Oxfordshire Fens!


Anyone who knows the South of England well knows that it’s Cambridge, not Oxford, that is famed for its Fens.  But, unbeknown to many, there are Fens near Oxford too.


Well, a couple, anyway!


A patchwork of small nature reserves north of Abingdon preserves a rare remnant of alkaline fen, and over the last couple of days I’ve made two visits to this area to check out the fauna on offer and the photographic opportunities it might throw up.  The fenland Nature Reserves here are said to be home to some rare dragonflies, including Keeled Skimmer, Small Red Damselfly, and Southern Damselfly.


On Wednesday I had just my macro gear, and today I also took some dragonfly gear.


The weather on Wednesday afternoon (after my visit to Greenham Common) was hot and sunny; I parked at Dry Sandford Pit Nature Reserve in Cothill, and walked around to Parsonage Moor Nature Reserve.


I managed to get a record shot of Keeled Skimmer, but other than that there were very few dragonflies to see.  What was, however, rather more impressive was the sheer quantity of butterflies, busy nectaring on the pink bogside flowers.  In particular, numbers of Peacocks were very high indeed (I gave up counting after about 30).  I also managed to get some good shots of Small Copper, also busy nectaring here.


On this visit my shots of the Peacocks were all somewhat compromised compositionally by the limitations of my macro setup, in that Peacocks are quite large and active, and to get them lit properly with the flash I have to get quite close, meaning that quite often they’re too large in the frame for a decent composition.


Anyway, I returned today in the hope of some better shots, bringing with me my D3S attached to my 300 f/4 telephoto connected to a 36mm kenko extension tube.  The extension tube – though it loses light, hence the requirement for quite high ISOs – enhances the close-focusing capability of the 300mm lens, making it particularly good for dragonflies and larger butterflies; autofocus is also possible, which helps with faster moving subjects.


Another little bonus came in the form of a family of Viviparous lizards on the board-walk: 1 adult, and 4 little ones all about 3 inches long.


Here are some shots from both days:



Small Copper





ISO 640 1/250 f/16 handheld








D3S/300f4/36mm extension

ISO 1000 1/640 f/8 handheld



Keeled Skimmer




not a perfect shot, but shows all the necessary identifying features well which differentiate it from Black-tailed Skimmer.


D3S/300f4/36mm extension

ISO 1250 1/800 f/8 handheld



Common Darter




D3S/300f4/36mm extension

ISO 1250 1/800 f/8 handheld



Viviparous Lizard (young)




D3S/300f4/36mm extension

ISO 1000 1/640 f/8 handheld


For IDing British Dragonlies, I’m using the Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland by Steve Brooks, accompanied by the excellent illustrations of Richard Lewington.



2 thoughts on “Oxfordshire Fens!

  1. Pingback: Butterfly, dragonflies, roe deer video | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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