Both of these walks were quite well attended with six and ten people turning up at each, respectively. Despite the weather being overcast on both occasions the air was warm and the insects showed in sheltered spots. When the sun did briefly shine it warmed up incredibly quickly and insect activity increased.
On the first walk, as I had seen a Southern Hawker on the way to meet the group I took them first along Willow Walk, but unfortunately we did not see it although we did find Gatekeepers, Large Whites and a Speckled Wood. Along the Lower Path we came to grips with Large White, Small White and Green-veined Whites, looking at each species in a book and comparing their markings so that most people soon had no trouble identifying their Whites. There were very few Ringlets and Meadow Browns about but plenty of Gatekeepers. All along the Lower Path there were abundant Common Blue Damselflies and just one or two Blue-tailed Damselflies and, near the ‘Irish Bridge’ we found a Brown Hawker. We walked around the banks and found some Common Blue butterflies and there were dozens of Six-spot Burnet cocoons attached to the wire of the Deep Pit fence. We walked back along the north east side of the Slurry Lagoon and found some Small Skippers and one Essex Skipper and the Long-winged Coneheads were thick in the grass, which gave people a foretaste of the Cricket and Grasshopper walks. We gave the Willow Walk and Southern Hawker another try before finishing and the dragonfly was obliging, giving prolonged close views as it patrolled its patch.
The Sunday walk was slightly more successful as the sun came out more and there was more butterfly activity. On the Lower Path we were surprised to see a Weasel that was hunting along the path and coming towards us. It kept darting off the path to one side or the other and reappearing again. As the morning warmed up more butterflies emerged and a splendid Red Admiral was seen, followed by several Peacocks and Commas. This time the ‘Irish Bridge’ gave up a Migrant Hawker and three Brown Hawkers were seen as we followed the path. Several times we were distracted by the numbers and variety of the hoverflies along this walk especially when one or two exceptionally large species were seen. Near the river two Small Tortoiseshells were feeding on the Creeping Thistle flowers. As it was fairly warm we went to the Small Gravel Pit to see what activity there was and found several damselflies emerging from their larval skins and clinging to the reeds. Other Common Blue Damselflies were egg laying, some females going right under the water to lay on vegetation. A Black-tailed Skimmer landed on the beach in front of us as we watched the emerging damselfly nymphs and one or two Blue-tailed Damselflies were also seen. We walked back around the Deep Pit and there were a lot more Common Blue butterflies about than on the previous walk and we finished the walk looking at the Long-winged Coneheads again.