Sunday, 26 August 2012

Back to Cragside

Burdon Moor turned up the first Black Darter of the year in the borough on Tuesday (21st) while the DragonHunter was at the seaside up in Northumberland, and the rest of the week was a frustrating mix of bad weather and stuff to do, meaning todays much needed trip to Cragside offered the first chance to get one of my own.
A rather dull day ensued though, and the only early sign of a black darter came from a txt from Steve, informing me he got the one at Burdon Moor this morning, as I was busy dipping on a search of the area around Blackburn Lake, great !
After a picnic lunch the next opportunity for a bit of dragonfly spotting came with a trek along the shores of Nelly's Moss Lake (south), a narrow winding path of flat stones and mud, and with three sprogs in tow it was like an adventure trek through the amazon jungle as we weaved in single file overcoming obstacles of loose and broken stones, some wet and slippy and at dangerous angles, stray tree roots and deep puddles flanked by dirty sticky mud.
Suddenly a small yellow dragonfly alighted from a large flat rock as sprog 1 passed it in front. "No!" I gasped, recognising the insect as a female black darter, and the first I'd ever seen in real life.
It floated up and away but rather than be disappointed I got to thinking where there's one there has to be more, and the next bend in the track brought us into the open, flat rocks leading a short distance down to the lake, and the area was wick with dragonflies, two tandem pairs of common darters and a host of individuals, a southern hawker ovipositing from a rock in the shallows, a ruddy darter male hovered just in front of me, and the holy grail, a pair of black darters in the mating wheel floated by and landed on the expanse of stone by the lake.
Brilliant! I whipped out the camera and instructed my better half to keep the kids in check as I reeled off some pictures, getting closer and closer with each click of the shutter.

A bit disappointed with the overall quality, with hindsight a bit of fill-in flash might have got them a bit sharper as it was still quite dull. Never mind, I backed off and watched them through my bins for a time, certainly the best example of a male I've seen, his yellowish/amber spotting sharp and clearly visible, and the female the first I've ever seen close-up nevermind photographed, shame I couldn't get her bright yellow upper abdomen so still a target to hopefully get in Gateshead. But that's 17 species for the year, two better than last, though again I still need to get a black darter in Gateshead to complete the set for the borough this season.    

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