Friday, 6 September 2013

Last Days of Summer - Part III

After the episode with the injured southern hawker (again, I just couldn't believe my luck) I eventually made it to Far Pasture, hoping for Ruddy Darter and Migrant Hawker.
Many common Darters basking and skirmishing by the roadside, but disappointingly no Ruddies.

I had a look on the pond and more activity here than of late, maybe half a dozen tandem pairs of darters ovipositing, still not a big count for here. I checked them all out to see if any ruddies were among them but still no joy.
Tip : It's quite easy to distinguish ovipositing common and ruddy darters even at distance; though the tandem pairs both have a dipping action, the common darter female actually dips the tip of her abdomen in the water to disperse the eggs, whereas the ruddy flicks her abdomen above the water surface and expels the eggs that way. Simple.
A lot of single male darters also present and although a few caused a few ID headaches I couldn't say there were anything but common darters present. Still a few emerald damsels too, again mainly males, only one tandem pair seen, all too distant to photograph, unlike this Snipe which was feeding out in the open close to the hide.

This darter appeared to have a bulbous tip to the abdomen and a complete
lack of black or dark abdominal markings ?

But a few hawkers srarted coming in, both male and female southern (the female ovipositing) a male common and finally this fellow who gave me the runaround before unexpectedly settling near enough for a few photos.

Migrant Hawker at Far Pasture obviously ignorant of the rule that
says hawkers are supposed to perch vertically

Zoom in for a close-up before he was up and settled even closer,
but in the thick vegetation.

Not a great photo but shows a couple of ID features to look
out for; antehumeral pips at the front of the thorax
(rather than stripes like a common hawker male)
and the diagnostic yellow T at the base of the abdomen.  

So at last, Migrant Hawker in the bag, much better than the dodgy flight shot which was the best I could get last year.

But I was still a bit baffled by the strange looking darter so made a return visit yesterday in hope of getting some better pics, but all I could do was confirm that the variation in colouration (not to mention the illusions caused by angles) among common darters means unless you can get a decent picture of the face so to distinguish the frons (the black markings under where the eyes meet which vary from species to species) it can be extremely difficult to ID anything rarer, but I'd like to bet there are Vagrant and Southern Darters around the country which are never discovered.

Another individual with slightly bulbous tip and little variation
in colour to the abdomen

. . . whereas this more typical specimen shows much more contrast
And this one appears club-tailed (my art training on
perspective tells me a parallel sided abdomen would
taper as it goes away from the viewer) but the frons
tells me this is just another common darter.  

Anyhow it was a lovely sunny day so got a few more arty pics of common darters to finish it off.

Not a bad effort if I may say so myself, nothing in the
background to distract from the subject.

Hold on a mo, what's that in his gob ?

Just a snack by the size of it.

So there you have it, an excellent day dragonhunting; some great action at Thornley woods Pond, an unbelievably jammy photo opportunity with the Southern Hawker and a first decent shot of a Migrant Hawker for a couple of years.
A Gateshead Black Darter is my only outstanding target for the borough 'Super 16', but in general I would still like to get photos of females of black darter and migrant hawker to complete my gallery.
Still have the time, but will we get the weather?        


  1. Great read as always, just need a trip to stargate when the sun shines again? :0

    1. Cheers Steve, forecast isn't too bad early part of week so hope to get up there soon.

  2. Always forthcoming with ID tips, which I like to see on any blog, as it encourages others that read how interesting these species are and the challenges to actually ID them correctly. Always best to get an image and sort thro' them at home on computer. If this IS the end of the Dragon season can I just say that I've picked up on a couple of things thanks to you Alan and as Steven has commented, it's a good read too. I'm almost thinking of my first Large-red already! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, not winter already. Why does it seem to last three times longer than the summer???

    1. Ta for your kind words John but I don't think the season's quite finished yet :)
      Last year I was still having good sessions well into October though the weather was excaptional I remember.
      My first year of the blog (2011) it was all about how to identify species but as I basically see the same lot every year I just put the odd bit in now and again for fear of repeating myself or if I learn summat new. Glad you still find it interesting though. Cheers.