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 :)


  1. Can't blame the Birdman for being enthralled by the WFD's. They are a bit special.
    Any thoughts on the Thornley Pond situation. Could the "deforestation" be having an impact ?? It's a bit early, I suppose.
    When I got back to the car around 1p.m. yesterday in N. Shields the car thermo. read 34 degrees. PHEW.

  2. Wonder if you could fry an egg on the bonnet like I've seen them do in Africa?
    Still making notes on the pond John, like I said the other day there seems to be far more emergent grasses on the pond now it isn't in so much shade so maybe the exuvia just aren't visible in the 'jungle'. Same date last year though I had 5 emerging and 12 exuvia, perhaps the weather has something to do with it, may be emerging earlier with warm nights, will try to get up next week again a bit earlier in the morning.

  3. Just noticed on Gateshead Birders that there's RED-EYED DAMSELFLIES at Thornley Woods. OMG.

  4. I reckon that's a typo John, but I'll make sure :O