Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Take a Walk on the Gib Side

Took advantage of the sunshine by trekking around Gibside to see how many species I could get, I reckoned eight, made up of five damsels (first emeralds should be out), 4-spot chaser, common darter and a hawker species.

First stop was the Walled Garden Pond, overcast conditions meant nowt was flying and the only damsel on view was this emerald, first of the year :-)

Shoddy photo but first Emerald damsel of the year
A good scan revealed nothing more at all so I moved on, and discovered a female common darter in the hollow walk which seemed to be practising ovipositing as it repeatedly pogoed on the patches of bare earth, but far too flighty and distant for a photo.
Then as I reached the summit at the other side of the Hollow Walk I spied a hawker foraging the treeline and after a few passes confirmed a male Common Hawker, another year first and species number 3 for the day. But again, no chance of a photo.

The Lily Pond had a big count of Azure damsels, with the raft of lillies in the centre wick with tandem pairs. Emeralds were emerging, with every burst of sunshine a few tenerals made their first tentative flights out of the thick pond margin vegetation. Large Reds were showing in decent numbers too, but they were the only 3 species on show.

Azure damsel (male) one of possibly a three-figure count today 

A good wait hoping for a 4-spot to show only resulted in a painful bite from a cleg-fly, which then went on a blood-fuelled frenzy as it tried to eat me alive and just wouldn't leave me alone. I've never uttered so many F-offs as I did in this short space of time, as the pest was like a one-fly swarm, taking advantage of every time I was distracted by landing on me somewhere else.
I really didn't want another bite so I eventually stopped to fight it off with my sunglasses, and after a Jedi-like battle of epic proportions, it succumbed as I twatted it to the ground with a backhand, and went against all my principles by dispatching it with my boot before it could regain its senses. Not proud of myself but it was a case of kill or be killed.

Back to the dragon-hunting, I decided to move on while the sun was away, and a lengthy walk produced nothing as I inspected a few minor sites which were either dried up or overgrown.
The Octagon Pond was next up, and here at least I got my sixth species, as it was populated by Common Blue damsels and precious little else, but at least they posed for the camera.

Plenty of Common Blues at the Octagon Pond, seems they favour
this pond and the Azures favour the smaller Lily Pond.

The eyes have it
So back to the Lily Pond for my final half hour stint. Still didn't have a blue-tailed damsel or 4-spot chaser, but a newly emerged emerald posed well.

A nice smile for the camera

Then became a bit camera-shy
At last a blue-tail appeared, though a photograph proved impossible as it weaved its way through the thicker grasses. It was the only one I saw, but number 7 on my species list for the day.
Then a hawker zipped in, but unidentified from its single pass of the pond, though I got the impression it was a female from the thick-waisted abdomen, and a few minutes later it was back, briefly foraging the trees behind me, and was indeed a female, a common hawker. This was shortly followed by the male again on the other side of the pond..

Time running short now I started the long trek back, still a species short of my target, but on the downward slope of the Hollow Walk a flash of bright yellow crossed my path, and I knew immediately it was a Broad-bodied Chaser female, a species I'd never recorded at Gibside before. I relocated it hunting in the dene and with a bit of patience grabbed a few record shots.

Broad-bodied Chaser - a Gibside first
As I did so an NT Ranger I knew appeared (doing a butterfly transect), and she showed me some pics taken yesterday of a male Bb-C they had netted down by the river. Great to know they've reached here, but then again Far Pasture is just across the river so they may be from the Forbidden Pond. :-O

A return to the Walled Garden Pond (this time in sunshine) produced less than my first visit had (which now seemed a lifetime ago.)
So that was that; my target of 8 species was reached, with 2 year firsts in Emerald Damsel and Common Hawker, and best of all a site first with that cracking Broad-bodied Chaser. Enjoyable day out, though knackered walking in sunshine. (Cue for a song?)    


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