He famously slew dragons and although it may have been St Georges Day yesterday, and it was yesterday when the first dragons of the year were spotted on the reserve, it is this weekend that a lot of people are celebrating the patron saint of England – and today that I saw my first “dragon” of the year on the reserve. However, don’t run to the hills just yet, it was a dragon of the diminutive kind – actually a Large-red damselfly. Always the first of the dragonflies to emerge in the spring, this year they are actually quite late, as they are regularly seen in early April and are not unknown in late March. This particular specimen was in the willow scrub between Lapwing and Goosander Hides and had clearly only very recently emerged from the water it had spent its larval stage in as it was still “vestigial”, that is to say, it’s wings were still very “milky” in colour rather than the clear wings that they will develop into over the course of a couple of days.
Sadly it had flown away before I had managed to get a picture of it, but I did manage to snap this large Grass snake I saw from Goosander Hide as it swam from one corner of the Sand martin bank to the other. I was a little surprised to see it, not so much because it was in the water (they specialise in preying upon amphibians and spend a lot of time in and around water, are excellent swimmers and are even known to be able to hold their breath for up to 30 minutes), but rather because of the time of the year and the fact that the water temperature must still be quite cold.
Elsewhere this morning, a Peregrine was flying over Ibsley Water when I opened up this morning, there was a pair of Dunlin seen from Tern Hide, the Sand martins were of course very much in evidence and as spectacular as ever, I heard my first Cuckoo of the year (one heard calling near Mockbeggar Lake, and another near Ivy Lake, so possibly there were two calling on the reserve) and both Reed and Sedge warblers could be heard singing from reed and scrub around Ibsley / Mockbeggar Lakes and Ivy Lake today.
Regretably a lovely day was finished on a bitter note as I was unable to leave work in time to set off for a couple of nights away with my family as I had planned. Having hunteded high and low for over an hour in a fruitless search for the owner of a car that remained in the car park after the 4.30pm closing time, I took the difficult decision to leave, locking the car in the car park behind me with an appologetic note tucked under the windscreen. On a number of occasions all of the staff have come very close to doing the same thing, but we have always had the flexibility to hang around and let visitors out when they eventually turn up. Unfortunately I was unable to on this occasion so I very much hope that they were able to get home without too much trouble. The gates aren't always closed at 4.30pm on the dot, but visitors should always ensure that they are in the vicinity of the car park by that time so that they are not inconvenienced in the way that the unfortunate visitor/s today were - if we know where you are we can let you know it is time to go, but as I discovered yet again today, finding someone in a 500 acre wildlife reserve is like trying to find a needle in a haystack otherwise.