After a mild winter and early spring I started looking for the first emergers in early May rather than the usual last week in May and was rewarded with first ever photographs of teneral large red damselflies at Thornley Woods Pond, first a female on the 8th, then a male on the 13th.
Finding the exuvia too this was the first time I'd obtained proof of breeding at the site, having only seen mature adults here in the past, so a good start to the season.
|Teneral Large Red damsel female|
|The exuvia from which she emerged|
|Teneral male Large Red damsel, complete|
with photo-bombing fly
|4-Spotted Chaser, just before the camera ended up in the water|
|Azure damsels in sentinel position, ready for ovipositing,|
even closer to the time my camera ended up in the water.
|Common Blues in tandem|
The last decent photo taken with my soon to be
I returned a week later with the Kodak and found a perching post where no less than four female Bb Chasers were alighting regularly, (a best count here) but my camera wasn't up to the task and the opportunity was missed, this really set the tone, and as one of the main points of the blog is to improve on my photos year on year and knowing it was going to be a hard slog with the Kodak it affected my enthusiasm for a while.
|Two of the four female Broad-bodied Chasers|
at rest on the gorse
|Best Bb-C photo I could manage that day with the Kodak|
Thornley Woods pond was in fact very good early season, especially for damsels, with a record count of 50 Azures and 30 Large Reds on 22nd June, same day as 5 Southern hawker exuviae were found.
My first visit to Kibblesworth BWP was a bit disappointing, no sign of Black-tailed Skimmer the day I was there, and very few reports overall, hope for better his year as no two seasons are the same with this species, though the areas of bare earth around the pond (which attracts them here) are becoming more and more overgrown as the years go by.
An excellent count of Emperors the same day (at least 9) was the highlight, though getting a photograph was a lowlight.
|Emperor at Kibblesworth|
Shite but the best I could get
|Two views of the female Black Darter not far from|
|Best shot I could get of a Banded Demoiselle|
at HaggHill. The lack of versatility of the Kodak
was really getting on my tits by now
Later in the holidays our annual visit to Slipper Tarn at Cragside produced a fantastic count of 10 Common Hawkers and umpteen Black Darters, including many teneral females for another photographic first.
|Black Darter male |
One of three resting on our picnic bench
|Black Darter teneral female|
note the white pterostigma on milky wings
|Black Darter female|
Even younger specimen
|Male Black Darter in his prime|
A cracking little dragonfly
|And this Emerald damselfly was showing aggression towards the camera|
as I closed in. First time I'd noted such behaviour
In photographic terms, Far Pasture produced an excellent opportunity of a female perched up on the roadside fence, and at last the Krappy Kodak delivered the goods with a best ever photo.
|Female Southern Hawker (tilted 90 degrees)|
She was actually hanging vertical on the fence but a superb photo
even if I say so myself.
|And a close-up|
Well done Krappy Kodak
A much better year for Ruddy Darters though, Far Pasture especially productive with sightings most days at the roadside ditch, though not in great numbers. Ovipositing pairs were noted on a couple of occasions too, my first female sightings for a couple of years. Males also seen at Gibside Walled Garden Pond.
|Ruddy Darter male at Far Pasture|
Another decent effort by the Kodak
|In close-up the colouring is sublime|
One of my favourite dragons
|Immature male Migrant Hawker at Far Pasture|
perched up for a long while he made a great subject
|Superb colouring of the abdominal markings and grey/brown eyes|
A treat seeing him in so much detail
|And in close-up even the Kodak did a decent job|
|At Shibdon this mature male Migrant Hawker posed well,|
note the much brighter colouring and blue eyes
|But the 'piece de resistance' was this female (also at Shibdon)|
First one I've ever had the good fortune to photograph
|Happily the Kodak didn't let me down|
Look at those big brown eyes
|Incredibly pleased with myself on getting this one, my number one|
target for the last couple of years, many thanks to Shibdon George
for alerting me to their presence.
Disappointments, obviously the demise of my camera so early in the season left a huge gap to fill, and though the Kodak eventually came good, it was only decent in those situations when I could get close enough and long enough to rattle off many shots, otherwise due to the lack of image stabiliser and terrible focussing mechanism it was very limited in its range. I missed a bucketfull of great opportunities, especially with the Broad-bodied Chasers, and many of the others at any sort of distance were very poorly focussed, as the camera seemed to focus on anything but the subject.
Other disappointments were not getting the planned Golden-ringed photos due to unforeseen circumstances, but I'll do my utmost to put that right this year as they really are special dragonflies. Missing out on Black-tailed Skimmer, lack of Southern Hawkers at Thornley Woods Pond and lack of Black Darters in Gateshead full stop (only saw one at Kibblesworth) were also on the downside.
Plenty to look forward to this summer though, as well as the usual round-up of local sites I'll be exploring a couple of new ones, also hope to add Golden-ringed and Brown Hawker to my photo collection, and aiming to get a trip away for a new lifer or two.
Already looking forward to seeing what results I can get with the new X-S1
The DragonHunter is back. Just depends on the weather now. Can't wait :-)