After yesterday’s excitement of seeing my first ever Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) at Sandhouse Lane Nature Reserve, I just couldn’t resist returning today with Carol (she had been out volunteering for the Greensand Trust) in the hope that she’d be able to see these very special critters, too. We hit the reserve at about 2:00PM and were confronted by two other cars – another relatively rare feature. My fears about dog walkers – dogs tend to crap on the ground, bark and scare away real animals – were groundless and we were confronted by an enthusiasm of wildlife watchers. [Note: enthusiasm is my new collective noun for those keen on wildlife. 🙂 ]
One of the guys was similarly armed with an example of TheBeast. He and I chatted for a while and he told me there was a trick to getting TheBeast to autofocus with a 1.4X extender attached; normally you are forced to focus manually. Canon causes any lens with a max aperture < f5.6 to refuse to autofocus in the company of the 1.4X which is a drag for those of us with older eyes, especially when modern autofocus cameras don’t provide any manual focussing assistance such as a split-image or a Fresnel screen. The trick is to tape up three of the pins on the 1.4X such that the lens doesn’t know the extender’s there. Autofocussing is restored. It works best in bright light but I’ve tried it and it does seem to work, albeit somewhat more slowly than normal.
Another of the enthusiasm, who turned out to be Rory Morrisey of LBNature, was just scooting off to grab yet another enthusiast. Now we were five. Together we tromped off to a lake which these guys thought was the breeding ground of the Downy Emeralds. Sure enough we found on scrabbling about on a low plant – another female. The reason for her scrabbling about soon became apparent. Whilst yesterday I had seen a female Downy with a minor defect to her right hind-wing, this poor creature had a very badly deformed left hind-wing. What’s going wrong with the Bedfordshire Down Emerald population, I wonder? I was beginning top think that I wasn’t going to get a shot of a pristine specimen.
We continued around the reserve where I was delighted to see a fabulously bright Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) butterfly, which have only recently begun to emerge. Somehow, everything ended up in focus, too. How thrilled was I? Well, not quite as thrilled as when, a couple of minutes later, a male Downy Emerald very obligingly appeared and posed in the perfect position for pictures, Not only was it in a perfect position but it also seemed to be in perfect condition. Brilliant! I was a very delighted enthusiast.
I’ve now seen four Downy Emeralds at Sandhouse Lane and two, both females, have had imperfections. I’m sure damage frequently occurs given the life cycle of Odonata but it would be interesting to know if that’s all that’s happening here.