Two years ago, Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies – I’ll use the term dragonflies collectively) began distracting me a little from my long-standing love, butterflies. Last year I became very keen on dragonflies and started searching them out when we went travelling. This year I was waiting with bated breath for the start of the season after what seemed like a very long winter. As soon as the dragonflies were out, so was I, looking for them.
As a relative newbie to dragonflies, I now realize that the start of a particular species’ flight season (they vary quite markedly) really is the best time to snap it. Firstly, a freshly emerged dragonfly (teneral) is more likely to be in pristine condition and secondly, you get to see the sometimes stark colour variation between an immature and a mature adult. This is particularly marked in the two examples here. Both these photographs are of very clean male Broad-bodied Chasers (Libellula depressa), though they don’t seem to resemble each other that much. As the adult male matures, it develops a blue pruinescence which covers the body. On the far left is an immature male from our recent trip to Suffolk. On the near left is a very neat mature male from Ledburn Pit yesterday.
Being in a well known sand-producing area, we are pretty much surrounded by various quarries/pits that are no longer worked. Nature, with the help of a little management, has been allowed to take over, and very welcome it is, too. There is even a former tar-macadam plant from the days of building the M1 motorway. The plant was razed and that site is also being reclaimed by nature. What is essentially industrial wasteland may not, at first, seem like a likely hunting ground for perfection in nature but first impressions are wrong. It certainly beats tidy parkland where, though wildlife is normally there to be seen, the nature enthusiast is required to contend with people walking dogs (and normally failing either to control them or to clean up behind them), fishermen (generally leaving their beer cans behind) and swarms of Satan’s Little Disciples scaring things away.
My mature male Broad-bodied Chaser wasn’t my only success at Ledburn Pit yesterday. We (I’d bumped into Rory Morrisey again) started off with a relatively new Red-eyed Damselfy (Erythromma najas) and Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans), both flitting about a bed of nettles and both of which eventually cooperated with our cameras. The Red-eyed Damselfly (near right) doesn’t yet have the intensity of colour in its eyes that would be expected in an older specimen.
We soon met a third member of our clan (Bob Henry) and so an enthusiasm of naturalists was once again formed. It was Bob who led us to a small pool where at least three male Broad-bodied Chasers seemed to be harrying a lone female. Nothing changes!
I hit gold in the old pit soon thereafter. Four-spotted Chasers (Libellula quadrimaculata) – I just love that scientific name – are common enough but so far I’d seen one only and that was at a distance too great for a good quality image (it was at Sandhouse Lane NR last year). I was keen to do better so we started circling the main flooded pit. Sure enough, as if it had read the script, a very fresh-looking (it’s wings still glistened) specimen of a Four-spotted Chaser flew up in front of us and came to rest in the grass stems 4m away. We had to work hard to get a shot that wasn’t obscured by flapping grass stems but fortunately our quarry cooperated by staying put and we managed it. Is this not a magnificent creature? I could not really have asked for much better – well, a cleaner background, maybe. 🙂
As if all this weren’t enough, a Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) was patrolling restlessly, low down along the bank. It didn’t seem keen on stopping or hovering, unfortunately, but it was my best view of one to date (new to me this year). Then a female gave me the best chance I’d get by beginning to oviposit along the same bank. She seemed intent on moving on rather faster than my reactions would allow or lens would focus. I did get a shot but it’s a bad one. I include it just because it’s my first ever Hairy Dragonfly shot. Still, you need a quest to keep you going. 😉
Industrial Wasteland is great – just us and the critters.