Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Back in the Game

After a fairly barren July (to say the least), it was good to get a bit of dragon hunting in at one of my favourite spots, namely the Slipper Tarn (or lake) at Cragside in Northumberland.
A family visit so not as much free time to spend there as I'd like, but it never lets me down at this time of year as long as the weather is reasonable, being home to a rich population of Black Darters, and an ample supporting cast of hawkers and damsels.

Today it was one of those Murphy's days, the Sun shone as we drove up the A1, the A697, the B6341, along the Estate Drive in Cragside to the Nelly's Moss car park, and for most of our walk towards the Tarn, but with the dark waters in sight it disappeared behind cloud, and never reappeared for more than a few seconds at a time for the rest of the day.
An all too typical scenario lately, but even so there were dragons on show, the pond margins a bit bereft of cover as for the second year running we seem to have chosen a day when the strimmers had been out, but good numbers of Emerald damsels showed with plenty of tandem and ovipositing pairs.

I find Emerald damsels generally the easiest to approach though the dull conditions helped.
At last I managed to get a 'peek-a-boo' photo in relative good focus, an obliging mature male.

Many tandem pairs on show

Making their way down the stems to begin ovipositing

And another look at the peek-a-boo male 

I was hoping to get a close encounter with a Moorland Hawker after reading TrogTrogBlog on Sunday which contains some superb photos of a perched up male, but the only one I saw was on continuous patrol around the pond, likewise a male Southern Hawker so no photos.

Black Darters didn't let me down though, they'd obviously been emerging during the sun-drenched morning as many a teneral rose up from the grass cuttings as I passed, a second wave by the look of it as a few mature individuals were also present, and a single Large Red damsel completed the array of species seen today.
Here's the best of the photos :

Hit lucky on arrival with this tandem pair of Black Darters landing on a dead stem just off the track

With the Sun behind clouds I was able to manoeuvre around

And get closer to see the male's grip on the stem,
 hmmm maybe clouds do have silver linings

Focussing on the female

She certainly has a smile on her face

Great to get such an unusual angle

one of many tenerals in the grass, this one a female

Again well settled so closed in

Around for a front view

A final close-up

Another teneral, this one a male, you can tell by the shape of the abdomen from above
waisted and slightly clubbed.

A distant shot of a mature male

Single female Large Red damselfly, not many around now, certainly no male suitors for this one

It's always a great day out at Cragside with something to keep the whole family happy, for me it's the dragonflies (obviously) and the amount of wild space to get away from the crowds. I only wish folk with dogs would abide by the 'on leads only' rule that apply at National Trust sites, I now offer gentle reminders to anyone not doing so as my kids are very nervy of dogs, one of the reasons we started going to NT estates in the first place. Today there were more than usual, one even jumped up at them which caused panic. Don't know why many dog owners don't care less about other folk re leads, keeping control, crapping, and respecting wildlife, selfish muppets that's all
Rant over.       

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