Thursday, 19 May 2016

A Hunt of Two Halves

A cloudy morning with intermittent sunshine yesterday; and feeling a bit restless by mid-day I decided to go looking for Large Reds up at Thornley Woods Pond and Blue-tails at Clockburn Lake.

There didn't seem to be much doing at Thornley, certainly nothing flying and just a couple of exuvia in the south east corner. The overcast conditions were obviously a factor but it was the process of  emergence I was trying to find, a tad jealous of Ron's excellent finds at Beamish (see and though I'd photographed a couple of teneral Large reds last year, I hadn't yet found one actually emerging.

But suddenly my luck changed; the clump of stiff emergent grasses at the north end of the boardwalk had a teneral damsel on it, and a couple of exuvia, then as I manoeuvred around to get some snaps I spotted another damsel on the boardwalk itself next to the clump, and just above that was a very pale freshly emerged Large Red beside an exuvia. Gettin!

Freshly emerged Large Red damsel
First I've ever found never mind photographed

In close-up

The anal appendages lead me to conclude this will be a female when fully formed

On this shot you can see another new damsel on the boardwalk

This shot shows it to be a female of the fulvipes form
She also had a damaged left eye though it can't be seen on this photo 

I'd missed the actual 'escape' but it's body was not yet fully pumped up and became almost transparent when the sun shone briefly. The only pity was the dim atmospherics, I'm sure the photos would have been a lot better with a bit of light, as it is I thank Photoshop for tarting them up a bit, but happy enough with the find :-)

Back to the first damsel I encountered, this one a male

The light wasn't good but the photos have a bit of soft light effect
which I quite like.

Another exuvia - and a damsel can just be made out top left 

I filled my boots with photos but have to say they're a bit disappointing due to the dullness of the day, the sun shone only briefly on occasions so the settings were never perfect for good light either.

I moved on from that 'lucky clump' and discovered more tenerals and exuvia around the north edge of the pond, 7 damsels in all and 11 exuvia.

Final damsel of the seven I found, another male

Happy with that, I moved on to Clockburn Lake.
On arrival here if anything it was even duller here than it had been at Thornley, and after avoiding a couple of wet mutts (grrrrr) I had a thorough but unsuccessful search along the banks of the stream. I was surprised to find absolutely nothing, and not because of the dullness of the day, as Blue-tails remain active in such conditions, just one of many differences they have from other damsels, the reason I find them so fascinating.

There were no exuvia to be found at all either, in fact the whole area hasn't really bloomed into springtime yet, hardly any growth at all.

Clockburn Lake outlet stream.
Reeds pretty tall but otherwise the surrounding vegetation is yet to 'spring' up

Eventually I found a damsel, a Blue-tailed, a male, and a virtually mature one at that, leading me to believe he'd flown in from other parts rather than be a lone resident, as a species they're well known for spreading their wings and colonising, which is why you will see at least one at most sites during the summer.

Billy No-mates
A mature individual male but all alone

After another search I returned to little Billy as he was the only damsel in town
This time he played hard to get, giving another of those peek-a-boo opportunities

On my third visit to little Billy he took flight and landed further away . . . 

. . . then started doing some limbering up exercises, stretching his abdomen up over his head
then bringing it under, like practicing seizing a mate. 

Just hope he gets some company before long :-/

 First hunt successful, the second a bit lot disappointing.


  1. Something is better than nothing. A few early mornings in chilly conditions have meant i've not (well hardly) even looked. Have checked out one site that had BBC year before last, which dried out last year, to see how the situation was. Looked promising and a heavy if short downpour in the area yesterday might have helped keep it topped up. Not brimming with confidence tho'.

    1. Yeah those shallow pools are never the same two years running, one at Stargate is the same but a bit early yet I think. Will start looking at the sites for BbC at beginning of June.