Friday, 6 June 2014

D (for disaster) - Day

Could hardly contain my excitement when I read the Met Office forecast for today, and planned my first dragonhunt of the (official) summer with a hike up to Stargate Ponds to see if the chasers were in (or out).
The damsels certainly were. A big emergence day with tenerals making their first flights by the bucketful, but they were taking a bit of a hammering from the sand martins and swallows in a non-stop feeding frenzy.

Stargate Ponds - a gem of a dragonfly site
I circumnavigated the pond and there must have been three-figure counts of azure, common blue and blue-tails, with just a few large reds in the mix as well, and the majority were pairs in tandem or the mating wheel.

Lots of mating activity today - mainly by common blue and azure damsels

Common Blue Damselfly - tandem pair
First photographed of 2014 

Azure damsels in sentinel position, ready for ovipositing

Another azure pair in egg-laying action.

Blue-tailed damsels
First time I've ever captured a mating pair, the female is
of the typica form, very similar in colour to the male.

Lots of emergence today - unsure of the species here; on the left is
an empty larval casing (exuvia), but on the right is actually a larva
I found climbing up the stalk to emerge. Another first.

Female blue-tailed damsel
immature of the rufescens form

Mature female blue-tailed damsel of the infuscans form.
At rest here but when I first spotted her she was ovipositing, alone as
this species does.
I'd been there a good 20 minutes before spying my first Four-spotted Chaser. Not the easiest dragon to photograph when they're in search mode, though a second male did perch in good view for a while, sadly just too distant for a decent photo, and then my attention was diverted when I heard rustling wings near to my right, and looked down to find a female Four-spot ovipositing, repeatedly dipping to the waters surface among the emergent vegetation and flicking her abdomen rather like a darter.
I tried in vain to get a photo but she was non-stop so it wasn't an easy task.

Male Four-spotted Chaser - striking markings on the wings

Best shot I could get of the ovipositing female, but yet another first
for my collection. 

I have to say the Four-spots are the little brown jobs of the odonata world, but (like their avian counterparts) get a good prolonged view of one and you find they really can be a bonny dragonfly. Obviously the older they get the duller they become, but in prime condition like the few I saw today, (much like the humble house sparrow) their colours form superbly contrasted patterns. And the dark marks on the wing nodes of the perched males (the actual four-spots) showed beautifully.

Then at last a bright yellow female Broad-bodied Chaser skimmed across the surface of the pond at speed then began busying about in the margins. Time to make a fake perch I decided, and snapped a dead branch from a nearby tree.
But as I attempted to insert it in the shallows of the pond it was a bit awkward, so needing two hands I let go of my camera, forgetting the strap wasn't secured around my neck, and bingo, down into the pond it went. Disaster! :-O
Quickly fished out, drips shaken off, dried off, switched on, but dead . . . .
I could see by the way the viewfinder had immediately fogged up the water had got inside, so I removed the battery and memory card, opened all the compartments and laid it on my jacket to warm in the sun.

Typically, as I sat there at the pond-side, a Four-spotted Chaser perched itself close by, as if taunting me. Great views through my close-focussing bins, and would have been a cracking photo opportunity as it stayed for bloody ages, even when I moved about hoping to scare it off. But no, I could have got as close as I liked, in fact it didn't move at all until was mobbed by a couple of blue-tailed damsels.

Still sitting next to my stricken camera and pondering the consequences I took a closer look at the emergent grasses in the margins, and found it plastered with damsel exuvia, including one which was facing down rather than up, which meant it would be that of a blue-tailed damsel, being the only species to emerge this way. Another first for me, Oh if I only had my camera.  :-(

There had been no further sightings of any Broad-bodied Chasers while I sat, so, deciding to call it a day, I packed my poorly camera away and took a look at the sheltered pond on the way out. Lo and behold, the female Broad-bodied was here too, eventually settling at the far side.
I made note of where she was and moved around the outside of the surrounding trees, then through a gap back to the pond close to where I hoped she wasn't anymore. But my luck was out. She remained perched on the low outer-branch of a tree offering a bloody good photo opportunity for someone with a nice, dry, fully-functioning camera, which unfortunately today was no longer me. :-(

I watched her for a short while before heading off, and promised her in true Arnie style, "I'll be back."          

I managed to upload todays photos by putting the memory card in my old Kodak camera, which for any other purpose is truly shite (doesn't even have a macro function.)
The advice offered via t'internet is let the camera dry out thoroughly for a couple of days before replacing the battery and trying it out and there's a good chance it will be ok. But on the downside they also say on no account switch it on before it dries out as it might truly fry the electrics, unfortunately the first thing I did after I fished it out and shook the water off was switch it on to see if it was still working :-O (Well you would, wouldn't you, it's just instinctive?)

Only time will tell . . . . . . . .



  1. Replies
    1. More than just me fingers crossed ; I'm a bit accident-prone but this is my worst act of stupidity since knocking my scope off a bridge and smashing it to bits on the rocks below :-O

  2. If it makes you feel eny better my old flask (which i use in summer for iced water) slipped out of the holder in my rucksack while i was photoing a butterfly on Thursday. I slid down my back and hit my head as i was still bent over. As i stood up it slid back down my back and onto the small bridge over the ditch that leads to the hides at Druridge. As i reached for it, it rolled into the ditch about a metre down and to add to the problem it was full of nettles. I decided to leave it. I WAS VERY THIRSTY DRIVING HOME !!!!!
    That didn't make you feel better ???
    All i can say is "You should have made sure you had the strap around your neck as you were going near water ! I always do !!!
    I bet i go in head first next time i'm capturing Dragons.

    Seriously, i've had loads of close calls and it's only a question of time for me also Alan. God knows how i'll cope.

  3. It's a laugh or cry situation John, I cry and everyone else laughs.
    I daresay your flask can still be recovered, just go 'tooled up' next time.
    Funny though, I always take a bottle of water when I go out and most days don't even take a sip, but if I realise I've forgotten it I find I'm gasping for a drink all the while I'm out. It's all in the mind,
    If my camera doesn't recover I'll just chalk it up as an expensive lesson learned.
    Cheers :-)

  4. Oh no gutted :( nothing worse than breaking your toys, hope it recovers.