Monday, 23 November 2015

Reflections of Art in Nature . . .

Wasn't sure whether to put this on my art blog or on here so apologies if you find this item a bit off-track but I feel the urge to indulge my arty-farty side for a couple of minutes.

Back in July I came across this unfortunate Southern Hawker in Thornley Woods Pond.

There was something about this tragic half-submerged beauty which triggered a comparison in my mind with a favourite painting of mine, the pre-Raphaelite rendering of the drowning Ophelia by John Everett Millais, which I have always found to be a very haunting image.
Though I hadn't seen the picture in a while I kept meaning to check it out, and I've finally dug an image out for comparison.

The similarities (if you ignore the fact that one features a young woman and the other a dragonfly) are intensified by the overall setting which initially sparked the comparison. Thornley Woods Pond does look quite similar to the stretch of water in the painting, with the dark shadowy trees to the right, the thick vegetation on the far bank and the blanket of green in the foreground, though this doesn't come across fully in a single cropped photo.

Thornley Woods pond - could easily have been used as the setting for Ophelia (below)

The drowning Ophelia by John Everett Millais (1851/2)

Ophelia refers to the Shakespearian character from Hamlet, who fell in the water while collecting flowers, and lay peacefully on the surface until she was eventually dragged under by the weight of her clothes.

How the dragonfly got in the water I don't know, but it was a blustery day and his wings (he was an immature male) were warped in a way which suggested an obstruction during emergence. My guess is that because of this he couldn't control his flight and a gust carried him into the pond.

The drowning Odonata by The Dragonhunter (2015)

Ophelia lies arms outstretched, resembling the outstretched wings of the dragonfly, and her dress is already half-submerged due to the weight, like the abdomen of the dragonfly.

Floating on the water are colourful flowers, in the painting they are a representation of Ophelia's garland made from the flowers she had collected, and containing red poppies which are symbols of sleep or death. The dragonfly is surrounded by colourful thallus of the duckweed.

Both are beautiful creatures in their own right, and are similarly victims of tragic accidents.

But, unlike Ophelia, I was on hand to fish out the dragonfly when I realised it was still alive, and hung him out to dry on the nearby bracken. His wings were a worry, but he was preening and vibrating them occasionally to warm up the muscles when I had to leave him.

Drying out after his ordeal - but look at the state of those wings

Lived to fight another day? one can but hope. 

If I'd had a suitable container I would have taken him home, but as it was I had to leave him hanging there, and can only hope he managed to survive, though of course even if he did, so short is the lifespan he'll have perished one way or the other by now.

There you go then, either one for the deep thinking cultured souls out there, or just a pile of self-indulgent twaddle, both opinions are valid ;-)

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Not Gone Yet . . .

Warm and sunny (if a little windy) this morning, I read on Twitter that dragonflies are still showing in Northumberland, so finish my morning tasks and head down to Far Pasture to see if I can locate my latest ever dragonfly, today (the 10th) being a whole 6 days further into autumn than my previous record of the 4th set in 2010.

Nothing along the roadside fences opposite the woodyard, but just past the bend an inspection of the corral gate gave me the new record, with two male darters on the sunny side (though the sun was no longer showing) :

One very dark male darter

One very pale male darter

These were the only shots I managed, I thought they may be a bit docile with the sun tucked in but tried to get too close too quickly and they both flitted away. Never mind.
I next had a look at the Forbidden Pond, as I alluded to last time, it's been dug out and a lining put down, and the recent rains have started to fill it up already :

The new Forbidden Pond; be interesting to watch it develop

I would hope that's not the completed job, but it's a case of wait and see as to whether it's going to be landscaped properly and planted out. The bad news is that it appears to have had the bottom scraped out of it (to deepen) which means the dredged mud taken away will contain all the wee beasties (including dragonfly) eggs and larvae laid over the summer, a wasted season :-(
It doesn't look like there's going to be much of a scrape either, with deep-sloping edges extending up the banks.

On the plus-side it shouldn't dry out easily again, they've put the perching rock back in (front left) and while I was taking the photos a tandem pair of darters looked ready to oviposit until a sudden gust took them away before they started :-/

On the main pond they've been cutting back the vegetation so you can see the left hand pond again, water levels are very high again after the rains so only assorted wildfowl were showing, and a tandem pair of darters with two singles were noted.

The sun wasn't showing much in the early afternoon and the only other dragonfly sighting was another tandem pair zipping across the field, so unfortunately no further photo opportunities apart from this big black fly of which there were a few on the wing :

Another one to look up, very distinctive but not in me book 

Nice to see around a dozen darters still out then, and with no overnight frosts forecast in the near future they may hang around for a while yet, but whether I get another chance to see them even later in the season is another matter, can't see me getting out before the weekend at least.



Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Still Hanging on . . . .

Though I called time on the dragonhunting season a couple of weeks back and we're well into autumn now, there are still many reports of late dragonflies coming in, even in the northeast where a few southern hawkers have been reported right up to the end of October.
Darters are more often seen late on, my personal latest being November 4th a few years back.

So with a couple of days sunshine after a gloomy week I chanced a visit to Far Pasture on the 2nd, where sure enough, a few common darters were still posing about in the warmth of the mid-day sun.

This male darter still looked in good nick, though how they survive long periods of bad weather still puzzles me

Good light for photos when I could get the sun behind me, casting very strong shadows 

This female seemed to be enjoying the view

And what a lovely view it is with Gibside's column of Liberty in the backdrop
Or from another angle "oo-er, it's a long way down"

The female also posed well for close-ups
Four males and that single female were noted, all sunning themselves along the roadside fences. Some flighty but others posing for a few snaps (as you can see) on what was quite a beautiful day, though with that autumnal feel about the light, and only the harsh cries of the many jays and the nasal calls of the willow tits breaking the eerie silence from time to time. But the colourful scenery of the changing season is quite something, and to enjoy it on a warm day was very pleasant indeed.

This moth made a lovely seasonal photo but I haven't pinned down the species yet.

A view across the valley from the Derwent Walk,
the light was hitting the camera direct so the colours don't look as strong as they actually were.

The forecast for later in the week is for more of the same, so I may well try my luck again in hope of breaking my 'latest ever sighting' record. Or at least I'll remember to get a photo of the goings-on at the Forbidden Pond as they've been busy digging it up :-O