After a few weeks break I arranged to go down to Surrey?Hampshire with Colin today. The forecast of warm sunshine suggested that it would be worth visiting Thursley Common for the dragonflies.
We arrived at 0930 to find that it was a bit on the cool side with thin hazy cloud. A quick scan of the Moat pond revealed absolutely nothing apart from a moulting flock of Mallards, and a few calling tits crests and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. A few insects were active as we headed off to the south and we thought we saw one or two Black Darters along the sandy track but failed to pin them down. About the only things on the boardwalk were lizards, including many young ones. In the pines around Shrike Hill we heard a Redstart calling but the heath was pretty empty bird wise apart from a flock of Linnets and two hunting Hobbys.
The lack of activity was frustrating and we met a number of others in the same boat but around 1030 things started to improve with two Small Red damselflies, several Emeralds and the first of many Azure and Common Blue damsels. Larger species eventually came out, lots of Four Spotted Chasers, several Keeled Skimmers, an Emperor and a Southern Hawker. Probably saw Broad Bodied Chasers too, but the views were fleeting. Eventually darters were seen, Common being, well, common and a very nice male Black Darter posed very well.
Back near the car park a few butterflies were seen, mainly Gatekeepers and Graylings.
Although it was getting a bit late in the season, Purple Emperors are still being reported-a couple have been seen at Broxbourne recently and odd ones seem to be popping up in various places. Alice Holt was not far away and has had a very good reputation in the past so we went there after lunch. Straits Enclosure has been one of the best parts of the wood but we were concerned on meeting a local couple to find out that forestry work had cleared much of the favoured area and they had not seen an Emperor for some time.. Silver Washed Fritillaries were seen frequently, along with Gatekeeper Purple Hairstreak and a fresh Brimstone. A family party of Spotted Flycatchers was a big bonus.
Shortly after we got to the look out tower, I noticed a butterfly flying inside a big Sallow. Initially I suspected a White Admiral but as it emerged it was clearly a big butterfly and once settled we could see it was a female Purple Emperor. As it was spending much of the time inside the Sallows flitting from branch to branch we assumed it was egg laying.
We were going to try for more butterflies on the Surrey heaths but cloud was gradually building up, as was the traffic around the M25 so we called it a day.