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


  1. Double edged sword the weather for you. Cloud, not much but easy to capture & sun, there are many more but mobile. Those head on shots of the Red are superb JUST LOVE THE EFFECT YOU CAPTURED OF THE WINGS !!!

  2. Just had to go back and admire those Large Red shots again.....I LOVE THEM WINGS !!

  3. You have some canny shots there Alan and like John, I love the wings. I am still getting quiet a few Large Reds at work but no Blues or Azure as yet and no more 4 spots either but I will keep looking.

  4. Craking shots Alan, top dragon hunter

  5. Cheers lads, your kind comments are much appreciated. Wish I could take credit for the wings but was only trying to get the eyes in focus and it didn't occur to me until you's mentioned it how unusual it was to get a subject with the wings spread like that. Must've been my lucky day (roll on the next one).