Tuesday, 30 July 2013

National Disaster Averted in the Emerald City . . .

Ironic that the designated (by the BDS) National Dragonfly Week July 20 - 28 should be the worst dragonhunting week of the season thus far for yours truly, but a total disaster was averted with a visit to Gibside on Sunday.
It was mid-afternoon by the time we'd looked at the poor excuse for a classic car show (seems to be fewer exhibits every year), walked along by the river and up to the Lily Pond, noting an Emerald damsel and brief UFD red darter on the walled garden pond, and a southern hawker hawking a woodland ride on the way.

The Lily Pond though was teeming with Emerald Damsels, been a while since I've seen so many, mostly males hogging the margins as lesser numbers of blue damsels kept mainly to the lily pad raft centre pond. The only blue I identified was a Common, but as the sun kept appearing then disappearing it was a bit frustrating as a male southern hawker did likewise. But eventually a female came on the scene in ovipositing mode and settled just long enough for me to snap one picture, before she too became invisible.

Ovipositing Southern Hawker
first photographed of the year but hope I can
do a lot better. 

A few of the 20+ male Emerald damsels in a small area.
Can only remember seeing one female, in a tandem pair. 

Just a thought, had it been National Butterfly Week there would have been no cause for complaint. Everywhere we went was teeming with browns and whites with the odd splash of colour as well (you can maybe tell I'm not an expert). But despite my lack of real interest in butterflies it was really good to see so many out, in view of last year and earlier this :)
A happy note to end on.    

Sunday, 28 July 2013

A Dragonhunting Disaster . . .

. . . the only words to describe my first week of the school holidays.

My misfortune began on Monday, when a family trip to Cragside (which always brings up some goodies) co-incided with the first overcast day for yonks, hence only a brief UFD hawker and a few distant blue damsels (also unidentified) were all I had to show for a day in good dragon country. Never mind, we'll be back later in August for the Black Darters which showed brilliantly well here last year.

Next up was Pow Hill on Friday, where I was hoping to repeat last years success with a golden-ringed dragonfly. We first took the kids on a scooter-ride around the lower levels, finding three common hawkers and a single large-red damsel in the fenced off boggy heath, but before we could undertake part two of our 'adventure' (a walk to the upper carpark to see the red squirrels and hopefully connect with a golden-ringed on the way) Sprog3 had one of his mega-tantrums (and I mean MEGA) with the result that due to stress and embarrassment we just packed up and drove home. As you can probably imagine I wasn't best pleased (massive understatement).

So to Saturday afternoon, and with Sprog3 well and truly grounded I took numbers 1 and 2 to Far Pasture, where we had a pleasant couple of hours but dragon-wise was an unbelievable disappointment.
Despite the sunshine only a single blue-tailed damsel was seen on the main pond, couldn't believe it, I expected darters to be out in force by now. Notably the water level was very low, and a single common snipe on the far island was the avian highlight.
The roadside fence (and the road itself) is always great for viewing and photographing basking darters around this time (especially ruddy) but none to be seen, though a UFD hawker flew over us towards the pond (except we were going the other way), so another big disappointment.
 The rough area leading to the 'forbidden' pond has recently been massacred so nothing at all there, and the pond itself is now no bigger than a puddle, again I was amazed that not a single dragon or damsel was present, though 3 Green Sandpipers was an unexpected surprise ( and a single site record for yours truly I think).

The Forbidden Puddle

Two of the Three Green Sands present

So that was it, Week 1 of the hols was a load of bollocks. Just a couple of queries to finish off with. First this strange looking creature was on the kitchen window the other day. No idea what it was but it didn't look very pleasant (though it probably said the same about me), and (strangely for the time of year) a swan with a yellow and black bill was in with the Mute Swans on Saltwell Park Pond but I couldn't make my mind up as to whether it was a Whooper or a Bewick's. Any thoughts :

Queer Beast ?

Come in Number 6 . . . .

 Sorry, couldn't resist ;)

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Science Fiction ? Science Fact !

With the school holidays so far going as predicted (ie no time for dragonhunting) I thought I'd do a bit of investigating instead (a dragonhunter is never off duty).
Since being captivated by the scene in which a female Emperor captured and devoured a Four-spotted Chaser at Kibblesworth last week, I thought I'd do some reading up into what makes dragonflies the top predator they are in the insect world, and I found some quite startling facts and science about the inbuilt hunting tools which makes them probably the most efficient predator for their size that Mother Nature has ever produced.  

