Saturday, 9 September 2017

Last but Certainly not Least

Having missed most of the summer dragonflies thanks to school hols, crappy weather and more pressing things to do (not to mention I'm no longer just a 10 minute walk from Far Pasture so can't just pop out for an hour whenever the opportunity arises) I took the afternoon off from gardening (now the kids are back at school there's plenty to be done there too) and popped down to Shibdon Pond while the Sun shone, in hope of catching up with the last dragon to emerge (but by no means the least), the Autumn (Migrant) Hawker.

The days of this species being purely a late season migrant are well and truly in the past, so I much prefer the common name given to them in Ireland, the Autumn Hawker. A much more appropriate and evocative name I think, and this colourful little dragonfly is my favourite of the resident hawker species.

Over the last couple of years a September visit to Shibdon Pond has been one of the highlights of the dragonhunting season, thanks to Shibdon George sending me his photos which made me want to give it a go, and I haven't been let down yet (though it may take two or three sessions to get good close views), getting superb photos of a female for the first time two years ago, and even better ones of a mating pair last year.
First visit in the sunshine this year then, and the open pool area along the boardwalk as usual proving to be the best area for patrolling hawkers, with up to four seen here, and one further along by the tall reedbed, all males, and only one real opportunity for photos as one alighted in the open just by the boardwalk.

Male Autumn Hawker, diagnostic yellow T at base of abdomen

Close in to see other distinguishing features like antehumeral pips rather than stripes of the similar Moorland Hawker,
and brown costa (front wing vein) rather than yellow of that species.

Closer still you can see a defect on the right eye, the black patch at the rear right,
will give him a substantial blind spot on that side.

The abdomen in detail
Combination of powder blue and lemon yellow on a varied warm brown base makes this the most
eye-catching of mosaic hawkers in close-up  

The same hawker from a different angle. He rose from his previous perch to briefly skirmish with another
passing male, then settled again much deeper in the reeds.

I tried to get a flight shot but this was the best I could do, quite poor.

The session was worth it just for that one close view. I also took time to examine his superb markings at close quarters through the Papilios, a striking little dragonfly.
I had a good walk around the site with other dragonfly sightings being a single male Southern Hawker and 5 Common Darters (3m2f), also Red Admirals were still out in decent numbers, maybe 8 in a small area, and similar numbers of Speckled Wood scattered about.

Eventually a large block of cloud spoiled the fun so I had a 20 minute stint in the hide before heading home, highlights being 3 Redshank, 3 Snipe, 102 Lapwings, 3 Shoveler, a Kingfisher and a Swallow. Also a flyover Sparrowhawk put everything up once.

Three Snipe enjoying the sunshine at Shibdon

Canny session, my first decent outing in a good while, no doubt I'll be back for more when time and weather allow :-)

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