Sunday, 25 July 2010

Dawn, deer & damselflies

A pair of roe deer were waiting for me at the edge of the glade when I arrived to check on cattle grazing our site very early this morning. The doe was half hidden in dappled shade just beyond our temporary electric fence line; her mate stood just ten metres away from me, proudly displaying his antlers.

For five minutes the young stag looked straight at me, tongue licking the air as he tried to catch my scent, moving a few steps from time to time but showing no signs of fleeing. We gazed at each other as equals in the morning quiet. I kept still, not wanting to spook him. He seemed unconcerned, even when I turned my head as a butterfly caught my eye. Eventually I walked away slowly and he remained exactly where he was. Somehow I felt deeply honoured by his willingness to let me watch him.

An hour later a large hawker dragonfly darted around my head on the edge of a woodland ride. It reminded me of this week's news that the dainty damselfly, absent from the UK for some 50 years, has just been spotted again in Kent, probably blown across the Channel on a southerly breeze. It is only about three cm long with beautiful pale blue bands along its abdomen.

The previous UK population, confined to a single pond in East Anglia, was swept away in catastrophic floods in 1953. Now it seems to be spreading northwards across Europe again, possibly as a result of climate warming. Welcome back - I hope you stay!

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