Friday, 3 July 2015

The Bandeds Played On

After laying one ghost to rest the previous day with the four-spotted chaser, yesterday I thought I'd nail another bogie of the last few years, namely one of nature's most sublime creations, the Banded Demoiselle.
Wait a minute I hear you say, didn't you get some photos the other week? Well yes I did, I had unbelievable close views of one eating a mayfly but the resulting photos were poor as the light was too strong, the insect didn't stand out well on the path, and others seen were quite distant.
And this has been the problem, I've had great views of the demoiselles and had great times watching them, but it's four years since I've seen one close enough to get a really decent photograph, so that was my target for the day, find a Banded Demoiselle and get a photo to do it justice.

Over the years I've seen them at many points along the river, but usually go to Hagg Hill as it's the banker spot, but due to the height from the river, not so good for photos. So today I decided to revisit other areas I'd seen them previously, which would involve a bit of a trek.

My aim was to start off at Clockburn Lake outlet stream and work my way back along the river towards home, and thought I may as well call in on Thornley Woods Pond first to look for signs of Southern Hawker emergence as it's just a short detour on the way.

I was greeted at the pond by a first ever sighting here of a Grey Wagtail, probably feeding on the good number of azure and large red damsels, tandems and individuals, but the first exuvia I noted was this one on the emergent grass :

An exuvia pointing downwards, a diagnostic ID feature
Only the Blue-tailed damselfly emerges head-down like this (by no means always and not known why), so that's the first proof of breeding for that species here, a good start to the day.

A scan of the far corner revealed a cluster of larger exuvia, the Southern Hawkers I'd been looking for :-) A group of four close together and one further afield either side of that group.

Two of the four in close proximity and six altogether
I also spotted an emerging Large Red damsel though too distant and hidden for a decent photo :

Poor pic even for a record shot, but emergence proves successful breeding
for Large Red damsels

I had no luck in locating any teneral or immature hawkers despite a thorough search and eventually moved on to Clockburn Lake for my target dragonhunt.
Immediately I realised I was going to have to be careful as some areas of the tracks were overrun with froglets.

Froglets, thousands of them on the inner track meant I couldn't
check it for damsels.
From the bridge, azure, blue-tailed and large reds were all present. I made my way to the riverside and made an immediate sighting of my quarry, as a cracking male demoiselle fluttered up above my head from the stream over to the river. I sat at the riverside in the hope he would return, and after 2-3 more males flitted past without landing, the next alighted on the overhanging vegetation for my first photo opportunity :

A bit distant so a close-crop but nice to see at least three demoiselles on the river here as it's the first sightings
for three years at the outlet stream. Happy with that :-)
Another wait didn't bring any further sightings so I moved on and decided to have a look along the shore of the lake, something I hardly ever do for whatever reason. 
Azure and blue-tailed damsels here too, including a teneral blue-tail, and a Kingfisher dashing across the lake was a first sighting for me here too, though I've often seen them close by on the river.
Another first when a Four-spotted chaser zipped along the shoreline, as brief as it was surprising.

Teneral blue-tailed damsel by the lakeside signalling a
second wave of emergence.
But then I couldn't believe my luck as I made my way away from the Lake and spotted another male Banded demoiselle fluttering around in the meadow. I closed in as he settled but was a bit flighty and I had to be patient, but eventually my furtive stalking paid off :

He fluttered away after a while but I was chuffed with that bit of luck. Next onto the 1998 bridge. Before the floods of 2010 demoiselles could be seen either side of the bridge, but the floods changed the scape of the river somewhat and I've never seen them here since. Certainly none today.

Across the viaduct, and though I was running short of time I wanted to visit the meadows below, as the slow-moving stretch of river here has held demoiselles in the past.
True to the form of the day I came across another male on one of the sporadic clumps of vegetation overhanging the river and filled my boots with another batch of photos :

Looking out over the river

Managed to catch a bit of wing-flicking

This time got him just as he came in to land, marvel at those wings.

My favourite picture of this particular demoiselle as he switched to one of the outer leaves, so got him
peering out over the open water.
After the photo session I spent some time just watching him through my Papilios; incredible colours  from the jet black eyes to the metallic blue/green of his armour and the sublime patch of Prussian blue on the wings :-)
Home a lot later than planned and I have to say though I got some very nice shots (by my standards) I'm not as chuffed as I could have been with the results. They always tend to look better in the viewfinder and today's offerings are a bit shaky as all are hand-held mostly at max zoom (I broke my monopod thrashing nettles with it earlier on, dozy mare) but I think these were my best efforts :

A nice profile shot showing all his best features and those incredibly long legs

A closer crop of my final picture shows more wing detail and outstanding black eyes 

So still to nail the killer photo, but was a privilege to spend time in the company of these spectacular creatures, and an excuse to go back and try again (like I need one).



  1. Nice shots Alan, I don’t think I have been close enough to get a decent shot of these spectacular demoiselle’s

  2. Yeah Ron, that's why I took the risk of visiting places I've only seen them in ones and twos before, knowing I might not see any but if I did would present closer views, and as it happened it paid off for once, cheers.

  3. I learned something reading your blog again. I didn't know about the "upside down" emergance of the BT Damsel. I certainly haven't seen any of those exuvia....something to keep a close eye out for. (I bet i see loads now !!) The Banded Dems are spectacular in flight, always think of helicopters for some reason. I'm hoping to get to Belassis Bridge this weekend to see them there. You used to be able to get quite close to them on the river there if prepared to scramble down the steep bank next to the bridge ( not really recommened if you've had both knees replaced !!!) but not been for a couple of years so finggers crossed the weathers kind. (raining as i look out of the window now)

    1. Cheers John and good luck with the demoiselles, about time you dusted off the macro :-)