Swan Song

Wednesday 30th September

It didn’t take long to understand why I chose the closing of September as my cut-off point, regardless of the excellent weather we’ve (finally) experienced. A natural high, if you will. It would certainly be sinful to deny the sunshine, so as a traditional farewell I said goodbye to the season with a visit to the pond at Cadnam Common – the pond that started it all.

There were no long periods of annoying cloud, only a prolonged belt of sunshine disturbed by a brisk easterly breeze. Conditions similar to Priddy on Monday, and perfect, you would think?

There were (few) Common Darters, either bachelor or in tandem, a few tattered Common Emerald, a Common Blue and two male Southern Hawkers. No Migrant, but this isn’t realty the pond for them. Sure, we’ve had passers-by, but I hoped for A.juncea ;-).

The presence of one, let alone two, male Southern holding territory and occasionally fighting is as much as you could wish for on the last day of the ninth month.

The first was Bob – a fellow I met a few weeks ago. That incredibly erratic individual who didn’t know a course if he saw one…totally at odds with the usual holders of this territory.

Southern Hawker - male in-flight
Southern Hawker – male in-flight

He was a rare challenge though.

Southern Hawker - male in-flight
Southern Hawker – male in-flight

His mate/adversary, who I will call Derek just to annoy those who hate anthropomorphism, was holding territory along the eastern bank – always a problem as it faces the sun.

This year there’s been an upsurge in in-flight dragonfly photography with some stunning examples out there, which pleases me, and everyone has their own techniques. I took my first in-flighter 7 years ago, and at the time I thought it was the bees knees. Looking back on it now it’s terrible, so I’ve continued to practice every chance I get.

Back then I wanted a photo, and if he wasn’t going to perch then there was only one option. Little did I know that it would lead to my favourite use of time.

Yet to me it’s not a waste of time. It’s the sheer enjoyment of how I spend that time. All the while I’m panning I’m seeing the behaviour patterns, the course, however erratic, the soaring off into territory disputes, the battles, the scars. It’s how I enjoy observing them, and each new experience remains in my memory.

This year I’ve attempted  a new challenge; getting in-flighters against the sun, because, like the first time, there isn’t another option.

Derek was the perfect subject.

Southern Hawker - male in-flight
Southern Hawker – male in-flight

Not fully happy with it. Derek could have been sharper, but I like the sun-speckles over the water. A fitting end to a slightly disappointing season which I’ve made the best of, and all said and done, I’ve had a blast 🙂

A great many thanks to those who read & follow, either here or on social media, and a great many thanks to old and new friends encountered this season.

I will continue to post with the odd update regarding website changes, of which there are many planned, and any further out-of-my-season jaunts.

I can’t believe it’s not summer….

A Common Dilemma

Monday 28th September

We had a good day Sunday at Bentley Wood, so I needed a fix. A fix of the Moorland kind. Now the pond at Cadnam Common may have come up with the goods, as I’ve seen them there briefly recently, and of course Ramsdown. However both can be unpredictable and it’s often a gamble. I needed to hedge my bets.

Forecast good? Priddy it was then.

Imagine then my dismay as despite a glorious day and a little breeze, the main pool around the entrance only had one Southern, one Migrant and an occasional Moorland – and these didn’t stay around for long.

Over in the far corner there was a female Moorland ovipositing, a couple of Black Darters, some Common Emerald and a few Common Blue. Naturally it was the Common Darters who dominated proceedings, but even these were scattered and few. I didn’t receive any opportunities until after 3.00pm when my quarry flew back & forth against the sun.

Moorland (Common) Hawker - male in-flight
Moorland (Common) Hawker – male in-flight

Not the best I could do, and I thought that’s it; the only shot of the day! Thankfully my next encounter was to give me my best opportunity on this quiet day.

Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - female
Moorland (Common) Hawker (Aeshna juncea) – female

This is the first female of this species I’ve managed perched (so far) and therefore was a most welcome chance to get up close and witness one who wasn’t ovipositing or checking out a pond from 20 feet above.

Result then…and I was finally happy. On my way back through I checked the thicket for any perched hawkers. None to be found, but my next rush arrived with a male flying in, circling me for a while, hovering inches in front of my nether regions (!) before finally settling on my right thigh. Too damn close for a photo, but the experience was enough.

A perfect end to an otherwise frustrating day.


PS:- There has been a recent gripe by a fellow on social media who takes offence to my referring to Aeshna juncea as the Moorland Hawker. ‘Not as it appears in his book’ was the general gist. Those who know me know I prefer to use the Dijkstra name as it’s more descriptive of the species, as is the other suggested ‘common’ name, Sedge Hawker.

There are several other people who share my view. Those who don’t usually ignore my quirks and move on. Unfortunately some use social media as a venting medium for their own inadequacies and are best ignored.