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Thursday, 25 August 2016

Emerald Damselfly - July and August, 2016

The Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) is relatively common and widespread in UK. It is, nonetheless, one of our most attractive damselflies and, fortunately, relatively approachable. 

Sunday, 31st July

I'd not been seeing many in 2016 so, on 31st July, I paid a visit to Alvecote Wood, where they have several ponds which looked spot-on for habitat. Alvecote Wood is privately owned and only usually open to the public in summer, when it can be visited between 18h00 and 20h00 on Wednesday evenings, and on the last Sunday in the month between 10h00 and 16h00. This visit was on a Sunday.

I arrived on site to find a falconer was there with a rather fine selection of birds. However, my main target was at the ponds, so off I set. 

I first saw Common Darter, but more of that later. My second sighting was of my target species, and a pair of Emerald Damselflies coupled up and in the centre of a pond, so not good photographic subjects.

Emerald Damselflies (Lestes sponsa) (male and female) - Alvecote Wood
Further explorations of the various ponds found quite a few more of the species, but all males! Hopefully you can see from the following images why I find this species so attractive.





Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (male) - Alvecote Wood
I was just getting ready to depart and as I made my way alongside one pond I found a solitary female of the species. They're not as colourful as the males, but still very attractive.

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (female) - Alvecote Wood
Incidentals to the Visit

As mentioned, above, there were a number of Common Darters around. These seemed to be recently emerged, although I didn't spot any exuvia - primarily because I was looking for the emeralds.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (teneral male) - Alvecote Wood
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - Alvecote Wood
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (teneral female) - Alvecote Wood
There were also a few Blue-tailed Damselflies. I did take a couple of distant shots of these mating, but they weren't usable.

There were some butterflies around, including several skippers.

Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) (female) - Alvecote Wood

Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus) (female) - Alvecote Wood
There were also many Green Leaf Hoppers. These are only approximately 7 mm long, and I've never taken much notice of these before - however, the females are rather attractive.


Green Leaf Hopper (Cicadella viridis) (male) - Alvecote Wood
Green Leaf Hopper (Cicadella viridis) (female) - Alvecote Wood
Back near the entrance, I took some time out with the falconry birds. The Barn Owl was sitting up in a tree, looking relatively natural.

falconry Barn Owl - Alvecote Wood
The real star of the show for me, however, was the Long-eared Owl.

falconry Long-eared Owl - Alvecote Wood
This ended a most enjoyable day.

Thursday, 4th August

This was my regular afternoon out with pal John. This day was not totally focused on Emerald Damselflies, nor even the odonata in general, and the somewhat exciting non-odonata aspects were covered in my previous post to this blog which you can find here. 

Our ramblings took us along the 'woodland ride' which runs parallel to the west shore of Lagoon 2 at Rutland Water. Here we found several Emerald Damselflies - and they were all female! - somewhat in contrast to my findings four days earlier.



Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (female) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Other Odonata Seen During the Visit

There were Common Blue Damselflies in the area, but I tended to ignore those. However, there were a few Ruddy Darters and a few Southern Hawkers too. One Ruddy Darter in particular was amusing to watch as it was clearly trying to hide from us by dipping behind a railing, but coming up to check on us from time to time.


Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (male) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) (immature male) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Wednesday, 17th August

My third foray in search of Emerald Damselfly was at Alvecote Wood again. This time I went for one of their short Wednesday evening sessions. I arrived shortly before 18h00 to find that no one was around. Having respectfully waited until the official opening time, I made my way down to the ponds where I found Sarah (one of the two owners) and a local dragonfly enthusiast (whose name I've managed to forget) already engaged in looking for, and photographing the odonata. 

It was soon commented on that there was not as much about as was hoped for, particularly in the way of dragonflies. It was not difficult, however, to find the Emerald Damselflies.

It was quite sunny, and the low evening light made for some pleasant, but challenging photography, although not the best light for bringing out the salient features of the species. This first image might help you understand what I'm talking about.

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (male) - Alvecote Wood
At first it was the males that we were spotting. The next image is of the same damselfly as the one above, but with a closer approach.






Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (male) - Alvecote Wood
As the sun got lower, the lighting conditions became more interesting, and playing the lighting became a significant factor. This period also seemed to bring out the females of the species. The difference between these next two images of the same damselfly was effected purely by leaning slightly to the right to take the second image.


Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (female) - Alvecote Wood
By now, we were all concentrating on the female emeralds.



Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (female) - Alvecote Wood
I found, more by accident than design, that it could even be beneficial to get the damselfly in shade - with my own body!

