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Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Failure, Followed by Success - on 24th and 25th June, 2020

I'm getting a bit behind with my blog posts, due to rather a lot going on round here at the moment, but all is (mostly) well and, hopefully, it's onwards and upwards from this point on. Just two excursions to report on for the week in question.

Wednesday, 24th June

This day Lindsay and I celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary, although 'celebrate' is a bit of a strong word in these restrictive times.  As dining out in style was not an option, we decided on a picnic lunch in the countryside, and then me cooking dinner that evening. 

We got ready and just before putting the camera in the car, I noticed that the battery was only half full and, although I can usually get well in excess of a thousand shots from a fully charged battery, I tend to change the battery when it shows only half-full. I always keep a couple of fully-charged batteries in my study, so it's a quick job to put a battery in the charger and replace it with a fresh one.

As we arrived at our chosen picnic spot, I saw that there was a Little Owl in a nearby tree. I confess to this being by design rather than accident! Lindsay was happy for me to grab a few photos before we settled in for lunch. I got out the camera - and it didn't work. This idiot had only got distracted when he went to change the battery, and neglected to put a fresh one in. My first Little Owl since the end of February, and no chance of photographing it. We'd planned to do a bit of driving around after lunch, but Lindsay could see that the frustration was going to be too much for me and suggested that we wend our way home again as soon as we'd finished eating.

Thankfully I redeemed the situation by cooking Lindsay's favourite meal that night - sesame chicken in a rich soy, honey, and ginger sauce, accompanied by a mango and coriander (cilentro) salsa.

Thursday, 25th June

Lindsay encouraged me to go out this day, probably to compensate for my lack of photographic exercise the previous day, so I made my way to Heather Lake as I hadn't been there for more than two weeks, and I fancied seeing if the Emperor dragonflies were around still. On the previous visit I had, unusually, only found females of the species.

Having parked the car and got through the gate I stopped to check my settings by photographing a bee. I have no idea of the species, but hope to ID it in the not-too-distant future when I have had time to digest the two new bee field guides that I got on Saturday!

bee species - near Heather Lake
The walk to the lake is mainly along a ride through a wooded area, and I found my first damselfly long before I got to the lake.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (teneral female) - near Heather Lake
Immediately before reaching the lake I arrive at the well-reeded stream which feeds the lake, but never seems to contain more than a trickle. However, there are often many damselflies here. This male seems to like his ladies young!

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male + female) - Heather Lake
As I arrived at the lake itself, at the narrow inlet end, a Mute Swan hove into view and seemed to check me out - maybe hoping I had food for it?

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Heather Lake
At first I was just seeing damselflies - no dragonflies.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans)(male) - Heather Lake
A male Emperor appeared, and I spent a little while trying to take some flight shots, without much success. I'm definitely out of practice in this direction or, more likely, I don't have the stamina that I used to have to wave a heavy camera around, and my reaction times are slower! Here's the best that I could manage - it seems to be carrying its lunch in its mouth.

Emperor (Anax imperator) (male) - Heather Lake
Soon, I found a Black-tailed Skimmer. This is a species that I don't often see in these parts, but have seen them at Heather Lake on two previous occasions. It's a species that it is not usually easy to get a pleasing photo of, due to their habit of settling on the ground, rather than on a stalk or leaf. I was pleased, therefore to find one on a leaf - and then another, and another - they were all perching off the ground. I have seen other comment about this species' sudden change of habit. I have never seen so many Black-tailed Skimmers before, and not one was on the ground!





Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) (male) - Heather Lake
There were, literally, hundreds of damselflies, but I admit to paying scant attention to them, concentrating mainly on the dragonflies. I did, however, take a few shots.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male + female) - Heather Lake
Further on, near the south end of the lake, I found an ovipositing Emperor.

Emperor (Anax imperator) (female) - Heather Lake
I was a little excited when I thought that I'd found female Black-tailed Skimmers but, on examination of my photos, I'm relatively sure that these were both immature males.


Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) (immature male) - Heather Lake
In addition to the swan, which was now following me continually as I went round the lake, there were two other enchanting bird sightings. The first was a family of Coots on the far side of the lake (two adults plus five young - four of which are in shot).

Coot family (Fulica atra) - Heather Lake
It was this next sighting, however, that melted my heart - a female Mallard with ten chicks in tow!

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) (female + chicks) - Heather Lake
Having completed a clockwise circuit of the lake, I turned round and set off back in an anti-clockwise direction, collecting a few more skimmer images as I did so. 



Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) (male) - Heather Lake
By the south end of the lake I must have spent a good 20 minutes trying to photograph an Emperor in flight, until my arms gave out. Sadly, the results were even worse than earlier. I'm not sure if I like this next shot, with the bright light reflecting off the wings, but all the rest were absolutely hopelessly out of focus or out of frame!

Emperor (Anax imperator) (male) - Heather Lake
As I returned along the east side of the lake I found a straggling Mallard chick that didn't seem bothered by my presence.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) (chick) - Heather Lake

In a previous blogpost, I mentioned and showed a male Common Blue Damselfly landing on the back of an ovipositing female Emperor dragonfly. I have since read that this is not an unusual occurrence, and I witnessed this happen again this day.

Emperor (Anax imperator) (female) + Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male) - Heather Lake
It was now time for me to head home, but not without first saying goodbye to the swan that had still faithfully been following on my travels.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Heather Lake
I had not been counting my sightings, but if you asked me to estimate numbers I'd say I'd seen about 30 Black-tailed Skimmers, 6 Emperors, and a hawker species that I spent a good 20 minutes trying to get a proper look at as it seemed unfamiliar to me for the time of year, but looked suspiciously like an immature male Migrant Hawker.


I have absolutely no idea when my next blog post will be as I've come to the conclusion that I've got some relatively major projects that need my attention, such as a stack of random sandstone that's been outside our back door for a few years, and needs transforming into a garden pathway. I will, therefore, make an effort to have a period with less time processing photos and sitting at the computer in my study.

In the meantime, take great care and stay safe. Thank you for dropping by.