Back In The Saddle

Every season I look forward to the first Large Red.
Every season I look forward to a little diversity a couple of weeks later.
Every season I look forward to May when things really get going.

This season I’ve had to wait until late May to get my first real taste. Ironically, it’s proved to be one of the best dragonfly Springs ever, with most species appearing a couple of weeks earlier than expected.

All this of course witnessed from home via social media, except for the solitary Large Red I found locally on one of my daily exercise walks.

Thankfully the lock-down restrictions were eased and we can now drive to a favourite place to indulge in our favourite form of outdoor exercise.

My first proper dragonfly day was a revelation. All those species I so eagerly searched individually for now presented themselves in a flurry of activity. A feast for the eyes and soul. Quite fantastic, and a reminder of my very first encounter which started this whole obsession.

Now given such a bounty you’d imagine I’d be taking shots of every species encountered, but I didn’t feel the need to. It wasn’t a race! I could sit back and enjoy the spectacle, which is precisely what I did for those first few moments.

I took up a perch at the side of the pond and indulged in the explosion of life before me. Large Red and Azure pairing up and ovipositing around my feet. Emperor holding territory away from shore. Four-spotted Chaser bickering with every trespasser.

However on this welcome occasion the real stars were the Downy. Dozens of males overlapping personal territories along the pond edges, seeking out one of the many females ovipositing deep within the rushes.

Pairings were plenty, and a little disappointing in that every pair rose and flew towards the treeline several metres away. It would’ve been nice to have at least one pair choose a nearby bush or sapling but in truth I wasn’t actually that bothered.

My modus operandi this (delayed) season is to wait until an opportunity presents itself. Sitting at the edge of the pond presented plenty of opportunities, albeit challenging considering it had been eight months since I last pointed a camera at a dragonfly, and I needed to clear away the cobwebs.

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) - male
Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) – male

I did take a couple of walks around the pond just to take it all in, but was content to spend a few hours sat on my perch taking potshots at the Downy and reveling in the feel and sounds of nature all around.

No trains, no aircraft, no tractors, traffic or any human sound disturbing the ether. Just birdsong, raptor calls and the gentle clatter of battling wings before and around me.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenae) – male

A fantastic and most welcome return to the world of dragonflies, and an overdose of vitamin D to kick-start the body. Exercise and therapy in one marvelous package.

Reflecting on the days events reinforced the need to choose the days and locations wisely to minimise human contact and maximise returns.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) – female

The following week we chose another favourite place, except this time it was unusually filled with crowds of walkers – way more than we’ve ever encountered there before. Luckily we were able to avoid all by choosing hidden paths and ponds.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) – male

An expected level of activity and a few more species to add to the season count, the best opportunities presented at a couple of favourite pockets.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) – male

A couple of most welcome days then, and the majority of sunny days following the rules. It’s sunny right now, as it was yesterday and will be for the next few days, so there’s no hurry.

Rest ,refresh and reboot.