Monday, 30 May 2011

Four-spotted Chaser at Far Pasture Ponds

Sunday 29th May
With the forecast for Monday (my next proposed outing) diabolical, and the kids relatively quiet for once, I decided to flit along to nearby Far Pasture ponds on my trusty steed (bike), not much more than a five minute ride away. My reason for visiting here is twofold, one to see if I could connect with any more damsels, and secondly a Four-spotted Chaser (the first true dragonfly of the year) had been recorded here just last weekend.
On arrival the car park was empty bar a colourful male pheasant, and the hide was for once deserted, (it‘s usually populated by photographers anxious to get photos of a regular kingfisher). Again high winds and short sunny spells was the order of the day, nothing to be seen at first but I hoped that with a bit of patience something would appear during the sunnier periods.
And sure enough, first on the scene was a very flighty dragonfly which did a stop-start flypast in the blink of an eye. A few seconds later it re-appeared, again too fast to get my binoculars on it but from the jizz (general impression, size and shape) I was sure it was a four-spotted chaser. It was passing quite close to the hide and so fast did it dart around I just couldn’t get a fix on it to confirm. Again and again it zipped past, same result.
The winds got up again as the sun disappeared and the dragon vanished for a while.
I moved around to the right-side window of the hide where I found a little grebe nesting in the reeds further along then to my amazement the dragonfly was hovering just a few feet outside the window, then dipped down to perch on a pale stalk surrounded by greenery, easy to pick out but difficult to get a fix on as the high winds caused manic to-ing and fro-ing of the lush vegetation past my line of vision.
I opened the window and could see the dragonfly well with binoculars but couldn’t focus my camera, shot after shot coming out fuzzy or focussed on something else. It was certainly a Four-spotted Chaser, and it kept alighting from its perch but returning after a few seconds, a characteristic trait of this species and handy to know if you‘re after a photo, ‘til eventually at the 15th attempt I got a decent shot, (below)

Four-spotted Chaser  Libellula quadrimaculata

It’s called a Four-spotted Chaser because of the spots half-way along the wing (at the nodes) which are diagnostic of this species in Britain, the outer markings are called pterostigma which all dragonflies have though some are more noticeable than others, the males and females are very similar, tapering brown bodies with a black tip, yellow spots along the sides. The colouring becomes darker with age and looking at the field guide illustrations the females abdomen is slightly broader than that of the male and the claspers at the tip of the abdomen differ, females being of medium length and more or less parallel, the males are short and V-shaped, but I can’t be certain from this one photograph, and now armed with this knowledge will try to do better next time.
I also counted a single Large Red damsel and six blue damsels in the same area as the chaser, obviously this corner next to the hide was more sheltered, they would switch off their cloaking devices in unity and suddenly become visible as one when the sun shone, when a brief flight or tussle would end with them disappearing again as the atmosphere went back to gloom. I did manage to photograph a couple and view others through my bins, all identified as Azure, so still no Common Blues to report.
All in all not a bad little session, Four-spotted Chaser photographed, mission accomplished.

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