Old Lodge is heathland and pinewood with some pools and a stream in the deep valley that runs down its centre. It is home to various birds that are generally not easy to find in the south-east. In particular, it is well known for its Common Redstarts. Within moments of arrival we had seen several, including fledged young.
In a more open area, we spotted a dark, large-looking dragonfly whizzing about, our first of the day. It pitched down in the heather some way off and we went in search, hoping it might be a Golden-ringed (one of the local specialities). Phil spotted the settled dragon first, and said in surprised and slightly awed tones, 'It's a Brilliant Emerald'. My response was an undignified squeal of joy. The next 20 minutes or so involved us edging closer and closer to the resting female dragon which, being teneral, was quite OK about this and let us get close enough for frame-fillers from several angles.
We carried on the upper path, having fleeting views of Woodlark as well as more Redstarts, and an impossibly high circling Buzzard. Then the path headed down a steep slope, through light woodland where we saw Treecreeper, Bullfinches and Song Thrushes. Then things opened out again and we reached a few small pools on the hillside that looked very Odonata-friendly.
I decided to try to catch the male in flight, setting myself up for 40 minutes of sheer frustration. On what I swore would be my last try I managed a few frames of actual dragonfly but didn't think they were any good - was pleasantly surprised to find this one when I got home.
Leaving the dragons behind, we headed down into the valley and the stream, which was devoid of dragons. The path then climbed the hillside to the far edge of the reserve.
A third pause and then detour came when we saw a Cuckoo perched in a dead tree, and as we were thinking about trying to get closer, it flew down to ground level. We stalked up to where we thought it had landed but managed to flush it without ever seeing it on the deck.
The path along the far side didn't produce very much - another Tree Pipit or two, a Siskin, a Stonechat family. Then we were looping back towards the car park.
And I have no further photos, your honour. We did go back to the pools for a little while but I could not get anywhere near a photo of the Emperor. It was a great day all in, and I definitely hope to return to this lovely reserve.