Monday, 11 August 2014

Day After Bertha, bertha my targets Showed Well . . .

After the remnants of Hurricane Bertha hit us overnight (by no means as bad as expected) the sunshine of today presented a good opportunity for a dragonhunt, despite the blustery wind I reckoned Far Pasture would be a bit more sheltered, being at the bottom of the valley.
So with Sprogs 1 and 3 to accompany me we made our way along, dodging the fallen branches which littered the Derwent Walk, and discovering our favourite conker tree seems to have lost all it's nuts in the storm.

Targets today were for me to get decent pictures of Ruddy Darter and if possible Migrant Hawker, but what followed was far beyond my expectations.

At the top of the access road before the steep descent to Far Pasture, two migrant hawkers were fighting with each other and against the wind. One soon made an exit stage left, the other perched nicely at head height on a solid-looking Cow Parsley by the roadside, and despite a buffeting from the wind and having a camera poked in its face, it stayed put long enough for me to get some cracking views without the aid of binoculars, and probably the best photos I've ever had of this species :-O

First view as I picked him out, the blue spotting on the abdomen
confirming a male.

A bit closer and the diagnostic yellow tee shape at the base
of the abdomen is apparent even at distance. 

A profile view 

And from the underneath, an unusual angle but had
to take the opportunity as he seemed very settled.

Closing in and note the grey eyes confirm an immature male,
when mature they will be bright blue. 

Better view of the eyes, the yellow tee and superb colouration
of the abdominal segments.  

A shame the sunlight was so bright, but amazed
at the standard from the Krappy Kwality Kodak today
I probably would have got even more had it not been for a passing 'White Van Man' eventually blowing him from his perch.

The trip out was worthwhile already, and we made our way to Far pasture hide to be told annoyingly we'd just missed an Otter, but at least we saw photos of it through someone's viewfinder :-(
Very blustery now, and dull. The only dragon on the pond was a single blue damsel holding on to an emergent stem for dear life as it swayed about like a tiny flag on a pole.
The water level was right up, the little grebe nest hidden below the island bushes was still in one piece but now empty. Three chicks have hatched I was told, so a bit of good news. A lone parent fished and kept going back into the reeds so I presume they were sheltering from both wind and otter.
To be honest I've never seen the place so devoid of life. Nothing else was out in the open, silence was the only sound.
Same on the Forbidden Pond, the water level was looking a lot healthier than the last time I looked but neither bird nor dragon was in attendance.

I wasn't feeling lucky any more but as we peered at the roadside ditch a tandem pair of darters were busy ovipositing, flicking eggs onto the damp grass from well above the ground, making them Ruddys, in contrast to the dipping action into water of the common darter. 
It proved impossible to get a focus shot while they were 'busy', but eventually the female broke off and flew off, leaving the male alone by the roadside, and though a bit flighty at first, he soon got used to our presence and settled nicely for close-ups, even settling on my hand no less than three times for belting views at eye level.

Best I could get of the ovipositing pair, but great to see after not
having seen a female here for three years.

The lone male settled for a rest after the exertion . . .

. . . and allowed some superb views . . .

. . . from a variety of angles.

He then settled on my hand as I got closer

And didn't seem bothered as I stuck the lens in his face.

Didn't seem to want to move so I snapped away

Back down to earth for a front-on view of his superb

And finally another angle of this little cracker 
The kids wanted him on their hand too but he wouldn't transfer allegiance and we gave up after a few goes as he flew back to the ditch. But especially pleasing considering how I struggled to get a Ruddy Darter last year.
What a great double though, really chuffed with todays efforts, and especially the performance of the much maligned camera :-)        



  1. Cracking pictures, Alan. Well done. It doesn't matter what camera you use, you can't beat getting close.


    1. Cheers Malcolm, exceeded expectations today, but I still can't wait to get the SX 50 :-)

  2. Replies
    1. It was John, and I know I complain about the school hols but if the kids hadn't wanted to come out today I would have gone elsewhere and missed it all. :-O