They are the stuff of science-fiction, cyborgs on a small scale; voracious hunters with an incredible success rate of over 90%, which is pretty amazing when compared with other top predators. Sharks for example have a success rate of around 50%, lions only 25%. So how do they do it?
Quite simply they are equipped with tools for hunting which put them light-years ahead of their competitors and their prey. If it wasn't for the fact we know they are millions of years old, we'd probably think they were from the future. Read on and be amazed :

The killing spree starts off at the larval stage. A diet of small aquatic insects and larvae in most cases, but larger nymphs will extend to tadpoles and small fish. They have an incredibly powerful extendable jaw which acts like a harpoon, shooting forward to capture prey, (apparently where the idea for the creatures in the Alien films came from).
And I’ll bet you didn’t expect to hear this, but they also have a specialist predator arsehole (!) Not only do they breathe through their anus but they also shoot jets of water from there which enables them to torpedo through their aquatic environment in pursuit of a meal, or to avoid being one. How cool is that?

But it is as adults where their advanced technology puts them way ahead of any other insect on the planet.

Let’s start with those massive bulbous eyes, wrapped around the head resembling a starfighter pilot’s helmet. Most insects have multifaceted (or compound) eyes. Your average housefly has around 6000 facets and is difficult enough to sneak up on, a dragonfly has 30,000!
Each facet creates an individual image which the dragonfly brain transforms into one 360 degree picture, meaning the dragonfly blind-spot (behind and below) is tiny compared to most other insects, so that when you try to sneak up on a dragonfly, you only get close if the dragonfly wants you to, an invaluable tool in avoiding predation as well.

They view life through the normal colour spectrum as we do but also see UV light and the plane of polarization, aiding navigation and giving the effect of built-in sunglasses (handy when you tend to hunt mostly in sunshine).

Bionic Eyes

And it doesn’t stop there; in the simple nervous systems of most insects, multiple objects tend to fade out as the insect can’t handle the attention multitasking. But dragonflies have the ability to switch their attention between objects at will. This selective attention span allows the dragonfly to single out one target in a swarm, then zero in on it exclusively, while remaining aware of the rest of the swarm to avoid a collision.
But best of all the compound eyes also provide the dragonfly with a targeting system in that when they hunt, they can section off part of the eye and use it like a grid (a bit like on the x-wing or tie fighters in Star Wars), keeping the target in the same section of the grid as they approach, making it incredibly accurate.

However it’s not just visual awareness which gives dragonflies their ruthless predatory efficiency. They have many more weapons in their armoury as well.
Speed and agility is one of their most distinguishing features and this comes down to the way their wings work. Their four wings operate independently of each other, allowing them to manoeuvre in mid-air like a helicopter. They can hover, fly forwards, backwards, sideways, and instantly change direction whenever they need to. Dragonflies can even fly upside down if need be, the only insects with this amount of control over their wings.
The wings themselves are delicate yet powerful, each wing is connected to the thorax by a separate muscle group, beating at a rate of around 30 times per second to propel them through the air at speeds of over 20 and in some cases 30mph with a rate of acceleration which to your average insect would be like going into hyper-drive.

Each wing powered by its own engine

So what happens when they intercept their prey? Like all insects, dragonflies have three pairs of legs, but you won't see a dragonfly walking. The three pairs increase in length from front to back and are covered in stiff bristles. They have evolved in different lengths so each pair can curl forward and have the same reach, clamping around the victim, bristles forming a cage and preventing escape.
With victim secured, their hinged jaws bear down and shred the wings off the fly, immobilizing it, and after that they’re free to chew away without any chance of losing their prey. They often consume their food in mid-air without even bothering to land, and can feed in this way tirelessly for long periods, not only satisfying their hunger, but storing food in their large crop for those days the sun don't shine.
Legs ensnare the victim like
a bear trap 

Their staple diet is small flies, but dragonfly jaws can open as wide as their head, allowing them to eat virtually anything within reason, even in some cases other, similarly sized dragonflies. Their scientific name Odonata is Greek, meaning ‘toothed ones’ in reference to their powerful serrated jaws which can slice through the exoskeleton of a victim like industrial metal-cutters on an aluminium sheet, or simply crush it to pulp. Only the largest hawkers have a bite powerful enough to break human skin, but to a fly it’s like being put through a car crusher.

Jaw breaker !

