Thursday 26 June 2014

Week 23: Damsels on the Moor

Thankfully all these damsels (bar one, I think) were male and they weren’t in the least bit distressed, as far as I could tell. Me, a camera and a pair of binoculars wouldn’t have been much use as a means to securing a rescue, I can assure you. This week, I decided to walk the moors (that sounds like something out of Great Expectations but you know what I mean). I ended up spending most of my time opposite the reflecting willow (photographed below), although, out on Harding’s Moor, it was great to see a family party of 4-5 Jays and a male Kestrel drift through. Down at Two Water’s Moor (east), an adult Song Thrush was stuffing its bill with juicy worms to feed to its youngsters.

Back at Bulbourne Moor, I arrived at the willow at the same time as a Kingfisher zoomed up to perch in a branch. From there, it plunged into the water, emerged with a fish and darted off, back down river, to feed its growing family or, perhaps, to sustain the nesting process all over again. Also downriver, I could hear the Grey Wagtail pair calling to one another. I wonder if they’ve bred nearby this year?

Much of my attention was directed towards the small clumps of vegetation, in the river, by the north bank, almost opposite the willow. In one small 1-metre-square area, I spotted 5 different species of damselfly! There were Red-eyed, Large Red (2), Common Blue (2), Blue-tailed (2) (all males), and a single female Banded Demoiselle. In total, along the stretch of river between the willow and where I stood to take the photograph, there were 2 Red-eyed, 1 Banded Demoiselle, 4 Large Red, 10+ Common Blue and 3 Blue-tailed damselflies. A little further down river (just behind me in relation to the photograph above), were 3+ exquisite male Banded Demoiselles. They really are breathtakingly beautiful.

    Banded Demoiselle (male)
    Banded Demoiselle (female)

    Large Red (male)
    Common Blue (male)

    Blue-tailed (male)
    Red-eyed (male)

Photographing all of them without a pair of waders, a swimming costume(!) or a boat was a precarious business. Countless times I nearly ended up as Kingfisher food. The Red-eyed and Blue-tailed damselflies were particularly tricky and simply would not perch within optimum photographic range (anyone would think they were wild and free!). Regardless, they were peaceful and mesmerising to watch, fluttering over the water; taking their time to decide which perch was best; settling and then unsettling; “bumping into” one another and finally settling for longer, before starting the whole “which perch is best” deliberation all over again.

Dragonflies and damselflies belong to a group (or “order”) of insects known as Odonata. Within this order, there are two main types (or “sub-orders”): damselflies (Zygoptera, meaning "paired-wings") and the true dragonflies (Anisoptera, meaning "unequal-winged"). According to the British Dragonfly Society, in damselflies, "[a]ll four wings are near enough equal in size and shape. They are usually small, weakly flying insects that stay close to the water margins or water surface. When at rest, most species hold their wings along the length of their abdomen. The Emerald Damselflies are an exception and usually hold their wings partly open when at rest. They are therefore known as Spreadwings in North America. The eyes are always separated, never touching. The larvae have external plates (lamellae) at the end of the abdomen, which act as accessory gills.” So, there we go. If you'd like to read more about their life cycle and breeding process, there's a lovely article written by Scottish Natural Heritage here.

Eventually, it was nearly time for lunch but, just as I was about to leave, a female Mallard swam up with her 5 ducklings (one was hiding behind the vegetation in the photograph below). Always irresistible!

This week's Oak photograph is a little different. No reason, I just fancied a change.

Finally, as I was crouching by the river this week, it was nice to be greeted with a friendly hello by a local dog owner. A timely reminder that in a couple of weeks, 12th July, there is the fun Box Moor Trust event, Paws on the Moors, aimed at the canine carers who enjoy the land, come rain or shine.


Martin Parr said...

Great pics and what a selection Lucy! Excellent work as ever!

Lucy @ A Natural Interlude said...

Thanks Martin, yes, I was very pleasantly surprised. Would have been happy just to find Common Blue and Large Red. The Banded Demoiselles were a real treat :-).

Bennyboymothman said...

Hi Lucy.
Superb shots of the Demoiselles. I am lucky that I regularly get 'Blue' in the garden, no water nearby though someone must have a pond I suspect!
Keep up the good blogging, I am still enjoying your posts every week, I have just been flat out with work and moths, moths taking up about 90% of my free time at the moment being peak season for them.
Take care now.

Lucy @ A Natural Interlude said...

Hi Ben, thank you and I'm enjoying reading your mothing reports too. I am continually amazed by how beautiful some of the moths are that you trap. Every few days there's a new one to admire :-). Have fun through this peak season stage (I hope you're getting a few hours sleep occasionally too, lol).