Monday, 9 August 2010

More dragon interactions

For some reason I got it into my head that I wanted to photograph black darters. Having found a mention of a site in Cumbria on a blog I was hoping to get a sunny day to go look for them. Then I read on a forum of a place much closer to home. When summer made another of it's brief visits I mowed the lawn then headed off to play with my new toy.

It was a steep climb up the steps through the wood, levelling off as I neared the summit. As soon as I climbed the final stile a dragonfly flew past along the track. Not a darter, but possibly an omen. Not knowing where I was going it took a while to find the area that should be home to the darters. As soon as I entered the part of the quarry which was most boggy I saw a couple of black darters. It turned out there were lots of them in the sheltered dip, females and immature males were lurking in the sedge, the mature males lurking round the edges on rocks and bilberry leaves. There were also plenty of emerald damsels to be seen and a few common blue damsels and  two or three hawkers over the pool itself.

I spent my time chasing the darters around, the males proving more elusive than the females. For the second time in less than a week I saw a darter fly into a spider's web, but this one managed to break free.

A lucky black darter that escaped the the web

At one point I counted fifteen black darters basking on a rock, with a few more on surrounding rocks. As I was wandering round one even landed on my shoulder!

Male black darter (background cleaned up)

There's another, larger, pool on site and that was where I went next. There wasn't much to be seen at first save a few damsels. Then I noticed hawkers prowling the marginal sedges. Working my way round the edge a disturbance on the water's surface caught my eye and there was a male common hawker struggling to break the grip of the water's meniscus. After taking a couple of photos I broke off a piece of sedge and poked it into the water and let the dragonfly take a hold. There had been a water boatman eyeing the hawker up when I first saw it, and another fell from it's body as I lifted it from the water. It doesn't take long for scavengers to find a potential meal. On close inspection I noticed the hawker was lacking most of one rear wing. I wonder if it was the loser in an inter-dragonfly fight?

Struggling common hawker


Venturing across a wet overflow I looked around the other side of the pool where two hawkers were hunting over the heater and bilberries covering the high steep banks of the quarry. Another was searching the margins and turned out to be a female looking for egg laying sites. Easy enough to approach when actually ovipositing, but rarely in good view. The photo below being the best effort I managed.

Ovipositing common hawker

I looked at my watch and realised I'd stopped longer than I'd intended. The sun was still shining brightly as I made my way back down the hill. A proper August evening.

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