Monthly Archives: May 2014

Dragons and Damsels

Ashdown Forest is a particularly good area for Odonata – that’s dragonflies and damselflies to you and I. A glance at the maps in the excellent ‘The Dragonflies of Sussex‘ shows a concentration of records in this area. In fact, Pippingford Park (not strictly part of the Forest but within the original Forest boundary) is one of the best sites for dragons and damsels in Sussex.

A particular speciality of the Forest is the Small red damselfly, a scarce species associated with acid pools on heathland. I’ve already started scouting around for this species in likely habitats, but I think I’m still too early; June is usually quoted as the start of their flying season.

The much commoner Large red damselfly is very much out and about now, and breeding in the same boggy pools.


After pairing up and mating, the male lowers the female – clasped behind the head by the tip of his abdomen – down to the water’s surface so she can lay her eggs. As you can see, suitable pools get quite hectic. Let’s hope there is still room for the Small red damselfly in a few weeks time.

IMG_2650_tonemappedIMG_2719_tonemappedSteve Alton

Conservation Officer

Adders, udders and Exmoors

Tom PoniesWell, it has been a while since I’ve done a blog (hopefully no one’s noticed but I have been on holiday!) and I’ve had a few days with the grazing team, in between more litter picking and other estate management related jobs. TomPonies2

I was involved with moving our 6 Exmoor ponies from the grazing enclosure at Arden’s to an enclosure at Lone Oak.

Here they are at Lone Oak, drinking from one of the pools and mingling with the Woodlarks.

Going out with the grazing team does mean that I get to a few places that I otherwise wouldn’t, including Windy Ridge. The other day we came across this striking male Adder! TomAdderThis is the first Adder I’ve seen on the Forest (still waiting for Dartford Warbler!!!) and this one is trying to climb a garden wall – he did eventually find a hole to shoot into.

The Adder was at Windy Ridge and that is where our Hebridean Lambs are. They are still getting to know the world and here are some finding out what a twig is. TomLambsThey are still reliant on milk from their mothers (hence the udders reference in the title of the blog) and after the ewes have eaten their pellets there is a period of loud bleating from all the sheep as they are reunited.

I am trying to get to know my moths a bit better and not one to pass up an opportunity, here is a Maiden’s Blush TomMaidensBlush(thanks to iSpot for identifying it for me) that landed in the wheel of one of our tractors while we were having lunch.

In another unlikely spot, here is one of the more colourful day-flying moths, a Cinnabar Moth! This one was just at the entrance to our dump on a dock stalk. I always think it’s worth reiterating if you find a black and yellow stripped caterpillar it’s probably one of these and DO NOT PICK IT UP! You will get a rash from it! This moth extracts the toxins from its food-plant, Ragwort, and uses them as a defence against predators. TomCinnabar

All good fun as we continue through 2014 (how are we halfway through May already?).

That’s all for now,

Tom Simon

Countryside Worker