Monday, 31 October 2011

Halloween Hawker

Off on my (t)rusty chariot today along the river in the hope of viewing salmon leaping up the damhead. No such luck, the water level is far too low, desperately need some rain (can't believe I'm saying that!) to kickstart the action which can be quite spectacular at this time of year.
Had good views of a male kingfisher though further downstream, and four dipper sightings at various points along the stretch I travelled.
Stopping at the 1998 bridge beside Clockburn Lake though I could hardly believe my luck as a hawker dragonfly zipped through my field of vision, and I followed it up and over the trees towards the lake, where unfortunately I lost it, never to be seen again.
Now I can't be certain of the ID, first impression was that it was on the small side, certainly held its abdomen out straight, too dull a day to get any colouration and common and migrant are both technically a possibility still at this time of the year, but in view of the fact this is a regular haunt for migrant and I've yet to record a common here I think the percentage guess has to go with migrant, certainly the latest I've recorded any dragonfly locally anyway. 
As its passing was all over far too quickly there was no chance of a photo but here is an artsts impression of the sighting bearing in mind its October 31st.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN ! ! !

Thursday, 13 October 2011

End of Season Report

Definitely autumn now, and the Dragonhunter hasn’t been out hunting dragons since the end of the ‘Indian Summer’ a couple of weeks back, which was a bit of a freak spell but gave us the elusive Black Darter, proving the earlier pessimism about their demise was a bit previous, with a maximum of four seen at Stargate and several more at Kibblesworth.
That gave a total of 16 species seen in Gateshead borough this summer, one less than last year when a roving Golden-ringed Dragonfly was present at Gibside for a few days.
Of those 16 I managed to observe and photograph 15, missing out on the single black-tailed Skimmer seen on a few occasions at Kibblesworth back in June.
On my home patch of the lower Derwent valley, I observed and photographed 13 species, with nothing new seen this year.
Highlight to me was just the overall learning experience through keeping this blog. I’ve learned a lot about types of habitat, improved my field craft and have observed behavioural traits in species and various stages of maturity which all aid identification.
Photographically a few highlights spring to mind, the early season female broad-bodied chaser at Stargate,  the coupling Common Hawkers at Burdon Moor, a best ever photo of male Southern Hawker at Thornley Woods Pond and the perched Migrant Hawker at Far Pasture, and overall I’ve been pleased with the standard of photos I’ve managed to attain.
And on a listing note, the Black Darters being a personal first for Gateshead was a true late season bonus.

I may still get the odd straggler this month but otherwise I shall be back next year to fill in a few gaps (Black-tailed Skimmer, male Broad-bodied Chaser to name but two) and set myself some new targets. Meantime I’ll update with any good general wildlife watching days over the winter, and get illustrating the ID features and other stuff about dragonflies I’ve learned this year.
To finish here are the best of the last bunch of photos I took at Far Pasture during the October heat wave (all common darters in varying stages of maturity)


male common darter in peak condition


An over-ripe specimen

female slightly over the hill 


and another



a better angle

nice composition of a male from below

and another with Gibside's column of
British Liberty blurred in the background

contrasted against strong sunlight

moving round to see him in all his glory
So thanks to all followers and visitors, it's adios for now but keep looking in for updates. Cheers.

Monday, 3 October 2011

A reward for patience . . .

With all the excitement of the Black Darters over the last few days I almost forgot I'd got a cracking shot of a migrant hawker in Far Pasture car park the other day during the mini-heatwave (in fact just after taking the call from Steve about the discovery of the darters at Stargate)

Migrant Hawker (male) @ Far Pasture
Beautiful shot showing the diagnostic T-shape at the top of the abdomen
(click on image for closer view) 

There were at least two maybe three individuals here (all males) and over a dozen common darters, with two pairs ovipositing on the ponds and a couple of emerald damsels also in attendance. 