All these physical attributes help give the dragonfly a reputation for ruthlessness which would  give Darth Vader a run for his money, but the one truly amazing thing I discovered is their mental capacity for their size.
If you've watched a dragonfly hunting, you'll have noticed that a hawker just seems to pluck a victim out of the air with consumate ease, or a darter will fly up from its perch, snatch a meal out of the sky, and return to base, making it look so easy.
This is because despite their high speed they don't need to chase down their prey like a sparrowhawk or stoat for example which rely on stealth to get close then speed to make the final kill; they intercept it out in the open. 
And the dynamics of capturing something in mid-air are staggeringly complex for an insect, so much so that it's usually something only done by animals with complex nervous systems like birds and mammals. In effect dragonflies ensure a kill by predicting where their prey is going to be, indicating that they have the capacity to consider the distance, speed and direction of their quarry, and in the space of milliseconds will calculate the angle of approach, so like a sci-fi horror movie monster, is already waiting while the hapless fly stumbles right into its clutches, fate sealed by those terrifying jaws. . . . and as we found earlier, with a 90+% success rate . . . . staggering!  
The more I learn about dragonflies the more I admire these fascinating creatures. They have all the tools necessary to get the absolute maximum out of their short adult lives, they really are out of this world!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Only Mad Dogs and Dragonhunters go out in the Midday Sun . . .

A couple of hours spent at Thornley Woods pond yesterday morning in searing heat was a bit of a disappointment, with the targetted Southern Hawker emergence not materialising and only three exuvia seen in the emergent grasses. A very poor return for this time of year.

Both male and female Southern Hawkers (one of each) buzzed the pond but didn't stay long, and it was a Common Hawker (m) which provided most of the entertainment, hawking for flying insects above the pond and generally giving us the runaround, the typical tireless flight offering little in the way of photographic opportuinities. Hawking at a decent height as every time he came in low he was mobbed by damsels, of which there were many on the pond today.

Azure damsels had the largest presence, many singles and ovipositing pairs (40+) smaller numbers of large-reds (c16) and maybe half a dozen blue-tails. Three Common Darters made up the final species count on the pond today.

Large-red damsel in close-up

One of three common darters on the pond today,
and first photographed of the year.

The midday sun got too much; for once I called it a day before my alloted time was up, and trapsed off home for an ice-cold drink (what a wuss!)

The bad news is we have now reached the school holidays, which means casual hunting (with family in tow) will be the order of the day for the next six weeks, though I should still get the odd hour or so locally when chance arises, which means most of my dragonhunting will be at Thornley Woods, Far Pasture and Gibside. No change there then :)

The good news is we've 5 days in Dumfries and Galloway to look forward to in August, so brushing up on Azure Hawkers (just in case there are any still around) I learned something new and very interesting; that the female comes in two forms, one with yellow spotting and another with bluish spotting (which I didn't know about as the fieldguide only shows the yellow form and I hadn't previously read the text). This cleared up a mystery hawker at Loch Garten the other week which was only seen in profile flying back and forth once, but appeared brown and blue with dark-tinted brown wings. Me and another bloke thought it a dead-ringer for a brown hawker (if not for the location) so it went on record as a UFD (Unidentified Flying Dragon). Until now :O
Unfortunately the Birdman was mesmerised by the white-faced darters at the time so didn't see it :(
Ganz on my list though,oh yes :)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Bandeds at 12 o clock

Had a trek along the river to Hagg Hill late morning hoping to catch sight of some Banded Demoiselles. I've only seen them once this year and Clockburn Lake outlet stream (the best spot for photographs) has proved fruitless so far, and now they've had the diggers in to unblock the stream half the vegetation has been yanked up and the new deep channel is no longer crossable to check out the riverbank.

But I'm happy to say the good weather had brought the demoiselles out in droves at Hagg Hill. I've never seen so many on the derwent, with up to 20 males and maybe half a dozen females showing both sides of the river in the glorious sunshine. Melees galore involving 2-4 males, and those 'keystone cops' style chases they are famous for when a string of four or five males will chase a female across the river, the fluttering, almost slow-motion zig-zagging flight a joy to watch.

I txted the Birdman who just happened to be at home so turned up a few minutes later. We tried to get some photos of those which landed closest but that's the only downside of this viewing point, it's too high up for good photos, I reeled off a few record shots and hopefully Birdman will have some better ones but after a while I gave up and just enjoyed the spectacle.

