Saturday, 3 October 2015

Crisis? What Crisis?

The Migrant Hawker crisis has been well and truly averted. I somehow managed to sneak a couple of afternoon visits to Shibdon Pond at the end of the week as the glorious sunshine continued into October and ended the season with a fairly satisfying Dragonhunt.

On Thursday there were plenty of Migs about but mostly in flight. Michael E. was also present trying his luck, and so the long periods of waiting between perched up dragonflies resulted in some interesting chat about the good old days, dragons and butterflies, and I even learned a few things about the latter so cheers for that Michael.

All in all a frustrating session photography-wise, I only reeled off about half a dozen photos of a couple of perched up Migs, so not a great deal to choose from but here are the best of them :

First Migrant hawker photo of 2015, and I had to wait until October.

This male was at a good angle but quite distant, the mangled pulp under his chin
is the discarded part of his meal. 

Lucky escape.
This caddis fly was plucked out of the air by a male Mig just in front
of me, then the dragonfly flew towards my face and spat it out!
It landed on my top then fell to the floor, looking none the worse
for the experience. 

A bit disappointed with Thursday's results overall despite a pleasant session, but a second opportunity came on Friday as I had to go into Newcastle to drop some work off at the gallery, so took my bins and camera and hopped off the bus near Shibdon Pond on the way back, timing it nicely to coincide with the peak time for the Mig hawkers early afternoon.
Again everything was a bit flighty and a few shots got away early on thanks to me being too slow with the camera and a pesky darter guarding territory along the boardwalk which had the frustrating habit of putting any nearby perched up hawker back in the air again before I could get a shot off.

This darter was a constant pain in the backside, guarding territory by the open pool
which happened to be the best area for the migrant hawkers 

And this is a typical result of his meddling :-(

I did manage to get a couple of shots of one Migrant hawker which didn't turn out bad but once again he was up before I could close in properly and that was my only reward for the first hour on site :

I now feared it was going to be another frustrating session as the hawkers flying around my head were in constant feeding mode, only settling briefly to quickly consume a snack then were up again.
But at the far end of the boardwalk I came across a male Southern Hawker which looked like tiring and was buzzing along the thick wall of reeds looking for somewhere to perch.
I waited patiently and sure enough he eventually settled on the tall reeds, giving me opportunity to rattle off some shots before a second male came along and the inevitable skirmish took them both away.

Southern Hawker (male) record shot before I closed in

Managed to move round without disturbing him and get a better angle with the sun behind me,
then used the softly softly approach to get a few close-ups

Overall quite pleased with those. Unlike the Migrants, he allowed me to get close and probably
would have got closer still if the second male hadn't come on the scene.

Not my target species but with time getting on at least I had something to show from my visit.

I made my way back along the boardwalk though fearing my last chance of getting a decent Mig shot was over. Then as I approached the open pool I got a view of my first female of the day as she zipped low across the water to the nearside, and I retraced my steps to see if she had stopped to oviposit in the reeds but lost sight of her.
I couldn't relocate her but as if by fate I stumbled across a settled male lower down in the reeds and prayed he would stay still 'til I could get near enough for some decent shots. I didn't want to get too close as I feared putting him up again as they had all been a bit flighty in the afternoon sunshine, but luckily this one stayed put long enough for me to end the session on a high, eventually allowing closer shots than had been possible with my previous 'models' :

Migrant Hawker (male)
Luckily I was able to move round to get him against a dark patch in the thick vegetation for a better shot.

Changed the angle slightly as I attempted to move in

Bingo! A nice close-up at last

All the main ID features of the Migrant Hawker
Thorax pattern (thin stripes instead of thick plates) allows easy distinguish from Southern hawker
Shoulder pips (instead of stripes)  and obvious brown costa (instead of yellow) on front of wings distinguish it from Moorland hawker (no longer using the name common)
And of course the diagnostic yellow tee shape at the base of the abdomen which only the Migrant has.
Just in the nick of time as I had to get the bus back for the kids coming out of school, so happy enough with those, and if that was to be my last Dragonhunt of the year, then those two sunny early October sessions at Shibdon were worth waiting for, it's what dragonhunting is all about :-)            


  1. Nice piece Alan. This last week has turned out to be the best dragon period of the year, for me at least. Mainly at Banks Pond but had nice views while out birding at Big waters and Chevington area also. Shame it all came so late. Watched you images improving over the season and you ended with some really nice images. Those last 2 or 3 are lush. Light is the most important thing in photography in my opinion and it can be harsh in high summer. Morning and evening light is the best but not always conducive to great dragon watching. The light however at this time of year is begining to soften at the sun is lower and you can get some nice light at anytime of day. Any chance of a last hurrah before winter ???

    1. Cheers John, I reckon you're spot on with the points you make, and yeah I'm pleased with some of the later season shots. That was probably the last big chance looking at the forecast but I've had Migrants on Oct 31 before and darters into November, so I'll still be keeping an eye out down Far Pasture if conditions are ok. After the awful summer we deserve a few more days at least :-)