Definitely my best shot yet of a migrant hawker, shame his abdomen is curled under but a real sharp shot which I was quite lucky to get. I'd been watching him hawking around along with another male and a few darters in the field opposite for quite some time, hoping one of them would eventually settle in the surrounding trees, until at last he came over and perched up at a lofty but photographable height in the tree alongside me. I was just getting a focus on him when a strong gust whipped the branches away and he flew up. I cursed and thought my chance had gone but then watched him dip under the branches in the corner of the car park and didn't see him come out again. I rushed around and frantically searched before noticing him hanging vertically down a thin stem, almost camouflaged right in front of me at a perfect height and distance  to reel off a couple of shots before he was off and away again. Patience rewarded.  

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Quest for Black Darter

Knowing the autumn sunshine wasn’t going to last the Dragonhunter was fearing another dip to blot his copybook for the year, so this morning being the only chance I may get to connect with Black Darter, plans were made for an expedition.
Spirits buoyed after a tense couple of hours watching England struggle to overcome the Auld Enemy in the Rugby World Cup, the trusty chariot came out of the garage and off I pedalled ; destination Stargate.
On a route worked out last night and again working on time restraints I estimated an hour to get there, an hour on site and an hour back again.
Thankfully mid-morning was overcast and quite cool, my hope was that by the time I got to Stargate the sun would be out and zillions of black darters would be flitting about like it was spring.

And precisely one hour later I arrived, though my route meant a lot of uphill bike pushing had to be done over the last quarter and I was consequently knackered by the time I got there.
I made way to the shallow pond where the Broad-bodied Chasers were earlier in the summer, Steve had told me the darters were using the grassy pond next to it, with me thinking he meant the boggy mossy end of the main pond which looks ideal black darter habitat.
I was a bit worried about the cloud cover and cool breeze, black darters are apparently complex characters where temperatures are concerned, but in only a matter of seconds a little black dragonfly zipped past me and settled on a stem not too far away. Binoculars swung into action and it was confirmed as my first sighting of a black darter in Gateshead, superb!
Now for a photo but with camera still packed in bag by the time I was ready the little blighter was up and away, landing on a stone towards centre pond, and I could only reel off a couple of long distance record shots. I lost sight of him as he zipped away, but confident this initial success would lead to better opportunities I wasn‘t too dismayed.

Black Darter (male) at Stargate Ponds
A Gateshead first for the Dragonhunter

And zoomed in, a poor photo but good enough to confirm
this unmistakeable little beauty. 
Alas it wasn’t to be, I spent the next half hour circling the area, checking reeds and bare stones for any target specimens but my next dragon sighting was a measly emerald damsel. Mid-day now though and common darters entered the fray. One after another I was fooled into thinking the black darter was back only to be disappointed, and then a hawker sped in overhead, which eventually revealed itself as a female common hawker, as it oviposited tantalisingly close by but still too swift for a photo.
My allotted hour had come and gone, I had to start the intrepid journey back, and it wasn’t until then that I realised there was another pond just along the path hidden by trees which I‘d forgotten about, and Steve’s words came back to me. “The grassy pond beside the chaser pond” Oops!
I had a look in and couldn’t believe how dim I’d been, the place was swarming with common darters, and among them a smaller black darter, being harried constantly by his common cousins. He settled a bit further along the pond edge and I stealthily moved closer with my camera, he stayed perched long enough for one shot only, my best shot of the day, even though the angle is not good. The harrying continued and so I didn’t get another opportunity, I had to be on my way.

The second Black Darter
A better quality pic but not the best angle, though the orangey markings
along the side of the base and tip of the abdomen can be made out,
as can the all black pterostigma on the wings.
The journey home was arduous, my fitness and stamina was at a low, and not only that, the sun had at last decided to make an appearance, as soon as I left Stargate in fact, making it most uncomfortable. But I arrived back at Dragonhunter HQ not mich later than anticipated, and much happier with my final sighting. I ‘d watched him for a while whilst waiting for him to settle so Black Darter was well and truly ticked., though I never expected to wait until October to get one! 

