Monday, 6 June 2011

Emerging from the Gloom

The curse of the weekend adventurer is reliance on the weather. A planned trip around the top dragonfly sites in the borough with my mate Indiana Steve (and his faithful damsel hound Tilly) looked like being a total washout as Sunday was overcast, cold, showery and generally gloomy, but after sitting in a hide for more than an hour looking at redshanks, wood pigeons and very little else, the light rain stopped and we decided to look in at Kibblesworth Brickworks Pools as it was just up the road. We weren’t expecting much and so weren’t disappointed. Nothing was flying, no surprise there, but I haven’t been here for a while and was astounded to see the smaller pools had dried up completely with the lack of rainfall this spring.
Some of the shallower margins of the main pool were showing a few tide marks now too, but otherwise the water level wasn’t too bad.
We decided to scan the reeds for anything perched up, and considering there had been over 60 four-spotted chasers counted here a few days back we were a bit disappointed we could only locate two, but they weren’t going anywhere so we were able to get a few photos. Actually as I switched on my camera (a Panasonic FZ-38, not much more than an advanced point and press really) Steve, photography being his forte, pipes up “You’ll get better shots if you put it on the macro setting”
“Here, I know I’m no photographer but I’m not that much of a numpty” I replied knowingly, and looked into my viewfinder to find a big message on screen.
“What does that say” says Steve.
“Remove lens cap” I said quietly.

four-spotted chaser - one of two
four-spotted chaser - two of two

We were wondering where all the damsels were too, theories abounded as Steve, this his first ever dragonfly safari, (a bit of a recce before he gets his superzoom macro lens to do some proper insect photography) suggested they might go underwater in the cold, I told him they lost all their colour and went translucent so becoming invisible, just to hide the fact I had no idea. Or maybe they hid in the trees nearby, ashamed to say I never thought about it before. There were in fact plenty of damselfly nymphs and empty larval casings all over the reed stalks, something I haven't witnessed before, these have climbed out of the waters to break out of their dull leathery casings and transform into bright blue flying machines, and in good numbers too.

damsel nymph or already flown?
We did locate a few blue-tails, and then a couple more which were so pale just couldn’t make out what they were, but it was noticeable that these pulled their wings in so tightly they just resembled extensions of the grassy stalks they were sheltering on, excellent camouflage.

blue-tailed damsel, one of the brighter specimens we found

 Then just as we came to the end of our lap of the main pond, Steve pointed to the ground where I stooped to find a dragonfly emerging from its larval casing (exuvia) , a medium sized, bright yellow individual which we duly photographed (below)

Emerging dragonfly - but what species?

I regret to say that at this point I’m not sure of the species. It may well be just a four-spotted chaser, but the pond here also holds Black-tailed Skimmer, a similar size, known to prefer this end of the pond and due to emerge about now, but as I have seen neither species in this early stage of their adult life before, this under-developed individual remains a mystery, though I am still investigating and will confirm when able. An unusual sighting anyway, so the day not a total washout.

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