all day...
  While the Emperor Dragonfly was ovipositing a small azure damselfly started to come up behind it and nip the wing joints of the emperor on its back. It continued to do this, even when the emperor had flown off and come back again. It was remarkable behavior to see, though my photos don't really record it and give it justice.

-Emperor Dragonfly being attacked by Azure Damselfly
At the top corner of the pool there was a more gorse filled area and here I found more large red damselflies which I decided to take some photos off

-Large Red Damselfly 
Once I had finished at the pool I made my way back down the tramway and off the Hartland Stud section of the reserve. I crossed the road and entered the Stoborough Heath land owned by the RSPB. There were a few Keeled skimmers but there was not much water around. There were still ample Silver Studded Blue butterflies.

-Silver Studded Blues 
There were a few more birds in this section of heath, possibly as a result of it being more wooded. These birds included Blackbird and a Chiff Chaff, which seemed to be low on batteries since after ever "chiff chaff" it made a queer whirring noise which sounded like some running out of batteries.
  This section of heath passed pretty quickly as there was really not that much going on. Next I made my way to Stoborough Heath proper, where, according to my map, there was a large pool as well various wooded bits. I found a pool with little problem, and here the dominant dragonfly species was broad bodied chaser, but there were still some of the more unusual heathland species, such as small red damselfly.

-Small Red Damselfly
There was thick gorse surrounding this section of the heathland and I spotted my fist real heathland bird of the day with a Stonechat male calling from a dried out tree a way away. Nearer to hand there continued to be many butterfly species, not least silver studded blue and gatekeeper

I then worked out that the pool I had been to was not actually the pool on the map. So I set about trying to track that down. It took some doing as it was way off the beaten path and hidden behind a some trees. It also diddnt help that it was actually a flooded pit seemingly. There were cliffs around three sides, the fourth side being a dried out mud bank where the pools river flowed out. Here was where the most vegetation was. There were many dragonflies on this pond: keeled skimmer, four spot chaser and emperor, but also a new species for the day Black Tailed Skimmer. I am not familiar with this species, having only seen it twice before, once a newly emerged male, the second time it was rather flighty but an adult male, and that was the case this time as I was unable to really get good photos. I did however get some photos which added to my growing dragonfly species list.

-Black Tailed Skimmer
I walked around the pool, but it was fenced off to stop loonies jumping in from the cliffs. Around the tops the only thing I found were Common Darters, which seemed to be a scarcer dragonfly species on these heaths.
  I finally started to find some birds though, as on the walk back I found both Linnet and Stonechat, but they were not all. I was wandering up the path cooking in the heath when a reddish brown bird with a long tail jumped out from a tree, few across the path and vanished into some gorse. It was of course a Dartford Warbler but I could not relocate it, so I diddnt really count it.


The only other thing of note I saw on the heath was a Golden Ringed Dragonfly which was hunting round the gorse. I got really good views but it chose not to land, so I was not really able to get any photos.
  I then walked back to Wareham, not recommended in the heat, but it saved me bus fare. At the river in Wareham I did see some Banded Demoiselles which added to my species list for the first day
  I made my way to the station to get the train back. So ends the excitingness of the first full day in Dorset, with one new species, plenty of insects but not many birds, never mind!

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