Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Failed Quest

Well I regret to say I’ve failed in my mission to observe and record by photograph, all species of dragonfly and damselfly seen in Gateshead for 2011, Black-tailed Skimmer being the bogey.
It’s a species that only breeds at one site (Kibblesworth Brickwork Pools) and is only ever seen in small numbers up to mid-July.
This year only a single male was seen by a few lucky observers in late June/early July. I turned up on the same day as he’d been seen once but was out of luck, and with one thing and another couldn’t get back to the site for a further search until Sunday of this week, (far too late and more in hope than expectancy) when an expedition led by Indiana Steve proved fruitless, though not altogether pointless (see previous post).
So, in absence of any first-hand observations, a few pieces of general information about the species illustrated by photographs of the only individual recorded courtesy of Steve Fryer :

A medium-sized dragonfly, the species is of similar size to the local chasers, and indeed the male does resemble a stretched Broad-bodied Chaser, having a similar pale blue abdomen with yellow spots down the sides and tipped black, though that of the skimmer is much slimmer and pointed at the tail, so no real danger of confusion.
The female (not recorded at all this year) is yellow throughout, with two black stripes flowing the length of the abdomen at either side on the upper surface.
Black-tailed Skimmer (male) at Kibblesworth
The only individual observed in 2011
Steven Fryer
As the name suggests their typical flight action is to skim the surface of the water at speed, with a preference for ponds, lakes and slow moving rivers with bare or sparsely vegetated margins, where the territorial male likes to perch for long periods in the open on rocks or ground, using a favoured ‘perch’ to look out for prey, rivals or passing females, and is therefore quite easy to observe.

The same individual caught splendidly in flight,
again by Steven Fryer
That’s a brief field report on Black-tailed Skimmer then, sadly not seen by the DragonHunter this year, but I’ll make doubly sure I get one in 2012.

Species Not Recorded : Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum

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