Monday, 6 July 2015

The Final Piece of the Damsel Jigsaw

A trek around Gibside today was a bit of a disappointment, partly due to the lack of sunshine, but mainly due to the lack of Dragonflies, though I was fully expecting to find the final damsel of our regular six to emerge, the Emerald.

The Walled Garden Pond is completely dry and not even a damselfly was present today in two visits. This pond is usually a decent site for Ruddy Darter but I can't see any emerging this year with the state it's in at the moment.

My first visit to the lily Pond coincided with a schoolkids pond dipping event, luckily it wasn't sunny and there wasn't much flying anyway, just a few azure and common blue damsels in the surrounds, so I left them to it.

The Octagon Pond next, an unidentified teneral and a couple of blue-tailed were all that showed here, 'til this feller posed nicely on the fence.

A long walk now as I trekked around the slopes of the deep cut ravine. Rumours of Golden-ringed Dragonfly I think must stem from here as its an open woodland stream, their preferred breeding habitat. One found in the walled garden in 2010 and I've heard second hand that someone has spotted Golden-ringed here the last couple of years. Not today though.
Barking Roe Deer, a calling Tawny, and cracking views of a Buzzard as it flew low down the ravine; then a Dipper near to where the stream meets the river Derwent were the highlights; beating off Cleg Flies were the lowlights (Jungle Formula wins again).

I hoped to pick up a hawking hawker before I completed the circuit and arrived back at the Lily Pond, but none to be had. At least the pond was quiet now and the sun was beating down. Damsel numbers were much improved, the blues were out in force as were the reds now, but I was really hoping to find my first Emerald of the year (and final damsel species), and I soon found some in immature form in the long grass near the 'damsel tree' (where else?)

First Emerald damsel of the year, an immature male, wings spread in typical perching pose

Next an immature female, wings firmly shut as they tend to do more as immatures,
but she's so bad at it she has them all folded over one side of her abdomen. 

Another female, have to say I prefer the colouring of the immature emeralds
the flesh-coloured parts will turn creamy white in the female which still looks good.

The male will develop a powder blue pruinescence which doesn't complement the
metallic green so well (yeah I know its not a fashion contest)

I always find the emeralds are a lot more approachable than other damsels
ideal for close-ups like this one.

The main supporting cast today came in the form of a couple of Longhorn Beetles, the first appeared as I was photographing the Emeralds, then when the afternoon party of Pond-dippers arrived I moved over to the seat clearing and found what I thought was the same Beetle again, only realising the markings were different when I scrutinised the photos at home. Same species though Rutpela maculate.

Cracking beetles these, not called longhorn for nothing, look at the size of those antennas

Great family of beetles the longhorns, these only the third species I've photographed.
But back to the dragonflies and what a difference a year makes. Early July last year there were many more emerald damsels out by now, and I also recorded common darter, common hawker and broad-bodied chaser here, and that was a week earlier. Today only five damsel species on show.

Large Red male, the best of the few I bothered to snap today

 I can only conclude that the cold spring has retarded the growth of the larvae, so taking longer to reach their final instar for emergence, and worse for those in dried out ponds, as they will probably remain underground in a state of diapause 'til next year, if they survive at all.

And on that bombshell . . . . .

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