Saturday, 17 September 2011

After the Storm . .

The aftermath of the hurricane finally subsided by midweek, and with Thursday set to be the only decent day of the week I made time for an afternoon safari to Thornley Woods Pond. The target here was to photograph Southern Hawkers, especially the male as I haven’t yet got a decent shot of a mature specimen, only this teneral male from the same site last year (below) which I actually had recorded as a female due to the colouring. And that’s a lesson I’ve learned this year through keeping this blog, there are so many variations in markings that it pays to check every detail. In fact I’ve reviewed three records from last year which I’d mistaken the ID, so I‘m learning all the time. (It hasn’t been a total waste then!)

Teneral Southern Hawker
The pale green/yellow spotting had me fooled
into thinking it was a female

But from this angle I should have checked the
narrow waisted abdomen to confirm a male.
Back to Thursday, and despite a first half hour when my only company was a speckled wood butterfly and various calls from hidden nuthatch, jays and woodpeckers, it turned out to be a worthwhile little session, when one after the other three male southern hawkers came on the scene, frantically searching the margins for females and skirmishing whenever their paths crossed. Their constant agitated flight wasn’t conducive to good photography though (my excuse) and despite reeling off over twenty photos in this first wave of action, this was the best I could command.

All went quiet again after about ten minutes of action but I decided to hang around a while longer knowing they’d return, and sure enough after another twenty or so minutes wait, back they came. One, two, three, is that four this time? And this fourth one settled further along the boardwalk, though quickly with the aid of my trusty 8 x 42s I realised it was a female ovipositing. Nevertheless a decent photo opportunity at last. It’s often quite easy to get right up to a preoccupied female like this but I approached stealthily nonetheless and due to the fact the three males present seemed more intent on seeing each other off than anything else she remained undetected by them allowing me to get some excellent close-up shots :

Southern hawker female ovipositing on the boardwalk

I was really pleased  with the sharpness of this picture I took
from much closer in

And a cracking macro shot of those complex eyes
This female carried on with her egg-laying on and around the boardwalk for a good few minutes before flying off undetected by the patrolling males, which I found quite hard to believe considering the thorough search of the area they had been conducting up ‘til then. And just minutes later I couldn’t believe my luck when (after a brief skirmish) one of the males landed rather heavily on the wooden slats further along from me. I swung my camera quickly into action as I stepped closer, he had his abdomen doubled up under him as if looking for a hold and I realised he had actually landed on a thin band of moss between two slats which (perhaps out of desperation after a fruitless search) he had probably mistaken for a female, being of similar shape and colour. He tried many times, probing around with his claspers, giving me ample opportunity to get him on camera :

A case of mistaken identity?
Should have gone to Specsavers, mate! 

Southern hawker (male)
Very pleased with the quality of this shot as he continued to probe
with his claspers, but obviously he would prefer a female with
something to grab hold of.
Eventually he gave up and flew off, probably realising his mistake allowing me to even get a fairly decent in-flight shot . . .

. . . and his loss was my gain as at long last I had got a couple of nice quality photographs of a mature male southern hawker. I’m more than happy with those last two shots, a best ever result, mission accomplished.

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