Monday, 22 July 2013

Of Dragons and Damsels...


After capturing the irridescent beauty of this damselfly (a 'beautiful demoiselle' I believe) last year the Sock's decided that their new project, whilst out walking the Dorset and Devon countryside, would be to photograph dragonflies. (If you want to see the pictures as a slide show double click on any one - blogger sometimes annoyingly blurs the images so you should get better quality that way.)

This slightly ordinary, boggy, shallow pond near the Hardy* monument in Dorset was alive with the magic of dragonflies flitting like fairies across the surface.  We waited patiently full of excitement until at last one by one they came to land on the foliage in front of us.

The ethereal wings of this little beauty contrast with the somewhat sturdy body. It's aptly named a 'broad-bodied chaser'.  He was happy to pose momentarily for us, returning time after time to show off his 'angles'.

The male a pale powder blue with yellow bands down its side.

The female a flashing metallic antique gold

Another walk, this time on the River Yarty  just into the Dorset edge of Devon.  Dozens of banded demoiselles dancing across the water, whirling dervishly together until settling for seconds on a bankside stem.

They moved so fast most photos ended up like this one, a quick flick of colour too fast to take a shape

 We waited patiently cameras trained on their favourite perches in the hope they would not just return but also show off their fabulous wing spread.

 We were eventually rewarded with some fantastic pictures -

so exhilerating to eventually capture one at rest it quite literally made us breathless -  although our bovine audience were somewhat curious as to why we were lying in their dried out cowpats to achieve these pictures!

Earlier in the summer we visited the Dorset Wildlife Trust Centre near Dorchester and were amazed to see these weird creatures climbing the reeds out of their pond.

As they didn't seem to be moving I eventually gave one a prod to see if it was alive and to my dissapointment it felt like a plastic sculpture that someone had pinned there for a joke. Curious we later showed our picture to someone at the Kingscombe visitor centre who confirmed they were the exuvia that dragonfly nymphs leave behind.  They climb out of the water and the dragonfly will exit the 'casing' from the back.  You can just see the exit hole with strands of white hanging down in this picture.

Isn't nature wonderful? I was taught quite a lot about these things as a child but I had never come across these before and still find this incredibly exciting.

Last picture is I think a 'common blue' we saw in May - its head looks like a little skull!


*The Hardy monument is dedicated to "Kiss me" Hardy - Nelson's best mate, not Thomas Hardy as I had always believed.  Who knew?


Daubenton said...

We were watching broad bodied chasers at the weekend (can't recall having seen them before). Like bumblebees, they seem to defy gravity being far to chunky for flight. Reminds me of an old single prop Russian Antonov bi-plane we used to fly in.

VP said...

s'funny I'm more used to looking at (and identifying) the larvae than the adults on the wing. These are just as spectacular as the adults. They're fearsome predators and have the most amazing hinged jaws.

I love watching them clamber out of the water - once emerged the adult has to wait for their wings to dry and harden before they can fly off, so you get to watch them for quite a while in this state!

Anonymous said...

Some great shots there! Those dragonfly nymphs are feisty little critters, we once saw one eat a huge tadpole.

Anonymous said...

Wellyman had to survey an area for dragon flies last year for his OU degree. We sat for an hour by a known hot spot and saw the briefest of glimpses of one that whizzed by so fast there was no chance of identifying it, despite us chasing after it like demented fools. Last June just wasn't good dragon fly weather. Great images.

Arabella Sock said...

I don't think I've ever seen the larvae/nymphs. I'll keep my eye out for them next year they sound fascinating.

Wellywoman - I wonder if there is an optimum time of day for them actually landing and posing. Saw loads of dragonflies last year that were just too fast and never stopped. Still, the more difficult the photo the more exciting it is when you bag one!

Compostwoman said...

They also hunt over regular territories and if you enter their "patch" they are quite interested to investigate you.

I love dragon and damsel flies - one of the many reasons why we are going to go to all the trouble of re instating the large pool in the meadow.

Compostwoman said...

I published too soon! I also wanted to congratulate you on the excellent photos, especially of the discarded nymph cases.

VP said...

Have sampling net, will travel :)