For day 3 of 30 days wild, I visited a local nature reserve with a friend – Thursley Common.
There are a surprising number of small nature reserves dotted about (at least in this part of the world) and if you look on a map you’ll probably find there’s an RSPB or Wildlife Trusts reserve within drive-able distance.
This was meant to be within driving distance, being only 30 minutes away, but unfortunately this turned into a 1 and a half hour trip when we discovered that the A3 had been blocked, then were caught in the middle of a massive two way blockage on a narrow country lane.
But eventually we did arrive, and the reserve was amazing – one of the best I’ve been to.
It’s a combination of wetland, coniferous forest, heathland, bog and meadow. This attracts a wide variety of dragonflies and damselflies, reptiles, and heathland birds in particular.
Within minutes of arriving, we saw a pair of hobbies fighting, although unfortunately we weren’t quick enough with our cameras.
In the second photo you can clearly see the ‘red trousers’ that distinguish it as a hobby.
It also has extremely long wings, and is gives the impression of a giant swift.
Indeed, it is a very fast bird, and often catches herundines an large insects in flight.
We then came across a load of dragonflies in some of the little ponds among the heather.
This was, I believe a female Emperor Dragonfly, laying eggs in the water. She has a bright green thorax and a dull blue abdomen with a black central stripe running down it.
A female 4 spot chaser, distinguishable by the spots on the centre of the leading edge of her wings, posed nicely on the reeds.
And equally obliging, this male Keeled Skimmer (I think), with his pale blue abdomen, brown thorax and clear orange wing spots.
There was also this Large Red Damselfly…
And this pair of mating Common Blue Damselflies.
And I believe this was also a pair of common blues mating, this time getting into a very romantic heart-shaped pose.
Whilst watching these damselflies, from out of nowhere a mini tornado swept across the small lake/large pond we were standing next to, blowing photographers’ tripods into the water (thankfully without camera attached), whipping up water from the surface and into our faces, and nearly tipping me off balance into the water.
The poor dragon and damselflies that happened to be flying at that moment were plucked out of the air and hurled in any random direction, depending on what part of the swirling air they were caught in.
Following that isolated, strange weather event we headed up to try and see a cuckoo, who photographers have had success in tempting down to a stick with meal worms.
After getting lost several times, we were pointed in the right direction by several photographers, each of whom had incredible photos of the cuckoo, and claimed it had stayed eating for over 20 minutes a few metres away.
On the way we saw a Dartford Warbler, and I got the best photos I have ever taken of one (that really isn’t saying much).
It was so quick, and silhouetted against the sun.
One thing that struck me about them is their extraordinarily long tail – they are nearly long-tailed tit sized!
When we arrived, we set ourselves up, and took hundreds of photos of the stick it was known to perch on, just to make sure all of our settings were right.
We waited half an hour. Then an hour. Then an hour and a half. Occasionally the odd Redstart would appear and take a bite to eat, providing good photo opportunities.
When it was getting upwards of two hours (which is highly unusual – the cuckoo normally comes more regularly) we decided to leave, because I had revision to do.
But just as we turned the corner, we heard a ‘CUCKOO’ behind us. We tiptoed back and – sure enough – there was the cuckoo, feasting itself.
We crept up without disturbing it, and got some reasonable photos, before it flew off again a minute later.
Worth sacrificing two hours of revision for? Probably – it depends how well I end up doing in my exams!
Right, for my next few 30 days wild posts I will try to think of some more original ideas – something a little different from just a nature walk.
Watch this spot!