Mission accomplished : Black Darter (Sympetrum danae)

Friday, 30 September 2011

A Black Day . . .

. . . But in the best possible sense as finally Black Darters have been reported in the borough. It’s been looking like it wasn’t to be this year with the regular sites of Burdon Moor and Kibblesworth having been searched daily since the upturn in the weather last weekend, but yesterday it was Stargate which turned up trumps during a check by the Chief Countryside Ranger, and news filtered through to Dragonhunter HQ via ‘Indiana’ Steve.
Great news then, and a lot later than in previous years probably thanks to the early autumn sunshine. Only question now is whether the Dragonhunter himself (me) can get across there before its too late.
Meantime Steve made a fleeting visit before work and snapped a male for us all to enjoy :

Black Darter at Stargate
(Steven Fryer)
One of four males seen in a fleeting visit

And this morning news reaches HQ that Kibblesworth has finally come good too with Black Darters there today, though no further details yet to confirm numbers.

Excellent stuff!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

After the Storm . .

The aftermath of the hurricane finally subsided by midweek, and with Thursday set to be the only decent day of the week I made time for an afternoon safari to Thornley Woods Pond. The target here was to photograph Southern Hawkers, especially the male as I haven’t yet got a decent shot of a mature specimen, only this teneral male from the same site last year (below) which I actually had recorded as a female due to the colouring. And that’s a lesson I’ve learned this year through keeping this blog, there are so many variations in markings that it pays to check every detail. In fact I’ve reviewed three records from last year which I’d mistaken the ID, so I‘m learning all the time. (It hasn’t been a total waste then!)

Teneral Southern Hawker
The pale green/yellow spotting had me fooled
into thinking it was a female

But from this angle I should have checked the
narrow waisted abdomen to confirm a male.
Back to Thursday, and despite a first half hour when my only company was a speckled wood butterfly and various calls from hidden nuthatch, jays and woodpeckers, it turned out to be a worthwhile little session, when one after the other three male southern hawkers came on the scene, frantically searching the margins for females and skirmishing whenever their paths crossed. Their constant agitated flight wasn’t conducive to good photography though (my excuse) and despite reeling off over twenty photos in this first wave of action, this was the best I could command.

All went quiet again after about ten minutes of action but I decided to hang around a while longer knowing they’d return, and sure enough after another twenty or so minutes wait, back they came. One, two, three, is that four this time? And this fourth one settled further along the boardwalk, though quickly with the aid of my trusty 8 x 42s I realised it was a female ovipositing. Nevertheless a decent photo opportunity at last. It’s often quite easy to get right up to a preoccupied female like this but I approached stealthily nonetheless and due to the fact the three males present seemed more intent on seeing each other off than anything else she remained undetected by them allowing me to get some excellent close-up shots :


Southern hawker female ovipositing on the boardwalk

I was really pleased  with the sharpness of this picture I took
from much closer in

And a cracking macro shot of those complex eyes
This female carried on with her egg-laying on and around the boardwalk for a good few minutes before flying off undetected by the patrolling males, which I found quite hard to believe considering the thorough search of the area they had been conducting up ‘til then. And just minutes later I couldn’t believe my luck when (after a brief skirmish) one of the males landed rather heavily on the wooden slats further along from me. I swung my camera quickly into action as I stepped closer, he had his abdomen doubled up under him as if looking for a hold and I realised he had actually landed on a thin band of moss between two slats which (perhaps out of desperation after a fruitless search) he had probably mistaken for a female, being of similar shape and colour. He tried many times, probing around with his claspers, giving me ample opportunity to get him on camera :

A case of mistaken identity?
Should have gone to Specsavers, mate! 

Southern hawker (male)
Very pleased with the quality of this shot as he continued to probe
with his claspers, but obviously he would prefer a female with
something to grab hold of.
Eventually he gave up and flew off, probably realising his mistake allowing me to even get a fairly decent in-flight shot . . .


