Thursday, 21 June 2012

Back down to Earth

Chuffed I went out yesterday after seeing todays rain, anxiety levels dropped by about 100% after getting the Banded Demoiselle and Broad-bodied Chaser, the season is back on track with only the Black-tailed Skimmers to get locally of the early summer emergers.
A trip to Kibblesworth over the next couple of weeks should sort that one out (though I remember I said that last year as well) when I should also get an Emperor, though not a main target always a good dragonfly to see.
Anyway, feeling good about my photography skills yesterday I was soon brought back down to earth when Steve sent me a selection of his, have a look and see what I mean :

Superb flight shot of a female b-b chaser

Four-spotted chaser male

And the star of the show yesterday
The male Broad-bodied Chaser
Actually these small images don't do the original photos justice, click on a picture to enlarge and see them in all their glory. Cheers Steve, look forward to the next Dragonhunt. 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Depressa-ing News

Libellula depressa that is . .

Yesterdays eager anticipation turned to disbelief as early morning sunshine gave way to cloud and rain by the time we ventured over to Stargate in search of Libellula depressa (or Broad-bodied Chaser if you prefer), so to cut a long story short we drew a blank. Plenty of Common Blue and Blue-tailed damsels perched up on the emergent grasses mid-pond but despite constantly surveying the pond and a long search of the abundant gorse bushes nearby, nothing even resembling a dragonfly could be found.
I managed a token shot of a common-blue damsel as the first photographed of the year, and stumbled upon a tiny field vole which allowed us to get close enough for a couple of snaps too, otherwise a pretty much wasted journey. 

But it's not all bad news, far from it in fact. Today the sun shone brightly, I was chomping at the bit to get out again after hearing the forecast for Thursday and beyond was once again rain, rain and more rain.
It was a case of now or never, so out came the trusty chariot and off I went. I decided to stop off at Clockburn Lake outlet stream in order to try and find a male Banded Demoiselle, and this fine specimen duly obliged, giving me best ever photos and a fantastic start to the days dragonhunting.

Banded Demoiselle (male)
What a little beauty!
My best shot yet of this cracking damselfly
note the prussian blue wing patches on this individual are smaller
than normal, usually extending almost to the wing tip and covering the
entire width of the wing.

On arriving at Stargate I found Michael E. who provided me with some excellent photos last year, he'd set up a perching stick for the Broad-bodied Chasers with camera at the ready so I waited with him. A beaut of a male was circumnavigating the pond at good speed, I managed a couple of flight shots before he perched on the provided stick to give me my first ever decent photos of a male Broad-bodied Chaser. The opportunities kept coming and the photos got better. Steve and Tilly turned up, and Rob who is new to dragonflies but likes the photographic challenge.
Two male BBCs were present, often skirmishing, with just one female seen briefly when accosted by one of the males, forming a mating wheel low over the pond. A four-spotted chaser also made occasional appearances (cue more skirmishes) and azure and large-red damsels were noted, as well as a weasel poking its nose out of a tussock behind us though I couldn't get a photo.

Broad-bodied Chaser (male)
My very first photo
And again as he passed by
Poor quality photo but shows all the ID features
And my first perched picture
courtesy of Michael's improvised stick
Change of angle for a profile shot
And again for a rear view
This four-spotted chaser also used the perching stick
Getting closer
I followed this one I saw land amongst the trees behind us
for a rare front-on shot. The glare disguises the powder blue abdomen
making it look like a female, a trick of the light.
Eventually this one landed right in front of me giving an
absolute belter of a shot
Same insect, same perch, different angle, another cracker.

So thanks to Michael and his improvised perching stick my photos of the number one target, the male broad-bodied Chaser got better and better 'til in the end the final shots of the individual which landed right at my feet far exceeded my expectations. After this I put the camera away and just took in the beauty of the insect through my bins. The pulsating abdomen, the clockwork head movements checking out anything flying past, the fights and the patrols, all feeding my growing fascination with these summer marvels. 
And a very successful mission, with two of my early season targets secured in one session. Like I said before, the weather might be affecting the quantity of early season dragons, but the quality so far is superb.

Next target, Black-tailed Skimmer . . . . .

Monday, 18 June 2012

BBC News

A report from 'Indiana' Steve today of Broad-Bodied Chasers at Stargate, and the first Common Darters also today at Kibblesworth.
Co-incidentally I've just finished this picture of a Broad-Bodied Chaser (female) based on the cracking photo Steve took around about this time last year.

Broad-Bodied Chaser (female)
watercolour,ink and gouache

And the good news is that with the forecast good for tomorrow too, I'm going to have a trip over there in the morning with Steve in the hope of photographing the male Broad-Bodied Chaser which he saw today, one of my main targets for this year's Dragonhunting season.
Watch this space tomorrow . . . . . . . fingers crossed!  

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Damsels in distress?

Not exactly the best start to the dragonfly season, cold, wet and overcast not the best of conditions, and not many reports coming in from around the borough.
But at least yesterday was dry so I thought I'd give it a go, again not too much time at my disposal so a repeat of the Clockburn lake/Far Pasture double header was the order of the day, with targets of Banded Demoiselle along the river by Clockburn Lake and Four-Spotted Chasers at Far Pasture.

A few Blue-tailed Damsels and even fewer Azure Damsels were along the Clockburn Lake outlet stream, mostly perched up as the cold conditions discourage flying. One Blue-tail in particular was struggling even to perch, tangled upside down in the grass. I managed to free it and had it in hand for a while, so small and delicate at close-quarters, but regaining its senses off it flew before I could photograph it.

Next a short walk along the riverbank and I chanced upon a beaut of a female Banded Demoiselle, motionless on a giant wild rhubarb leaf. She too affected by the cold, I was able to get real close up, snapping from a range of no more than a couple of inches with the macro setting on for some best ever photos of this particular species. Only pity was the sun wasn't shining to show off her green metallic colouring to best effect, but then again I probably wouldn't have got such great pics if it had been.

Banded Demoiselle female
River derwent

Most noticeable was the size of her compared to the Blue-tail I'd just been handling, a relative giant. And the legs too were invredibly long in comparison to those of the smaller blue damsels, though it wasn't til I studied the pics back at home that I realised she had a leg missing.

Same insect - but count the legs

A good search along that small stretch of river didn't come up with any males, though strangely another blue-tail I photographed not far from the demoiselle also showed up in the picture as having a leg missing, coincidence or in view of the weather are they just staying at home and getting legless? (very poor)

Another lost leg  

Anyway, on to Far Pasture, bleak here until a sudden burst of sunshine sent dozens of azure damsels skywards, only for them to disappear again as the sun did likewise. But at least they were there, and a couple of Large Red males appeared also, though not one Four-spotted Chaser showed in the half hour I was there, and I was constantly scanning through the reeds on all sides. Not good.

Large Red Damsel - far pasture

A final check of the roadside ditches revealed a few more Azure Damsels, and a couple of pairs as well allowing some good close-ups from some interesting angles, far more photo-friendly than views you get from the hide.

Even so, the female Banded Demoiselle was the star of the day, and so far this year the quality is making up for lack of quantity.   

Until next time . . . . . .