Thursday, 22 September 2016

Indian Summers, Autumn Hawkers

Early autumn heat waves seem to be coming a bit of a norm of late, so an overdue visit to Shibdon Pond boardwalks to try and pin down a Migrant Hawker or two seemed too good an opportunity to miss, with me having to go to Ikea for a few frames, I thought it rude not to call in for an hour or so on the way.
George had given me the kick up the backside I needed by sending a few pics to me yesterday, and so glad he did, because today presented me with superb photo-opportunities for my target species.

I immediately got two males patrolling the first section of the boardwalk just out of the shadow of the trees, skirmishing with each other and a couple of feisty darters. I thought they would never settle so carried on walking right along the boardwalk but didn't see any more dragons, so retraced my steps to the beginning again, watched the action patiently and waited.
Eventually my plan paid off as two alightings gave me a couple of reasonable shots of two different males in quick succession :

As good as it got early on, patrolling males along the boardwalk corridor 

Peek-a-boo. First to settle was this fellow, note the small tear in the hind wing

A second opportunity soon after, no tear in the hind wing so a different male. 

A close-up before he was off

Shortly afterwards a tandem pair rose up and flew off over the reeds. Then a big surprise as one of the males I'd been watching zipped low into a patch of broken dead vegetation about 15 feet away and an eruption of FIVE males followed it out, chasing and separating they flew in all directions, certainly wasn't expecting that.
I decided to scour that area as it seemed to be the roosting place, and discovered another male perched up in the reeds :

Male number three, distant but great angle.  

But then out of the blue a pair in a fully-formed mating wheel touched down about 10 feet from the boardwalk, gettin!
I'd never got a close look at a mating wheel of this species before so was ecstatic, and reeled off a few shots before they went up again, but couldn't believe my luck as they flew slowly towards me and landed just three feet away, right next to the boardwalk :-O

Back of the reeds for a first ever photo of the migrant hawker mating wheel

After the record shot, a bit of zooming and a pleasing result.
But then they were off again. 

I spent the next 10 minutes reeling off shot after shot as I stealthily approached them (they're notoriously flighty in the wheel) but couldn't believe it as they stayed put as I closed in and was able to photograph them eventually at near enough point blank range.
I got some cracking shots (if I say so myself) and couldn't really wish for better, so that particular bogey is well and truly nailed. Fill yer boots with this lot :

The same pair landed just to my right

Another shot before I started to move around

Slight change of angle

Taking my time now as they looked well settled

A 90 degree turn looks better I think

I've only ever photographed one female Mig so concentrated on her
for the most part

I'd always assumed the male claspers grasped the thin neck of the female,
this close-up shows they actually cover front and rear of the top of the head
Learned something new :-)

The shots kept coming as the dragons stayed put.

Another close-up of the female, this one shows her needle-like ovipositor for injecting eggs
into plant stems

Profile shot

Was great to watch in close-up, the abdomen of the male was pulsating continuously.
Happy with those last few shots :-)
I may well have got even more angles and close-ups but my luck didn't hold, as a group of schoolkids on a nature outing had to squeeze past along the boardwalk. I pointed out the mating dragonflies to the group leader who told the kids to walk quietly by and have a look, which the first half dozen or so did, but needless to say, one of them couldn't resist snapping off a reed stalk right next to the dragons and up they went, frustrating to say the least.
Never mind, I can't complain, plus I still needed to get to Ikea anyway. I would say 7 males and 3 females on show today; most I've seen here, and certainly one of the best moments of the season with that mating pair.
Shibdon Pond in September for Migrant Hawkers is becoming another one of those 'must do' experiences in the Dragon Hunting calendar, can be frustrating like my visits last year, but days like today are worth waiting for. And I also had the bonus of a Kingfisher zipping through a gap in the reeds and passing just over my right shoulder, doesn't happen every day :-)  


  1. Replies
    1. Cheers Chris, good to hear from you :-)

  2. Brilliant set of images Alan. I felt like i was there with much so i pushed that schoolkid in the drink.