The hide was empty, I opened a few windows on all sides and sat down to scan with eager anticipation. Sun was shining but disappointingly neither dragon nor damsel to be seen. And so it remained this way for a good 15 minutes, I consoled myself with an update on the birds present, far more action of the feathered kind than has been seen here in a long while.
Birdsong abounds, the chuntering of a garden warbler, the scratchy verse of the common whitethroat, the staccato song of a reed bunting, distant willow warblers and chiffchaffs, lovely stuff.
The water treatment plant next door had attracted many a hirundine, mainly house martins, wheeling around the skies picking off the myriad of insect prey these places are infested with.
Two broods of mallards, one quite duck-like, the other still in the fluffy cute stage, a moorhen family, territorial coots chasing anything that came near the nest, a pair of loafing Canada geese and a female tufted duck. And the little grebe nest was now empty, both adults were about, fishing in the clear waters and taking their catch into the reeds, so I guess the recently fledged chicks are in there somewhere. Ah the spring, but where are my dragons?
My wait ended with a flurry of activity, scanning the nearside vegetation for anything perched up, a pair of damsels in tandem floats past my eyeline, the blue male in front clasping his green female around the neck as she’s towed along. But they disappear just as quickly as they came and my attention wanders to a dragonfly which has just appeared directly in front of me, dipping it’s rear into the pond, a female four-spotted chaser ovipositing (egg laying). Maybe 5 or 6 rapid dips then she exits stage right as two more dragons zoom past further out going right to left. Their stop-start flight pattern has me dizzy, I can barely keep up with them with the naked eye never mind binoculars. They are joined far-side by another, all three hover in a group just long enough for me to get a fix on them, they are all dull brown four-spotted chasers, much duller than the yellowish female I have just been watching so I believe them to be all males. A brief skirmish and they zoom out of vision in all directions. Every now and again I can track one but they don’t ever seem to perch anywhere so offering no opportunity for better observation or photographs, and so it goes on for a while.
I relocate my blue damsel couple who are now ovipositing on surface plants. Female with abdomen arched as she lays her eggs, male still clasped round her neck now vertical as if on sentry duty. They are soon up in the air again and land on a plant in tandem a bit closer to the hide, giving my first photo opportunity. At 18 x zoom at about 20 feet away I can’t get good clear images, but the magic of digital is you can reel off a few in the hope one might give clues to their species, then nearby I locate a single blue damsel which I photograph as well.
Time running out now I scour the pond margins in front of the hide and find a second couple in tandem, again unable to identify by sight I get a couple of photos and it’s time to go back to Dragonhunter HQ and study the pictures.
|Azure couple - U shape at top of male abdomen is clearly visible|
|Another Azure couple - subtle differences on the male but the all dark back of the female abdomen is the best clue, on common blue the dark markings would be bomb shaped, but will cover that later.|
|Single blue male but what species?|