Watts Wood and Bassingham.

Article text
Broad Bodied Chaser - Libellula depressa
Out for two days in a row this week, making the most of the very brief spell of warm sunny weather. Today Roger and I were hoping for grass snake and male broad bodied chaser butterflies at Watts Wood, near Dunholme, Lincoln where we had arranged to meet up with local nature photographer Mark Johnson, and also banded demoiselle damselflies on the upper reaches of the River Witham at Bassingham. Roger picked me up early at 6.30 am and we called in at Watts Wood first. We didn’t see any signs of grass snakes or dragon flies and so decided to move on to Bassingham and return to Watts later. As soon as we scrambled down to the water’s edge on the Witham bank there were demoiselles everywhere but they were extremely flighty and very difficult to get close to and this was made even more difficult by the rank bankside vegetation. I was brought up on the banks of the River Witham and spent many boyhood hours fishing its waters but this was at Kirkstead on the lower, canalised part of the river south east of Lincoln. Here I was used to a wide slow flowing river navigated by pleasure craft. In contrast the upper reaches are narrow and fast flowing with streaming fronds of bright green weed visible in the crystal clear water. Having secured some images and at least seen a grass snake (I’m not sure who was more surprised – it or me) we headed back to Watts Wood to meet Mark. As we arrived, we received a text from him to say that he was watching broad bodied chasers on the top pond so we hurried on up. Then followed the most wonderful afternoon of wildlife watching. The pond obviously formed the territory of one male broad bodied chaser and we soon captured images of it as it perched accommodatingly on the pond side vegetation giving us excellent plain backgrounds. On several occasions during the afternoon this lone male was joined by up to three females who were busy ovipositing and indulging in aerial copulation with the male who then shadowed them as they hovered over the water surface constantly dipping in their abdomen as they deposited their eggs. Despite not seeing grass snakes this was the most amazing wildlife spectacular.