Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Lady in Black . . .

Another family visit to Gibside turned up trumps yesterday; no new species but I came across a female large red damsel of the melanotum form, by far the rarest of the three colour forms of the species and indeed this is the first I've ever encountered. I wasn't 100% sure as I thought it might be showing a bit too much red, so checked with the BDS who kindly confirmed it.

Thick black markings all the way along the abdomen confirm
this as a melanotum form female, unlike other forms they retain the
yellow antehumeral stripes as they mature.
There was hardly a damsel to be seen on the Lily Pond itself but the tree closest to the pond was alive with immature large reds and a few azures, so I snapped as many as I could in hope of getting a few good 'uns. Here's the best of the bunch :

This female is of the second uncommon form fulvipes, but I tend to
see quite a few of this form locally 

A male, note the much thinner abdomen compared to female 

Another male, and like the others, still in immature colours
when fully mature the antehumeral stripes will be as red as the abdomen 

This male stayed still for a close-up

And closer still

Azure damsel male now fully mature

And an immature specimen of the same species

There were also quite a few of these colourful froghoppers around, one of the more spectacular looking species so worth a photograph.

Unlike other less colourful species of froghopper the larval stage is
spent underground, though still surrounded by frothy 'cuckoo-spit'
which interestingly is made up of thousands of tiny fart bubbles :-O

The Octagon Pond was devoid of damsels bar one imm. female azure hiding in the undergrowth, and the walled garden pond was disappointingly empty as well.

So here we are at the end of May in what has been a very poor first month of Odonata spotting. 5 species on the wing in Gateshead so far, but all in very small numbers. I've still only seen two, but Rob (Gatesheadandbeyond) has had 4-spot chaser, common and blue-tailed damsels at Kibblesworth. Large red damsel has also been seen at Burdon Moor, and George found his first azure damsel at Shibdon Pond only yesterday.

The first recorded Large Red (May 28th) was a full 20 days later than the first recorded last year. The forecast is for a vast improvement in the weather from midweek, so hopefully things will quickly move on.
Finding that melanotum female large red is the undoubted highlight of the month, as it's only taken five years to get one :-)

Next week I'll be going for blue-tailed damsels at my favourite site for them, which will also hopefully bring common blue and with any luck a banded demoiselle, but I'm not holding my breath on the latter  :-)


  1. The images are coming on nicely, don't you think?
    That Melatonum Large-red Damsel is a new one on me !!!!! Very nice indeed and well spotted Alan.

  2. Been finding it difficult to counteract camera shake John which has been blurring some potentially cracking shots. This latest batch were shot with a very fast shutter speed which seems to have worked a lot better. Couldn't play around as had the kids in tow so just shot at everything in sight, didn't even realise I had the melanotum 'til I looked at the photos back home, otherwise I would have tried to get it at other angles (and in focus) :-/