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (female) - Alvecote Wood
I noticed that my two companions were taking quite a lot of photos facing into the setting sun. Some recent damselfly images by Marc Heath prompted me to try this. I have to confess that I now appreciate how difficult this is! These next two, taken while experimenting with different levels of negative exposure compensation, won't win any prizes but it's a start, and I find them quite effective in an odd sort of way!


Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (female) - Alvecote Wood
Incidentals to the Visit

The only other dragonfly I photographed was a Common Darter.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (female) - Alvecote Wood
There were a few Common Blue butterflies around, but I only grabbed a shot of one of them.

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) (male) - Alvecote Wood
On my way to the ponds, at the start of the session, a Scorpion Fly (quite harmless!) was spotted.

Scorpion Fly (Panorpa communis) (female) - Alvecote Wood
There seemed to be numerous Long-winged Conehead crickets around. These were quite fascinating as, if you moved, they ducked round to the back of whatever they were sitting on. They then slowly reappeared again. The first one, with short wings, and a black stripe (rather than brown) down its back is a nymph. That antenna reaches right to the top of the image!

Long-winged Conehead (Conocephalus discolor) (female nymph) - Alvecote Wood
Long-winged Conehead (Conocephalus discolor) (female) - Alvecote Wood
Long-winged Conehead (Conocephalus discolor) (male) - Alvecote Wood
I'd had a most enjoyable time trying to get more images of the Emerald Damselflies, and observing their behaviour.

CONCLUSIONS

My first visit, beside water, was in the daytime, and yielded (primarily) males. My second visit, to a location maybe 50 metres from the water, was also in the daytime and yielded only females. My third visit, again beside water, was in the evening and started by yielding mainly males but, as the sun started to set, the females started showing. 

I suspect that males like to be by the water and females prefer to be away from the water, but return to the water to mate and oviposit, and to roost in the evening when they are less likely to be disturbed by males and other species. 

My next post might feature something other than dragonflies and damselflies!

Thank you for dropping by.

30 comments:

  1. Superb photography, Richard! I savored each image. I understand the difficulty of obtaining such quality pictures (someday I hope to do as well) and how much patience you had to be so successful.
    No need to apologize for you subject material - ever! I loved every moment!

    We're not quite back on track yet for resuming regular exploration but are trying to get out to see a few early fall migrants. Gini and I wish all the best to you and Lindsay and hope your weekend is terrific!

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    1. Thank you Wally. I'm pleased to hear that things are starting to get back to normal for you. We'll see you over in UK one day with a bit of luck!

      You're too kind about the photography - although the patience I do confess to! I reckon I'm not ahead of you at all, and I admire (and envy) your images. I'm slowly learning about photography, but there's still a large element of the scattergun approach - take enough photos and, with luck, there'll be an acceptable one in there!

      Take good care of each other - - - Richard

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  2. Richard, I am in love with your photography, the macro, the dragonflies to Bard Owl, wonderful.

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    1. Thanks, Bob - very much appreciated!!!

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  3. WOW! Gorgeous photos! No words to explain the beauty of each photos. I got much impressed by seeing them.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words - whoever you are!!

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  4. Each photo you to took is a gem Richard. Such details and colors. The settings and light are a delight to see and makes the photos sparkle. Although I am not a fan of falconry it is nice in this way to take some great photos. The Owls are great birds and you captured them so well. All in all a great blog.
    Regards,
    Roos

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    1. Thank you, Roos, for your very kind words. I too have mixed feelings about falconry. particularly when birds are hybridised or used for hunting. However, I do feel that it is good when it allows people, particularly youngsters, to see these birds close-up in all their majesty, and gain an appreciation of these wonderful creatures.

      Take good care - - - Richard

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  5. Super set Richard, real quality photography. As you say, there is something special about the light when shooting into the sun.

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    1. Thank you, Marc, for your kind words and the inspiration!

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  6. I can see that you are now ready to illustrate your guide book to the dragonflies of the British midlands! Well done, Richard.

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    1. I've got an awful long way to go before I gain enough knowledge, to write a book, David - maybe in about thirty years time! As for photos to illustrate it, I've probably not got more than about 25% of the species covered. I'm going to enjoy trying to get there, however! That is if I don't get distracted by other forms of wildlife down the line!

      My love to you both - - Richard

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  7. Hey Richard! Absolutely incredible images! Could you help us puzzle is? dragonflies flying around the yard, glossy black metal roof back and forth. They do this in the same way as the eggs fall into the water holder on site. A belief that they are a black metal roof is water?

