Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Hungry Games

A late morning amble down to the riverside to check on the demoiselles. Since the river was flooded after the heavy rains last week I've been wondering what damage was done to the good early season showing, but on arriving I could see I needn't have worried. Very little of the lush emergent vegetation in that slow-moving stretch had been washed away, just a couple of visible signs, otherwise business as usual.
The demoiselles were out in force too, and I was hoping to catch a few paired up as I've never yet managed a photo of a tandem pair of this species.
But despite many individuals of both sexes showing well, they all seemed to be more interested in affairs of the stomach rather than affairs of the heart. Only once did I observe a male wing-flicking in the hope of impressing a female, and the few attempts by the lads of pouncing on an unsuspecting lady were rebuffed outright. A feisty lot these female demoiselles, if they're not in the mood the males seem to have little chance of  getting their way.

I found a suitable spot on the riverbank and just watched and waited. I would estimate at least a dozen males on show and around eight females, but there's a large area not in view so probably more. There wasn't a great deal of sunshine so prolonged bouts of flying were at a minimum, a few males occasionally chased each other briefly over the river, and they played musical chairs around the vegetation, but the action centred mainly on short hunting flights, with a variety of prey being taken.

A nice close showing to start with, some sort of small crane fly type critter was the victim

From this angle it's hard to tell

Last piece going down

Could be the tip of the abdomen about to disappear

This male enjoying another long-winged meal

The only meal I could positively ID - a Ringlet butterfly, loads in the meadows here, this one
strayed too close to the river

Another long-legged beastie goes down

The mind boggles as to what this meal consists of

I'm not even sure if the spare head and wing belong to the same creature

Most of the feasting was too distant to make a worthwhile photo but it was great watching their sorties through my Papillos and trying to guess the victim before it was quickly dismembered.
Like I said the females were in charge when it came to the mating game, this was the typical scenario on that score :

Female (left) minding her own business 

Male (right) thinking "I'll have some of that"

But as soon as he makes a move, she's off. better luck next time pal.
In between bouts of hunting, attempted courtship and the odd alpha-male skirmish, the demoiselles were happy to just pose for the camera.

Best I could manage was four in one shot. All males if you can spot them.

Patience paid off as occasionally one would settle close by

And would return to the same spot

A variety of angles and poses, happy with that little lot.

Also showing were a small number of blue-tails and even smaller numbers of large red damsels, mating pairs of both seen on what is a secondary breeding site, they prefer still waters but are not averse to breeding in slow moving rivers and streams, a case in point proved today.

Blue-tailed damsels in mating wheel, at least one species was in the mood :-/

One of maybe half a dozen reds in the area, including a tandem pair

It wasn't all damsels though, this Grey Wagtail was also a treat to watch on the far side of the river. 

A Large Skipper from the meadows, there was a multitude of bees, solitary wasps and assorted
flies in the meadows, but butterflies were much harder to find apart from the Ringlets.  

It's a lovely little walk down to the riverside through the meadows, with yellowhammers and skylarks, mistle thrushes and whitethroats singing and calling from the surrounding trees and hedges. And down at the river, an hour and a half spent in the company of the spectacular Banded Demoiselles was time well spent, not often I get to sit and watch them at close quarters like this so a very enjoyable little session with one of my favourite creatures. And not even a 15 minute walk from home, though not getting the photos I was after means I'll have to try again. Marvellous :-)

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