With storm Eileen barreling through the UK in the early hours of Wednesday morning, with winds in excess of 40 miles per hour; and continued powerful winds waving the largest trees like paper dolls through the early morning I wasn’t expecting too much as I headed off in search for dragonflies in the early autumn sunshine.
Arriving by bus, for the first time I might add, I just found out the bus stops just up the road from the ponds, I was soon enjoying the sun beating down on me, and it would have been nice and warm had it not been from the gusting winds.
Heading down to the ponds the long grass was alive with the buzz of crickets in multiple incarnations, overhead the local corvids and Starling battles in the fearsome winds, and often opted to dart between perches rather than risk the feather battering gusts, a distant Red Kite had no such issues as it effortlessly rode the winds, its tail steering it to its chosen destinations, rudder like in its movement.
Deciding to avoid the more exposed ponds, I headed into the more manicured areas and the shelter of the thick bushes.
I thought my luck was in on my first damselfly sighting as I stumbled on a bright female Emerald, on closer inspection though it was just another common Emerald Damselfly, this area is the richest area for Emerald damselflies I have ever encountered. In the same spot I flushed a couple of Migrant Hawkers from the long grass, and watched as they proceeded to watch as they chased each other around the still waters of the small pond.
Female Emerald Damselfly
In the more sheltered areas of the linear park swarms of Ruddy and Common darter could be found, avoiding the strong winds, while chasing smaller insects for a meal or coupling up in mating bonds, ready to head off over the nearby water to oviposter, often still conjoined.
Male Ruddy Darter
Female Common Darter
Larger dragons could also be found around the park, commanding the air with their flying prowess and powerful jaws. Amazingly coloured Southern Hawkers, who despite the bright blues, greens and yellows can disappear into a bush simply by hanging still, dark winged Brown Hawkers whose orange/brown wings seem invisible with their speed, and more Migrant hawkers.
Male Southern Hawker
Southern Hawker almost lost in the Blackberries
Willows in the Wind
On my second circuit of the ponds I bumped into young Harry, who had located a male Willow Emerald and quickly took me to see it. I must admit my eyes are not what they once were, clearly, as it took me a good few minutes, despite perfect directions and a close finger, to locate the dark green damselfly, perilously hanging onto a willow stem being whipped about by the still strong winds. I also struggled to see the galls he kindly pointed out to me for too long. Eventually though I did get my eye in here.
I decided to hang around and see if I could locate a better positioned Willow to photograph (sadly the first flew as I tried to get into a position to grab a shot – Sorry). And apart from a brief distraction with a local Kestrel (see further down), I ended up walking this and another nearby pond, finding plenty of evidence in the shape of galls as well as seeing two more males, but again both distant and precariously hanging on dramatically swinging branches. Literally Willows in the Wind.
I took a number of photos of the galls, or what I think are galls as well, as much as anything as a reminder to myself what to look out for next time, or, if I get lucky, on my own patch, well you never know.
Willow Emerald Galls
Willows in the Wind
Close up of Willow Emerald Damselfly Galls
More Willow Emerald Damselfly Galls
A Kestrel Interlude
As mentioned earlier I was distracted in my dragon hunt by a brief interlude with one of the local Kestrel. I watched as it hunted from the row of fence posts, sometimes riding high in the winds as it hovered searching the long grass for small invertebrates, other times almost diving straight off the post, pouncing on unsuspecting crickets and grasshoppers.
As I watched it allowed quite a close approach, not bothered by my nearness in the slightest, which allowed me to not only take some cracking photos but even identify at least on of the meals this small falcon was feasting on, in this case a Roesel’s Bush Cricket.
Hunting From a Post
In for the Kill
Back to the post
Kestrel looking at me
About to drop
Common Kestrel on Fence Post
Common Blue Damselfly
Southern Hawker up close
Common Darter (Male)
Female Common Darter head on (stacked set of 2 images)