Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A Return to Banded Country and a Great Ruddy Surprise - Part I

Have to take advantage of the breaks in the weather at the moment so with this morning nice and sunny but rain/thunder forecast for the afternoon I thought a couple of hours local would be wiser than going further afield.
I really wanted to see some Banded demoiselles, just the one so far this season and that back in early June. So out came the trusty (rusty?) steed and off I cycled along the Derwent Walk and down to Clockburn Lake. Nothing there at all when I arrived, possibly too early (about 10am), not quite warmed up yet but within twenty minutes the usual cast of Common Blue and Blue-tailed damsels were showing in good numbers.
Still I waited but no demoiselles, so I went a bit further along the river to the Butterfly bridge. Scanning from there, no damsels but a dipper was foraging just downstream.

I hadn’t really intended to go much further downstream but I really wanted to see some demoiselles so thought I’d play my trump card and ride along to HaggHill, an area which hardly ever fails to deliver sightings, but being high up on a man-made viewpoint, too distant for decent photographs.

The River Derwent at Hagg Hill
A slow-moving stretch ideal for banded Demoiselle
I parked up and viewed the river below, the atmosphere was starting to warm up nicely, so I waited, and waited, and waited. Three red kites soared overhead, circling me like they were mocking my efforts. A sparrowhawk came to mock me too, but was chastised by a sympathetic house martin, and escorted away by a friendly crow. A green woodpecker laughed raucously at me from the trees across the river, and even a normally skulking blackcap came to watch me fail from an open perch. (Paranoid? not me).

But eventually after some half an hour of waiting, I spied the fluttering prussian blue wings of a male Banded demoiselle, travelling at some speed as it hugged the nearside riverbank, passing directly below me on it’s way downstream, but no stopping.
Shortly afterwards, two females rose from the rushes far-side, briefly skirmished and settled on open perches, where they remained, presumably awaiting a suitor. And finally a potential suitor in the form of another male came into view, again far-side of the river, a slow undulating flightpath as he inspected seemingly every stalk of bankside vegetation in search of females. Trouble is he decided to have a rest maybe only fifteen feet from the two still perched up, and like those two, he stayed on his perch for an awful long time.
Not a great deal of action then, on past visits I've had up to ten bandeds here, and a string of four males following a female across the river like some slow-motion Keystone Cops chase, ah well, at least I've had a few sightings.

Just to show how poor it can be for photos here
This male Banded (dead centre) was taken at 18x zoom
 No further action, dark clouds came over, I was miles from any decent shelter, and believing the forecast I decided to make my way back nearer home just in case. But by the time I got back to the Nine-arches viaduct, just in time to view a passing buzzard, the sun once again ruled the sky.
After a brief stop for water and a chat with a photographer, I thought I’d chance a visit to Far Pasture on the way back, for surely there would be some Common Darters here by now?


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