Saturday, 3 August 2013

Dragonflies past, Dragonflies present, and Dragonflies future . . .

Week Two of the school hols brought another barren week of dragonhunting (apart from this morning) and with it the end of July and a new month to look forward to.

So July pretty much went out with a whimper, though I would have been hard pressed to keep up the standard set in the early part of the month with the two most memorable events of the summer (in fact for many a summer) with the Highland Adventure and the unbelievably close encounters with the Emperors at Kibblesworth.

The week just gone saw a complete change of pace. Wildlife watching consisted of a couple of relaxed hours sea-watching at South Shields on Wednesday while Sprog1 had a LaserQuest afternoon with his pals.
Nothing spectacular to report but was just nice to watch the common terns at close quarters, fishing just offshore, returning to the rocks to feed the youngsters, and fending off any gulls which got too close. When (like me) you don't get to the coast very often it's just like catching up with old friends.
Nothing much passed by but a fishing sandwich tern was more spectacular, and a few rafts of lazing guillemot completed an idyllic scene.

Thursday saw one of those balmy summer evenings so I sat outside on the lounger as darkness approached, hoping to glimpse a hunting pipistrelle; and one duly obliged, at times flitting just above my head as it zipped about, taking moths from around the streetlight just outside the garden.

Friday saw a trip to Alnwick Castle. Lots to see here but all of it plastic. Guinea Fowl in the grounds, and a spectacular Falconry Show with a hunting peregrine, obligatory harris hawk and a new one for me, a Malaysian Wood Owl. All put on a good show but the stooping peregrine was quite stunning to see in controlled conditions.

Fowl play at Alnwick

New plastic tick - Malaysian Wood Owl

Star of the Show

Never did catch what this one was, but an
impressive looking beast

So only dragons of the week were a southern hawker which flew through the strawberry castle play area at Gibside, and a common blue damsel at Alnwick.

This morning though I popped up to Thornley Woods Pond for a hawker-watch (and hopefully some photos). Again I'm puzzled by the lack of southern hawker exuvia on the pond. Despite a good scour I could find none at all :O Baffling!
For a good while the only hawker present was a common. Now it's not unusual to have common hawkers here but usually they are just here to feed. This one looked like he was searching for a mate, flying low among the vegetation, hovering frequently and as usual, not settling even once. So maybe the new open aspect pond is more appealing to Common Hawker and breeding might be attempted in the future, something to keep an eye on anyway.
Eventually not one but two southern hawker males came on the scene, followed by a second common hawker, cue frequent skirmishes. But at least the southerns (being more inquisitive by nature) gave better views as they hovered in front of me, showing off their spectacular colouring, and giving better photo opportunities than the commons ever did.
Though I reeled off around 80 photos, believe it or not, these were the best of the bunch :

As inquisitive as ever - Southern Hawker male

Best (though still crap) shot of the Common Hawker male
Still good enough to show the diagnostic yellow Costa front of wing though 

Other dragons present today were a single common darter, good number of azure damsels, a couple of large reds, a blue-tail and this one which from distance just looked dull brown as it oviposited alone . . .

. . . but a better shot showed it was obviously a female emerald, strange for her to be unaccompanied and I can't remember ever seeing one so dull before. Another queer 'un for this year's collection.

So what to look for in August? Well I've a few days in Dumfries and Galloway to look forward to and take any opportunities to do a bit of hunting (though prime targets of Azure hawker and Variable damsel will be right at the end of their flight season so I'll be hard pushed to connect with either) but it's good golden-ringed country and an outside chance of keeled skimmer. Either one would do me.

Locally I've got Ruddy Darter and Migrant Hawker to seek out, both should be bankers in the valley without trying too hard by mid-month. A prime male ruddy is a cracking little dragon and always turn up at Far Pasture, though the hawkers are easily seen these parts but often prove difficult to photograph.
And finally Black Darter, always last to appear and another cracking little dragon, hopefully I'll get some on our next visit to Cragside, otherwise Kibblesworth, Stargate and Burdon Moor are three sites in the borough which have turned up trumps the last couple of years.

Plenty to keep me going during the hols then :)



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