Monday, 22 August 2011

A Ritual on the Moors

A first ever DragonHunting safari to Burdon Moor today proved worthwhile though not in the way planned.
Our target species was Black Darter but once again these proved elusive.
Best observation was a pair of mating Common Hawkers, Steve alerted me to them as a patrolling male clasped a female on the pool we were watching and we noted where they landed close by in a mating wheel. They remained stationery for a good while, allowing us to reel off some excellent photos, before parting and resuming their separate business. A first for me and best photos so far of the species, especially the female which is the first one I’ve seen close up.

Common Hawkers
the mating wheel

A different angle

parting company

Common Hawker Female
doing the dragonfly equivalent of smoking a cigarette?

Some dragonfly jargon now, and today's word is : Costa
Nothing to do with expensive coffee shops, the costa is the thick vein along the leading edge of the wing. And why do I mention it now? well the Common Hawker has a diagnostic yellow costa which can be seen clearly in these photos, a nice ID feature if you can make it out.

In all there were five or six Common Hawkers present on this boggy pool, with around a dozen Common Darters and maybe eight Emerald Damselfly just around the margins where we stood. A female Common Blue Damsel completed the sightings here, and only other species recorded was on one of the other ponds observed with difficulty from behind a barbed-wire fence, (though that is as close as we wanted to get with a couple of snorting bulls on the other side of it!) when another couple of hawkers in the mating wheel rose out of the rushes and up into the overhanging trees. The fact they rose into the trees makes me put them down as Southern Hawkers as this is typical of their mating ritual, rather than Common Hawker which tend to do their mating in low vegetation as we had just witnessed.

On to Kibblesworth for another Black Darter stakeout, again unsuccessful. On the entrance pond maybe half a dozen Common Darters present, small numbers of Emerald Damsel, and one each of Common Blue and Blue-tailed (males).
We met up with a regular watcher of this site who had just spent some time at the main ponds where he had observed three Emperors and a Ruddy Darter among eight species of dragon and damsel there. A discussion about the status of Black Darter in Gateshead ensued, this observer was actually the only person to record the species last year when he had a mating pair right where we were standing., but he was quite pessimistic believing them to be extinct now in most of their former sites due to habitat destruction and the overgrown nature of some of their former regular pools, including the one we were standing at.
I’m certainly not giving up though, he gave us a couple of pointers as to where they had been seen previously, and as many sightings have been made in September in years gone by, I see no reason to write them off yet.

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