. . . and his loss was my gain as at long last I had got a couple of nice quality photographs of a mature male southern hawker. I’m more than happy with those last two shots, a best ever result, mission accomplished.

Friday, 16 September 2011

ID comparison file : Common/Migrant Hawkers (male)

Another whinge about the weather. Wind, rain and latterly the remnants of a hurricane mean only three reports in total filtering through to DragonHunter HQ from the network of scouts since the beginning of September :
Migrant hawker on 4th at Sled Lane Pond

3 migrant hawkers, 2 common hawkers at Kibblesworth on the 5th
 Migrant hawker and two female southern hawkers were photographed at Shibdon Pond on the 6th
(all courtesy of Gatesheadbirders.co.uk)

Note: Still no sightings of Black Darter from anywhere in the borough, possibly due to no-one looking because of the much maligned weather, but still not good news
.
But since we now have some half-decent shots of a male migrant hawker I’ll do a quick comparison with that of the common hawker:

In flight from side-on it's difficult to make a distinction between these two.
Migrant Hawker (top) Common Hawker (bottom)

But from this angle you should be able to make
out some important diagnostic features. Look for the
yellow costa of the common hawker, the pale golf tee
shape at the top of the abdomen of the migrant, and
the difference in the size of the antehumeral stripes
at the front of the thorax, thin stripes of the common (top)
but mere pips on the migrant (bottom)

Some flight jizz pointers if you don't get a perched individual to inspect :

Common Hawkers are tireless flyers and so notoriously difficult to get a good look at (never mind photograph) perched up. We were really lucky to encounter those mating pairs a few weeks back.

Migrant hawkers are noticeably smaller (around 5.5 to 6.5 cms in length compared to the commons nearer 8.0cms) in fact if just glimpsed in silhouette can be initially mistaken for darters, and are much more likely to be encountered away from ponds as they forage along woodland edges next to open land, where there can be several hunting the same stretch, as opposed to the more solitary common hawker which will hawk along woodland rides rather than be out in the open.
Migrant hawkers also fly at a cruising height of around six feet, only veering from this height to chase a meal, the common hawker has a much more up and down hunting pattern. Also a common hawker won‘t approach you like other hawkers indeed is more likely to give you a wide berth, whereas the migrant will treat you as if you were any other obstacle in its path, veering away at the last moment, or like happened to me the other week will hawk for midges around your head.
( But still not as confidiing as the Southern Hawkers which will deliberately investigate you and occasionally even land on you).

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Calm before the Storm - The Quest for Migrant Hawker

After what seems like an age, the Dragonhunter at last got back in business. The kids are back at school but my perpetual enemy, the weather, is still being a veritable pain in the derriere. So with the forecast for rain and high winds in the afternoon on Tuesday, I took advantage of the early morning sunshine to renew my search for Migrant Hawker.
In truth I’ve seen half a dozen individuals just out on casual trips with the family, the area around Kite Hill and Clockburn Lake coming up trumps on four occasions with single specimens flying, but highlight was further downstream last week when a male I was watching by the river at Hagg Hill actually started hawking the cloud of midges which had formed around my head, giving me cracking close views just above eye level, but to date no photographs from any of my encounters.

So off I went on my trusty chariot (bike) and struck lucky straight away with a male feeding in the bright sunshine along the line of trees at the base of Kite Hill. After a couple of minutes watching his to-and-fro flight I couldn’t believe my luck as he settled, hanging vertically (as they do) from a branch just off the path about 8ft up.
I reeled off a few quick snaps for record purposes just in case he flew up again but he didn’t seem in a hurry so I got closer and then moved around for a change of angle. The pics I took were on full zoom so not the sharpest but show all the ID traits I need to confirm a male Migrant Hawker.

Migrant Hawker (male) at Kite Hill
Note the similarity with Common Hawker



From this angle the diagnostic pale yellow T at the
 top of the abdomen can be seen more clearly
(click on image for better view)


From this angle the T isn't visible but the lack of a
yellow costa tells you it isn't a common hawker,
the only real confusion species in these parts.

