Visit to Grantham canal Tuesday 18th June 2019

In spite of an unpromising weather forecast the morning was dry and around a dozen people assembled in the car park of Dove Cottage Tea Rooms on the canal SE of Grantham at 11.00am. The cloud was well broken and the sun peeped through for intervals, conditions which were much better than we had expected. Leaving the corner of the car park we were led straight onto the towpath by our leader Claire Install, Senior Conservation Officer of LRWT.

Dragonflies and damselflies need close inspection to give positive identification, so each of us was given a holding pot or net for any creatures caught. Next to a humpback bridge there was an area of clear water in the reedy canal. Within moments Claire whisked her large net, and caught three blue damsel flies. Amazingly they were three different species – Azure, Common Blue and Variable damselflies.

Claire spent some time to explain to us how to identify the subtle differences between species, dependant on differing markings on the thorax, and we all looked at each of the damselflies in turn. While we stood in the same spot an emperor dragonfly and a migrant hawker dragonfly flew by, closely followed by a four spot chaser – 6 species before we’d been there 10 minutes.

The group meandered along the towpath, where several newly emerged four spot chaser dragonflies were seen resting on the reeds, giving ample opportunity for photography, while Claire caught specimens for us to look at when she could.

We could hear birds singing in the bushes along the towpath, thrush, greenfinch, sedge warbler and wren, while a red kite soared over our heads.

Pond skaters whizzed about on patches of open water, and dog rose, meadow vetchling, common and bush vetch were some of the species in flower. Some azure damselflies were seen in tandem, others in the heart-shaped mating position, and then Claire managed to catch a large fast flying hawker dragonfly.

She was hugely excited to find that it was a Hairy dragonfly, a rare species found only at this site in Leics and Rutland as far as we know, and the first time Claire had caught one herself.

Much photography had to take place, the dragonfly itself, and Claire holding it!! After some time we saw a ringlet butterfly, and then another blue damselfly, this time a blue tailed damselfly.

We meandered slowly back along the towpath, enjoying the sunshine and the abundance of life. Back at Dove Cottage, a café run by volunteers in aid of a hospice, hunger overcame most of us, and we ordered lunch, which we lingered over enjoying food with lots of lively conversation.

It had been a fascinating morning and we’d learned a lot, with many thanks to Claire for sharing her knowledge and expertise with the large net. We look forward to having another similar meeting I the not too distant future!