Dragonflies and Damselflies

Sites in Milton Keynes and North Bucks

This page gives a brief description of some of the sites within North Buckinghamshire which I regularly visit to observe dragonflies. For each site I have given the OS grid reference and brief details of ownership and access.

Many of these sites are managed sympathetically for wildlife and the rules of access specifically prohibit collection of specimens. Please remember this when you visit and restrict your collecting to photographs, notes, observations and memories!

Little Linford Wood

Grid Reference: SP 834455

Access: owned and managed by BBONT, public footpaths run through the wood. Car park reached along rough farm track signposted "Dairy Farm" from the Haversham to Gayhurst road (SP 850457).

Little Linford Wood is to the North of Milton Keynes, between the villages of Little Linford and Hanslope. It is an ancient coppice with standards woodland of about 50 acres. There are several stands of mature oak and a large area of recently replanted woodland, now about 8 years old. The wood was bought by BBONT, with help from John Paul Getty, to save it from clear felling. There is little water in the wood, just two ponds. One is by the car park and at the time of writing (October 1996) is just about dry - we have had below average rainfall for many months now. The other pond is under the tree canopy and, being heavily shaded, is not particularly productive for dragonflies. Dragonflies regularly seen in the wood include Brown Hawker, Southern Hawker, Common Darter, Broad-bodied Chaser, Four-spotted Chaser, Common Blue Damselfly, Azure Damselfly and Blue-tailed Damselfly. On two memorable occasions large numbers of dragonflies were seen sunning themselves in the late afternoon on the west facing trunks of oak trees. The first occasion was during a field trip with MKNHS when dozens of Brown Hawkers were seen "like aircraft waiting on a runway". The other occasion was this month (13th October 1996) when several hundred Common Darters were seen on the same trees. I counted eighteen on one tree trunk. On this visit I also saw several Hornets flying lazily around in the afternoon sun.

Emberton Park

Grid Reference: SP 880500

Access: Owned by Milton Keynes Borough Council, open daily. Cars may be taken in for a small charge. Alternatively, you can park in the lay-by on the Emberton to Olney road and walk in. Public footpaths run through the park.

Emberton Park is a large country park of about 170 acres. Much of the area is taken up by several large lakes which are used for boating and fishing. The North and West edges of the park are bounded by the River Ouse. This is an excellent site for dragonflies throughout the season. Most of the 17 Milton Keynes breeding species have been recorded from here. The only species I haven't seen personally is the Emerald Damselfly. Both White-legged and Red-eyed Damselflies are found on the River Ouse and, in late summer, the lakes are alive with Migrant Hawkers. It is just possible that some new records for the area could be added here. Emberton Park is right at the northern extremity of Buckinghamshire and species from neighbouring areas could well be seen here.

Blue Lagoon

Grid Reference: SP 870324

Access: Owned and Managed by Milton Keynes Borough Council, free access. Car Park is accessed from Drayton Road, through the railway bridge, and there are several picnic tables and seats. Blue Lagoon is a Local Nature Reserve, supported by English Nature.

Blue Lagoon can be considered as two separate sites. The shallow ponds, reclaimed from a disused brickworks, and the 60 feet deep lagoon. The most productive area for dragonflies is around the shallow ponds and lakes of the reclaimed brick works. Access to this area is particularly easy with well maintained paths and boardwalks. Out of the 17 Milton Keynes species, only White-legged Damselfly is unrecorded from this area. This is a particularly good site for the Darters. Both Common and Ruddy Darter are regularly seen and it's a good place to get your eye in to distinguish the species apart. Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers are common early in the season and Emperor Dragonflies are easily observed. Females are often seen ovipositing in the pond margins.

Great Linford Lakes

Grid Reference: SP 840430

Access: Currently owned by ARC, ownership is expected to pass to the Borough Council soon. Some public footpaths pass through the site. Otherwise access is restricted to holders of permits and fishing club members.

The field centre at Great Linford is the home of the MKNHS and so this site is pretty well recorded. All seventeen Milton Keynes species have been observed here. Particular species to note are the Hawkers, both Southern and Brown and the Black-tailed Skimmer. Hairy Dragonfly was first recorded from this site in 1998 bringing the total to eighteen species. The main lake is managed as a research facility for the Game Conservancy Council. It is the home to large wintering flocks of ducks and waders and many rare birds have been recorded including Bittern, Smew and Osprey. Just beyond the lakes to the North is the River Ouse.

