Sunday, 19 July 2015

An Opportune Moment

Another windy day on Saturday, another couple of hours to spare, this time a walk up to Thornley Woods Pond to see if there's any hawker action occurring yet.

I wasn't expecting too much (as usual) but a very interesting session ensued. Highlights included finding this lifeless Southern Hawker in the pond just off the boardwalk, which despite the tragic circumstances made a rather fetching image :

More of that to come, but back to the beginning.

When I arrived at the pond the skies were overcast but a hawker was already in situ. To the eye, it looked a bit dark for a Southern (the resident species here), and through bins I was soon able to confirm it as a male Common Hawker, nice, my first of the year :-)
From the height of his patrols he seemed to be feeding rather than looking for a mate and after no more than a couple of minutes flew off as the wind under clouded skies was getting gustier.

Not the best photo you'll ever see of a common hawker, even as a record shot,
but it'll have to do for now :-/
 After the hawker disappeared I got down to searching the pond. Damsels seemed in short supply due to the conditions but I soon built up a healthy total of azures, all sheltering in the thick emergent grasses.
A few large reds too, all making swift appearances during hints of sunshine.
At the side of the pond I came across an exuvia, in good view for once so I was able to get a decent photograph :

Southern Hawker exuvia, judging by the number seen so far this year it looks like
being a much better year for them here than it was in 2014.
It was in such excellent condition I decided to collect it to photograph later in detail, but not having a suitable container I placed it in my binoculars case, and unfortunately by the time I got it home it looked like it had been in a road accident (bugger!).       

Then came the drowning hawker moment, but after taking the photograph I noticed the dragonfly twitching, it wasn't dead after all, so I fished it out of the water and placed it on a frond of bracken by the seat, hoping it would dry out and fly off, no harm done.

Finally getting a good look at it, an immature male not exactly in tip-top condition.
And of course I filled my boots with photographs at the same time, well it would have been rude not to take advantage of such an opportunity wouldn't it? So hope you don't mind if I over indulge :

His bent abdomen and wingtips suggest he was obstructed by vegetation during emergence

A closer look at the wings, the left hind-wing is half-missing, perhaps chewed off while in the water
or grabbed by a bird which actually put him in the pond?
As an immature I doubt very much it would be a fight with a rival which downed him, but the state of his wings
could impair his flight, he may simply have lost control in the wind.
Brown eyes and pale yellow and blue markings denote an immature male

From this angle he looks a bit like Judge Dredd
I took a variety of shots as he preened himself and warmed up his wing muscles occasionally by vibrating them rapidly, making me hope it wouldn't be too long before he took flight again:

It was soon time for me to go, and he was no nearer to making a recovery. Had I had something suitable to carry him in I would have taken him home and kept an eye on him, but as it was, with the wind still quite vigorous I snapped off the frond I'd placed him on and steadied it in a more sheltered place.

And that was where I left him. I hoped to return in the evening but wasn't able to, and with heavy overnight rain I can only hope he was able to recover in time, and my rescue didn't turn out to be just an insect version of the old joke about the man stranded on the desert island who suddenly sees a ship approaching and yells "Yes, I'm saved, it's the Titanic!"  :-(


  1. The wings looked in a heck of a state Alan and with you mentioning heavy rain later......didn't sound good. You've got to give these creatures a fighting chance when finding them in trouble. The odds aren't good for them as you know full well it's the survival of the fittest out there and the slightest problem has grave implications. We can only give them that slimmest of chances.......better than no chance after all.

  2. Aye John, his wing muscles were working ok as seen with the odd bit of vibrating, and I've seen some right old states wing-wise before which have been able to fly ok, but if he survived he's certainly going to be at a disadvantage, his abdomen seemed twisted at the tail end as well so not sure he could use his claspers either, poor sod :-(

  3. Any chance is better than no chance Alan :-)

    1. My motto exactly Warren, I had a similar incident a couple of years back and the dragonfly had gone when I returned a couple of hours later so there's always hope.