Buoyed with this early success I decided to look in at Far Pasture, the fields off the access road are a favoured haunt for the species but on my last check a fortnight ago there weren’t any to be seen.
Again instant success, as I emerged from the avenue of trees at the bottom of the bank by the sawmill a common darter alighting the fence to the left of me caused me to stop in my tracks, and a Migrant Hawker passed through my line of vision as I glanced over. Excellent!
This was a very flighty individual though, non-stop and with that annoying ability to change direction in the blink of an eye, very difficult to get a fix on with my binoculars so I had to move further down the path to look back up at a greater distance before I could safely ID another male. I watched him for a while but he showed no signs of letting up his constant zig-zagging chase so I left to have a look on the pond and would try to get him on the way back.

The pond was bleak. For a while I only had a pair of mallards for company, then a fishing dabchick entertained me as it surfaced with a large minnow, and then I spotted a big warty toad floating along, just it’s head breaking the surface. Eventually I spied a solitary damsel, too brief and distant a sighting to call it but at this stage of the season an Emerald would be a good bet.
Wind increasing all the time now but still bathed in sunshine, I decided to check the access road again, but on leaving the hide a large hawker could be seen at the far end of the path. It continued to seek out prey as I got closer, to and fro up and down quick change of direction, too big for a migrant and eventually I spotted the blue bands at the tip of the tail as it passed below eye level to confirm a male Southern Hawker.

Back up the road and no sign now of the migrant hawker, wind very blustery and increasing cloud cover might have something to do with it, though it didn’t put the common darters off, half a dozen seen in all, a lone male and female on the road, other males along the fence, one feeding others just waiting for passing prey or sheltering from the wind. I reeled off a few photos, best of which are below :


Common Darter, having a meal.


Same beast, different view, still chomping.


Common darter female on the road

This individual seems to have a pattern on the abdomen and had me
hoping he might be something more exotic like a vagrant darter.. . . .  


. . . but from this angle the yellow thorax stripes and lack of
black moustache on the face rules out anything other than
Common Darter. 

Mission accomplished : Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Females of the Species

Recent encounters with Southern and Common Hawkers have produced some cracking photos, so we can now do a good comparison between the females of the species with a few ID pointers.
Common Hawker (left) Southern Hawker (right)
Note the thorax of the common hawker has two diagonal
yellow stripes, that of the southern is made up of wider
greenish panels.
The overall colouring is also quite distinctive in good light, the
common hawker markings being bright lemon yellow and in smaller
patches than the dull green southern hawker.


Common hawker (above) Southern Hawker (below)
Note the differences in the antehumeral stripes (braces) on the thorax
 behind the head. Those of the common hawker are mere pips in
comparison with the thick stripes of the southern hawker.
And the differences in the coverage of the ‘mosaic’ patterning can be seen in these cracking portrait shots by Steven Fryer (Common) and Paul Davison (Southern)
Common Hawker (female)
Steven Fryer
Southern Hawker (female)
Paul Davison
Also note the distinctive yellow costa (front wing vein) of the common hawker, diagnostic of the species in both sexes.  

Friday, 26 August 2011

Chasing the Devil

I begin with a few interesting non-dragonfly sightings I neglected to mention from last weekend. On Sunday a couple of furry animals made an appearance. At Kibblesworth a vole ran almost under my feet as I was looking down for black darters, from the lighter colouring and quite long tail I would say a bank vole, then at Far Pasture a wood mouse was giving good views as it repeatedly took seed left by photographers who entice the birds down in the car park that way.

But back to Saturday and a family trip to Gibside was spent almost entirely in the new adventure play park, so no pond visits but a hot sunny day for the most part highlighted by three flyover Crossbills and only my second ever sighting of a Giant Wood Wasp. Now these really are big, scary (though harmless) insects, I kept my eye on it as it sped around the play area (thinking it was a dragonfly of sorts) on golden wings, and only when it came close enough did I realise what it was, having had my first ever sighting just five days earlier at Wallington, strangely enough in the adventure play park there too!