River Ouzel - Woughton

Grid Reference: SP 880370

Access: The River Ouzel forms the main feature of one of Milton Keynes' linear parks. A leisure route runs the length of the park giving good access to the river and associated lakes and ponds. There is a public car park and picnic area at Woughton.

The River Ouzel between Woughton and Walton balancing lake is particularly attractive. It has not suffered the "canalisation" observed further north and is generally clean and in good condition. Water crowfoot grows in the water for much of the length. This is the best site in Milton Keynes to see the nationally rare White-legged Damselfly. Many hundreds of pairs may be seen ovipositing on the water crowfoot in June. There are also good numbers of Banded Demoiselles.

Walton Balancing Lake

Grid Reference: SP 882372

Access: In the Ouzel Valley Park near to the Open University. Parking at picnic area on Newport Road.

Walton Lake is one of many lakes within Milton Keynes built in the early days of the new city to take the increased water run-off from city roads to prevent flooding. The southern half of the lake is a spongy marsh with scrubby trees except after heavy rainfall when it fills temporarily, then gradually releases the excess water into the Ouzel. There is more open water in the northern half of the lake. Large Dragonflies are often seen hawking over the open water during the summer months. This is a good site to see Emperor Dragonfly, Four-spotted Chaser and Brown Hawker. I have often found Emerald Damselfly here too.

"Teardrop" Lakes, Loughton

Grid Reference: SP 845373

Access: Very near MK city centre, north of the National Bowl. Parking off Childs Way, near the equestrian centre.

The Teardrop Lakes are so called because of their distinctive appearence on the map. They look like a string of four teardrops joined by short sections of stream, Loughton Brook. Once again, they form part of the city balancing lake system, to help prevent flooding after heavy rainfall. The lakes are fringed with vegetation and most of Milton Keynes odonata species can be found here. Of particular interest is the white-legged damselfly which is more usually found on slow flowing rivers.

Howe Park Wood

Grid Reference: SP 830340

Access: managed by Milton Keynes Parks Trust. There are many paths through the wood that have been surfaced with wood chippings. There is a good car park opposite Westcroft District Centre. The wood is an SSSI.

Howe Park Wood is a very interesting ancient woodland in the southwest of Milton Keynes. One compartment of the wood was managed for many years by members of Milton Keynes Natural History Society to maintain a diverse range of habitats for wildlife. This management work is now undertaken by the Parks Trust. The main dragonfly interest comes from the three ponds on the northwest flank of the wood. These ponds were dug in about 1990 and have rapidly become colonised by a wide range of dragonflies. A good site to see Emperor Dragonfly, Broad-bodied Chaser, Black-tailed Skimmer and Emerald Damselfly. Late in the season large numbers of Common and Ruddy Darters can be seen mating and ovipositing.

River Ouse - Haversham

Grid Reference: SP 817422

Access: Easy access with car parking near the railway viaduct between Wolverton and Haversham. Public footpaths run along the bank of the Ouse and along the canal towpath. Once again this is part of Milton Keynes' linear park system.

The River Ouse is a good place to see Banded Demoiselles. They are very common in the reeds near the railway viaduct. Also to be seen are Red-eyed Damselfly, Broad-bodied Chaser and Common Blue Damselfly. A pleasant circular walk can be constructed by walking from the car park, under the railway viaduct and continuing straight on along an old mill leat. After about 400 yards you pass a pond where Chasers can be seen regularly. Also look for Red-eyed Damselflies on the floating water lily leaves. Continue along the footpath past an old farm until you reach the canal. Turn right and follow the towpath until you reach the "Iron Trunk". This is an aqueduct across the River Ouse. There is an information board which describes its construction and history. Leave the towpath by branching right just before the aqueduct and follow the gravelled path alongside the river. You should see many dragonflies if the weather and season are right. If you are lucky you may see White-legged Damselfly along here (but the best site locally is on the River Ousel). Continue along this path until you cross an attractive wooden bridge just before the viaduct. Return under the viaduct to your car.

Shenley Wood

Grid Reference: SP 820360

Access: managed by Milton Keynes Parks Trust, there are good, made up footpaths into and around the wood. There are also clear rides through the wood but these can get very muddy. Car park off Tattenhoe Street, opposite Woodhill Prison.

Shenley Wood is one of many remnants of the extensive Whaddon Chase forest. It is an ancient woodland with many interesting plant species. The main reason for including this wood in this list is because of the high likelihood of finding large swarms of Migrant Hawkers in late summer. In August 1991 I video'd a huge swarm, I estimate between 1000 and 2000 individuals, hawking across the corner of the field at the north east edge of the wood. The most dragonflies I have ever seen in one place!

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