Blue-eyed Beauties

Friday 13th July

I had some unfinished business with those Blue-eyed Hawkers which have taken up residence in Essex. A couple of weeks back we jumped the gun but were rewarded with fresh emergers.

Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) – teneral female

Totally unexpected and a bonus despite only encountering a couple of distant adult males. I needed to have another shot or two at the adults so Sue and I arranged a revisit a couple of weeks later.

Thankfully we were rewarded with more than we wished for and very little traffic delays considering it was a Friday. A cracking day with over fifty males seen, five pairings and two tandem pairs ovipositing.

Barely through the gate we were rewarded with our first adult male patrolling a short dry section of the ditch. There were a few wet sections, but these weren’t half as much fun. I was in the sweet shop, in my element, having a damn good time trying to capture these beauties at close quarters in-flight.

Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male on patrol
Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) – male on patrol

Of course there were also Scarce Emerald and Ruddy Darter – the latter population somewhat diminished since last time; and there’s a good reason for that.

Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male
Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) – male

I didn’t concern myself initially about getting one perched. I found it difficult to drag myself away from watching their antics through the viewfinder.

Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male on patrol
Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) – male on patrol

Where to look next? A female navigating her way through the close growth of a bank-side bush, seemingly to avoid male attention or a pairing or a tandem pair ovipositing into the deep, dark recesses of cattle depressions? How about a mating pair?

Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - pair in-cop
Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) – pair in-cop

Once I had made the most of the willing subjects available we walked on, taking each step slowly. We had a half-hearted attempt to look for the Southern Emerald population, but this was not the day for picking out tiny dancers. We were only after the divas. Those magnificent blue eyes and a species I’ve rarely had the chance to enjoy had taken all my attention.

Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male on patrol
Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) – male on patrol

Back to the key spots, where we noticed in the heat of the day activity started to slow down with most perching low down in the grasses; some choosing to delve into the depths, creating an audible fracas which culminated in them rising with an unfortunate Ruddy Darter in their mandibles.

Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male
Blue-eyed (Southern Migrant) Hawker (Aeshna affinis) – male

This could well be considered a welcome new resident species, and has been regarded so after successful breeding at their key sites. Sightings have been rife this year with new populations springing up in Hertfordshire and migrant influxes from Somerset to Hampshire.

For me the chance to spend a day in the company of such a magnificent Hawker resulted in one of my best days out this year.

Even Dragonflies Need Shade

Hot, humid, and the type of weather our European cousins to the south are used to, so why do we worry & panic? Maybe we’re a little too primitive. Haven’t adapted. Or maybe we’re so far advanced we expect it just so. There’s some old bugger who’ll complain. It’s the British way.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) - teneral female
Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) – teneral female

From the late start to not being able to keep up with (comparatively) early emergencies it’s been a fabulous year for dragonflies. A headlong rush to all get out and enjoy the sunshine while it’s here.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male
Emperor (Anax imperator) – male

I’m enjoying myself as much as I did when I started. I’m able to go out and indulge without the annoyances and distractions of recent years. Time to reacquaint myself with some local favourites without wasting time travelling.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male
Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) – male

Time best spent in one place; almost rooted to the spot, allowing the action to come to me instead of chasing after something which probably won’t arise, wearing myself out in the process.

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) - female
Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) – female

The irony is all the photos featured here were taken while chasing around like a fool instead of heading my own advice! However I needed those unnecessary and mostly fruitless days to reprogram and settle down a little.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - female
Emperor (Anax imperator) – female

These balmy days of summer are perfect for just sitting back and taking it all in, even choosing to stay home and grab some shade instead of burning out too soon.

Live fast die young appears to be normal as far as some insects are concerned; the Silver-studded Blues are showing signs of fatigue after a few weeks of wearing and tearing. So too are the Chasers and Skimmers. They might be able to live another day if they weren’t so damn hasty.

Except the Keeled of course. They’re doing just fine. Still emerging, still feisty. From delicate teneral demoiselles to the mighty Emperor, the sensible species take a little time out from the heat.

Even dragonflies need shade.

Local Delights

A covering of cloud seems the perfect time to take a rest and catch up on the past fortnight, beginning with two days at at Crockford Stream.

Thursday 21st June

The insistent breeze kept the temperature under what it should have been. No matter – this was only a first scout of one of the New Forest favourites.

No Golden-ringed patrolling along the full accessible length of the main stream, and only a few regulars. However I did disturb a young male Southern Hawker – my first this season who out flew of sight, but not out of mind.

Invigorated by this sighting I decided to explore the clearing to the south, heading into one of the marl pools which only provided a few threatening sinking moments; unexpected after the dry spell.

Back on terra firma I headed upstream, walking through sheltered gorse stands hoping for another hawker or two. Only Keeled and a good showing of Silver-spotted blues decorating the yet-to-bloom heather.

More Keeled Skimmers along the headwaters with several Southern Damselflies busy courting, pairing and ovipositing. Also seeking a place to deposit her eggs was a female Broad-bodied Chaser.

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) - female
Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) – female

At the ford an Emperor offered me some indulgence, the strong breeze challenging my subject. After a short while he came closer.

Emperor (Anax imperator) - male
Emperor (Anax imperator) – male

A couple of skirmishes with another of his kind, and suddenly a Golden-ringed. When I’ve finished with my new found buddy I had another subject in mind. I just had to find him. They usually don’t stray far; keeping within the boundaries of their chosen patrol.

And there he was; tantalisingly and tentatively patrolling his patch and having arguments with a couple of Keeled Skimmers.

He perched. Not ideally. Rose again and again; hard to pin down. Just as I was getting purchase another skirmish, only this time a female. Watch, follow and hope. Primal urges had put pay to my plan and I had to choose another.

Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - pair in-cop
Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) – pair in-cop

That’ll do. Day fulfilled. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Monday 25th June

Eager to capitalise on my good fortune I returned to Crockford on Monday for another session. More of everything this time around, with activity throughout the stream.

Even the Golden-ringed population had improved, with half-a-dozen between the road and the main basin.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male
Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) – male

I found a worthy subject further upstream; a delightfully social individual who turned out to be rather gregarious – ideal for attempting some in-flight shots, I thought optimistically.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male on patrol
Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) – male on patrol

He took to flying around me at too close a range for the long lens, so switching to macro I’d forgotten to change the speed, which was a shame as this could’ve turned out sharper.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male on patrol
Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) – male on patrol

Might as well have a go at a Demoiselle while I’m here.

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) - male on patrol
Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) – male on patrol

And just for good measure, one of those pesky Keeled Skimmers.

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) - male on patrol
Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) – male on patrol

A thoroughly enjoyable couple of days in the New Forest, and there’s more to come.