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    1. Hi Anne. Thank you for your kind comment.

      I'm not an expert on dragonflies but I do know that, with those multiple elements in their eyes they do see things in a very different way to we humans. Their forward and upward vision is better than their downward vision. They also detect water by the reflection from the surface. It is possible, therefore, that if your black roof is shiny they will think it is water.

      There is also another consideration. Not all dragonflies/damselflies lay their eggs in water. Also, those that do, often actively deposit them on vegetation in water, and do not just drop them into the water. It would help to understand this strange activity that you have observed if we knew what species of dragonfly was involved.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  8. Hi Richard, some wonderful images of the Emerald Damselflies, Alvecote does appear to be an excellent place to visit. The Log-winged Conehead is some creature. Super post. All the best and see you soon. Regards John

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    1. Thank you, John. I was much amused by the Coneheads! Sadly, today is possibly the last day of Alvecote Wood's season, although they might be open tomorrow as it's a bank holiday - I'll check it out.

      See you soon - - - Richard

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  9. I think the emerald damselflies really stand out and look beautiful. I have to say the long winged conehead is truly bizarre and for that reason my favourite, are they common? I've never noticed one before

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    1. Thanks, Doug, they really are one of my favourite damsel species - saw more of them today!

      The Conehead crickets are relatively common, but not necessarily noticable as they are not much bigger than a large grasshopper. Their habitat is long grass or reeds. I suspect that they spend much of the day low down in the vegetation and go to a high viewpoint in the evening.

      Sorry - managed to miss your comment until just now.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  10. Hello,
    received top notch very nice photos, something one looks very much like to ...
    greetings Frank

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  11. Fantastic set of images, Richard, especially those of Lestes sponsa!
    Looks like you had a ball again with the insects!!
    Yes I know, the starlings in some areas are a pest but I'd rather have them than no birds left... Funny enough, on my ex-property I never saw one so I was happy with the opportunity to shoot them them up close!
    Keep well and enjoy your sunday :)

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    1. Thank you, Noushka. I'm afraid that the insects have taken over from the birds to a large extent during the summer. Soon it will be back to the birds again - but I shall miss these wonderful insects!

      Yes, I guess I am over-reacting to the Starlings. In fact I might even have to put more effort into photographing them myself as their plumages at any phase of their life is rather special. I did have one of my images of a Starling published a couple of weeks ago in the Leicestershire and Rutland Ornithological Society Anuual Report for 2014.

      I hope that the sun is shining for you. Take good care - - - Richard

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  12. It's always a pleasure looking at your work Richard,your photography is brilliant,the detail of each image looks pin sharp,loved looking.
    John.

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    1. Thank you, John. I've still got a long way to go with dragonfly photography. Too many of my images have confusing backgrounds, and far too many have head and thorax in focus and far end of abdomen out of focus. I'm still a great fan of the Sigma 50-500, and use that lens for ALL my photography, as it's so versatile.

      Best wishes to you and Sue - - - Richard

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  13. Hello!:) All your images are delightful. Sharp as can be, and more beautiful than I can describe. I thoroughly enjoyed your nature photos, and it was a pleasure to visit you.
    Regards.

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    1. Thank you, Sonjia, for your kind words. It was a real pleasure visiting your own blog.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  14. These are amazing photos Richard and I particularly like the head shot. I never see dragon flies around here, and I have never spent much time at any of the local dams or lakes, I should try harder!!! If things do not fly in our garden then I rarely get photos of them. Time always seems to be at a minimum, I had more spare time when I went out to work all day!!! Have a great week Diane

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    1. Thank you, Diane. I rarely see drahonflies or damselflies in my garden and if they do they rarely settle so that I can photograph them!

      I know what you mean about not having enough time now you've retired. I just don't know how I ever found time to work before I retired!

      I hope your having a wonderful week yourself - - - Richard

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  15. Wonderful to see these damselflies and dragonflies.
    The macros of ordinary armored Damselfly are superb! Pretty sharp and clear and beautiful details.
    The Common Darter is great. The tadpoles and cicada are already so beautiful.
    I'm jealous of your beautiful barn owl and long-eared owl !!!!
    Southern Hawker've also photographed beautifully. I'm impressed by your wonderful photography. Photo 38 is cleared top class photo!
    My compliments for this wonderful series.
    Greetings, Helma

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    1. Thank you, Helma, for your very kind words. I'm also grateful for your positive comment about image No.38. I wasn't sure if it would be just me that liked it!

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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