New Prunes

It takes a long time to sort through pictures from a trip, especially when it was a longer one than normal. Still, progress has been made and the dross has been discarded. Now we just have to merge our new shots into our old shots and discard even more. 😐

France_2003_small If it’s realistic to have targets for wildlife shots when travelling abroad, then one of my main targets on our recent French trip was to snag a White-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum albistylum). I had actually spotted one, without knowing it, in La Brenne about eight years ago before my current O.O. (Odonata Obsession). I snapped it but it was on v-e-r-y s-l-o-w (ISO 50) Fuji Velvia slide film before I saw the light and went digital. Just for a laugh, here is that historic shot. Some of the distinguishing features are just about visible, all be they blurred. [Ed: let’s call it soft focus, to be kind.]

Distinguishing features, in this case are a tad difficult. Let me explain. There are a number of dragonfly species in which the male develops a blue, powdery secretion on his abdomen. This blue powdery coating obscures his natural abdominal colours and markings and is referred to as pruinescence (as in the blue coating that may occur on the skins of plums). Here’s three of examples of pruinose individuals, species with which I was already familiar, to show how similar they can look.

IMG_7429_Keeled_Skimmer IMG_5205_Broad-bodied_Chaser IMG_5774_Black-tailed_Skimmer That’s a Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) on the left, a Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) in the middle and a Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) on the right. Because of this pruinosity term, we began referring to the pruinose individuals as “prunes” for short. Up would go the cry, “there goes another prune!”.

Despite it’s name, the White-tailed Skimmer is actually extremely similar to the Black-tailed Skimmer. You may be able to see this by comparing that first, historic blurred shot (top) with the last of the three above. For this reason, I had probably been guilty of dismissing any White-tails that I’d seen as Black-tails. I was determined to pay more attention on this trip.

IMG_9949_Scarce_Chaser I got excited in Arçais when I spotted something that I didn’t immediately recognise. Actually, it resembled a Keeled Skimmer (left, above). Eventually I noticed the telltale signs that it was different: it had the dark wing root triangles of a Chaser. It wasn’t a White-tailed Skimmer but it was new to me; this was a Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva). Our fourth prune.

IMG_0740_White-tailed_Skimmer In later stops on our trip, by carefully scrutinizing everything that looked like a Black-tailed Skimmer, we eventually got excited (again!) when we spotted what looked like the distinctive tiny white tip to the end of the abdomen on a suspect prune. The we saw one at a second site. Then we saw several at our very favourite dairy sheep farm site in Fanjeaux. With them being here, it was almost certain that I had seen them before but simply not realized it. Here, to complete our collection of five prunes, is a much better, in-focus shot of the elusive White-tailed Skimmer.

I can’t bring myself to delete the old historic shot, even though it’s rubbish. What a sentimentalist!

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