18th June: Dragonfly Walk - Barton Fields to Orchard Lake, Abingdon
Leader: Richard Lewington
A group of 15 members assembled at the top of Barton Lane Abingdon on the morning of the 18th June where we met our leader Richard Lewington. It was warm and humid, but with a threat of rain. The outline route was to cross Barton Field Wildlife Reserve, walk to Brunney Lagoon, cross Nyatt Fields to Orchard Lake, and then on to Thrupp Lake via H/I Ash Pit. While our particular aim was odontates, the group had its eyes peeled for all of aspects of wildlife and plants.
The walk got off to a good start with Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies spotted on the rough verge beside the parked cars. A Cuckoo was heard in the distance, and a Great-crested Grebe, Coot and Tufted Duck were on Longmeade Lake, plus a screeching Common Tern above. We then traversed the centre of Barton Fields along the line of the ponds. There were frequent stops as various insects were located: several patches of Peacock butterfly caterpillars on nettles; Red Admiral, Common Blue, Large Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell and Meadow Brown butterflies; Seven-spot and Harlequin Ladybirds and larvae; and a Common Carpet moth. A Whitethroat was seen and Chiffchaff, Cettis, Sedge and Reed Warblers heard. A large Grass Snake skin was found on the path, several active specimens were seen under one snake mat and a yearling snake in process of shedding its skin caught and shown to all. Several members were startled by the broods of Pheasant chicks that exploded ahead of us - amazing how such small birds can fly of sorts. Of our key targets an immature male Emperor Dragonfly was active as well as a couple of Red-eyed Damselflies and Banded Demoiselles by Pond 6.
Brunney Lagoon yielded a patrolling male Emperor Dragonfly, two Red-eyed Damselflies and a Speckled Wood butterfly.
The walk across Nyatt Field was a pleasant surprise with a profusion of wildflowers, notable discoveries being Pyramidal and Spotted Orchids, and the delicate purple-flowered Grass Vetchling. Insects seen were a Broad-bodied Chaser, a Cinnabar, two Yellow-shells, several Large Skippers and Meadow Browns. Reed Buntings were in the pile of brash on the edge of the field.
On the walk to Orchard Lake the group split into two. The leading group spotted a large, basking Grass Snake and a Kingfisher flashed by. While waiting for the second group a male Broad-bodied caught attention as it sat on the muddy path. While in the wooded track leading to the Lake the second group saw an immature Four-spotted Chaser plus Common Blue, Blue-tailed and Red-eyed Damselflies.
Our stop at Orchard Lake was particularly rewarding. The group spent some time looking out from the 'beach' where a male Emperor Dragonfly and Broad-bodied Chaser were seen. Four-spotted Chasers put on particularly good show with hawking, mating and egg-laying seen. Across the lake some 20m away, by using binoculars, hundreds of 'blue' damselflies could be seen among the reeds. A Red Admiral and Marbled White were also spotted.
As the time had reached 1pm, the threatened rain had started, our stop at Orchard Lake seemed a good finale, so the group decided there was no time to go to Thrupp Lake. Thanks were conveyed to our leader and we walked back down the Sustrans Track to the cars. An excellent trip all round with better weather than feared. Our local 'patches' had come up with a fine display of local wildlife and habitats and all attending benefited from the vast knowledge of our leader.
Report: Graham Bateman with David Hastings
- Common Blue Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Red-eyed Damselfly, Azure Damselfly, Banded Demoiselle, Emperor Dragonfly, Broad-bodied Chaser, Four-spotted Chaser, Black-tailed Skimmer.
- Peacock (larvae), Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Common Blue, Large Skipper, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Marbled White.
- Burnet Companion, Common Carpet, Nettle-tap, Cinnabar, Yellow-shell, Straw Dot.
- Other insects
- 7-Spot Ladybird, Harlequin Ladybird, Scorpion Fly, Roesel's Bush-cricket, Dark Bush-cricket, Swollen-thighed Beetle, Green Dock Beetle, Dock Bug.
- Cuckoo (heard), Common Tern, Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen (heard), Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Heron, Blackbird, Robin, Cetti's Warbler (heard), Whitethroat, Reed Warbler (heard), Chiffchaff (heard), Sedge Warbler (heard), Reed Bunting, Dunnock, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Wren, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Red Kite, Kestrel, Carrion Crow, Black-headed Gull, Pheasant, Wood Pigeon.
- Felicity Jenkins, Sally Ainslie, David Hastings, David Guyoncourt, Chris & Bridgett Gibbs, Adrian Thorne, Barbara Pope, Caroline Jackson, Barry & Beryl Stayte, Sylfest Muldal & Alison, Graham Bateman