Friday, 27 July 2012

A Golden-ringed Opportunity

With an afternoon to spare after finishing hacking back the front jungle this morning, I suggested the short trip to Pow Hill Country Park on the shores of Derwent Reservoir. It has an excellent array of paths and short grassland for the kids to scoot about on, and wild areas of woodland, boggy heath and a couple of open acidic streams known to be favoured by golden-ringed dragonflies, what a bonus that would be!

But after a disappointing (for me anyway) first leg of the trip, with not a dragon or damsel to be seen around the bogs, we had our afternoon snack back at the car park, and revitalised by a nice cup of earl grey we decided to tackle the track on the opposite side of the car park.
On breaking through the first bank of trees I could see this was much better golden-ring country, the path climbs parallel to a deep-sided narrow stream in a good clearing between the trees, disappearing at times beneath overhanging ferns, perfect! and with a good length of clearing too I was getting a tad optimistic.

The afore-mentioned stream

Suddenly a large dragonfly could be seen hawking further up the track. I got onto it with my bins as it approached, but nay, it turned out to be a common hawker male. Nevertheless a good dragon, my first of the year in fact so quite happy with that. I watched it foraging a while as the kids got impatient and we moved on through an upward-sloping dark and barren conifer wood, not knowing what to expect at the top of the bank as we hadn't been up this way previously.
A pleasant surprise as we entered a freshly mown clearing, flanked on one side by the pine forest and the other by a large swathe of 2 metre high bracken, over which another large dragonfly was skimming swiftly.
 I knew straight away this was something different, I focussed on it coming towards me, at the speed and distance a very black-looking insect, even the wings appearing dark like smoked glass (an effect made by thick black veins in the wing I find out later) and as it suddenly reared upwards to gather in some prey the obvious bulging tip of an otherwise slim abdomen confirmed my rising hopes, a Golden-ringed Dragonfly!
I tracked it around the top of the bracken from my vantage point of a conveniently placed picnic table, (not easy in the increasingly blustery conditions), until it came overhead and started hunting high in the pines opposite, where I got my best view as it inspected the outer branches, hovering in fits and starts.        
What a beauty, bright green eyes, and striking yellow and black armour running the length of it, my first golden-ringed since Dumfries and Galloway back in 1997, and I have no qualms at calling it as a male, the slim abdomen with obvious bulging tip noted earlier was enough to sex it (a female would have a relatively thicker abdomen making the bulge at the tip not so prominent) and there was certainly no sign of a protruding ovipositer in the overhead silhouette.

Looking back at where I found the golden-ringed, follow
the channel on the left of picture 
Unfortunately no photographs to accompany the sighting, (too flighty, too distant) so here's one pilfered from the internet :

Golden-ringed dragonfly male
like the one I saw earlier 

But what a great end to an afternoon out, I'm even starting to quite enjoy the school holidays!  :)

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