Wednesday, 20 July 2016

In the Heat of the Day

Tuesday was the hottest day of the summer so far and by far, and also my last day of freedom as the school hols began today, so I had to make the most of it in way of a last attempt to see Banded Demoiselles on the Derwent.
An inexplicably low count in previous attempts, considering sites on other rivers not too far away have yielded 20+ counts in a single visit since early June.

First stop Hagghill, 10+ on a hot July day not unusual here in recent years, today a 45 minute vigil yielded just one female.

One lonely female (dead centre) on the far bank of the river, patiently awaiting a suitor

Granted it was only around 11.15am when I gave up, (I couldn't resist a txt from a mate of mine who I hadn't seen in a while inviting me for a cuppa tea at Thornley Woodlands Centre) but the sun had been beating down the whole time so no excuse really, but more on that later.

After a cuppa and a chat at TWCentre I thought I may as well have a look at the pond before continuing my riverside search, and was lucky enough to find a newly emerged male southern hawker on the far side, and witness his maiden flight into the trees not long after. No photos as my camera was still packed away at this point.
I checked the emergent vegetation and another 5 new exuvia were found, meaning so far this year I have recorded evidence of over 30 Southern Hawkers emerging, a good count in anyone's book.

one of just half a dozen or so Large Reds on the pond early afternoon.

No Emerald damselflies but this Light Emerald Moth was nice.

Back to the demoiselles, a walk through the woods down to Clockburn Lake where the council improvements have left the outlet stream devoid of vegetation, so no chance of any here.
The inner stream however was awash with other damsel species, more good counts of Azure, Blue-tailed, and at the lake itself, Common Blue (which prefer the larger expanses) but sadly no demoiselles on the adjacent meadows today.

Blue-tailed damselflies in good numbers on the inner stream, 40+

Azure damsels in even better numbers, estimate 80+

Lesser numbers of Common Blue but c20 along one section of the lake 

The dreaded heat got to me now as I made the uphill trek to the viaduct, and then down again to the riverside meadows, my last stop of the day. Last year here I had a superb male posing for me on the sparse clumps of riverside vegetation, I'd be happy with a female today I thought to myself as I reached a fruitless halfway point of the slow-moving stretch of river.
Then lo and behold, a darting 'meal grab' by a metallic green demoiselle as I passed a clump of veg, and I had a female Banded Demoiselle posing nicely (though at the far side of the clump) for a few photos.

A nice close female Banded dem to photograph

Not as stunning as the male but a beauty all the same,
a jewel of the riverbank in the strong sunlight as it was today.

Note the bronze tip of the abdomen, indicating a mature specimen, the more bronze the older
they are apparently.

In close for a look at those deep black eyes and the iridescence of the thorax

I watched her for a while with the Papillios for HD views then moved on, hoping I might yet find a male on one of the other clumps along by the river. I didn't, but did find another female, which also posed nicely for the camera after playing hard to get for a while.

Further out than the first, but playing the same waiting game

It's not often I get the chance to get decent pics of a settled female, they come to the river to find a mate, so
are usually being harried by males. 

The strong sunlight played havoc with the camera settings today, and as you can see by the shadows,
I was having to practically shoot into the sun with this one as well.  

A successful sortie, and she was back in a better position for photos 

Not so much bronzing on the abdomen tip of this one so a younger individual than the first.
Before long I walked back up to see the first one again, and she too had been busy catching a meal.

This was quite a sizeable fly when it started

Watching the process of eating was like watching paper being fed into a shredder, but in slow-motion. 

Shame about the grass stalk

Bloody shame about the grass stalk :-/

Did I mention the grass stalk?
Away from the demoiselles, it was lovely to see massive shoals of minnows in the shallows, took me back to my early holidays in Jedburgh, and balmy days exploring the river Jed with my dad as we fished for trout, probably the grounding for my lifelong interest in nature.

Just time for a last session with number two female before heading home. I found her on her favourite leaf again, darting out for flies.

 As it was time to go, I thought I'd risk disturbing her to get a close-up, so stepped down the deep-cut riverbank onto a convenient mud patch in the shallows, and managed one shot before she was off.

Quite happy with how it turned out though :-)

Like I alluded to earlier, as female Demoiselles only come to the river to find a mate or oviposit, these two must have been (like me) waiting for a male to come on the scene. But there were none to be found today, so we were all left disappointed (though for very different reasons).

Looking back at my records for the Hagghill area doesn't give many clues to the lack of demoiselles there this year. Last year saw a good count on the back of the record year in 2013, as larvae overwinter twice before emerging, but 2014 wasn't a bad year either so we should have expected better numbers this. My guess is the frequent and prolonged floods of last winter (which also washed away the newly formed sand martin colony just fifty yards downstream) has had the effect of redistributing the larvae to devastating effect here.
One to keep an eye on next year certainly. 

1 comment:

  1. Shame about those grass stalks.

    And a real shame about the lack of Dems. Let's hope that they bounce back next year!