Friday, 24 July 2015

Serpents and Giants, but no Dragons.

Yesterday saw my first attempt to get golden-ringed dragonfly this year with a family trip to Pow Hill Country park on the shores of Derwent Reservoir, where I've had success in the past.
Not a lot of sunshine about really and my task was made even harder with the kids in tow. Needless to say it was an epic Fail in respect of the dragonflies but after glimpsing a basking Common Lizard (a very dark individual with two lines of pale spotting along the upper flanks) I struck reptilian gold with my first ever sighting of an Adder which must have been basking on the bare ground beside the steps as we descended and slithered off into the woodland undergrowth, giving me time to reel off just a couple of record shots on a random panic setting before it disappeared out of sight. At no more than 8 inches long and a mix of browns it was obviously a youngster, but the zig-zag pattern was clearly visible and I knew straight off it was an adder, a lifer for the Dragonhunter and certainly made up for the lack of Golden-rings and more :-)

Wow moment, my first snake in the wild
Not the biggest or scariest, but a beaut all the same :-)

Even though just a two-tone brown, the zig-zags were a dead giveaway for this juv. Adder

I was buzzing for a while after that sighting and the lack of dragonflies didn't seem too much of a disappointment for once. Pow Hill Bog is usually good for common hawker but not even a damsel here today, and we didn't get the chance to go to the upper levels as the lack of toilets on this site meant we had to cut short our time. Best insect spot (apart from the hundreds of grasshoppers) was this ugly looking critter I found on thistle heads by the bog :

I thought this was a bee at first, it was absolutely massive, all black with yellow head, and on closer
inspection found it to be a fly of some sort, about the size of a queen bee certainly the biggest I've ever encountered 

After investigation I found it to be a Giant Tachinid Fly Tachina grossa
One of the largest flies in Europe, it lays eggs on hairy caterpillars (particularly fond of those of the Eggar Moth)
and the larvae devour the unfortunate caterpillar from the inside.
As gruesome as it is ugly, and compare the size in relation to the soldier beetles it was right next to.
Bigger than most bees I've seen, definitely more scary than the snake 

So that's the first week of the school hols just about over and looking at the forecast for the next 5 days at least I'll be struggling to find a decent dragon session at even a local site. It's times like this I regret not being able to drive, during the school hols my dragonhunting is restricted to casual visits I can wangle from family outings and a few snatched hours in the valley, so don't be expecting too many posts the next few weeks. Still, if they all bring a bit of excitement like yesterday I won't be complaining too much come September :-)

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