Banded Demoiselles at Hagg Hill (females)

Banded Demoiselles at Hagg Hill (males)

I started the return journey and had a look from the Butterfly Bridge at the stretch leading up to Clockburn Lake but not a demoiselle to be seen (though a kingfisher was fishing from a high branch, always nice to see). Maybe the floods of the last couple of years has taken it's toll on the species here, the 'scape of the river has changed and doesn't seem as slow moving as it used to be. The Lake itself still has many a blue-tailed damsel, and still some teneral specimens kicked up as I made way along the path.

I continued my journey home and stopped at points along the river which had been successful in the past, but no luck anywhere. Last stop was Nine-arches Viaduct from where I could view the loop of the river around the meadows, but no further demoiselles to report. I couldn't really be bothered to walk around the meadows for a closer look, the heat was stifling at this stage.
I chatted with a bloke who advised me not to go to Far Pasture as the hide was full of photographers waiting for the kingfishers to show, some of whom had been there since 6am! (must've been like a Turkish bath in there) so I went to Far Pastures (but not the hide) and got some cracking shots of a Broad-bodied Chaser on the forbidden pond (sorry John) where the weekend visitors had left a perfect perch for the purpose.

The pond is drying out rapidly here now, never thought I'd say this, but we could do with a bit of rain!



Sunday, 14 July 2013

Mint Imperials . . .

The morning started well with a Little Egret at Shibdon, though flighty it did offer cracking views for a time in front of the hide.

Next up Kibblesworth Brickwork Pools, Gateshead's flagship dragonfly spot and boy did it live up to the billing today. My first visit of the summer in fact, primary targets being Black-tailed Skimmer (as it's the only site in the borough to hold them) and the fearsome Emperor Dragonfly, best site for them by far but they've proved very difficult to photograph in the past.

In the event it was a strange sort of session, the skimmers giving us the run-around and the Emperors posing beautifully for the camera.
First up the male, we followed one flying away from the pond and the Birdman spotted exactly where it landed. We cautiously approached, following the standard insect photography procedure of getting close enough for a shot, stepping forward and having another shot, step forward etc and seeing how close you can get. Well this feller refused to budge even with us right in his face, amazing considering I've never found this particular species to be at all obliging, and here I was studying every marking in close-up in an eye-to-eye confrontation. Unbelievable; best ever views and best ever photos :

The Emperor

Move round for another view

Hang about ? He isn't moving

May as well get closer!

Birdman can't believe his luck
And it wasn't long before we had another (somewhat gruesome) close encounter, this time with a female. Before today the last time I had even seen a female Emperor was 2008 :O but got on to one ovipositing soon after arrival for a first sighting in five years.
But it was while I was trying to pin down a black-tailed skimmer both myself and Birdman spied a large hawker rise up from the grass and attack another dragonfly. The grappling pair remained airborne long enough for us both to lock on to them and see it was a female Emperor carrying off a four-spotted chaser :o
She took her victim to ground and we spent the next few minutes watching her devour her meal from the head down. It was very graphic; the abdomen of the chaser still pulsated as he lost his head, and the crunches which accompanied every bite were clearly audible.
Again, we couldn't have been closer, and call it a morbid fascination if you will but it was an amazing scene to watch.



That's gotta hurt !

No words neccessary

She didn't spill a drop !

And a decent photo of the female Emperor for my collection

Bloodlust satisfied I went back to seeking out the Black-tailed Skimmer, and though it took some patience I eventually was able to reel off some record shots to accomplish my mission.

Black-tailed Skimmer (male) - proved to be the toughest opponent today

Might have got sharper shots if I'd had my camera
on the right setting.

And to finish I even got the added bonus of a lucky Common Hawker flight record shot, poor but recogniseable, another dragon not easy to photograph but I would hope to better this effort before the summer is out.

A summary of today's dragons at Kibblesworth :
Emperor (male and female), Black-tailed Skimmer (2 x males), Common Hawker (3 x male), Four-spotted Chaser (16+) Common Darter (numerous mature and teneral) and four species of damselfly.

A superb day at Kibblesworth. Now only 5 of the Gateshead 16 still to be photographed. Southern and Migrant Hawkers, Common, Ruddy and Black Darter.

Friday, 12 July 2013

A Goth Moth

Dragonhunter's day off . . .

