Thursday, 30 June 2011

A Ride through Banded Country

With a couple of hours to spare this morning I was out on my trusty steed to search the river for banded demoiselles to photograph, starting at the outlet stream at Clockburn Lake because it’s one of the regular sites and probably the best for taking pictures, unfortunately today it was not.
In the outer stream massive shoals of minnows and tadpoles were noticeable, but the only damsels on show were blue-tailed, and I got this cracking shot of a male.

Blue-tailed damsel male
Only two females out of about ten individuals here, this one I photographed is an immature of the pink coloured form rufescens

Blue-tailed Damsel female

Then an odd individual fluttered in to view and landed on the bridge. It’s flight was so weak it could hardly hold itself in the air and stayed motionless on the sunlit stone bridge for quite some time, allowing me to get so close I decided to get out my 10x magnification loupe and see if I could get it close enough to see some features in mega-close-up. For anyone that doesn’t know, this is a loupe.


The thing about this is that you need to get about an inch away from your subject to see it properly focussed, and this individual allowed me to do just that, giving me fantastic views of its eyes and head, which it tilted towards me, probably eying me up too. Superb views I’ve never had before, every hair, every line, the make-up of the colours of those massive compound eyes, and the three tiny real-eyes in the middle of the forehead I’d never noted before, a most enjoyable and unusual experience.
Anyway, note the pale colouring and milky sheen to the wings, time for a bit of dragonfly jargon - This specimen is what is known as a teneral - in other words it has just emerged, it’s body is pale and not yet hardened, it’s wings are weak and not yet properly formed, (why it’s flight appeared so weak) In a few hours when the body hardens and the wings clear to reveal the network of veins, it will then have reached immature status, and will remain so for a number of days until gaining its mature colouration.

A Teneral female - Which species?

The only thing that bothered me about this individual was the ID, which I only tried to discern when looking at the photos back at Dragonhunter HQ. Only blue-tailed and common blue damsels were present, but this appears to be neither, in fact after scrutiny with the help of the field guides I’m quite sure it is a female Azure damsel, of which no mature adults were seen today. (Common Blue would show the bomb shaped markings, blue tailed would have an all pale segment near the tip).

I continued my search for demoiselles, riding along to the newly opened Butterfly bridge, (after the old one was washed away in the floods of 2008) good access to the riverside here, Steve had indicated it being a good stretch for the species, being slow-moving and heavily vegetated bankside. But my luck was out today, a thorough search found nothing, highlight being a dipper foraging in the rocky shallows yon side of the bridge. I didn’t have too much time left so I back-tracked to Clockburn Lake outlet, this time investigating the inner stream, where I found around forty Common Blue damsels, many in tandem pairs, egg laying.
I got a nice shot of a male on its own, and photographed two forms of female, the typical green form, and another less common yellowish brown form.

Common Blue damsel male

tandem pair - green form female

ovipositing pair - yellow/brown form female
Then I managed to get this cracking shot of a tandem couple in flight, note the fact the wings are gyrating so quickly they are hardly visible giving the damsels that strange but instantly recogniseable colourful hovering matchsticks effect I mentioned in an earlier post.

Tandem flight shot

There is another type of common blue female which is actually blue which I have yet to encounter, but my time was up so though disappointed with the dip on the demoiselles, some interesting cameos from the other species had made the trip worthwhile, as had my sighting of a common tern fishing the lake, and excellent view of a sedge warbler singing from an open perch in the reedbed, and the great thing about it is I’ll just have to come back again another day to complete the mission.

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