Thursday, 4 September 2014

Brief Encounter, and a Murder Mystery

Far Pasture beckoned again today with the sun beating down and a couple of hours to spare, so off I went, with the intention of finding a female Migrant Hawker to photograph.
In the event I didn't even see one, but there were plenty of other dragons to be seen and a bit of other interest, so I'll concentrate on the interest then list the sightings at the end.

Approaching the roadside ditch a couple of skirmishing darters low in front of me both had the look of ruddys, one flew off and I located the other which indeed turned out to be a ruddy :

Another Roadside Ruddy

Then I spied a mating pair of common darters on the fence opposite, and knowing how difficult these are to approach I used 'stealth' photography ie approached them taking small steps, getting a shot off with each step and see how close I could get. As it happens on this occasion they didn't flinch, allowing me to get to point blank range from which even the KK could rattle off a few shots I was pleased with.

Not often you can get this close-up to a mating pair
without them flying off.  

but I got even closer, and noticed the extended black down
the side of the frons on the male, unusual in this species. 

a close-up of the female, she too appears to have extended
black around the frons. 

And the whole affair, possibly the best photo of common darters
mating I've ever taken, certainly the closest. 

 Then something very strange. Looking back along the road I got my bins on a darter which looked like a Ruddy, but also didn't 'look right'. I walked back and found a badly injured male Ruddy Darter, abdomen still pulsating, head still intact but thorax badly squashed.

Is it the same ruddy I just photographed ? I hope not :-(
I didn't remember passing it on the way in, I surely would have noticed, and after inspecting the injuries again, came to the conclusion it must have been 'taken' by a bird, (the injuries to the thorax caused by being grasped in a beak) and then dropped from the sky for whatever reason and onto the road.
Anyway a couple of minutes later it had expired and as I had a collecting container in my bag I scooped it up and will inspect it later with a magnifying loupe.
By strange co-incidence it's exactly a year to the day since I found the injured Southern Hawker by the A694, though that one had a slightly happier ending.

In the hide I was greeted with the news an Otter was about, and it duly showed in the channel by the right hand island, inspecting the recently deserted Grebe nest then swimming out into the open, diving and leaving the tell-tale trail of bubbles across the open water, surfacing briefly then under again into the centre reedbed. No more than 20 seconds but as with my other otter encounters, one I won't forget.
It also served the purpose of sending the birds in the reedbeds scattering into the open pond, confirming there were still 3 juv little grebes as well as the parents, meaning the whole late brood has survived thus far, as three eggs were hatched just a month or so back.

So to the dragons, here is a chronological list of sightings :

Top field : 2 male migrant hawkers hawking the field, 3-4 common darters on the roadside fence.

Roadside ditch area :  1-2 ruddy darters, 5-6 common darters (1 mating pair) 2 male migrant hawkers.

Pond : 2 male southern hawkers, at least 4 male migrant hawkers, 20+ common darters including half a dozen tandem pairs and 2 pairs ovipositing, 8 emerald damsels including 2 pairs in tandem, 3-4 azure/blue damsels (unsure of species).

Roadside ditch again (this time in overcast conditions ) Possible ruddy female, 2 southern hawker males, 2 migrant hawker males, 3-4 common darters.

Still a bit more to share but I think I'll leave it 'til tomorrow. Knackered now.


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