A moth flew in through the kitchen window a couple of nights ago, and what a beautifully marked and distinctive individual. Never seen one before and for once I was able to successfully identify it from my Collins Incomplete Guide to British Insects :

The Gothic Naenia typica
fantastic name, fantastic moth

Though it disappeared the night before, it was relocated in the bairn's room last night so I was able to capture it and return it to the night. So that's one new moth tick, but a second newbie which I found on the outside wall of the house wasn't so clear cut. So anyone out there with an inkling please let me know.

Mystery Moth?
about 15mm long

Also late last night a fox was barking (if that's the term?) continuously in close proximity to the house. Eventually I thought I'd go outside and look for it but clumsy clutz that I am made a right racket trying to get out the back door without putting the light on, so when I got outside it had stopped barking and must have run off. Must have been v. close to the house though.

And today I spent demolishing our rotten old garden shed, discovering an underground bumble-bee nest underneath it (a white-tailed species). Luckily they weren't too disturbed and have been coming and going ok since but I've taped the area off to keep the kids away.

Back to the dragons next time (I hope)  . . .


Thursday, 11 July 2013

No Wow at Pow, but a Ding Dong at Far Pasture . . .

Pow Hill Country Park on Derwent Reservoir last summer gave my my first sighting of a Golden-ringed Dragonfly for many a year. Certainly a dragonfly with the 'wow' factor so went up with the Birdman today to see if we could repeat the success.
Not on your nelly though, a pretty fruitless trek to be honest, a couple of glimpses of common hawker the only dragonfly sightings on site. All the highlights came in mammalian form, with a cracking stoat running across the road ahead of us, and two superb red squirrels showing brilliantly by the top car park.

We returned to the valley and popped in on Far Pasture  where we had much better success with dragonflies. Now 2 male Broad-bodied chasers on the forbidden pond, 3 four-spots and a few teneral common darters (first of the year) seen. Just a few each of common blue and azure damsels and two blue-tails made up the numbers of odonata.

When the second bbc arrived there was an almighty tussle lasting a good few minutes, the fighting pair zipping around the tree cover, skimming the pond at breakneck speed and rising high in the air to continue the dogfight.
Interesting because such was the intensity of the battle it suggests the resident male has successfully mated here, as they only tend to show any territorial behaviour after mating, when they become much more aggressive and will win around 90% of battles to defend their 'domain' while waiting for wandering females to arrive. They only tend to lose the battle if they allow the other male to mate on their territory first so the 'intruder' then becomes more aggressive too.

Still King of the Castle - For Now ?
Just another insight into what makes them such fascinating creatures. Cheers.


Tuesday, 9 July 2013

. . . And Ah'll Tak the Low Road

Birdman and Dragonhunter's Highland Adventure Part II

Sunday July 7th

Stirred into action by the 5 'o' clock alarm we were groomed (quick rub with a wet-wipe), packed (everything thrown in the back of the landrover) and breakfasted (teacake and carton of orange) in record time, possibly because the midges were showing well in the early hours, mostly around my backside according to steve :O

We parked up at the Cairngorm Funnycolour Railway Station and ticked ring Ouzel then 3 x Hooded Crows grounded in the distance, helluva spot by Steve that one. I looked up at the mountain and wondered what I'd let myself in for, five minutes in and I was already blowing. More ring ouzels and a mountain hare, meadow pipits galore, one in particular led us up the lower slopes, bounding ahead of us and singing from any available perch (or mocking us).
The only other bird seen on the slopes was a wheatear, and as the climb got steeper and steeper I preferred just to look at the step ahead rather than be intimidated by looking up at our destination. But in the event, despite a climb of well over an hour and a half, we took it steady, made a few stops and reached the summit without a coronary between us.
I'd just climbed a mountain, usually at 7.30 on a Sunday morning I'd just be preparing to climb out of bed! The view was amazing, we were above the clouds, it felt damned good. :)

The Dragonhunter - Elated after reaching a new peak - literally

The Birdman and Tilly - not so elated - but then again this was his
fifth time up there.

Yip, that's snow - in July
Celebratory photos and a drink of water downed, then to business. We were looking for Dotterel (a lifer for me and a bird I've wanted to see for years) Ptarmigan (another lifer) and Snow Bunting (never seen a summer plumaged one before).
Moving across to the next peak Steve spotted a ptarmigan with chick quite close by. We moved round for a better view but kept our distance though they seemed unbothered by our presence. Gettin, my first bird lifer for many a moon.
Trekking around the plateau I spotted my number one target sticking out like a sore thumb on the horizon, again quite close by, a cracking male dotterel which turned out to have 3 chicks with it, Marvellous!

