There are a few wondrous spectacles which every dragonfly enthusiast needs to witness. The annual rise of the Keeled Skimmers on Ober Water, the hoards of Common Darters in woodlands late summer, my personal favourite, Ober Water during June, and the cascading Banded Demoiselles along the River Stour.
I missed this event at Canford Magna last season as they were repairing the footbridge. The Demoiselle display alone is worth the visit, but the chance of some White-legged gave me extra reason to venture out on a sunny Wednesday morning. I did find a few tenerals, but they involved some hard work and tenacity. Although sightings have been reported elsewhere in the country, it is still early and it wouldn’t surprise me if the ones I found were morning fresh or a day old at most.
I took the opportunity to scour the far margins of the meadow, following the tree-line back to shore, and the morning still very much belonged to the Banded. I did have one brief spotting of a Scarce Chaser, but there was no way I was running the distance across open ground knowing full well if I did spot it again it would be up and across the river.
A few years back I would rank the Banded as one of the trickiest species to photograph, regardless of numbers. They will rise before you have a chance to focus, land often, but not always a short distance away, and more times than not offer you a face-on view where they can keep an eye on you.
To me the best shots of these spectacular insects are a side-on profile, taken in direct sunlight where you can appreciate fully the reflective qualities of their diaphanous wings.
The brief hour and a half spent was certainly worthwhile, but I was pushed for time today and wanted to grab another slice of Troublefield while I could. Barely 10 miles away, the traffic was unbearable and it was a toss up between me or the radiator over-heating. Time wasted in traffic could be time well spent in a little slice of paradise.
My little slice didn’t look too promising to begin with, as the sun had all but disappeared.
At first sight this enchanted meadow seemed to lose some of it’s charm in dull conditions, and even the Demoiselles were subdued, but I put this down to my still-frazzled emotions from the journey over. I forced myself to calm down and do a little gentle flushing, and it wasn’t long before I spotted my first Scarce Chaser.
I find these a little more challenging than their cousins; definitely more nervous, and they have the annoying ability to disappear completely from sight when gliding across the meadow. Luckily my quarry today didn’t glide too far at each approach, and eventually I managed to pin him down.
In some part I blame the bright red t-shirt. Much too easy to see my approach. I should have wore my usual (unintentionally camouflaged) green, but health & safety have probably got a warrant out on some of my recent attire. Still, rain forecast tomorrow so time for a bit of laundry.
Another one of those fabulous sights in Spring are the brilliant satin-blue of fresh male Demoiselles. I remember falling completely in love with a fresh male Beautiful Demoiselle at Ober Water last season, in some ways even more attractive than the mature metallic brilliance.
Following this particular teneral to a convenient perch I came across a perched male Hairy mere inches behind my quarry’s perch. He allowed me a couple of repositions before revving up his wings and gliding off along the river. Those Scarce Chasers were positively dawdlers by comparison.
At first I thought this might be the same individual from Monday, but after checking side-by-side photographs when I got home I realised this was another male. Even disregarding the obvious damage to this one’s right eye (which you can;t see in this photograph, and no – I hadn’t punched it!) there were distinctive and subtly variables in the thorax and abdomen patterning.
My phone rang reminding me it was time to wrap up for the day, just as things appeared to be improving. Certainly by 1.30pm there was far more action, and on the way out in the meadow containing the gate I spotted half-a-dozen more Scarce Chasers.
They certainly weren’t (visibly) there when I arrived and they certainly gave me a most welcome farewell salute.