Butterfly and Dragonfly Walk – 25th July

Seven of us met at the footbridge at 14.30 as arranged and the weather was for once on our side. A couple had come from Leicester, having seen our website and decided to give the lagoons a visit. There was a Brown Hawker flying around us as we met, and a Holly Blue flew along the bushes behind the seat at the top of the steps.

We walked from the steps towards the Wader Scrape, along the north side of the Slurry Lagoon, noting the insects as we went. The Gatekeeper was the most abundant insect that we saw, with at least 45 being seen during the course of the walk. There were also a few Meadow Browns and even seven Ringlet were seen, although they’d been flying since late June. The Meadow Brown numbers were low however and only twelve were recorded. Small Skippers were also flying and ten were seen but the Essex Skipper was more elusive, although we checked the antennae of most of them to see if we could identify one. Common Blue Damselflies lived up to their name as we walked along the path and we saw so many that we gave up counting them. Amongst them all we did manage to find two Blue-tailed damselflies. On the bank overlooking the new substation we saw our first Six-spot Burnet of the day as it performed gymnastics on a flower-head. It was holding its wings in a strange way so that the crimson under wing was showing and it really looked a very smart insect. As we watched it perform a Red Admiral flew past us.

We walked along the Causeway and sat on the bench, overlooking the Slurry Lagoon as I had seen some Black-tailed Skimmers here previously and hoped they would still be about. I spotted one sunning itself on a small patch of mud and pointed it out, whereupon it took flight and disappeared. Soon its place was taken by a superb male Emperor which patrolled the water in front of the bench very diligently. Soon the Black-tailed Skimmer was back, and then another one. As we watched a total of seven Black-tailed Skimmers appeared and then another Emperor and they all darted this way and that in skirmishes over the water, where dozens of Common Blue Damselflies were egg laying.

We continued around the Deep Pit in an anti-clockwise direction, noting more Gatekeepers and some more Six-spot Burnets. As we proceeded ,Black-tailed Skimmers took off from the path in front of us and we found a Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle, Agapanthea villosoviridescens, clinging to a Wild Carrot stem.

On the bank overlooking the river, everybody was pleased to get views of a hunting Weasel as it crossed and recrossed the path and here we found the only Banded Demoiselle of the day. There were some whites about and we managed to identify three as Large Whites and three as Green-veined Whites and there were still one or two Black-tailed Skimmers taking off in front of us. We went down to the Small Gravel Pit to see what was about but were disappointed to find no dragonflies at all. As we were about to leave a male Emperor appeared, and then posed for us on a reed beside the pool, giving us very good views.

At the Wader Scrape there was lots of dragonfly activity, and more Black-tailed Skimmers were seen, bringing the total to 17, seen on the day. There were also some young Kestrels practising manoeuvres along the shorelines but I don’t think the dragonflies had anything to worry about.

We now returned to the steps to complete the walk and managed to find an Essex Skipper. Near the bench we also found Meadow and Field Grasshoppers and some Long-winged Coneheads. These were all still growing and in the nymph stage of their life cycles. This rounded off nicely a very enjoyable afternoon.