My first view of a dotterel - a lifer

And a better view - a belter of a bird

Snow bunt was proving harder to track down, even after we heard one singing it was proving tricky to pin it, til eventually the singer became airborne and zipped past me, vivid white and black, a glorious male, Superb!
Before long we had 3 flying past the other way and got cracking views of a perched up male, and another pair as we tracked back to begin our descent. Well happy with our mornings work :)

The descent was hard on the knees and ankles, but despite the feeling of having deep sea divers boots on we made it back to terra firma, Tilly had a well deserved splash in the stream and me and Steve a much needed coffee, though Steve proved the theory that blokes can't do two things at once as he spilt his down his shirt front while talking on the phone :)

Birds ticked, now it was time for the Dragonhunt. Targets today were White-faced Darter and Northern Emerald and we only had one site for each mapped out so it was fingers crossed they would show :0
First it was back to Loch Garten for the White-face (picking up common sandpiper on the way), and boy did they show! I spotted my first before we reached the small pond and it was fill your boots time as on the pond amid the mid-day heat and sun no less than SIX White-faced Darters were in a frenzy with a dozen or more four-spot chasers and umpteen large-red damsels.
These little beauties are probably top of my 'most wanted' list and the views were amazing, landing right by us on the boardwalk and one even landed on the trousers of another bloke there to see them.
The only downside (don't believe I'm about to say this) was the sun was TOO strong. Our photos were coming out mainly as just silhouettes but eventually I got enough decent ones to show.

Trip lifer number two - White-faced Darter
What a cracker!

And just to prove it does have a white face . . .

. . . here it is in close-up

And a female, red markings replaced by white

Fantastic dragon! Unbelievably good views, happy as a pig in the smelly stuff :)

So to our final target of the trip. Northern Emerald. Another lifer and just one chance to get it at Uath Lochans. On the way Steve said we should call in at another Osprey site and so glad he did. The nest was so much closer than at Loch Garten, and being on an island made viewing from the Loch shore a piece of pee. Five Ospreys on the nest was a record and they showed beautifully after just a few minutes.
But scanning a distant mountain ridge I got on two raptors. Buzzards I thought, one much further away than the other due to the size difference. But suddenly the smaller buzzard started mobbing the larger and I realised they weren't at different distances, one was actually about one and a half times the size of the other! They parted again and I made sure the smaller bird was a buzzard (which it was)before alerting Steve to the fact I had a Golden Eagle drifting in from over the mountains being mobbed by a Common Buzzard!
They both drifted out of sight pretty quickly but a few minutes later the eagle returned but further away, this time with three buzzards in attendance. Not a great view due to the distance but a fantastic trip tick.

We also picked up goldeneye and blackcap here taking the trip-list into the 60s, then we were on our way to Northen Emerald, which due to my shite navigating skills, baffling directions nicked from the internet and us rubber-necking a police incident at a vital junction, our journey took probably an hour longer than it should have :( so with time getting on it was going to be no more than a fleeting visit.

But the dragonhunting gods were with us today bigtime as we quickly ID'd a male Emerald hawking the trees at a point just along the shoreline. Amazing, but despite his typical restless flight making photos nigh on impossible, his metallic green sheen in the sunshine made cracking viewing. Then before long a female came along, settling twice not far in front of us on low branches giving me my one and only photographic opportunity to bag a Northern Emerald. :)

That's a male Northern Emerald - Honest!

Thankfully the female decided to hang around
Third dragon lifer of the weekend bagged! 
Steve has much better photos on his blog report but that's good enough for me, another dragon lifer in the bag.

That was that then, all that remained was the long journey home. A seawatching opportunity came just past Berwick. Time to stretch our legs and get the trip bird-list well in to the 70's, a couple of Manxies being the pick of the ticks.

What a weekend then, many thanks to Steve for driving, the laughs, the patience (with my navigating skills) and most of all the ticks, 3 lifer dragonflies, 2 lifer birds and summer plumaged snow bunts all absolutely outstanding.
A few of the best pics of other dragons seen on the trip :

Never seen so many 4-spot chasers

A more unusual angle

Nice shot of a large red

And an Emerald damsel
Another year first.

 And finally one more highlight as we spotted this just outside Edinburgh, upped our spirits no end in the latter stages of an exhausting weekend.

Hot Rod a la ZZ Top
complete with swinging clems!

And would I climb the Cairngorms again if the opportunity arose? Would I Feck !