Thursday, 16 June 2011

Dragon Quest Round-Up

With a bit of a lull in proceedings this week it‘s an opportunity to take stock of the early season and look forward to the main emergence in July. Of the early season dragonflies only the largest and most spectacular, the Emperor, is yet to be encountered, but no worries as they are on the wing throughout the summer and will soon be around in larger numbers. The only known breeding sites are Kibblesworth and Stargate, so to find one on my home patch will be more by luck than judgement.

As far as damsels go, only the Emerald has yet to be recorded, I was thinking I should have encountered one by now but looking back over recent records, the earliest in the borough over the last few years has been June 20th, so one should be imminent, and local as well, so before long we should have a full complement of damselflies recorded both in the borough and in the valley.

The second wave of dragonfly emergence will begin shortly and new species to seek out will be Common Darter, Ruddy Darter, Common Hawker, Southern Hawker and Black-tailed Skimmer.
Common Darters are just that, they occur in large numbers at most sites, and often far away from water, (indeed regular visitors to my garden in mid-late summer), the trick is to find the very similar Ruddy Darter in amongst them, a dragonfly which is quite widespread here but occurs in much smaller numbers.
Common Hawker on the other hand aren’t common at all, a few occur at Kibblesworth and I have seen them at Far Pasture, but again, they are often encountered away from water, along woodland rides especially.
We are much more likely to find Southern Hawker in the valley, especially as I know a favoured pond for them in the woods close by, and will hopefully get some photos of them emerging early July. Finally the Black-tailed Skimmer, a rare breeder and only found at Kibblesworth, so a dragonfly safari to that particular site is a must around mid-July, in the hope of picking up anything still missing from the list.

That will leave only Migrant Hawker and Black Darter of the annually recorded species, both are late fliers and usually not seen until August in the borough. Migrant Hawkers are an easy target, occurring in good numbers and at many sites, but the opposite can be said of Black Darter, the only species I have yet to see in Gateshead, so that will be my main challenge as the dragon hunting season gathers pace.

Exciting times coming up then, and I’ll go into more detail about species identification as we seek them out. And by the way, the emerging dragon we photographed at Kibblesworth a couple of weeks back has been confirmed as a four-spotted chaser, so nothing new to add to the list.

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