Friday, 15 July 2016

Black-Failed Skimmer

I'd been looking forward to a visit to Kibblesworth for a few days, but come Wednesday (my only opportunity this week) the mainly sunny forecast had reverted to the usual mix of cloud with scattering of sunny intervals. But I had to risk it as I might not get another chance with the school hols on the horizon.

My number one target was Black-tailed Skimmer, Gateshead's only site for the species, and one which I hadn't now seen in three years (some dragonhunter me huh?). I didn't get to Kibblesworth last year due to the weather being bad on my available days, and the year before I dipped on my only visit despite good weather.

So to Wednesday; skipped breakfast for an early start, and three buses later I alighted at Lamesley Road Bridge. Still a 20 minute walk to the Brickwork Pools but sunny so I stopped to look for Banded demoiselles over the bridge. A Kingfisher was a welcome sight, but he saw me first and was off with a flash of electric blue. A couple of minutes later he returned but seeing me still at the bridge he veered off over the fields and out of sight. No demoiselles.

The sun kept shining as I finally got to the ponds, though the entrance and walkway 'ponds' are all but dry so can't really be described as such. Half a dozen common darters lined the route, and my first spot at the actual ponds was a Four-spot.
The sunshine lasted around 20 minutes by which time I'd seen many common blue and blue-tailed damsels, a few emeralds, maybe half a dozen each of common darter and four-spot chaser, and two splendid males of my secondary target, the Emperor Dragonfly.

Love the way they patrol the open water at a fairly leisurely cruising speed like they own the place, then suddenly accelerate into action when a meal or a rival closes in, marvellous.

But no sign of any Black-tailed Skimmer yet, though still early, but the disappearance of the sun for the next hour didn't help matters.
I had a good walk around the perimeter of the ponds, disturbed a few teneral common darters, added azure damsel to the day list but that was about it. The highlight of the overcast hour was a Garden Warbler showing very well down by the main pond, and the continuous calling of a Green Woodpecker close by but tantalisingly out of sight bar one glimpse. 

The next spell of sunshine lasted about 25 minutes, in which time up to 15 Four-spots and the occasional Emperor entertained me, but still no Black-tailed Skimmers, and when the sun disappeared for a second time it was gone for good. Though I waited a good while and got caught in another shower, by 1.45 I'd had enough, even the dog walkers had seen sense not to turn out today, so I ambled back to Lamesley, hoping the distant blue skies would be overhead by the time I got to the bridge, and a last look for demoiselles.
In the event, it was, but the demoiselles were conspicuous by their absence. An abject failure, the Emperors were nice, but otherwise a crap waste of a day. By the time I got home I'd been out six and half hours for a total of forty five minutes decent dragonhunting, sometimes I wonder why I bother :-/ 

Not even a good selection of photos to show for it :

imm fem common darter

the only four-spot to settle anywhere

rufescens-obsoleta form female blue-tail 

teneral common darter fem, one of many new emergers on the day

common blue damsel imm fem. Note the diagnostic spur under s8 of the abdomen, the only blue
damsel to have this.

imm male common darter

another imm fem common darter

No Emperor you notice, didn't attempt a flight shot, was expecting to get one settled or a female ovipositing, little did I know I was to be thwarted once again by the curse of the Northeast summer. But unlike the Black-tailed Skimmer, at least I saw some :-/  


  1. I had 90 minutes at the big pool yesterday Alan, my first visit for a couple of years. Like yourself my main target was BTS but i failed also. Spent a lot of the time going back n forth to all the bare patches of ground. Mainly clear blue skies but breezy i had a handful of Four-spots, a brief Emp. a few mature C Darters but loads of skittish tenerals which lifted as i carefully wandered around. Loads of butterflies, notably Small Heath. Disappointed i didn't get BTS !!! Called into Banks an hour later but when i got there despite it still being sunny it was pretty windy keeping stuff hunkered down. Slightly disappointing couple of visits considering how sunny it was.

    1. Aye, I can only really be arsed to do the bus thing once a year and once the school hols come round I'm snookered so had to chance it, hence the big disappointment. Fingers crossed by next year we're moved over the other side of the valley so I can walk it.

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  3. I was there yesterday, and saw my first ever Black Tailed Skimmer and then a couple of Banded Dems at Lamesley Pastures. 😝

    1. So you had to rub it in by telling me twice ;-)

    2. Sorry, I don't know why that keeps happening. Buses were a pain though. I'm sure the easiest way to get from one end of Gateshead to the other shouldn't be via Newcastle!

    3. Divvent worry Liam, I realise its a technical problem. I usually bus to the metrocentre (15 mins) x66 to Gateshead (10 mins) then 28A or 29 to Lamesley (15 or 20 mins), ok if the connection times are in sync but a bugger if they're not.

  4. That's exactly what I did last week, got stuck for 45 minutes in Gateshead bus station