Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Updates from Dragon HQ

A few frustrating days at DragonHunter HQ. The weather has been glorious, just right for hunting dragons, but with one thing or another I haven’t been able to make any expeditions, so I’ve had to make do with second-hand reports of weekend sightings from the local network of trackers and wildlife explorers.
Gatesheadbirders.co.uk reports that on Sunday the single male black-tailed skimmer was showing at Kibblesworth along with 10 four-spotted chasers, and just a single Broad-bodied Chaser was reported from Stargate, not sure whether this one was a male or female.
Monday though brought exciting news of a first Southern Hawker of the year at Shibdon Pond at the head of the valley, (usually not noted ‘til early July), and Indiana Steve reported the Black-tailed Skimmer again from Kibblesworth and around 10 four-spotted chasers which he thought was a disappointing count considering the weather. And also he observed another Emperor, this time a female, which he photographed ovipositing on the main pool.
Emperor Dragonfly (female)
Steven Fryer
Generally a lot duller than the male photographed last week, the all-green thorax holds Emperors apart from other hawker species and this female shows a pale blue base to the abdomen, a common trait, this fading into a very pale green along the length of the sides mixed with a blotchy line of brown running along the top of the abdomen, which (like the similar black line on the male) wouldn‘t be so prominent in a profile view.
I’m starting to get a bit concerned I might not get the opportunity to observe and photograph a male Broad-bodied Chaser, as this early season species won’t be on the wing for too much longer and chances will be limited, so I’ve sourced an excellent photograph of the Stargate individual taken a couple of weeks ago by Michael Eccles to highlight the differences from the female we shot around the same time.
Broad-bodied Chaser (mature male) Stargate Ponds
Michael Eccles 

Obviously in this picture the mature adult shown has a mainly pale blue abdomen as compared to the yellow of the female, so sexing it is a no-brainer, but imagining it to be an immature, and therefore in the same yellow colouring, note how the sides of the male abdomen are much more parallel than the rounded female making it appear a lot slimmer. . .

male (left) female (right) 

. . . and as the close-up shows, the longer black claspers of the male sprout from the centre of the abdominal tip, whereas the small female anal appendages are wider apart (I think I likened them to cat's ears in a past post).

male (left) female (right)

 Hopefully I may yet get to photograph a male Broad-bodied Chaser but at least the species is ticked for the season with the female.

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