Friday, 24 June 2016

Star date at Stargate . . . .

Been over two weeks since I last had a decent DragonHunt, so with the one sunny day of the week yesterday I took the chance on a promised visit to Stargate for my first actual Gateshead dragonflies of 2016. All systems go, with our two species of Chaser the target !

A 10 minute bus ride followed by a 35 minute walk and I was there, and before I'd reached the ponds a flypast male Broad-bodied Chaser was a welcoming sight.

I visited the small shallow pond first, remembering two years ago this had been brilliant for female B-b Cs with no less than FOUR photographed on the same perch close by.
But last year the dry spring meant it was bone dry when I visited and there were none at all.

This year's visit is a couple of weeks later than normal, and the pond is drying out rapidly again, though the muddy margins show it has very recently been at a decent level.
The only chaser on show was a flighty Four-spot, but my attention was grabbed by shimmering wings in the sparse tufted grass around the margins, where I was delighted to discover four recently emerged Common Darters, my first of the year :-)

Newly emerged female Common Darter, an unexpected bonus

Great to have one out in the open, newbies are often well hidden deep in the vegetation.

This one was well hidden, but just enough showing to get close in. 

The small pond, much in need of water.

I also found an exuvia at the base of one of the tufts, the first I've ever found belonging to a Common Darter, so delighted with that :

Common Darter exuvia, a 'lifer' of sorts

Over to the main pond and this too looks in need of topping up, only half its normal size and with so much exposed rock it was almost traversable. Though initially only damsels were present (mostly blue-tails) once the first Chaser appeared (a 4-spot) it was quickly followed by a couple of male Broad-bodies and for the remainder of my visit it was non-stop action, with 3-4 individuals of both species checking each other out, skirmishing, searching the margins for females, occasionally finding one, copulating, and ovipositing, but very little perching, especially in decent range for the camera.

About the best shot I could get of the Broad-bodieds from my first session at the main pond.
I do like making rubbish record shots into more arty efforts of the insects in their environment. 

Pair caught (just about) in mid-air copulation.
Not easy to photograph as they still whizz about in the mating wheel
and it's all over in a matter of seconds
I waited patiently by my self-made perch in searing heat now around mid-day but the Chasers were far too busy to pose for me, so I had a walk around to see if I could find any perched up in the gorse which has proved fruitful in the past, but not today, and eventually I found myself at the sheltered bog-pond where luckily a male Broad-bodied was overseeing his female as she oviposited.
Job done, she settled on a dead stalk in the open some distance away, but I approached stealthily and managed to get her from a few angles as she rested :

Happy to see this female B-b C land in good view so clicked off a record shot in case she
zipped off when I tried to get closer.

But no she stayed put and I could get some better shots
The brown staining at the tip of the abdomen is from the water where she'd just been ovipositing
Here she looks like she's attempting to unscrew her head

She was well settled and allowed me to move around for a different angle.
Zooming in note the forelegs held to the side of the head poised ready to grab her next meal. 

And another angle

And back again for one final shot before I left her to rest
Close-up of the abdomen. Quite a mature female this one

Happy with that little encounter it was back to the main pond where the chasers were starting to tire, one male in particular I noted kept resting on several emergent stalks in one area close to shore, so I staked it out for a while and patience paid off with some more 'arty' record shots.

A bit distant but a decent composition showing his powder blue abdomen

Probably the closest he came, beautiful colouring

Like this shot against a reflected sky (background is actually the pond surface)

A different male in a more 'crowded' area of the pond

Just the Four-spots to get now but they weren't playing ball at all. I estimate there were at least 3 males and 2 females on the pond but they weren't settling for more than a few seconds, or if they did it was too far out for decent shots, or the one time one landed on my perch it was a bad angle and he was straight up when I tried to move around, never to return :

Four-spot on my perch, could have been a good shot had his angle been better,
but with hind legs raised he was still alert and sure enough was off again as soon as I moved.

Another environmental 'arty' shot from some distance

I didn't have much time left now, but a last visit to the bog-pond paid dividends with another male Four-spot, which eventually came close enough for decent record shots :

Distant on the bog-pond, but a good angle this time.

Shimmering wings in the strong light, my best four-spot shot of the day I think
Saved the best 'til last. 
That was that, time to go. A pleasing session in the end, glorious day and my first Gateshead Dragonflies of the year, three at one site, the teneral Common Darters being a cracking bonus. Just hope I don't have to wait so long 'til my next hunt :-O

Estimated totals at Stargate Ponds June 23rd 2016 :

Broad-bodied Chasers   - 5m 3f
Four-spotted Chasers     - 3m 2f
Common Darters            - 2m 2f
Blue-tailed damsels        -  100+
Azure damsels                -   40+
Common Blue damsels  -  c10
Large Red damsels         -    5      



  1. A nice session Alan. Some nice BBC shots there.
    Not done any Dragonhumting yet myself so far this year mainly due to early mornings and one other slight problem...the missus has been swimming on her days off and that's between 1.30 -2.30 pm so that's going to present a problem ! reading your post & seeing those Chasers has whetted my appetite !

    1. Cheers John, enjoyed it, best sesh of the year so far after a few disappointments. Your time will come :-)

  2. Looks like a good trip Alan, some nice shots there.