Strangest sight of the day though was reserved for the car park. As I was packing up the buggy to put in the boot I happened to look along the row of cars to the main path, where to my astonishment a mini dust devil was slowly making its way along. Yip, a miniature whirlwind, probably three to four feet across and about twelve feet high, a whirling mass of dust blowing along the dirt-track. I only viewed it for perhaps 5 or 6 seconds when it suddenly dematerialised as it hit tarmac. A first for me that, and a very strange sight indeed.


Back to the important matter of dragonflies though, and Migrant Hawkers on the wing at last, with three foraging males seen in two days midweek while out on scouting missions. No photographs as of yet but these late-flying dragons will be around through September and October so no hurry.
All three individuals were seen in the Derwent Valley at Kite hill, Clockburn Lake and off the Derwent Walk near Far Pasture. None yet in the popular bull field opposite the saw mill though, but this my thirteenth species sighting of the year in the valley, and more than likely the final dragon on that particular list. Only a stray black darter could boost the total now I would think, but that just an outside hope rather than expected. 

Monday, 22 August 2011

A Ritual on the Moors

A first ever DragonHunting safari to Burdon Moor today proved worthwhile though not in the way planned.
Our target species was Black Darter but once again these proved elusive.
Best observation was a pair of mating Common Hawkers, Steve alerted me to them as a patrolling male clasped a female on the pool we were watching and we noted where they landed close by in a mating wheel. They remained stationery for a good while, allowing us to reel off some excellent photos, before parting and resuming their separate business. A first for me and best photos so far of the species, especially the female which is the first one I’ve seen close up.

Common Hawkers
the mating wheel


A different angle


parting company


Common Hawker Female
doing the dragonfly equivalent of smoking a cigarette?

Some dragonfly jargon now, and today's word is : Costa
Nothing to do with expensive coffee shops, the costa is the thick vein along the leading edge of the wing. And why do I mention it now? well the Common Hawker has a diagnostic yellow costa which can be seen clearly in these photos, a nice ID feature if you can make it out.

In all there were five or six Common Hawkers present on this boggy pool, with around a dozen Common Darters and maybe eight Emerald Damselfly just around the margins where we stood. A female Common Blue Damsel completed the sightings here, and only other species recorded was on one of the other ponds observed with difficulty from behind a barbed-wire fence, (though that is as close as we wanted to get with a couple of snorting bulls on the other side of it!) when another couple of hawkers in the mating wheel rose out of the rushes and up into the overhanging trees. The fact they rose into the trees makes me put them down as Southern Hawkers as this is typical of their mating ritual, rather than Common Hawker which tend to do their mating in low vegetation as we had just witnessed.


On to Kibblesworth for another Black Darter stakeout, again unsuccessful. On the entrance pond maybe half a dozen Common Darters present, small numbers of Emerald Damsel, and one each of Common Blue and Blue-tailed (males).
We met up with a regular watcher of this site who had just spent some time at the main ponds where he had observed three Emperors and a Ruddy Darter among eight species of dragon and damsel there. A discussion about the status of Black Darter in Gateshead ensued, this observer was actually the only person to record the species last year when he had a mating pair right where we were standing., but he was quite pessimistic believing them to be extinct now in most of their former sites due to habitat destruction and the overgrown nature of some of their former regular pools, including the one we were standing at.
I’m certainly not giving up though, he gave us a couple of pointers as to where they had been seen previously, and as many sightings have been made in September in years gone by, I see no reason to write them off yet.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Hawker Quest

At last a bit of sunshine, and though I was on SHD yesterday (That’s School Holiday Duty, for the uninitiated?) by mid-afternoon I had my first garden dragonfly of the year, a fly-through hawker, can’t be sure of ID but the size and way it held it’s abdomen straight out I’m guessing a Common.

