Thursday, 20 July 2017

Striking gold again

In the BDS Dragonfly Week I travelled to RSPB Geltsdale in Cumbria in the hope of seeing a golden-ringed dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii).  It was a long hot dusty walk in from the car but as soon as I reached Howgill Beck I saw a male patrolling the stream.  He settled for only a couple of seconds, just long enough for me to take three shots.  I think he has some kind of insect in his mouth and so had been hunting.



I saw two more but neither of them settled so I didn't get a photo to match last year's pictures of the female.

On the way to Geltsdale I visited Muckle Moss.  The first time I went there I fell through the floating bog and was very lucky to get out again.  This time I was more careful and carried a stick and only one camera.  There were several male common hawkers (Aeshna juncea) patrolling and fighting but I never saw one at rest.



One of them obviously broke off from the fighting for long enough to mate as I also saw one ovipositing female.

I was pleased to get away from Muckle Moss unscathed this time.  It is a magical place but is quite a challenge. Walking across the floating unstable bog is hard work and the dragonflies seem to fly ceaselessly.  There are quite a few stunted trees around but I have never seen a dragonfly at rest there.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Another walk round the pond

My latest visit to Banks' Pond gave my best view yet of a female emperor dragonfly (Anax imperator).  When I first saw her she was ovipositing on the pondweed out in the middle of the pond.  I watched and willed her to come closer but after a few minutes she went off zooming around to catch something to eat.  After a few minutes, however, she returned and landed less than 5m away.  I was wearing wellies so I could wade into the reeds to get even closer and watch for several minutes.




Several times she was approached by amorous but rather overoptimistic male azure damselflies.

The emperor's season is almost at an end but other dragonflies are only just getting started.  I saw my first common hawker of the year.  This one is a male.  (Correction.  It is a rare blue form female.  See Alan's comments below.)


There were also lots of new common darters

and the first ruddy darter I have seen this year.


A good find was a male banded demoiselle, the third I have seen here but the first passable photo.

And to finish off a brown hare.  Not quite as close as one I saw a year ago to the day but lovely to see.


So, quite a good morning and much more to look forward to as the summer progresses.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Bee of the week - Fork-tailed flower bee


This is the fork-tailed flower bee (Anthophora furcata).  It is a fairly widespread bee but isn't common and is inconspicuous so it probably gets overlooked.  It looks a bit like a small brown bumblebee.  The male has a yellow face.


The female fork-tailed flower bee makes her nest in a hole in rotten wood.  She has reddish hairs at the base of her proboscis and on her tail.


This female has pollen in the scopa (pollen brush) on her hind legs.


This photo isn't very good but it does show her very long tongue.

This isn't an easy bee to photograph as it flies so quickly and buries its head in the flowers.  Like other flower bees it makes a loud buzz as it flies.  You can read a BWARS information leaflet on Anthophora furcata here.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Nearly ready for the off


These young swallows are nearly ready for departure.  My friends Denise & Phil have been watching the birds which built a nest in their back porch, the first time they have had a swallow nest.  The four eggs hatched on 23rd June and these photos were taken on 13th July, when the chicks were 20 days old.  Fledging occurs at 20-22 days so I was just in time.




Photographing them was an interesting experience, using flash, manual focus and trying to get the timing right.  The parents were arriving every couple of minutes with food and seemed to put up with me without complaint.  Looking through the photos I noticed that sometimes the parent is side on (as above) and sometimes it has its back towards the camera (as below).  I wonder if one parent habitually lands at the same place on the nest and the other in a slightly different place.  I have noticed in the blue tit camera box in previous years that one parent goes to one side and the other the other.  With swallows I can't tell the parents apart.






It was a great pleasure to watch and to photograph the birds.  Many thanks to Denise & Phil for the opportunity.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Small and large skippers


I have seen small skippers almost everywhere I have been recently.  It certainly seems to be a good year for them.

The male small skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) has a dark mark on each fore-wing which is a line of pheromone-prodcing scales.


Small skippers at rest or feeding hold their fore-wings above the hind-wings giving a very characteristic stance.




I have also seen a few large skippers but there haven't been so many about.  The large skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus) is slightly larger than the small skipper (!), not easy to tell if they are not side by side.

It also has a chequered pattern on the wings. The male again has a dark line of scales on the fore-wing.

The chequered pattern is also visible on the underwings.