Friday, 19 August 2011

Hawker Quest

At last a bit of sunshine, and though I was on SHD yesterday (That’s School Holiday Duty, for the uninitiated?) by mid-afternoon I had my first garden dragonfly of the year, a fly-through hawker, can’t be sure of ID but the size and way it held it’s abdomen straight out I’m guessing a Common.

Today another good day, so DragonHunter was back in business. I went out this morning on a trek to Thornley Woods Pond hoping to observe some Southern Hawker action, males patrolling, skirmishing, finding females, mating and finally ovipositing females, don’t ask for much do I?
On completing the 20 minute trek I found another dragonfly adventurer already at the pond, hoping to photograph emerging dragons. A hawker had already been patrolling I was informed, and two large red damsels had been present, but not any more.
To the delight of my newfound acquaintance, with my first scan I found a freshly emerged Southern Hawker nymph, having climbed a stalk and ready to begin the transformation process. And not long after, the first adult hawker came patrolling the pond, and to my surprise and delight after watching it fly back and forth a number of times it turned out to be a Common Hawker male, my first confirmed sighting in the valley this summer, excellent!

Attention was turned back to the emerging dragon, my newfound colleague and I kept watch as the casing split and the head and thorax emerged. Slowly the body slipped out further but after a few twitches the emergence came to a halt. Whether this was to do with the temperature (it was overcast and cool in the shade) or some other factor I don’t know but my sequence of photographs shows how it remained up to the time I left.

And this was about as far as it got . . . .
In tandem with the emergence, more hawkers came to the pond. This time a splendid Southern Hawker male patrolled the margins for females, a relentless and empty search as it happens, but the odd bout of hovering over the emergent vegetation offered fantastic views of his splendid green black and blue armour. I tried to catch him on camera but not very successfully.

Eventually a second male came on the scene and when their patrols crossed the inevitable skirmish broke out, both dragons zoomed off away from the pond in a high speed chase, and moments later the victor returned (presumably the second male as this is how Southern Hawkers operate, by taking turns) and another lengthy and unsuccessful patrol of the margins ensued. This dragon came buzzing around my feet many times (unlike the more nervous Common Hawker which will give you a wide berth) but still I couldn’t get a decent shot on him, I reeled off almost sixty photos trying to get an aerial shot of these patrols, the best of a bad bunch I’ve added below, certainly no prize winners but good enough to show ID pointers :

Southern Hawker (male)
Note the thick green panels on the thorax as opposed to yellow stripes
of the Common Hawker

This shot shows better the green spotting along
the topside of the abdomen, diagnostic among local hawkers.
Despite this out of focus shot it shows off well the thick braces
(antehumeral stripes) at the front of the thorax,  the green top spotting
and the bold blue bands at the tip of the abdomen
Before I left another hawker briefly circumnavigated the pond at a height just above our heads. This one looked smaller altogether and with abdomen held straight I’m almost sure it was a Migrant Hawker, but it didn’t hang around so I can’t be 100%, shame.
I was running late now (afternoon SHD beckoned) so I hope my fellow dragon enthusiast gets in touch with an update on the emerging hawker, ‘til then I can only hope it eventually completed it’s transformation.

I decided to have a brief look at Far Pasture on my way home, if Migrant Hawkers are out then this is the place to see them. The sun was out nice now but as I scanned their favoured area,(the woodland edge running along the field opposite the saw mill) only butterflies were in abundance. Eventually I did spy a hawker dragonfly, but it was distant and jizz said it was a Southern Hawker rather than a Migrant, and I lost it again just as quickly so can’t confirm either way.
A quick look on the pond produced maybe a dozen Common Darters and at least eight Emerald Damselfly (all males) but time running short now I made my way back up the road, where many darters were sunning, patrolling and skirmishing. These are a lot more easy to photograph and I got a canny selection just in passing. Here are the best of them :

Common Darter (male)

Common Darter (female)

Ruddy Darter (male)

Same Ruddy Darter, different perch, different angle.

Another Common Darter (male)

And a nice arty shot to finish
No positive ID on Migrant Hawker yet then but I’m confident I’ll get one next time, though whether I can get a decent photo is another thing! Wish me luck.

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