Today another good day, so DragonHunter was back in business. I went out this morning on a trek to Thornley Woods Pond hoping to observe some Southern Hawker action, males patrolling, skirmishing, finding females, mating and finally ovipositing females, don’t ask for much do I?
On completing the 20 minute trek I found another dragonfly adventurer already at the pond, hoping to photograph emerging dragons. A hawker had already been patrolling I was informed, and two large red damsels had been present, but not any more.
To the delight of my newfound acquaintance, with my first scan I found a freshly emerged Southern Hawker nymph, having climbed a stalk and ready to begin the transformation process. And not long after, the first adult hawker came patrolling the pond, and to my surprise and delight after watching it fly back and forth a number of times it turned out to be a Common Hawker male, my first confirmed sighting in the valley this summer, excellent!

Attention was turned back to the emerging dragon, my newfound colleague and I kept watch as the casing split and the head and thorax emerged. Slowly the body slipped out further but after a few twitches the emergence came to a halt. Whether this was to do with the temperature (it was overcast and cool in the shade) or some other factor I don’t know but my sequence of photographs shows how it remained up to the time I left.





And this was about as far as it got . . . .
In tandem with the emergence, more hawkers came to the pond. This time a splendid Southern Hawker male patrolled the margins for females, a relentless and empty search as it happens, but the odd bout of hovering over the emergent vegetation offered fantastic views of his splendid green black and blue armour. I tried to catch him on camera but not very successfully.

Eventually a second male came on the scene and when their patrols crossed the inevitable skirmish broke out, both dragons zoomed off away from the pond in a high speed chase, and moments later the victor returned (presumably the second male as this is how Southern Hawkers operate, by taking turns) and another lengthy and unsuccessful patrol of the margins ensued. This dragon came buzzing around my feet many times (unlike the more nervous Common Hawker which will give you a wide berth) but still I couldn’t get a decent shot on him, I reeled off almost sixty photos trying to get an aerial shot of these patrols, the best of a bad bunch I’ve added below, certainly no prize winners but good enough to show ID pointers :

Southern Hawker (male)
Note the thick green panels on the thorax as opposed to yellow stripes
of the Common Hawker

This shot shows better the green spotting along
the topside of the abdomen, diagnostic among local hawkers.
Despite this out of focus shot it shows off well the thick braces
(antehumeral stripes) at the front of the thorax,  the green top spotting
and the bold blue bands at the tip of the abdomen
Before I left another hawker briefly circumnavigated the pond at a height just above our heads. This one looked smaller altogether and with abdomen held straight I’m almost sure it was a Migrant Hawker, but it didn’t hang around so I can’t be 100%, shame.
I was running late now (afternoon SHD beckoned) so I hope my fellow dragon enthusiast gets in touch with an update on the emerging hawker, ‘til then I can only hope it eventually completed it’s transformation.

I decided to have a brief look at Far Pasture on my way home, if Migrant Hawkers are out then this is the place to see them. The sun was out nice now but as I scanned their favoured area,(the woodland edge running along the field opposite the saw mill) only butterflies were in abundance. Eventually I did spy a hawker dragonfly, but it was distant and jizz said it was a Southern Hawker rather than a Migrant, and I lost it again just as quickly so can’t confirm either way.
A quick look on the pond produced maybe a dozen Common Darters and at least eight Emerald Damselfly (all males) but time running short now I made my way back up the road, where many darters were sunning, patrolling and skirmishing. These are a lot more easy to photograph and I got a canny selection just in passing. Here are the best of them :

Common Darter (male)

Common Darter (female)

Ruddy Darter (male)

Same Ruddy Darter, different perch, different angle.

Another Common Darter (male)

And a nice arty shot to finish
No positive ID on Migrant Hawker yet then but I’m confident I’ll get one next time, though whether I can get a decent photo is another thing! Wish me luck.