Thursday, 11 September 2014

Last Piece of the Jigsaw . . .

Since starting the Dragonhunter Diaries four years ago the one dragon (of the Gateshead regulars) which has eluded my camera has been a female Migrant Hawker. I haven't even seen that many, and it wasn't 'til Mid-October last year I saw my first one hawking the top field at Far Pasture.   

This year however, the species has been more abundant than ever, and already during August I had two females hawking the same field and then one in tandem on the pond at FP, though none even close to being photographed.
Shibdon George alerted me to better opportunities along the boardwalk at Shibdon Pond late last summer, and has been keeping me informed recently, so I've been waiting for the chance to get up there and try my luck. Today that chance came.

I bussed up to Swalwell mid-morning hoping a scan from the hide first might bring me some interesting waders (or even a Glossy Ibis or something mega) but disappointment was an understatement. It's not often you can say there's nowt about and mean it, but as they were strimming in front of the hide today, I can honestly say there was absolutely NOTHING to be seen on the pond from the hide. Just my luck.

Instead I went straight into dragonhunting mode and my disappointment was soon forgotten on the boardwalk when I found first a male, then a female Migrant Hawker, close to the walkway and still quite docile so allowing me to get quite close up.

So here she is, my first ever photographed female Mig :

First contact - a record shot before the approach

Moving in - a cracking yellow individual
Profile - vivid yellow marrkings
on thorax and base of abdomen

Best ever photographs, best ever views, in fact the first
time I've ever seen a female perched up like this
Have to say I was quite happy with that little lot, it was still quite dull so the photos could have been better, but a bit of photoshopping cleared them up a bit.

I also got decent photos of the male, though he was a bit more alert and only put up with my intrusion for so long.

Love this angled shot of the male - superb blue eyes
of a mature individual

Best shot of the season for the male as well, capped a good day here.

Common Darters were also beginning to appear, so with mission accomplished and the weather improving all the time I decided to call in to Thornley Woods Pond on the way back. A dozen or so common darters here too, aggressive males fighting over females and then each other after a tandem pair was formed, melees involving four males at a time were quite vicious.
No damsels today, I fear they've all gone now, but more surprisingly no Southern Hawkers :-O
This is the first time ever that I've visited during good weather and not seen at least one, hasn't been a good year at all for them here, very disappointing, I fear numbers are gradually diminishing if the trend of the last two years continues, certainly something to keep an eye on next year.

On to Far Pasture, decent numbers of Common Darters but again still nowhere near as many as recent years. Half a dozen ovipositing pairs on the Forbidden Pond, similar numbers on the main pond where I would have expected many more in the sunshine today. A few emerald damsels still flitting around and another 4-5 Migrant Hawkers, one female gave excellent views as she oviposited alone in the nearside margins, laying eggs in reedmace stems well above the waterline. Amazingly she came close enough to photograph on occasions but the focus on my camera let me down and I came away empty-handed, I suppose it would have been too much to ask for, getting an ovipositing female on the same day I get my first ever. Never mind, not complaining, here's another photo of the Shibdon female to finish:

One for the Gallery
Love it when a plan comes to fruition. Cheers George :-)            


  1. You jammy dodger , or should i say well done top dragonhunter.

    Nice one Alan

    1. Cheers George, couldn't believe my luck as I'd just about given up hope when I spotted it. I remember last year you were spotting them well into October so plenty time yet for another :-)