Monday, 30 May 2016

Silly Moo

Despite the cool and cloudy conditions yesterday I was desperate to get out after almost a week indoors, in the end decided to just go down to Far Pasture to see how things were progressing.

First sighting was a Roe Deer in the first field, though the grass is so long now only the head and shoulders could be seen as it ambled nonchalantly through it.

Spot the deer, this one obviously felt safe in the long grasses, though looked at me
a couple of times did not run for it as they usually do.

The road side veg is coming along too, things looking a lot more lush since my last visit.

To the pond field and my enemies were in good view, two big white monsters, but now getting a closer look I conclude they are actually cows and not bulls (not that it matters, except to another bull) and it still doesn't change the fact I won't be venturing out to the pond while they are in residence.

Enemy at the gate, another challenge to my ID skills :-/

After a fruitless search of the roadside however, I did go in the field to check out the patch of taller vegetation just over the fence, which is usually good for sheltering damsels; and it certainly was today, well over a dozen on the leeward side of just two species, Azure and Blue-tailed :

This lush patch has proved excellent for sheltering damsels when there are none to be found elsewhere
Not far to run to safety either, wish the pond was just over the fence.

Azure female (green when mature)

A beauty of a violecea form Blue-tail female 

Azure male

Canny pic showing the difference in blue form (left) and green form (right)
in immature Azure females

Azure male (immature)

Another immature green form female Azure

Same violacea as before, but worth another look

Snapped this feller caught up in a web before I rescued him

Almost mature Azure male 

Blue-form female and mature male Azures

Maturing green form female and mature male Azure

Another mature male Azure to finish

As you can see I reeled off as many photos as I could while keeping one eye on the bull/cow situation as they were out of sight behind the trees, one ambled into view once but didn't see me and soon disappeared again. A good variety of maturation forms and stages there, especially pleased to see a true purple violacea Blue-tail, such is the change of colour during the ageing process, the pure violet stage isn't easy to find, and it was actually a much brighter colour than the photos show.

After filling my boots with that little lot another search of the roadside, where this time I found two rufescens form Blue-tailed females, little beauties, which weren't really flighty but the dull conditions once again weren't really conducive to good macro photographs :

Rufescens form female Blue-tail, half-pink and half-orange thorax

Very distinctive colours, lovely damsel

Having a snack

Another 'staring down the barrel' shot, great when they don't fly off

Showing a slightly kinked abdomen probably formed during
emergence. Shouldn't hinder it too much though. 

Another arty eye shot of the second individual this time

The sun at last started to peep out from behind the clouds when I was on my way home, and not much of it forecast for next week, so with the kids off school I'll probably just be trying for more damsels along the valley, before I start proper Dragonfly hunts after the hols.

Monday, 23 May 2016

A Few Shots of Red's Eyes

Looking at the forecast and with a fairly busy week ahead I thought I'd walk along to Gibside today for damsels and possibly dragons, (hoping the four-spots would be out as it's well over a week since Ron H had them emerging at Beamish and then at Kibblesworth.)

As it happens the forecast was way off the mark again; the early morning sunny spells replaced by a large bank of grey cloud by the time I'd ambled along to the Walled Garden Pond. Nothing to be seen there, though the pond itself was looking good after they'd done a bit of dredging and clearing last year, should be good for Ruddy Darters later in the season.

The Walled Garden Pond
No longer just a mudbath, should be good later in the season for Ruddy Darters 

Moving on to the Lily Pond, and was that spots of rain I felt while traversing the Hollow Walk  ? Yip, this was turning into a bit of a mare.

The Lily Pond is a smashing little pond for damsels, especially emeralds in July, for now I could expect Azure and Large Reds, but in the gloom saw absolutely nothing, so I spent a bit of time scanning underwater and was entertained by a plethora of pond creatures, many newts in particular, some of them Palmates as told by the shovel-like hind feet, and many others showing large crests, though none of the larger Great Cresteds to be seen, pity as I know they're in there as I've seen them before. Leeches, boatmen, great diving beetle larvae, all interesting stuff, but then I at last spied a cracking immature female Red damsel, which (as it was cool) stayed put while I closed in offering some nice shots :

A scout around the Damsel Tree (so called because on good days it offers good cover for them, being so close to the pond) but not one, and back to the pond itself I spied another Large Red, this time a male, in good view right at the pond's edge, and while the cloud remained he eventually allowed me to poke the XS-1 right in his face for some really pleasing photos, though as soon as the sun came out he was up and away, so obviously not that keen :-/



Can't grumble at that little lot, some of my best efforts for that particular species, and just goes to show, catch them in the open while there's cloud cover increases the chances of them not flying away.    

