Thursday, 3 October 2013

Late dragonflies

Migrant hawker or Southern migrant hawker?

Ruddy darter sunning on the boardwalk.

These late summer days are confusing because the overnight temperature can drop to zero while we still have double figures in the afternoon. Insects need to warm up in a morning so you might find animals that are usually hyper-active and impossible to photograph become more obliging.

Common and ruddy darters are well known for their habit of returning to the same twig, rock or log to sunbathe. Like late holiday-makers they are aggressively territorial about their "sun-lounger" and keep all others away. In contrast, migrant hawkers are not territorial. They roam widely and are very inquisitive, even hovering in front of your face to see if you have any hover-flies hidden about your person. They almost never land, but I found one male in the Visitors' Centre garden that was a bit chilled-out, literally.

We normally see migrant hawkers in flight so the dominant markings we see are yellow and brown with blue or green on the tail depending on gender. At rest, this one was strikingly blue; so blue that he had me looking for my field guide. Was this a southern migrant hawker from the Mediterranean? They have been turning up in the UK every year recently and they are blue, with no yellow markings.

Brown hawker laying eggs on lesser reed-mace.
When I enlarged my photo, I had to accept that this was just an exceptionally blue migrant hawker (probably).

I was surprised to see so many dragonflies still active. I watched several male emperors and two female brown hawkers. What is more, they were laying eggs. I always thought they laid their eggs in water but no; brown hawkers lay theirs on the stems of plants, several inches above the surface of the lake.

Isn't it wonderful when you spot something you never noticed before, without someone pointing it out to you?