Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Curse of the DragonHunter

In a word - Weather
Yip! Sorry to keep banging on about it and I know my overseas readers will laugh at the typical British stereotype, but for the height of summer, we’ve only had a couple of decent dragonfly days (ie warm and sunny) since the beginning of August.
On Sunday the forecast was for sunshine by late morning, so after spending a rainy hour in the hide at Shibdon pond, Indiana Steve and me (and faithful hound Tilly) toured the borough for early signs of bird migration, though the Common and Green Sandpipers at Shibdon and a handful of summer plumaged northern race Golden Plover noted from Dunston Staithes were the only evidence of this.
Anyway with the weather clearing nicely we decided to try for Black Darter at Kibblesworth. The boggy pond by the entrance to the site (best area for the species here) was well flooded with all the rain of late. Small numbers of Emerald, Common Blue and Blue-tailed damsels were in evidence, and a couple of Common Darters built our hopes of other dragonflies being on the wing, but after a while we decided to scour the main ponds and check this area again on the way out, when hopefully it would be warmer with more dragons flying.
A Common Hawker further along the path was flighty and typically fast, then on the larger ponds many a Common Darter were ovipositing in pairs. Another Common Hawker sped across the main pond, however our hopes were soon dashed as the increasing cover of dark clouds resulted in a prolonged heavy shower, with us caught out in the open and nowhere to hide. The promised sunshine never materialised after that, and the first quest for Black Darter was called off.

On Monday the sun did emerge, but the DragonHunter was on school holiday duty, but never mind, a family trip to Northumberland and Wallington National Trust estate would be good for a dragon or two, wouldn’t it?
Think again, sunny yes, ponds yes, dragonflies . . .err . . .no. Couldn’t believe it, a good scour of two great looking ponds produced only one Common Blue damselfly, am beginning to think it just isn’t meant to be.

So, until my luck changes, something to cheer us all up. In my other life as an artist/illustrator, my Twisted Nature cartoon series has been appearing in the monthly BBC Wildlife magazine for almost four years. Sadly that run has just come to an end but here are a few dragonfly related cartoons to inject a bit of humour to this rather downcast posting :

Dragonfly nymphs are well known for their voracious appetites, the subject of this cartoon published in BBC Wildlife magazine in June 2008 :


Two of my favourite creatures come face to face in this cartoon, the first ever in the Twisted Nature series and probably still my favourite, but sadly not chosen for publication :


And finally to illustrate the fact that many Hawker species can be found feeding late in the day, even as the sun goes down, this cartoon pays homage to one of the finest films ever made : 


There you go, hope that keeps you entertained 'til the next Quest, which hopefully won't be too long in coming.  

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