The sun was out now and what a difference, suddenly a host of damsels took to the air, many fully mature male Large Reds, and decent number of Azures, mainly immatures of both sexes, but also a few tenerals rising up from the grass and soon the Damsel Tree was living up to its nickname.

A few pics from the Damsel Tree, showing there were some
Azures present as well.
I hoped a Four-spotted Chaser might turn up now the sun was out, but no luck with that and after a while I chose to hike up to the Octagon Pond, which is home to the Common Blue damsels, to see if there were any of those out yet.
This species tends to emerge a couple of weeks after the Azures and at Gibside is abundant at the octagon Pond, but practically non-existent at the Lily Pond, whereas the reverse is true of the Azures. Why this should be as they're only a couple of hundred yards apart is probably indicative of the preferred habitat. I find the weak-flying Azures tend to prefer smaller ponds with thicker marginal vegetation, the stronger-flying Common Blues seem happier on bigger, less vegetated ponds where they'll fly well away from the margins into open water. 

Anyway, as I approached the Octagon Pond a teneral damsel fluttered past me and alighted on the stony path behind me. I quickly reeled off a record shot as this was typical behaviour of a Common Blue, unlike the cover-loving azures they will perch openly on the ground. It was up again as I tried to approach but reviewing the photo in the viewfinder I saw I was right :-)

Record shot of teneral Common Blue damsel (male)
The giveaway is the totally pale segment 8 and 9, the Azure s9 would be marked black

At the pond itself (despite a thorough search) there were no other damsels bar a few more tenerals which took flight from the grass whenever the sun shone. But I could neither find any on the ground or track those which rose up into the trees, so the one I'd photographed on the path was the only confirmed sighting.

Time getting on now, so back to the Lily Pond where nothing new had entered the arena, but I did get a teneral land on me. First on me shirt then fluttered up to my right arm, where I somehow managed an almost decent one-handed photo, no mean feat when you're a lefty and the camera buttons are on the right. Also an immature female in the sunlight gave off some cracking colours.

Beautiful colouration on this Azure female due to the reflective sunlight.

This teneral landed on the bottom of me shirt

Not a bad photo seeing as I had to have the camera upside down to use the controls
and couldn't see through the viewfinder to focus. 

Then back to the Walled Garden Pond for a last look in the sunshine. Just a couple of Large Red males here too, disappointed there were no Chasers but a most enjoyable session with some canny shots to show for it, and I was pleased the heavy storm-clouds rumbling with thunder on the way home were just passing by, that wasn't forecast either, but it looked like someone somewhere was going to get it :-O

Sunday, 22 May 2016

No Bull, Yes Bulls.

On a visit to Far Pasture on Friday I discovered my worst nightmare :-O The field with the Chaser Pond in has new residents; a couple of mean-looking white bulls.
I'm glad I saw them when I first passed the gate, two of them in the far corner, one staring back at me as if daring me to enter the field. When I next passed it they were nowhere to be seen so I could easily have gone to the pond blissfully unaware, which I'm sure would have resulted in some sort of soiled trouser incident. I certainly won't be entering the field while they are in residence that's for sure.

It's nothing short of a disaster as I was really looking forward to photographing the Four-spotted Chasers again there this year after getting some crackers in 2015. And with the ponies still in the Forbidden Pond field it looks like Dragonhunting at Far Pasture will be a complete waste of time this year, it being my nearest dragonfly site to home I'm not a happy chappie.
Hunting damsels along the roadside is about all I can do there at the moment, I found around 8 each of Azure and Blue-tailed on Friday, again in mainly dull conditions, so a few record shots of various forms and ages is all I have to show for it :

A few mature male Blue-tails were active in the dull conditions road-side

This one almost fully mature but still showing a patch of green at front of thorax 

A teneral male in the same area
Immature male

Another immature male caught in brief moment of sunshine

Immature green-form female Azure

Almost fully mature male Azure

Immature male Azure, my favourite form of this damsel, love the chestnut-topped eyes

First fully mature male Azure with immature female below

Another virtually mature male Azure

And another immature female to finish.
All being well (weather permitting) I'll get a first visit to Gibside next week for more damsels and possibly Four-spots, then at the start of June it'll be Stargate for Broad-bodied Chasers, then the river for Banded Demoiselles, Mickwellburn Woods (which I haven't visited since getting a Hairy Hawker there three years back) and a first visit to Kibblesworth. That's the plan anyway but these things have a habit of falling apart. We'll see :-/